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This month's update focusses on the Modern Benoni, and in particular the popular and critical 7 Bf4 variation.

Download PGN of July ’16 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Modern Benoni: 7 Bf4 Bg7 8 Qa4+ [A70]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 e6 4 Nc3 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 Nf3 g6 7 Bf4 Bg7:

7 Bf4 remains a key line and a critical test of the Modern Benoni. The bishop is developed to a very logical square where it hits the weak d6-pawn. White's development with e2-e3 and h2-h3 is seemingly quite modest, but Black doesn't always find it easy to gain the usual Benoni counterplay and White has good chances of keeping some pressure.

7...a6 remains Black's most popular choice in this position, but this month we're going to take another look at 7...Bg7, after which White normally plays the disruptive 8 Qa4+ Bd7 9 Qb3 Qc7 (Black's other option is to gambit a pawn with 9...b5) 10 e4 0-0:

and now:

a) After 11 Nd2 Black's best chance of gaining counterplay is with 11...Nh5 12 Be3 f5 13 exf5 Bxf5 14 Be2 Nf6:

a1) 15 Nc4 has scored well for White and might well be the best option, but Black's idea in Bluebaum - Donchenko, Drancy 2016, is well worth noting.

a2) 15 h3 has been White's most popular choice here, but Black's play in Arsovic - Perunovic, Bar 2015, looks quite convincing.

b) Against 11 Be2 Black can try 11...b5!?:

This looks like a decent version of the ...b5 gambit for Black, and possibly sounder than 9...b5. See Priyanka - Ludwig, Philadelphia 2016, for analysis.

Modern Benoni: 7 Bf4 Bg7 8 h3 [A61]

The alternative response by White to 7...Bg7 is to reject the check on a4 and just carry on developing: 8 h3 0-0 9 e3. Here Black can transpose to 7...a6 lines with 9...a6 10 a4, but he can also play 9...Na6!?:

Developing the knight to a6 rather than d7 is one new option Black gets by choosing 7...Bg7 over 7...a6. The obvious advantage of this is that Black doesn't have to defend his d6-pawn first before developing the knight!

In a number of lines it's useful for White for the bishop to defend the d5-pawn, so 10 Bc4 is probably a better choice than 10 Be2. Both moves are covered in Gagunashvili - Dubov, Gjakova 2016.

In Bluebaum - Chabanon, Drancy 2016, White plays the drastic 10 Bxa6!? bxa6:

This exchange is hardly ever seen in the Benoni. It's not a bad move, but Black undoubtedly gains good active compensation in return for split queenside pawns.

Benoni: 3 g3 c5 4 d5 exd5 5 cxd5 b5 [A60]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 g3 c5 4 d5 exd5 5 cxd5 b5!?:

As an alternative to going into the Fianchetto Benoni, against 3 g3 Black has this space-gaining option because White has yet to develop the knight to c3. I suspect that enthusiasm for this line has waned in recent years because of dangerous gambits by White involving e2-e4. White gets a strong initiative and it's not at all easy to play Black's position in practical play.

In Oleksienko - Martirosyan, Yerevan 2016, White plays 6 e4!?, which was played by Sosonko as far back as the 1970s. White has gained quite a few quick wins in this line, and this game adds to that collection.

A similar gambit is 6 Nf3 Bb7 7 e4:

Black has problems in this line too, although here he does have an alternative to grabbing the pawn with 6...d6. See Aupi Royo - Kurgansky, ICCF email 2012, for details.

Till next time, John

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