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This month we look at some new ideas in Nimzo-Indian and Modern Benoni lines, including the sharp 4 f3 c5 Nimzo, the Botvinnik-Capablanca Variation, further developments in the ...Bf5 lines of the Fianchetto Benoni, and finally an old forgotten line in the Classical Benoni.

Download PGN of August ’17 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 f3 c5 [E20]

4 f3 c5 5 d5 0-0 6 e4 b5 7 e5 Ne8 8 f4 d6 9 Nf3:

Black has numerous possibilities in the 4 f3 c5 5 d5 variation, and 5...0-0 6 e4 b5 remains one of the sharpest options available to Black. In this key position Black has typically played 9...exd5 10 cxd5 and now 10...Nc7 or 10...c4, as we’ve seen in earlier games. In a recent game, instead Black immediately broke the tension and swapped both pawns in the centre with 9...dxe5!? 10 fxe5 exd5 11 cxd5 Bb7:

In this very complex position White soon erred, and Black won convincingly, but with best play White has good chances to gain an edge. See Narciso Dublan, M - Iturrizaga, E for analysis.

Nimzo-Indian: Tal Variation: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nf3 b6 [E52]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nf3 b6 7 0-0 Bb7 8 cxd5 exd5 9 a3 Bd6 10 b4 Nbd7 11 Qb3:

We recently covered the main line 11...a6 12 a4 Qe7 13 Rb1 in Mamedyarov-Adams, Moscow 2017. Black’s alternative is the unusual-looking 11...c6, which is to make 12 b5?! undesirable because of 12...c5! - Black’s two-step to c5 has avoided the en passant rule!

In the recent game Kravtsiv, M - Zhigalko, S White responded with 12 e4!?. This advance is committal, of course, but there’s certainly some logic to opening up the centre after Black willingly blocks his bishop with ...c6.

Nimzo-Indian: Botvinnik-Capablanca Variation: 4 f3 d5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 bxc3 c5 7 e3 0-0 8 cxd5 exd5 [E49]

4 f3 d5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 bxc3 c5 7 e3 0-0 8 cxd5 exd5 9 Bd3 b6 10 Ne2 Ba6 11 0-0 Re8 12 Ng3 Bxd3 13 Qxd3 Nc6 14 Bb2 h5:

The ...h5 pawn thrust remains a key part of Black’s counterplay in the Botvinnik-Capablanca Variation, and Black usually struggles without it. In this key position White has usually played 15 Rae1 to prepare e4, but lately it’s been recognised that White can also play the immediate 15 e4!. Bu Xiangzhi - Wang, Y continued 15...h4 16 Nf5 dxe4 17 fxe4 and now the novelty 17...Rxe4. Black reached a good position before going astray, but the notes demonstrate a key improvement for White which leaves Black in difficulties.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 b6 [E32]

4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 b6 7 Nf3 Bb7 8 g3:

This way of playing as White has never been very popular (7 Bg5 is by far the main choice, and even 7 Nf3 tends to be played in conjunction with e3 and Be2/d3). I’m not exactly sure why this is the case. After all, in many positions White’s kingside fianchetto is a very logical response to ...b6 and ...Bb7. Of course Black isn’t in big danger, but White does have chances of keeping a slight bishop-pair edge. See Hawkins, J - Emms, J for details.

Modern Benoni: Fianchetto Variation 9...Re8 10 Bf4 [A62]

6 Nf3 g6 7 g3 Bg7 8 Bg2 0-0 9 0-0 Re8 10 Bf4 Bf5:

This bishop move continues to attract interest, and Giri is the latest grandmaster to try it out. His opponent, Tomashevsky, responded with the novelty 11 Bg5!?. Moving the bishop twice in succession makes an odd impression. On the other hand White does eliminate two key ideas for Black after 10...Bf5, namely ...Ne4 and ...Nh5. White will have to part with his dark-squared bishop, but aims to exploit a temporary lack of coordination in Black’s army in order to get going in the centre. See Tomashevsky, E - Giri, A.

Given the recent interest in 10...Bf5, it’s unsurprising that similar ...Bf5 ideas are starting to attract attention. One of these is 10...Na6 11 Re1 Bf5!?, which was recently tried in the game Navara, D - Morozevich, A:

After 12 Nh4 Morozevich offered his d-pawn with 12...Bd7! and soon reached a very promising position.

Modern Benoni: 7 e4 Bg7 8 Bf4!? [A70]

7 e4 Bg7 8 Bf4 0-0 9 Nd2!?:

Finally this month, a line in the Modern Benoni that’s so old it might be worth trying as a surprise weapon. White’s idea with an early Bf4 and Nd2 is to get an improved version of the Old Classical Nd2 lines, with the bishop actively placed on f4 rather than being blocked in on c1. If Black isn’t careful, he can soon get into trouble, as was the case in Gozzoli, Y - Antoli Royo, J.

Till next time, John

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