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This month's Nimzo/Queen's Indian action includes some more novelties, plus a look at two of Magnus Carlsen's games from the recent Biel super-GM tournament.

Download PGN of August '12 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 e4 [E32]

We begin this month with a new idea for White in the 5 e4 line, 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 e4 d6 6 e5 dxe5 7 dxe5 Ng4:

Previously White has virtually always played 8 Nf3 here, and basically Black has been fine, but the key novelty 8 a3! alters the assessment of this line. See Rajlich - Charkhalashvili, Warsaw 2012, for details.

Vitolinsh Gambit 6...b5 [E32]

Next up, it's the Vitolinsh Gambit, 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 b5:

This isn't part of Kramnik's repertoire, but just below him there are a number of GMs who have been willing to try it.

Previously I'd come to the conclusion that "Black doesn't really have any compensation for White's impressive centre" after 7 cxb5 c6 8 f3 cxb5 9 e4, but the evidence of Sarkar - Onischuk, Rockville 2012, suggests I was a bit too hasty!

5 Nf3 [E32]

Now let's look at the opening moves of Carlsen - Wang Hao, Biel 2012, 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 Nf3 b6?!:

It's surprising to see a world-class player such as Wang Hao, who enjoyed his greatest success so far in winning at Biel, play a move which has been considered for many years to be dubious. In his post-match interview Carlsen even went as far as to suggest it was a "fingerfehler". That said, Wang Hao does emerge from the opening with a playable position, although I don't think this will lead to a sudden surge of games with 5...b6.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 c5 [E38]

Mamedyarov - Kotsur, World Blitz Final, Astana 2012, is a fun game, 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 c5 5 dxc5 Bxc5 6 Nf3 Qb6 7 e3 Qc7 8 g4!?:

This aggressive lunge is actually quite a common occurrence in this line, although often White waits a few moves before committing to it. Kotsur responded with 8...h6 9 Rg1 and now the strange-looking but by no means bad 9...Bf8!? - a move he had already played three times before, with some success.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 [E54]

There's been a flurry of action in the variation 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 c5 6 Nf3 d5 7 0-0 cxd4 8 exd4 dxc4 9 Bxc4 b6 10 Qe2 Bb7 11 Rd1 Bxc3 12 bxc3 Qc7 13 Bd3!:

In last month's update we looked at 13...Nbd7 (in Jakovenko-Yu Yangyi, St Petersburg 2012) but in three more recent grandmaster games Black has bravely grabbed the pawn with 13...Qxc3 14 Bb2. Both Melkumyan - Meier, Biel Open 2012, with 14...Qc7, and Timofeev - Ovetchkin, Samara 2012, where Black chose 14...Qb4, show that:

  1. Black's position is on a knife-edge; but also
  2. It's probably defensible with accurate play.

Queen's Indian: 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qc2 [E15]

Finally this month, it's back to Biel, and Giri - Carlsen, Biel 2012, 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qc2 Bb4+ 6 Bd2:

Most of the top players, Carlsen included, have usually chosen 6...Be7 in the past, but here Carlsen opted for the rare 6...Bxd2+ 7 Nbxd2 d5 and equalized fairly comfortably. This could prove to be of interest for Black players wishing to avoid the complications of the gambit line 5...Bb7 6 Bg2 c5 7 d5 exd5 8 cxd5 Nxd5.

Till next time, John

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