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In this update I've taken a temporary break from mainline Nimzo theory and focussed entirely on the Modern Benoni Classical Variation. I've provided a mini-survey on ...Ne8 and ...f5 lines which hasn't previously been covered on this site.

Feel free to share your ideas and opinions on the Forum (the link above on the right), while subscribers with any questions can email me at

Download PGN of July '11 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Modern Benoni Classical Variation: 9...Ne8 and 10...f5 [A73]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 c5 4 d5 d6 5 Nc3 exd5 6 cxd5 g6 7 Nd2 Bg7 8 e4 0-0 9 Be2 Ne8!? 10 0-0 f5:

This plan with ...Ne8 and ...f5 was first played by the likes of Suba, Kudrin and Romanishin, and I feel it remains a good alternative to the more popular 9...Re8 and 9...Na6 main lines - when White has avoided ...Bg4 lines with an early Nd2.

The two key ideas behind ...f5 are to activate Black's pieces and to weaken White's centre, in particular the d5-pawn. In some lines Black attacks the pawn with everything he's got: ...b6 and ...Bb7, ...N(b8)-a6-c7, ...N(e8)-f6, ...Qd7-f7 and even ... Rf5. Obviously there's some risk involved with the ...f5 plan, as it opens up Black's king to some extent and creates weaknesses, especially the e6-square. On the other hand, this plan does seem like a logical way to exploit the slowness of Nf3-d2.

The main line runs 11 exf5 Bxf5 12 Nc4 Na6, after which White has tried various moves:

a) 13 Bd2 was tried in the recent game, Kozul - Cvitan, Sibenik 2011, where Black equalised quite comfortably and won a nice game.

b) 13 Bf4 has been White's most popular response, and to me it remains the most critical try. See Shen - Maze, Moscow 2009.

c) 13 a3 worked out well for White in Korobov - Kurmann, Rijeka 2010, but I don't think this line should worry Black.

Other options for both sides, and move order issues - of which there are quite a few - are covered in the notes.

Modern Benoni Classical Variation: The Delayed ...Ne8 and ...f5 [A73]

Another, related line which Black can play is the same ...Ne8/...f5 plan, but this time only after completing the manoeuvre ...Na6-c7 which offers more options for both sides. Kramnik and Ivanchuk have tried this line as Black, 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 c5 4 d5 d6 5 Nc3 exd5 6 cxd5 g6 7 Nd2 Bg7 8 e4 0-0 9 Be2 Na6 10 0-0 Ne8 11 0-0 Nac7:


a) The main line runs 11 Nc4 12 a4 f5 13 exf5 when 13...Bxf5 is still possible, but with this move order 13...Rxf5!? is seen just as often:

With the knight already on c7 Black can try to hit the d5-pawn as quickly as possible, and he isn't unhappy to exchange light-squared bishops after Bg4 and Bxc8. This line is covered in Fish - Edouard, German League 2008, which turns out to be a very good advert for Black's chances.

b) In Neverov - Eggleston, Hastings 2011, various alternatives to capturing on f5 after 11 Nc4 12 a4 f5 are considered, including 13 Ra3!?, 13 Bf4, 13 Bf3 and 13 f3.

c) In Wang Yue-Kurmann, Zürich 2010, we look at alternatives to the usual 11 Nc4, including 11 Re1, 11 f4 and 11 Kh1.

A Tricky Move Order? [A72]

Finally, the thought occurred to me that in this line White could delay castling and try to utilise the extra move. 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 c5 4 d5 d6 5 Nc3 exd5 6 cxd5 g6 7 Nd2 Bg7 8 e4 0-0 9 Be2 Ne8!? 10 Nc4 f5 could simply transpose to normal lines after 11 exf5 Bxf5 12 0-0, but White can also play 11 Bf4!?:

This tricky option is covered in Meister - Madl, London 1990, where it certainly worked well for White and I've searched for improvements in the notes. I would have possibly chosen a more recent game, or one where Black put up more resistance, but this is actually the only game I could find where White played this idea. A 21-year-old novelty, yet to be repeated!

Till next time, John

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