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In this month’s update we switch our attention to the Modern Benoni and to some fresh ideas for both colours, including a completely different approach for White in the Modern Classical and an ambitious plan for Black in the Fianchetto Variation.

Download PGN of September ’21 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Modern Benoni: Modern Classical 6 e4 g6 7 e4 Bg7 8 h3 0-0 [A70]

6 e4 g6 7 Nf3 Bg7 8 h3 0-0 9 Be3!?:

There have been literally thousands of games in the Modern Classical variation, and 9 Bd3 is the overwhelmingly popular choice. In contrast, 9 Be3!? is rare, but the evidence suggests that it’s an important alternative. At first sight it looks a little strange to commit the dark-squared bishop so early, but our coverage reveals some subtle points behind this move.

In Bluebaum, M - Shevchenko, K, Black played 9...b5, which is clearly a logical reaction given that Black often plays this against 9 Bd3, while in Bluebaum, M - Fantinel, T, Black instead chose 9...Re8. Check out the analysis in both games, which suggests that 9 Be3 must be taken very seriously!

Modern Benoni: 6 e4 g6 7 Nf3 a6 8 a4 [A70]

6 e4 g6 7 Nf3 a6 8 a4 Bg7 9 Be2 0-0:

There’s some gathering evidence that Black needs to be careful with move orders involving an early ...a6 against the Classical Variation. If Black is planning on playing ...Bg4, then 8...Bg4!, a move we’ve seen on numerous occasions, is likely the most accurate move order. In the recent game Maghsoodloo, P - Mitrabha, G, Black chose to delay ...Bg4, and in the vast majority of games this has led to main lines after 10 0-0 Bg4 (or 10...Re8 11 Nd2 Nbd7). However, Maghsoodloo’s response 10 Bg5!, a rare choice for White, is a promising attempt to exploit the early insertion of ...a6 and a2-a4.

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

6 Nf3 g6 7 Bf4 Bg7 8 h3 0-0 9 e3 Na6 9...Na6 is the independent option if ...a6 is avoided, and Black has scored well with this move.

10 Bxa6!? is a radical option but has so far been White’s most successful choice. This exchange is hardly ever seen in the Modern Benoni because Black’s dynamic chances based on the half-open b-file, some light-squared control and the bishop pair is normally deemed to be more than adequate compensation for the compromised pawn structure. However, the fact that numerous grandmasters have played this move can’t be ignored. After 10...bxa6 11 Rc1! White won convincingly in the recent game Cori, J - Cofre Archibold, N.

10 Bc4 is a key alternative for White, but Black seems to be fairly comfortable here - see the notes to Mikhalevski, V - Indjic, A.

Modern Benoni Fianchetto: 9...Re8 [A62]

6 Nf3 g6 7 g3 Bg7 8 Bg2 0-0 9 0-0 Re8 10 Bf4 h6!?:

This move is new to this website and still a fresh idea at grandmaster level. It’s been tried by Shankland, Navara, Vidit, Jakovenko, Wang Hao and numerous other grandmasters. Black’s main idea is to play ...g5, forcing the bishop away from the key f4-square and gaining space on the kingside. Naturally there’s some risk that this ambitious plan will incur significant weaknesses in Black’s position. However, it’s also worth noting that so far Black has scored extremely well with 10...h6.

In Markoja, B - Shankland, S, White played 11 Re1, ignoring Black’s plan and preparing e2-e4.

In Gleizerov, E - Gubajdullin, A, White chose 11 Qc1, which has up to now been White’s most popular response to 10...h6. The queen moves to the c1-h6 diagonal in anticipation of meeting ...g5 with h2-h4, and the e1-square is left vacant for the knight’s retreat after ...g4.

Till next time, John

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