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This month’s update includes three incredible games from the historic match between Google’s AlphaZero and Stockfish, which the artificial-intelligence program won 28-0 (with 72 draws). It’s virtually impossible to annotate the games properly, but I do at least have the loser’s thoughts to help me!

Download PGN of December ’17 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Queen’s Indian: 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qc2 [E15]

4 g3 Ba6 5 Qc2 c5 6 d5 exd5 7 cxd5 Bb7 8 Bg2 Nxd5 9 0-0 Nc6 10 Rd1 Be7 11 Qf5 Nf6 12 e4 g6 13 Qf4 0-0 14 e5 Nh5 15 Qg4:

It’s interesting that AlphaZero battled with Stockfish with the sharp gambit lines of the Queen’s Indian (this one and also 4 g3 Bb7 5 Bg2 Be7 6 0-0 0-0 7 d5). There was always a feeling that these gambits are excellent practical weapons, but with accurate defence Black should be okay. Well, it’s possible that even accurate defence may not be enough, although perhaps we should wait to draw firm conclusions until AlphaZero defends the Black side! See AlphaZero - Stockfish 8.

Queen’s Indian: 4 g3 Bb7 5 Bg2 Be7 6 0-0 0-0 7 d5 [E17]

4 g3 Bb7 5 Bg2 Be7 6 0-0 0-0 7 d5 exd5 8 Nh4 c6 9 cxd5 Nxd5 10 Nf5 Nc7 11 e4:

This is another established gambit we’ve seen a few times on this site. White has scored well in practice because Black’s position isn’t easy to handle over the board, especially for those surprised by 7 d5.

a) After 11...d5 AlphaZero played the rare 12 exd5, although this move could easily transpose to the main line. Instead the game continued 12...Nxd5 13 Nc3 Nxc3 14 Qg4. See AlphaZero - Stockfish 8..

b) Another AlphaZero - Stockfish 8 game saw 11...Bf6, which is very rare. 12 Nc3 d5 transposes to 11...d5, so it seems that 11...Bf6 does nothing except give White a new option with the disruptive 12 Nd6, which was AlphaZero’s choice.

Queen’s Indian 4 e3 [E14]

4 e3 Bb7 5 Bd3 d5 6 0-0 Bd6 7 Nc3 0-0 8 b3 Nbd7 9 Bb2 Re8!?:

In the vast majority of cases, Black plays 9...a6 here, to prevent any Nb5 ideas. 9...Re8 allows Black to meet Nb5 with ...Bf8, and it also prepares ...e5. It worked to perfection in Li Chao - Wang Hao, albeit with some help from White’s less than optimal play.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 f3 c5 [E20]

4 f3 c5 5 d5 0-0 6 e4 d6 7 Bg5!?:

7 Bg5 is a natural move but a rare choice. White normally plays either 7 Bd3 or 7 Ne2 here, and Mamedyarov had previously tried both. Find out how Black can successfully meet 7 Bg5 in Mamedyarov, S - Korobov, A.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 Nf3 c5 6 dxc5 [E39]

4 Qc2 0-0 5 Nf3 c5 6 dxc5 Na6 7 g3 Nxc5 8 Bg2 Nce4 9 0-0 Nxc3 10 bxc3 Be7 11 e4 d6 12 e5 dxe5 13 Nxe5 Qc7 14 Qe2 Nd7 15 Bf4 Nxe5 16 Bxe5 Bd6 17 Rfe1 Rb8 18 Rad1 Bxe5 19 Qxe5 Qxe5 20 Rxe5 b6 21 c5:

This simplified position, a result of going all the way down the main line, has previously caused Black some difficulties. It’s maybe a bit too early to say for sure, but perhaps Caruana’s novelty 21...Ba6! will completely solve Black’s problems and force White to look elsewhere. See Nakamura, H - Caruana, F for analysis.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 Nf3 [E39]

4 Qc2 0-0 5 Nf3 d5:

This is a decent option for those who don’t fancy playing the main lines after 5...c5, some of which are quite forcing and offer Black very few if any winning chances (see above!). Lines after 5...d5 are similar to those after 4 Qc2 d5, with a few subtle differences based on Black’s early castling and White’s commitment to Nf3.

The recent game Mamedyarov, S - Ding Liren continued 6 Bg5 h6 7 Bh4 c5 8 e3 cxd4 9 exd4 Nc6! 10 Rd1:

Here Black can aim for an IQP with 10...Be7 intending ...dxc4. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ding Liren chose the more attacking option 10...g5!, and after 11 Bg3 Ne4 12 Bd3 f5! this looked to be a wise decision.

Till next time, John

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