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In this month’s update we focus on new games in the Modern Benoni. Many lines of the Modern Benoni are seen rarely at elite level these days, but it remains fairly popular at levels below that. In addition, the g3 lines (reached via the King’s Indian or 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 c5) remain theoretically relevant.

Download PGN of September ’22 Nimzo and Benoni games

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

6 Nf3 g6 7 g3 Bg7 8 Bg2 0-0 9 0-0 Re8 10 Bf4 Bf5:

Over the past few years 11...Bf5 has become a key move in the Fianchetto Benoni, and its popularity shows no sign of declining. One critical line is 11 Nh4 Bg4 12 Qd2 b5 13 Rfe1:

Here 13...b4!? 14 Nb5! Ne4! is a new an interesting idea for Black which prepares to sacrifice material. See the game Dhulipalla, B - David, A for analysis.

One of the main alternatives to 10...Bf5 is 10...Ne4 11 Nxe4 Rxe4 12 Nd2:

The immediate exchange sacrifice with 12...Rxf4 13 gxf4 Bxb2 is the most popular choice, but in a recent game Black preferred 12...Rb4 13 a3 (13 b3 is also possible) 13...Rxf4 14 gxf4 Bxb2 15 Rb1!

In the past, the extra a2-a3 was seen to favour Black, because it was assumed that less active 15 Ra2 was forced. Incorrectly, it seems! See the notes to Leisch, L - Steindl, J for an update on this line.

Modern Benoni: Fianchetto Variation 11 Nd2 main line [A64]

6 Nf3 g6 7 g3 Bg7 8 Bg2 0-0 9 0-0 a6 10 a4 Nbd7 11 Nd2 Re8 12 Nc4:

As we’ve seen before, 12 Nc4 (rather than the main line 12 h3) doesn’t pose any theoretical threat to Black, who has also scored well in practice against it. After 12...Ne5! 13 Nxe5 Rxe5 14 e4 the simplest solution for Black is the prophylactic 14...Re8!:

As usual, the exchange of knights eases Black’s position. Black is absolutely fine here and went on to win a nice game in Butkiewicz, L - Nguyen, P.

Modern Benoni: Fianchetto Variation 9...Na6 [A62]

6 Nf3 g6 7 g3 Bg7 8 Bg2 0-0 9 0-0 Na6 10 Nd2 Nc7:

9...Na6 is a favourite of the Romanian Grandmaster and Modern Benoni expert Mihail Suba. I’ve also tried it a few times, but it has never enjoyed the same popularity as the lines with ...Re8 and ...Nbd7. 11 Nc4 b5 12 Nxd6! is, I believe, the main reason why Black players avoid this line. However, looking at this again with modern engines gives some hope for Black. A recent game instead continued 11 a4 b6 12 Nc4 Ba6! 13 Qb3 Qd7 14 Re1 Bxc4! 15 Qxc4 a6 with typical counterplay for Black - see Thorhallsson, S - Shabalov, A for analysis.

Modern Benoni: Flick-knife Attack: 8 Bb5+ Nfd7 [A67]

6 e4 g6 7 f4 Bg7 8 Bb5+ Nfd7 9 a4 Na6 10 Nf3 0-0 11 0-0 Nb4 12 h3!?:

We’ve covered 12 h3 on a couple of previous occasions (12 Re1 is the main line). White plans to meet ...a6 with Bc4, and h3 ensures that Black isn’t able to relieve some of the pressure via an exchange with ...Nb6 followed by ...Bg4. After 12...a6 13 Bc4 Nb6 (the critical continuation seems to be 13...f5!) we’ve looked at 14 Be2 before, but in a recent game White tried 14 Bb3!?:

There’s certainly some justification to this retreat, even though it allows ...c4 with tempo. See Kantor, G - Poliannikov, D for details.

Unlike 9 a4, 9 Nf3 allows Black queenside expansion with ...a6 and ...b5. However, as we’ve seen before, 9 Nf3 is a perfectly good alternative and there’s the added bonus of avoiding ...Qh4+ lines.

9...0-0 10 0-0 a6 11 Bd3 b5 12 Kh1 Re8 13 f5:/p>

Black often reacts to an early f4-f5 with ...Ne5, but care is always required in when facing White’s dangerous initiative and 13...Ne5?! is actually an error here. See the notes to Yaylali, A - Romi, I for the reason.

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 g3 c5 4 d5 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 [A60]

And now for something completely different:

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 g3 c5 4 d5 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 a4 g6 7 Ra3!?

Normally a2-a4 is seen as prophylaxis against ...b5. However, as seen in a recent game, there is another idea for White. After 7...Bg7 White sees a check and plays it: 8 Re3+! Kf8 9 Ra3!

Mission accomplished, the rook returns to a3 so that White can develop smoothly. See Marszalek, M - Snihur, P for a look at this wacky idea.

Till next time, John

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