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After a little break, we return to the Modern Benoni this month and consider new ideas in a number of popular lines.

Download PGN of February ’18 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Modern Benoni 6 Nf3 g6 7 Bf4 a6 [A61]

6 Nf3 g6 7 Bf4 a6 8 a4 Bg7 9 h3 0-0 10 e3 Qe7 11 Be2 Nfd7!?

The 7 Bf4 variation remains a popular choice for White, so it’s good to some different ideas emerging for Black. The usual choice after 11 Be2 is 11...Nbd7, but 11...Nfd7 is a rare move and an interesting option. Black wishes to cement a knight into the e5-square without giving White the opportunity to change the pawn structure. The simple plan is ...Ne5 followed by ...Nbd7. See Swapnil, S - Edouard, R for details.

Modern Benoni, Modern Classical Variation [A61]

6 e4 g6 7 Nf3 Bg7 8 h3 0-0 9 Bd3 Re8 10 0-0 Nbd7:

In the past, Black has virtually always played ...a6 around moves 9-11, but it’s noticeable that a few Modern Benoni advocates are now delaying or even avoiding the move, and that the lack of ...a6 and a2-a4 gives Black extra options. From the diagram, White has two main choices:

a) 11 Bf4 c4!. Without the insertion of ...a6 and a4, this move seems to work quite well for Black - see the notes to Vaibhav, S - Pantsulaia, L.

b) 11 Re1 protects the e4-pawn and thus prevents ...c4. Black would normally play 11...a6 here, but in the recent game Barp, A - Jobava, B, Black again declined to play the pawn advance and instead chose the thematic 11...Nh5.

Modern Benoni 6 e4 g6 7 Nf3 a6 8 h3 [A70]

6 e4 g6 7 Nf3 a6 8 h3 b5 9 Bd3 Bg7 10 0-0 0-0 11 Re1 Re8:

With the 7...a6 8 h3 move order, we reach a Modern Classical but with Black achieving queenside expansion with ...a6 and ...b5. Even so, White has chances for an edge in this line. After the continuation 12 Bf4 Qb6 13 a3 Nbd7 14 Qd2 Bb7 15 b4 Rac8 16 Rac1 we reach a typical position for this line. Black’s pieces are already optimally placed and it’s difficult to improve their position. In view of this, Black needs to show patience and react only when White tries to make progress - something that certainly didn’t happen in Karpov, A - Hou Yifan. See the notes for analysis and also for details on move orders after 12 Bf4.

Modern Benoni, Old Classical Variation: 9...Na6 [A73]

6 Nf3 g6 7 Nd2 Bg7 8 e4 0-0 9 Be2 Na6 10 0-0:

Black has two main plans in the 9...Na6 variation. One plan is ...Nc7, ...b6 and possible queenside expansion, and the other is to prepare the pawn break ...f5. After 10...Ne8 11 Nc4 f5, we’ve previously only looked at White’s most popular choice 12 exf5. However, the pawn sacrifice 12 Bf4! has scored well for White and looks quite promising.

For details, see the recent game Cernousek, L - Povah, N.

Modern Benoni, Old Classical Variation: 9...Re8 10 Nd2 Na6 [A78]

6 e4 g6 7 Nf3 Bg7 8 Be2 0-0 9 0-0 Re8 10 Nd2 Na6 11 Re1 Nc7 12 f3?!:

The most popular choice for White after 10...Na6 is 11 f3, but 11 Re1 is certainly a reasonable alternative. However, mixing the two moves is a bad recipe - White should play one move or the other, but not both!. Find out in the analysis of the recent game Baron, T - Melia, S how Black should exploit this inaccuracy by White.

Modern Benoni 6 e4 g6 7 Nge2 [A65]

6 e4 g6 7 Nge2!? Bg7 8 Ng3 0-0 9 Be2:

The 7 Nge2 variation is definitely one of the better rare lines against the Modern Benoni (‘rare’ is relative - there are over 600 games on my database!). White aims for an improved version of the Saemisch King’s Indian line 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nc3 Bg7 4 e4 d6 5 f3 0-0 6 Nge2 c5 7 d5 e6 8 Ng3 exd5 9 cxd5. In the Modern Benoni version White does without f2-f3 and aims for an eventual f2-f4, in effect gaining a tempo.

The most popular continuation after 9 Be2 is 9...a6 10 a4 Nbd7 11 0-0 Re8, which we’ve considered before. Black can also play 9...Na6 10 0-0 Nc7, although White’s resounding response in the game Tang, A - Zherebukh, Y makes Black’s play look a bit slow.

Till next time, John

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