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In this month’s update we consider some developments in opening theory from the recent Goldmoney Asian Rapid and FIDE World Cup.

Download PGN of July ’21 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: Karpov Variation [E54]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 c5 6 Nf3 d5 7 0-0 dxc4 8 Bxc4 cxd4 9 exd4 b6 10 Bd3:

Although we’ve previously covered the idea of dropping the bishop back to d3 under different move orders, this particular move order is a first for us. 10 Bd3 is a rare choice, albeit transpositions to more common positions are likely. It’s noticeable, however, that both Carlsen and Caruana have played it recently. See Carlsen, M - Aronian, L for analysis.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 a3 [E53]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 a3 Bxc3+ 7 bxc3 dxc4 8 Bxc4 c5 9 Nf3 Qc7:

A practical advantage of playing 6 a3 is that Black has fewer choices than against 6 Nf3, both with variations and pawn structures. As White, you can focus on studying the pawn structure in the diagram and also the structure arising from the Botvinnik-Capablanca Variation (7...c5 8 cxd5 exd5).

10 Ba2 has historically been the most popular choice for White, but Wesley So has played 10 Be2!? on three occasions (twice recently), while his opponent Duda has also played it twice as White. See So, W - Duda, J for details.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd2 [E46]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd2 c5 6 a3 Bxc3 7 Bxc3 Ne4 8 Ne2 b6 9 d5:

Despite a minimal number of games, my feeling is that this is a critical line in the 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd2 move order. Recently there’s been a development in the variation 9...Ba6 (introduced by Aronian) 10 b3 b5 11 Qd3:

Aronian tried 11...exd5 in the stem game, but at the World Cup 11...Nxc3! was played and this looks like an important novelty - see the notes to Tabatabaei, M - Martirosyan, H.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5 7 Nf3 [E32]

4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5 7 Nf3 dxc4 8 Qxc4 b6 9 Bg5 Ba6 10 Qa4:

Recently we’ve focussed on 7 Bg5 which has become popular due in no small part to Carlsen’s success with it. 7 Nf3 was considered the main line when 4...0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5 first exploded onto the scene and with Duda enjoying success with it at the World Cup, the signs are it’s still totally relevant today. Duda’s game with Sevian continued 10...Qd7 11 Qc2 c5 12 dxc5 Rc8 13 Bxf6 gxf6 14 Rd1 Qb5 and now 15 h4!?:

This is a novelty here, but the h2-h4 idea is cropping up elsewhere and activating the rook via h3 can prove to be highly effective in numerous positions. It’s actually been a while since we’ve visited the position after 9 Qa4, so in the notes to Duda, J - Sevian, S we take the opportunity to catch up on developments with the other two main options for Black, 9...c5 and 9...h6.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5 7 Bg5 [E32]

4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5 7 Bg5 h6 8 Bxf6 Qxf6 9 Nf3:

In recent times we’ve focussed on both 7...dxc4 8 Qxc4 b6 and 7...c5, but 7...h6 remains another viable option for Black and it was seen at the World Cup. A simple idea for Black here is 9...dxc4 10 Qxc4 Nc6, aiming for the ...e5 pawn break. This approach looks very sensible, and Black equalised comfortably in Bok, B - Sevian, S.

Queen’s Indian: 4 g3 Bb7 5 Bg2 c5 [E15]

4 g3 Bb7 5 Bg2 c5 6 d5 exd5 7 cxd5!:

7 cxd5 was introduced a few years ago (previously 7 Nh4 was theory), and since then 5...c5 has been deemed to be even riskier than previously thought. 7...Bxd5 8 Nc3 Bc6 9 0-0 Be7 10 e4! Nxe4 11 Nd5! d6? 12 Re1 f5 13 Ng5!:

led to a crushing win for White in the game Onischuk, A - Ali, A. It shouldn’t be quite as bad as this, and the notes include improvements for Black, but the whole line does come with a health warning!

Modern Benoni: 6 Nf3 g6 7 Bf4 a6 [A61]

6 Nf3 g6 7 Bf4 a6 8 a4 Bg7 9 h3 0-0 10 e3 Nh5 11 Bh2 f5:

The plan with ...Nh5 and...f5 is highly aggressive, and it can work in certain situations, but here it scores quite poorly. 12 Be2 f4 13 0-0! is the most convincing response, when it soon becomes clear that Black is struggling to justify his early activity - see Martirosyan, H - Mwali, C for analysis.

Till next time, John

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