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This month covers another new development in the 4 Qc2 b6 Nimzo, a creative idea for Black in the Karpov Variation, miniature wins in the 4 e3 Queen’s Indian and the rare 7...Ne4 against Kramnik’s 7 Re1.

Download PGN of December ’16 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 b6 5 e4 c5 6 d5 [E32]

4 Qc2 b6 5 e4 c5 6 d5 Qe7 7 Be2 d6!?:

We begin this month’s update by revisiting a line we looked at only last month. Here we study something new for Black - 7...d6!? - previously on this site we’ve covered only 7...exd5. By delaying exchanging pawns in the centre, Black hopes to profit from the attack on the e4-pawn. This idea worked out very well for Black in a recent game - see Walter, S - Wojtaszek, R for analysis.

Nimzo-Indian: Karpov Variation 9...b6 10 Qe2 [E54]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nf3 c5 7 0-0 cxd4 8 exd4 dxc4 9 Bxc4 b6 10 Qe2:

The diagrammed position has occurred hundreds of times, and Black virtually always plays the automatic 10...Bb7 here. However, in a recent game Black came up with a completely new idea. It’s true that 11...Nc6 has been played before, but never with 11 Rd1 Ne7! as Black’s follow-up:

Black’s idea looks very logical. He uses the extra move gained by delaying ...Bb7 to get the queen’s knight to an ideal position. See Paravyan, D - Alekseev, E for analysis of Black’s interesting idea.

A critical position in the Karpov Variation with 10 Qe2 occurs after 11...Bb7 11 Rd1 Bxc3 12 bxc3 Qc7:

The pawn sacrifice 13 Bd3! Qxc3 is undoubtedly dangerous for Black, who needs to do his homework before venturing into this line. The good news for Black is that alternatives to 13 Bd3 seem to be either harmless or worse than that. 13 Bg5 is a natural move, but Black is absolutely fine here, as demonstrated in David, A - Wang Hao.

Queen’s Indian: 4 e3 Bb7 5 Bd3 d5 [E14]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 e3 Bb7 5 Bd3 d5:

The e3 Queen’s Indian, often reached via a Colle move-order, remains a fairly popular choice for those who like positions with classical development and not much sharp theory. In this update we focus on 5...d5, which is considered to be one of Black’s most reliable answers.

As you’ll see from the three featured games, there are many possible move orders, so I’ll just give the most common one here: 6 0-0 Bd6, and now

a) 7 Nc3 0-0 8 b3 Nbd7 9 Bb2 a6:

In this very common position White’s most popular choices are 10 Qe2 and 10 Rc1. Another idea is 10 Qc2!?, planning e3-e4 without allowing Black to occupy the square with ...Ne4. It seems that the most challenging response is 10...dxc4 11 bxc4 Bxf3 12 gxf3 - see Englert, F - Nguyen, T for details.

b) Another option for White is to develop the knight to d2, 7 b3 0-0 8 Bb2 Ne4!? (8...Nbd7 9 Nbd2 would transpose) 9 Nbd2 Nd7:

With the knight on d2, White may more easily arrange Ne5. On the other hand, the knight is more passively placed and Black doesn’t have to worry about Nb5 (or Ne2) ideas. The recent game Eliet, N - Rozentalis, E is certainly a good advert, for Black! Make sure to check out a brilliant Tony Miles miniature in the notes.

Queen’s Indian: 4 e3 Bb7 5 Bd3 Be7 [E14]

4 e3 Bb7 5 Bd3 Be7 6 0-0 0-0 7 Nc3 d5:

To redress the balance, I’ve included the game Kovalenko, I - Meskovs, N which ends in a crushing win for White. Kovalenko chooses to release the tension in the centre with 8 cxd5 exd5. This feels right when Black has played ...Be7 rather than ...Bd6, because with this structure many of Black’s plans involve moving the bishop to d6 anyway.

Queen’s Indian: 4 g3 Bb7 5 Bg2 Be7 6 0-0 0-0 7 Re1 [E17]

4 g3 Bb7 5 Bg2 Be7 6 0-0 0-0 7 Re1 Ne4!?:

Finally this month, we take another look at 7...Ne4, an unusual way of meeting Kramnik’s 7 Re1, but one that’s found a few GM supporters. Earlier we analysed 8 Nfd2 d5 9 cxd5 exd5 10 Nxe4 but in the recent game Bida, M - Baklan, V White chose to play around Black’s knight with 10 Nc3 f5 11 Qb3 Kh8 12 Nf3, leading to a complex struggle with roughly level chances.

Till next time, John

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