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Congratulations to Hou Yifan, who regained her world title in September by defeating Anna Ushenina by the convincing score-line 5.5-1.5. As Black, Hou Yifan used only the Nimzo-Indian and the Queen's Indian. Her score... 3/3! When was the last time someone got 100% with Black in a World Championship match!
We'll take a look at all three encounters in this update, plus some related games. Ushenina had a powerful team of seconds helping her, including the former FIDE World Champion Alexander Khalifman, and it's interesting to see in which lines they are trying to find problems for Black.

Download PGN of September '13 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 Nf3, 7 g3 [E39]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 Nf3 c5 6 dxc5 Na6 7 g3 Nxc5 8 Bg2:

In Game 1 Ushenina chose a line which has typically led to very few problems for Black. The most popular move for Black here is 8...Nce4. Hou Yifan instead opted for 9...b6, but after 9 0-0 Bb7 10 Nb5 Be4 11 Qd1 Nb7 Ushenina had a small, stable advantage. See Ushenina - Hou Yifan, Taizhou 2013, for details.

The game Dreev - Azarov, Tromso 2013, might provide some pointers as to why Ushenina chose this line. Azarov went down the main line with 8...Nce4 9 0-0 Nxc3 10 bxc3 Be7 11 e4 d6 12 e5 dxe5 13 Nxe5 Qc7 14 Qe2 Nd7:

Dreev demonstrated a new wrinkle in this quiet line, Azarov never fully equalised and was ground down in a rook ending.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 e4 d5 [E32]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 e4 d5 6 e5 Ne4 7 Bd3 c5 8 Nf3 cxd4 9 Nxd4 Nd7 10 Bf4 Ndc5 11 0-0 Bxc3 12 bxc3 Bd7:

In Game 3 Ushenina chose a much sharper line, but with disastrous consequences. Hou Yifan's choice of 12...Bd7 has recently overtaken 12...Nxd3 as Black's most popular move. Certainly Black's results have been much more respectable with 12...Bd7. On move 16 Ushenina sank into deep thought, even though the position had already occurred several times before, which wasn't a good sign! Two moves later Black already had a decisive advantage. See Ushenina - Hou Yifan, Taizhou 2013.

Holt - Abrahamyan, Las Vegas 2013, is much more interesting from White's viewpoint. Holt sacs his c3-pawn to gunge up Black's knights and a dangerous kingside attack followed.

Queen's Indian: 4 g3 Bb7 [E17]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Bb7 5 Bg2 Be7 6 Nc3 0-0 7 Qc2:

By Game 6 Ushenina had given up on the Nimzo and instead tried her luck against the Queen's Indian. After 7 Qc2 Black is denied the ...Ne4 resource and is faced with the prospect of conceding the centre after e2-e4. Hou Yifan met Ushenina's early queen move with 7...c5 8 d5 exd5 9 Nh4:

Here 9...Nc6! reached what looks like a satisfactory Benoni-type position for Black (Ushenina - Hou Yifan, Taizhou 2013).

Black's other main choice in the diagrammed position is 9...b5, but 10 cxd5 b4 10 Nf5! looks like a strong idea for White - see Banikas - Tomashevsky, Bursa 2010.

Returning to the position after 7 Qc2, I'd previously believed that Black really had to take measures against e2-e4 here, either by Hou Yifan's 7...c5 or by 7...d5. But delaying the central strike in favour of 7...Na6!? is also a possibility:

The notes to Gelfand - Carlsen, Nice 2008, show how Black can react to the obvious response 8 e4.

Till next time, John

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