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Happy New Year! In this month’s update we investigate a rare try for Black in the Benoni Fianchetto, some ideas in the e3 Nimzo and a dubious line in the Queen’s Indian.

Download PGN of January ’17 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Modern Benoni: Fianchetto Variation: 9...a6 10 a4 Nbd7 11 Nd2 [A64]

We start this month by looking at an interesting idea for Black in the main line of the Fianchetto Variation, 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 a6 10 a4 Nbd7 11 Nd2 Re8 12 h3 b6!?:

12...b6 is new to this site (previously we’ve looked in depth at the sharp main line 12...Rb8 preparing ...b5, and also at 12...Nh5). The first thing to say about 12...b6 is that it virtually eliminates the possibility of a4-a5, which is now met very favourably by ...b5. Compared to 12...Rb8, 12...b6 is a little slow in that Black is not yet threatening to play ...b5. However, there are definitely some benefits to the move and it looks like a good surprise weapon for Black.

In Justo, D - Hamdouchi, H White carries on as normal with 13 Nc4, but is soon in trouble when Black demonstrates a hidden advantage of keeping the rook on a8.

In Baryshpolets, A - Ponomariov, R White plays 13 f4!?, making use of the fact that Black is not yet ready for ...b5 by preventing ...Ne5 in preparation of Nc4.

Pranav, V - David, A sees 13 e4, another logical choice by White, delaying Nc4 in favour of this typical central advance.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 [E48]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 cxd5 exd5 7 Nge2:

In this line Black typically plays 7...Re8, planning ...Bd6 or ...Bf8 followed by ...c5. 7...b6 is rare but not a bad alternative. After 8 0-0 Bb7 9 a3 Bd6 we get a position very much like the Tal Variation, with the only difference being the position of White’s king’s knight - it’s on e2 rather than f3. This allows White the option of going for central action with f2-f3 and e3-e4. See Navara, D - Movsesian, S for analysis.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Nf3 [E51]

4 e3 0-0 5 Nf3 d5 6 Bd2:

6 Bd2 looks harmless, but a few strong players have tried it in recent times. White’s idea is to meet the typical 6...c5 with 7 a3 Bxc3 8 Bxc3 (as we saw in Aronian, L - Anand, V, from the January 2016 update). A more recent game went 6...b6 7 Rc1 Bb7 8 cxd5 exd5 9 Be2:

This all looks like a rather passive for White, and yet he did eventually get a strong attack. See the game Matlakov, M - Anton Guijarro, D for details.

Queen’s Indian: 4 g3 Ba6 [E15]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qc2 c5 6 d5 exd5 7 cxd5:

The main line here is for Black to accept the gambit with 7...Bb7 8 Bg2 Nxd5, as we’ve seen many times on this site. It’s not compulsory for Black to take the pawn, and 7...g6 is a decent alternative if Black is happy with a Benoni-type position. In a recent game Mamedyarov experimented with 7...d6 8 Nc3 b5?! but after 9 e4! he was soon in big trouble:

See Grischuk, A - Mamedyarov, S for analysis.

Nimzo/Queen’s Indian Hybrid: 4 Nf3 b6 5 Qb3 [E21]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Nf3 b6 5 Qb3 c5 6 Bg5 Bb7 7 e3:

5 Qb3 lines don’t seem to be quite as popular as they once were (as well as 5 Bg5 and 5 Qc2, quite a few top players have been willing to transpose to the e3 Nimzo with 5 e3). In Khismatullin, D - Jakovenko, D Black chose 7...cxd4!?. This move is virtually new, which surprised me because it looks like a sensible choice, and indeed it seems to be a perfectly reasonable alternative to the main choices 7...0-0 and 7...h6.

Till next time, John

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