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This month’s update contains new ideas in the fashionable Nimzo-Catalan, as well as the Karpov Variation, the Reshevsky Variation and the 4 g3 Queen’s Indian.

Download PGN of May ’19 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 g3 0-0 5 Bg2 d5 6 Nf3 dxc4 7 0-0 Nc6 8 Qa4 [E20]

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

This queen move has breathed new life into the 4 g3 variation, and it has attracted numerous 2700+ Grandmasters, as well as Caruana. Black’s main response is 8...Nd5, but the rare 8...a6 was tried in a recent game. White responded with the critical 9 Ne5! and then unleashed a strong novelty a few moves later. See the notes to Matlakov, M - Khanin, S for analysis.

Returning to Black’s most popular choice, 8...Nd5, the key continuation is 9 Qc2 Be7 10 Rd1:

Wesley So played 10...Bd7 against Caruana last year, and this was repeated in the recent game Fridman, D - Dragnev, V. Following 11 e4 Ncb4 12 Qd2 Nb6, Fridman deviated from Caruana’s 13 Ne5 with 13 Qe2 and later won, but Dragnev’s initial response to 13 Qe2 looks quite convincing for Black.

Black’s most common reply to 10 Rd1 continues to be 10...Rb8, and an important position arises after the further moves 11 e4 Ndb4 12 Qe2 Nd3 13 Be3 b5:

Here the pawn advance 14 d5 has been played twice in 2019, but on both occasions White reached a dismal position. See the notes to Kovalchuk, A - Alekseev, E for analysis and possible improvements for White.

Nimzo-Indian, Karpov Variation: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nf3 c5 7 0-0 dxc4 8 Bxc4 cxd4 9 exd4 [E54]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nf3 c5 7 0-0 dxc4 8 Bxc4 cxd4 9 exd4 10 Bg5 Bb7 11 Ne5 Nbd7 12 Qe2 Bxc3 13 bxc3 Rc8:

Breaking the pin with 13...Qc7 is the most popular choice for Black, but 13...Rc8 has been favoured by both Kramnik and Nakamura. Play may become extremely forcing after 14 Rac1 Nxe5 15 dxe5 and here 15...Rc5!:

This is a key resource for Black, who nevertheless has to remain careful over the next few moves. See the recent game Donchenko, A - Nihal, S for analysis.

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nf3 c5 7 0-0 dxc4 8 Bxc4 cxd4 9 exd4 10 Bg5 Bb7 11 Rc1 Nc6 12 a3 Be7 13 Ba2 Rc8 14 Re1 h6 15 Bh4 Nh5 16 Bg3 Nxg3 17 hxg3 Bf6 18 d5!:

We previously covered this position in the game Flores,D-Shankland,S/Montevideo 2018. That game continued 18...exd5 19 Nxd5! Bxb2 20 Rc2 Bxa3 21 Rd2!, with a strange position where White had no immediate threats but Black was still under considerable pressure. In the recent Chinese Team Championship, Wei Yi reached this position as Black and preferred to simplify with 18...Bxc3 19 Rxc3 exd5 20 Bxd5:

White still enjoys a slight initiative here, but with careful play Black can equalise. See Wang Yue - Wei Yi for details.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Nge2 d5 [E46]

4 e3 0-0 5 Nge2 d5 6 a3 Be7 7 cxd5 exd5 8 Nf4 c6 9 Bd3:

7 cxd5 is White’s most popular choice after 6...Be7. It certainly makes more sense to exchange on d5 after 6...Be7 than it does against 6...Bd6, as the bishop’s best square in this structure is d6.

In the diagrammed position, White’s most direct plan is to play for f2-f3 and e3-e4. However, as seen in Korobov, A - Cheparinov, I, there are other options for White. Meanwhile, Black usually chooses between 9...Re8 10 0-0 Nbd7 followed by ...Nf8 or the game’s 9...Na6 intending ...Nc7, and the slight differences between the two approaches are discussed in the notes.

Queen’s Indian: 4 g3 Bb7 5 Bg2 Be7 6 0-0 0-0 7 Re1 [E17]

4 g3 Bb7 5 Bg2 Be7 6 0-0 0-0 7 Re1 d5:

7...d5 is traditionally the most popular response to 7 Re1. White gets the pawn structure he desires, but at the cost of having to play Re1, which is only semi-useful here. White normally takes the opportunity here to force the pawn structure with 8 cxd5 exd5, but in Speelman, J - Dubey, M, White opted instead to keep the tension with 8 Ne5!?. Many thanks go to Jonathan Speelman for his post-game thoughts.

Till next time, John

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