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The World Cup proved to be a triumph for Magnus Carlsen, who finally won the one major title that had previously eluded him. The tournament itself (Open and Women’s) was exciting throughout and unsurprisingly it also produced its fair share of new opening ideas, a few of which are covered in this month’s update.

Download PGN of August ’23 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd2 [E46]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd2 c5 6 a3 Bxc3 7 Bxc3 Ne4 8 Ne2 b6 9 d5 Ba6 10 f3!?:

At the World Cup, in his match against Tari, Carlsen unleashes this new idea (previously we’ve considered both 10 b3; and 10 Qd3). After 10...Nxc3 11 Nxc3 Black can win a pawn with the typical tactic 11...Bxc4!. Presumably this is the reason 10 f3 has hardly ever been played. However, Carlsen realised that White’s compensation isn’t insignificant, and a likely surprise factor can’t be discounted either. Following 12 Bxc4 Qh4+ 13 g3 Qxc4 14 h4! Black does indeed have some problems to solve - see the notes to Carlsen, M - Tari, A.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nge2 [E48]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nge2 Re8!?:

This rook move (and the similar 5...Re8 we covered in last month’s update) has been gaining some attention recently. 6 cxd5 exd5 7 Nge2 Re8 is a main line, but for some reason ...Re8 seems a less obvious move when White hasn’t exchanged on d5.

In a recent game, after 7 0-0 Nbd7 8 a3 Bf8, White changed the structure with 9 e4!? This advance is natural but there’s no reason to fear it, and Black achieved a comfortable French Rubinstein type of position. See Buendia Pinar, A - Iturrizaga Bonelli, E for analysis.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 b6 5 Bd3 [E43]

4 e3 b6 5 Bd3 Bb7 6 Nf3 0-0 7 Bd2 d6:

7...d6 followed by ...Nbd7is a decent option if Black wishes to avoid the fixed pawn structure arising in the main line after 7...d5 8 cxd5 exd5. White typically castles here, but there’s also an appeal to 8 Qc2, which rules out the ...Bxc3 and ...Ne4 plan. After 8...Nbd7 9 a3 Bxc3 10 Bxc3, 10...c5! looks reasonable and has scored well for Black. In a recent game, Black preferred 10...Qe7 11 e4 e5:

It looks like White is under some pressure to release the tension in the centre, but 12 0-0! is a promising pawn sacrifice. See Khademalsharieh, S - Sanz Wawer,D for details.

Nimzo-Indian Saemisch: 4 e3 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 bxc3 c5 7 Bd3 Nc6 [E29]

4 e3 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 bxc3 c5 7 Bd3 Nc6 8 Nf3:

8 Nf3 has gained considerable interest since it was tried by Grischuk. The critical response for Black is 8...d6 aiming for a Huebner Variation set-up where White has lost a tempo with a2-a3. After 8...d6 9 e4 e5 10 d5 Ne7:

White could actually try to exploit the lost tempo by keeping the king in the centre and advancing on the kingside, as tried at the World Cup in the game Le, Q - Ponomariov, R.

Nimzo-Indian Saemisch: 4 a3 Bxc3+ 5 bxc3 Nc6 [E24]

4 f3 Nc6!? 5 e4 e5 6 a3 Bxc3+ 7 bxc3 d6:

Magnus Carlsen has played the unusual 4...Nc6 against 4 f3 previously, and he repeated it in his difficult match against Vincent Keymer at the World Cup, in which he was close to being eliminated. In the end, the position transposed to a Saemisch which could be reached via the move order 4 a3 Bxc3+ 5 bxc3 Nc6 6 f3 d6 7 e4 e5. After 8 Ne2 b6 9 Ng3 Na5 10 Bd3, perhaps sensing that ‘normal’ play favours White, Carlsen tried to unbalance the position further with 10...h5!? - see Keymer, V - Carlsen, M for analysis.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 f3 c5 [E20]

4 f3 c5 5 d5 b5 6 e4 d6 7 Nge2 bxc4 8 Nf4 e5 9 Nfe2 Nbd7:

This position has already been reached on many occasions. Typically play continues 10 Ng3 Nb6 11 Be2 Ng8!?, with the black knight re-routing to the more favourable square e7. In a recent game against Sambuev, Mamedyarov preferred 10 g4!?, which cuts across Black’s plan. Sambuev reacted in a direct manner with 10...h5!, leading to a complex position - see Mamedyarov, S - Sambuev, B for details.

Bogo-Indian: 4 Nbd2 d5 [E11]

4 Nbd2 d5:

4...d5 is a new move to the site (previously we’ve covered the popular responses 4...0-0 and 4...b6). With 4...d5, we’ve got a Ragozin but with the knight on d2 rather than c3. Just as in the Ragozin, 5 Qa4+, is an appealing option, as it forces the knight to go to a sub-optimal square. After 5...Nc6 6 e3, a typical continuation is 6...0-0 7 a3 Be7 8 Qc2 a5 9 b3. At the World Cup, Ferenc Berkes instead tried 6...a5!? against Boris Gelfand. After 7 a3 Be7 8 Qc2 a4!?, Black’s idea is revealed.

Using an unusual move order, Black has achieved ...a4 before White had time to play b3. However, this is by no means the end of the story, because after 9 cxd5! exd5 10 Bb5 Black is obliged to gambit the pawn. See Gelfand, B - Berkes, F for details of this interesting idea.

Till next time, John

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