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This month’s update includes new ideas in 4 Qc2, 4 g3 and 4 Nf3 Nimzo lines, plus an exciting Modern Benoni encounter featuring World Championship challenger Fabiano Caruana.

Download PGN of May ’18 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 d5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 dxc4 [E36]

4 Qc2 d5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 dxc4 7 Qxc4 b6 8 Nf3 Ba6 9 Qa4+ Qd7 10 Qc2:

Playing ...Ba6 before castling allows White the possibility of a disruptive check on a4, and many Nimzo players prefer the lines where Black castles before playing ...Ba6. That said, Nigel Short’s 6...dxc4 7 Qxc4 b6 remains a valid option for Black, as demonstrated in two recent games including one by Sam Shankland during his triumphant US Championship.

In his game as Black against Akobian, Shankland reached this position and played 10...h6!?. Of course it’s useful to prevent Bg5, and it seems that spending a tempo to do this doesn’t hurt Black. Akobian responded with the logical 11 g3, but Shankland’s opening play was convincing and he obtained a comfortable equality. See Akobian, V - Shankland, S for analysis.

A few days later, 11 Bf4 (instead of 11 g3) was played in the German Bundesliga. White won the game but there are interesting alternatives for both sides during the opening phase - see the notes to Gustafsson, J - Braun, A.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 g3 d5 5 Bg2 0-0 [E20]

4 g3 d5 5 Bg2 0-0 6 Nf3 dxc4 7 0-0 Nc6 8 Qa4!?:

8 Qa4 is new to this site, but a number of 2600+ grandmasters have tried it during the past 18 months. Black’s next move must prevent the idea of Ne5, and one way to do so is 8...Bd7. This led to a rapid win for White in the recent game Lenderman, A - Gretarsson, H, but only after Black missed a big opportunity!

8...Nd5 has been by far Black’s most popular response to 8 Qa4. After 9 Qc2 Be7 10 Rd1 Rb8 11 e4 Ndb4 12 Qe2 b5 (or 12...Nd3) a complex position is reached where Black still has the extra pawn but White has possibilities of d4-d5, a2-a4 and b2-b3:

See Savina, A - Cramling, P for details.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Nf3 c5 5 g3 [E20]

4 Nf3 c5 5 g3 cxd4 6 Nxd4 Qc7!?:

6...Qc7 makes a cheeky attack on the c4-pawn. It’s is relatively rare in this position, but the idea is frequently seen in similar positions arising from the Symmetrical English with an early d2-d4. Black has scored a perfect 4/4 from the position arising after 7 Bg2 Qxc4 8 0-0 Nc6! 9 Ndb5! 0-0:

However, the analysis in the recent game Brunner, N - Ivanisevic, I indicates that White has reasonable compensation. White is by no means obliged to gambit the pawn, and also included here are notes on 7 Qd3 and 7 Qb3.

Modern Benoni: 6 Nf3 g6 7 Bf4 Bg7 [A61]

6 Nf3 g6 7 Bf4 Bg7 8 e3 0-0 9 h3 Qe7 10 Nd2:

Caruana has occasionally tried the Modern Benoni, and he did so again in the recent US Championship. After the game he admitted that he had failed to look at 10 Nd2 during his preparation. This might sound surprising, because although 10 Be2 is more frequent, Nd2 is typical idea for White. However, I see it as a natural consequence of the modern approach of having a wide opening repertoire. His response over the board was a good one: 10...Nh5!? 11 Bh2 f5! 12 Be2 f4 leading to great complications:

It seems that there are numerous lines where the omission of ...a6 and a2-a4 helps Black, and this is one of them. Of course, when choosing 7...Bg7 over 7...a6 Black has to be ready for 8 Qa4+. See Xiong, J - Caruana, F for analysis.

Modern Benoni: Old Classical: 9...Re8 10 Nd2 Nbd7 [A77]

Finally this month, an interesting idea and a lovely win by Black in the Old Classical line of the Modern Benoni: 6 e4 g6 7 Nf3 Bg7 8 Be2 0-0 9 0-0 Re8 10 Nd2 Nbd7 11 a4 Ne5 12 Re1 a6 13 Nf1:

We’ve covered Re1 before, albeit played a move earlier. One of its points is to allow Nf1. Black has tried numerous moves in this position (13...Rb8 has been the most popular choice), but in a recent game Black unleashed a new concept: 13...Nfg4!. Black’s intention was to retreat the knight to h6 and then aim for ...f5, and after 14 f3 Nh6 15 Be3 f5! 16 Qd2 Nef7! the plan had worked to perfection:

See Kozul, Z - Yilmaz, M for details.

Till next time, John

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