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This month we examine more novelties in the 4 Qc2 Nimzo and a new try for Black against 4 f3. We also get up to date with developments in the 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qc2 gambit line of the Queen's Indian.

Download PGN of December '11 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 [E36]

We begin by examining two new ideas after 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5, a line where theory is continuing to develop at a rapid pace.

First up is Nepomniachtchi - Karjakin, Moscow 2011, and 7 Bg5 c5 8 dxc5 d4 9 Qc2 e5 10 e3:

White had previously scored 100% with 10 e3, but here Karjakin is able to finally get Black on the scoreboard. After 10...h6 11 Bh4 Qe7, Nepomniachtchi plays the clever novelty 12 Be2!? but Karjakin is able to more or less maintain level chances in a very complex struggle.

Next up is Muzychuk - Kosintseva, Rostov-on-Don 2011, and the line 7 Nf3 dxc4 8 Qxc4 b6 9 Bg5 Ba6 10 Qa4:

The main continuation here is 10...c5 11 dxc5 bxc5 and now either 12 Rd1 or the recent subtle development 12 Rc1. Kosintseva instead plays 10...h6!? which leads to similar positions, but there are one or two key differences caused by the insertion of ...h6 and Bh4. These are examined in the game, where Kosintseva's novelty on move 15 looks like an important development.

Nimzo-Indian 4 Qc2 0-0 5 Nf3 [E32]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 Nf3 d6:

Black's normal reaction to 5 Nf3 is 5...c5 6 dxc5 Na6, but 5...d6 is a respectable alternative, especially if Black prefers to play with the typical ...d6/...b6/...Bb7/...Nbd7 formation. One of the main lines from here runs 6 Bg5 Nbd7 7 e3 h6 8 Bh4 b6, as played recently in Smirnov - Khismatullin, Russian Cup Final 2011:

Here Smirnov chose the rather impulsive novelty 9 g4?!. The g2-g4 lunge is a weapon in the 4 Qc2 Nimzo, and can be very effective in certain positions. Unfortunately for White, this doesn't look like one of them, and Khismatullin's response appears to be very convincing. In the notes I also examine quieter tries by White for the advantage, including Kasparov's recommendation.

Nimzo-Indian 4 f3 [E20]

Black was successful with a very rare line in Spoelman - Macieja, Bundesliga 2011: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 f3 Nc6 5 e4 and now, instead of the usual 5...d5, the Polish GM tried 5...0-0!?:

Black delays any action in the centre and first sees what White does next. After the sequence 6 Be3 d5 7 e5 Nd7 8 cxd5 exd5 White has the option of either 9 f4 or 9 a3, the latter being Spoelman's choice. Both are analysed here.

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

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qc2 Bb7 6 Bg2 c5 7 d5 exd5 8 cxd5 Nxd5 9 0-0 Be7 10 Rd1 Nc6:

There have been a few signs in the past year or so that the 5 Qc2 gambit is no longer such a fearsome prospect for Black to face. 10...Nc6 has basically replaced 10...Qc8 as the main line (in fact, I can't even find a single game with 10...Qc8 from this year) and Black's position has been holding up quite well.

White's most common choices after 10...Nc6 have been 11 Qf5 and 11 Qa4, but recently 11 a3 has become quite popular. After 11...Nc7! White has a choice:

a) 12 Bf4 was a novelty in Cheparinov - Almasi, European Teams 2011. This looks like an improvement over previous moves, although Almasi demonstrates that with careful play Black should be fine.

b) Black's results after 12 Nc3 have been very good, and this run is continued in Panchanathan - Kononenko, Pardubice 2011.

Finally, in Amanov - Yang, Lubbock 2011, we examine theoretical developments in the most common choices, 11 Qf5 and 11 Qa4.

Till next time, John

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