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In this month’s update we look at some interesting ideas in various lines, including a way of playing the Modern Benoni with ...Nh6!

Download PGN of December ’18 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Modern Benoni: 6 e4 g6 7 Nf3 a6 8 a4 [A70]

Jones, G - Merry, A, from the very recent British Knockout Championship, reached a Modern Benoni position from an unusual move-order: 1 d4 e6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 exd5 4 cxd5 g6 5 e4 Bg7 6 Nc3 d6 7 Nf3 Nf6 8 Be2 a6 9 a4

Here Alan Merry played 9...Bg4, and what could be more natural? However, this actually transposes to the commonly played line 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 e6 4 Nc3 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 e4 g6 7 Nf3 a6 8 a4 Bg4 9 Be2, where 9...Bxf3! is considered more accurate than 9...Bg7. The reason is Jones’s response 10 Nd2! Bxe2 11 Qxe2 0-0 12 Nc4!:

which gives Black problems with the d6-pawn and promises White a favourable version of the typical positions.

Modern Benoni Fianchetto: 9...a6 10 a4 Nbd7 11 Bf4 [A63]

9...a6 10 a4 Nbd7 11 Bf4 Qc7 12 e4:

Bf4 lines remain an appealing alternative for White to the sharp and deeply theoretical 11 Nd2. After 11...Qc7 (11...Qe7 is Black’s other option), we’ve previously considered 12 Rc1. In a recent game White chose the natural and equally popular 12 e4, but after 12...Re8 came the rare 13 Nd2!? followed by the novelty 13...Ne5:

White responded with the surprising 14 Bxe5!?. In the Modern Benoni, White should never give up the dark-squared bishop without good reason, but here he will be compensated by a strong knight on c4 and a grip in the centre. See Kozul, Z - Ivanchuk, V for analysis of an eventful battle.

Modern Benoni: 6 Nf3 g6 7 Bf4 Nbd7!? [A61]

6 Nf3 g6 7 Bf4 Nbd7!?:

7...Nbd7 is an incredibly rare move. From a position that’s been reached over 4,000 times on my database, I’ve found only four games with 7...Nbd7!, two of which have featured the Serbian GM Milos Perunovic. With the d6-pawn no longer defended by the queen, the obvious question is how will Black develop the dark-squared bishop? In Perunovic’s most recent game in this line, White chose 8 Nd2, which was met convincingly by 8...Nh5!. Analysis of this and alternatives are discussed in Fridman, D - Perunovic, M.

Weird Benoni 1 d4 e6 2 c4 c5 [A43]

1 d4 e6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 exd5 4 cxd5 d6:

The 1...e6 / 2...c5 move order is an appealing option for players who enjoy the main Modern Benoni pawn structure but are searching for offbeat lines (and are willing to meet 2 e4!). In particular, the delayed development of the king’s knight gives Black some flexibility in his plans. A recent game saw 5 Nc3 a6 6 a4 g6 7 Nf3 Bg7 8 Nd2 Nd7 9 e4 Nh6!?:

Developing the knight on the edge of the board does look odd here, but the key point is that Black doesn’t block the f-pawn, so he can aim for a quick ...f5. This makes sense when we consider that in the Modern Benoni Black often moves the knight from f6 to allow ...f5. Analysis of this move and the more popular 9...Ne7, with similar ideas, can be found in the notes to Kryakvin, D - Ponkratov, P.

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

4 e3 Bb7 5 Bd3 d5 6 0-0 Bd6 7 b3 0-0 8 Bb2:

By far the most popular continuation from this common position is 8...Nbd7 9 Nc3 a6. Instead, 8...dxc4!? is a rare choice for Black, but it’s one that we’ve seen already on this site. Exchanging pawns on c4 early on releases the bishop on b7 and is a tempting option for those who prefer this structure to the rather static one arising after the typical exchange cxd5 exd5. See the game Harikrishna, P - So, W for details.

Queen’s Indian: 4 g3 Bb7 5 Bg2 Bb4+ [E16]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Bb7 5 Bg2 Bb4+ 6 Bd2 c5 7 Bxb4 cxb4 8 0-0:

I believe that the ...Bb4+/...a5 lines are a good practical option for QID players. After the exchange on b4, there is enough strategic imbalance in the arising positions to allow the stronger player, with White or Black, to push for an advantage.

In Gunina, V - Najer, E, Black chose a slightly unusual move-order: 8...a5 9 Qd3 0-0 10 Nbd2 d6 11 e4 e5!

This is the point of Black’s move order. Black has delayed ...Qc7 or one of ...Nc6/...Nbd7 in favour of the useful ...a5, and this has allowed him to use a tactical idea in order to force ...e5 without protecting the square a second time. A nice nuance, albeit one which shouldn’t make much difference to the general assessment of this line.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Nge2 c6 [E42]

4 e3 0-0 5 Nge2 c6 6 a3 Ba5:

5...c6 continues to score well for Black. The idea is to make sure the bishop can retreat to the b8-h2 diagonal, something which it is unable to do after 5...d5 6 a3 Bd6 7 c5 Be7. Previously we’ve considered all of 7 b4, 7 Ng3, 7 Qc2 and 7 g3, but there’s yet another option for White here in 7 c5!?. The idea behind 7 c5 is to use the en passant rule after 7...d5 8 cxd6! Qxd6:

reaching a position where White has a 2-1 central pawn advantage, but Black will undoubtedly break soon with ...e5. See the recent game Paterek, M - Parligras, M for details.

Till next time, John

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