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This month we focus on the Modern Benoni, and two lines in particular: a dangerous option for White in the Taimanov Attack, and a relatively new idea for Black in the Fianchetto Variation. Thanks go to subscriber Stephan Geuljans for reminding me of the line in the Taimanov Attack, and also to Michael for alerting me to Black's option in the Fianchetto Variation.

Download PGN of February ’16 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Modern Benoni: Taimanov Variation 8 Bb5+ Nfd7 9 Nf3 [A67]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 e6 4 Nc3 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 e4 g6 7 f4 Bg7 8 Bb5+ Nfd7 9 Nf3:

In this main line White usually prevents Black's queenside expansion by playing 9 a4 here (or a bishop retreat to d3 or e2 intending to meet ...a6 with a4). However, as we've seen before on this site, 9 Nf3 is a perfectly good alternative. For example, one advantage it has is that it prevents all the ...Qh4+ lines.

After 9 Nf3 Black takes the opportunity on the queenside with 9...a6 10 Bd3 b5 11 0-0 0-0:

White's play can be compared to the variation in the Modern Main Line where White allows ...b5 (that is, 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 e6 4 Nc3 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 e4 g6 7 Nf3 a6 8 h3 b5 9 Bd3). Of course here White has the added f2-f4 to boost his attacking chances on the kingside (or, from Black's viewpoint, the extra f2-f4 which weakens White's king!).

Overall White's results have been impressive of late. Black has to be very careful, but he does have chances in the resulting positions, which are very sharp.

In this update we'll mainly focus on 12 Kh1 Re8 13 a3 Ra7 14 Qe1!?:

It may look strange to put the queen on the same file as the black rook, but Black is planning ...Nf6 and White's idea is to be able to answer this with Qh4 where the queen is very well placed.

We'll look at three games reaching this position:

a) For 14...Nf6 (and also a summary of earlier options) see Edouard - Hillarp Persson, Reykjavik 2015.

b) 14...Rc7 is covered in Vidit - Pantsulaia, Hyderabad 2013.

c) 14...f5 is covered in Smirnova - Nasybullina, Satka 2015.

Modern Benoni: Fianchetto Variation 9...Re8 10 Bf4 Bf5!? [A62]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 e6 4 Nc3 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 Nf3 g6 7 g3 Bg7 8 Bg2 0-0 9 0-0 Re8 10 Bf4 Bf5!?:

10...Bf5 is rare. Most of the initial games with 10...Bf5 were correspondence, but recently it's also made some appearances over the board. Early signs are that it's a decent alternative to the main lines.

Black's idea is to meet the obvious 11 Nh4 with 11...Bc8! The bishop returns home and Black challenges White to find something better than 12 Nf3. This sort of thing happens in certain openings (the Slav comes to mind) but I'm struggling to think of another example in the Modern Benoni. See Georgiadis - Bok, Khanty-Mansiysk 2015, for analysis.

Of course 11 Nh4 isn't forced, and in the remaining three games we consider other options for White.

11 Qb3 doesn't cause Black any major problems after 11...Na6! (see Dedina - Rotaru, ICCF email 2014).

11 Nd2, preventing ...Ne4 and preparing both e4 and Nc4, is more challenging, but Black has a convincing response with 11...Nh5!:

Typically this knight hitting the bishop works better when White's knight is no longer on f3, as White cannot meet it with the irritating Bg5.

Here we'll examine two games:

a) 12 e4!? is covered in Sabuk - Donchenko, Legnica 2015

b) 12 Be3 is covered in Erdos - Moiseenko, Biel 2015.

Till next time, John

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