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Hi everyone,
I was fortunate enough to be at the recent European Team Championship, which must rank as one of the strongest team tournaments in recent history - seven out of the top ten players in the world were participating. In high-profile events such as this it's common to see some new opening ideas tried out, and the Euros proved to be no exception. Indeed five of this month's featured games were from the tournament in Crete.

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 November '07 Nimzo and Benoni games

Nimzo-Indian 4 Qc2 0-0

We begin with the game Georgiev - Grischuk, Crete 2007, and for me the first signs of cracks in the line 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 b6 7 e3 Bb7 8 Nf3 d6 9 Be2 Nbd7 10 0-0:

This innocuous-looking variation has somehow been causing Black some grief over the last 2-3 years, but Grischuk's play in this game makes me wonder what all the fuss has been about.

In Morozevich - Beliavsky, Crete 2007, we revisit 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 b6 7 Bg5 Bb7 8 e3 d6 9 Ne2 Nbd7 10 Qc2:

which we recently checked out in the game Van Wely-Wells (see the September update). Beliavsky deviates from this game and then grabs a hot pawn on g2. Not a wise move against Morozevich, and he was duly punished with maximum efficiency.

Nimzo-Indian 4 Qc2 d5

In Karpov - Topalov, Vitoria Gasteiz 2007, Topalov produces another novelty, this time in the line 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 d5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 dxc4 7 Qxc4 b6 8 Nf3 9 Bg5 Ba6 10 Qc2:

10...Nbd7 has been played in every game I've found reaching this position (see for example, Sasikiran-Rombaldoni, La Roche-sur-Yon 2006, annotated elsewhere on this site). But Topalov wants to show there is no need to prepare the advance and went for the direct 10...c5!?.

Nimzo-Indian 4 e3

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nf3 c5 7 0-0 cxd4 8 exd4 dxc4 9 Bxc4 b6 10 Bg5 Bb7 11 Ne5 Be7:

If Black could react to the problems set by Ne5 by simply breaking the pin with ...Be7 then this line would lose all of its sting. In reality, though, the tempo expended by retreating the bishop allows White to build up an intimidating initiative and this is why most Black players depend on 11...Nbd7 or - increasingly - the combative 11...Nc6. See how White plays this in Muir - Antoniou, Crete 2007.

Queen's Indian 4 g3 Ba6

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qc2! is continuing to score very well for White due to the dangerous pawn sacrifice 5...Bb7 6 Bg2 c5 7 d5!:

The game Beliavsky - Almasi, Crete 2007 is a nice hack attack, with Black's king eventually victim to the onslaught.

Black has some practical and theoretical problems to solve in this line, but there's no easy solution elsewhere either. In Ni Hua-Tomashevsky, Nizhniy Novgorod 2007, White shows that energetic play after 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qc2 Bb4+ 6 Bd2! also gives Black something to think about. I wonder if it's time to resurrect the traditional 4...Bb7?

Weird Benoni

To finish with, something a lot less theoretical. After 1 d4 e6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 exd5 4 cxd5 d6 5 e4 g6:

Black can in some lines benefit by delaying the development of the g8-knight, and sometimes it even goes to e7. However, the flexibility is not all one way, as White shows with some imaginative play in Beliavsky - Efimov, Crete 2007.

Till next time, John