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White wins all but one game in this month’s update, but from a theoretical viewpoint it’s not bad news for Black. In some important lines Black is definitely holding his own, and the score would have been much closer had Black taken some of the opportunities on offer.

Download PGN of April ’17 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 f3 c5 [E20]

4 f3 c5 5 d5 0-0 6 e4 d6 7 Bd3 b5:

7...Nbd7 is also possible here, but offering a gambit with ...b5 is typical in this and similar positions. A recent heavyweight clash in this line, Mamedyarov, S - So, W, continued 8 Nge2 bxc4 9 Bxc4 exd5 10 Bxd5 Nxd5 11 Qxd5 Qb6! with sharp play where Black seems to have a full share of the chances.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 d5 5 cxd5 exd5 6 Bg5 h6 [E35]

4 Qc2 d5 5 cxd5 exd5 6 Bg5 h6 7 Bh4 c5 8 dxc5 0-0:

In recent months 8...0-0 (or 8...Be6 with similar intentions) has completely overtaken the old main line 8...g5 as Black’s most popular choice. 8...0-0 often leads to positions that are quieter than those after 8...g5, but not always. 9 e3 Be6 10 a3 Bxc3+ 11 Qxc3 g5 12 Bg3 Ne4 13 Qc2 Nc6!? leads to very sharp play. See Hoffmann, M - Lauber, A for analysis.

Queen’s Indian: 4 a3 Bb7 [E12]

4 a3 Bb7 5 Nc3 g6!?:

5...d5 is definitely the main line, and it’s by far Black’s most popular choice. However, there are alternatives for Black, and 5...g6!? is a decent option for those wishing to avoid theoretical lines.

With 5...g6 Black combines the Queen’s Indian with the King’s Indian! The idea is if White plays the logical 6 d5 (the move that 4 a3 and 5 Nc3 prepares) then after 6...Bg7 Black’s dark-squared bishop has found a more active home than e7.

White’s main alternative to 6 d5 is 6 Qc2 preparing e2-e4, and Black usually responds with either 6...Bg7 or the unbalancing 6...Bxf3. In Howell, D - Xiong, J Black chose a third option, 6...c5 which also looks playable.

Bogo-Indian: 4 Bd2 [E11]

3...Bb4+ 4 Bd2 a5 5 Nc3:

Against 4...a5, 5 g3 remains the most popular reply but 5 Nc3 is also fairly common. Even though it’s we’re in Bogo-Indian territory, it actually looks more like a Nimzo-Indian now. White’s logic is that ...a5 looks like a superfluous move once Nc3 is played, and recently in some Nimzo lines grandmasters have shown a greater willingness to play Bd2, a move previously thought to be toothless.

5...d5 6 e3 0-0 7 Qc2 b6 8 cxd5 exd5:

is like the Tal Variation of the Nimzo-Indian, with Black having played ...a5. In a recent game White managed to gain a decisive advantage after only four (!) further moves. Find out how in Bacrot, E - Van Wely, L.

Modern Benoni: Fianchetto Variation: 9...Re8 [A62]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 c5 4 d5 d6 5 Nc3 exd5 6 cxd5 g6 7 g3 Bg7 8 Bg2 0-0 9 0-0 Re8 10 Bf4

a) 10...Bf5!?:

We continue our coverage of the trendy 11...Bf5 with another recent game: 11 Nh4 Bc8 (last month we looked at another try for Black: 11...Bg4 12 h3 Nh5!) 12 Qd2 Na6 and now White played 13 Rfe1!:

This is a novelty which was previously suggested on ChessPub. White is planning e2-e4 but prepares it first with the useful rook move. See Xiong, J - Cordova, E for analysis.

b) 10...Ne4 11 Rc1!?:

11 Rc1!? is a rare choice (the critical line is 11 Nxe4 Rxe4 12 Nd2). It’s actually scored well for White, but Black should be fine if he knows what he’s doing. See the analysis in Kozul, Z - Dann, M.

Modern Benoni, Old Classical: 9...Re8 10 Nd2 Na6 11 f3 [A79]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 e6 4 Nc3 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 e4 g6 7 Nf3 Bg7 8 Be2 0-0 9 0-0 Re8 10 Nd2 Na6 11 f3 Nc7 12 a4 b6:

The Old Classical is certainly not as popular as it once was. Over the years it has been overtaken by all of the Modern Classical, the Bf4 Variation and the Fianchetto Variation. Yet it remains a perfectly good option for White, and it now has the advantage of not being very theoretical! Nothing new happens in Vidit, S - Indjic, A, but nevertheless it’s an interesting game from a strategic viewpoint.

Till next time, John

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