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Back in the Spring we started constructing some repertoire ideas in the Fianchetto Variation based on an early ...c5, which could lead to Benoni or Benko structures. We have covered White’s exchange on c5 as well, but not in a systematic way. This month I will take a look at White’s four basic approaches in this structure. As I have mentioned before, despite the symmetry the game can liven up quite quickly.
We also look at some trends in the Classical Variation with 7...Na6, combined with the flexible 8...c6 against White’s two most popular lines, 8.Re1 and 8.Be3.

Download PGN of August ’20 KID games

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Fianchetto Variation with 6.0-0 c5 7.dxc5 [E60]

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.c4 Bg7 4.g3 0-0 5.Bg2 d6 6.0-0 Playing this instead of Nc3 gives White an extra option. 6...c5 7.dxc5 dxc5 8.Ne5:

This is it. A few years ago, Nakamura uncorked 8...Qc7 against Hammer and won very convincingly. One point is that after 9.Nd3 Be6! 10.Qb3 Nc6! 11.Nxc5 Bc8! intending ...Nd4 Black seems to have promising play. This was a novelty at the time but now it has been seen a couple of times. 12.Bf4 e5 13.Be3 Ng4 is what I gave in the notes to Hammer-Nakamura. In Kazakovskiy, V - Belyakov, B we see that matters are not so simple.

Fianchetto 6.Nc3 c5 7.dxc5 [E64]

An early Nc3 instead of castling gives White another independent try with 7.dxc5 dxc5 8.Qxd8 Rxd8 9.Be3 Now 9...Nc6 10.Bxc5 Nd7!? is an interesting move order. It does not really limit Black's options, and in Akesson, R - Ernst, T White does go astray immediately...

Fianchetto Variation, Yugoslav Exchange 8.dxc5 dxc5 [E65]

Now we move on to the main lines where White can play 9.Bf4 or 9.Be3. After 9.Bf4 Black has a broad choice. I think that 9...Nh5 is the most solid way to play. After 10.Be3 b6 11.Qc1 Bb7 12.Rd1 Qc8 13.Bh6 Rd8 14.Nd5 Bh8!? Black has to make sure he does not end up checkmated, but there does not seem to be any real danger. White's minor pieces can be pushed back, as we see in Saduakassova, D - Karthikeyan, M.

9.Be3 is slightly more popular. Then 9...Qa5 is probably the most sensible for Black. The symmetrical 9...Be6 is ok but perhaps surprisingly, it is a lot to learn. 9...b6 is also interesting, but my one poorly prepared venture with this line did not go well. After 10.Qb3!? Qb4 looks the safest to me, despite the fact that I witnessed Nyzhnyk's quick-fire dismantling of Black's position from a metre away a few years ago.

11.Qxb4 (11.Na4!? was Nyzhnyk's choice) 11...cxb4 12.Nd5 Bf5 and here a few years back I gave 13.Rad1 as interesting, and this is what White tries in Atalik, S - Rahul, S. Now b2-b3 at some point will not leave the rook exposed.

Classical Variation 7...Na6 8.Re1 c6 [E94]

In this common line, Black has two ways to play after the main move 9.Bf1. With the capture 9...exd4 Black goes for open play. The alternative is 9...Bg4 10.d5 c5 (or 10...Nb4 11.Be2 a5) 11.h3 when White likely keeps some theoretical edge after 11...Bd7 12.Bg5 but it's going to be a long game. 10.Nxd4 Ng4 11.h3 Qb6! 12.hxg4 Qxd4 is all well-known:

The main line is 13.g5 Qxd1 14.Rxd1 Nc5 15.f3 Be5 which has held firm for Black, as both practice and engines will show. So in Levin, E - Chigaev, M White tried 13.Qf3!? This is more interesting perhaps, but I think that Black is ok here.

Instead of 9.Bf1, the committal 9.d5!? has gained some popularity. Black has a choice now. In Yermolinsky, A - Fishbein, A Black played 9...Nc5, going for piece play while the alternative 9...c5 leads to slower play. Black is ok here I think, but White can also aspire for a position that he may find easy to play.

Classical Variation 7...Na6 8.Be3 c6 [E94]

This line has become commonplace lately, while Black used to generally go for the more direct 8...Ng4. The main line here is 9.d5 Ng4 10.Bg5 f6 11.Bh4 c5 12.Ne1 leading to long manoeuvring games which may well suit Black’s ambitions. Instead 9.dxe5 is generally not considered to be too dangerous, but this is the second most popular move here and it has been played by some very big names:

After 9...dxe5 10.Qxd8 Rxd8 11.h3!? is one choice of many. In Nihal, S - Naiditsch, A we look a little deeper.

White can also mix these systems with 9.Re1!? (or 8.Re1 c6 9.Be3, depending on how White would like to react to moves other than 8...c6 in both cases).

This is an interesting blend of lines that is rather challenging. One specialist from the Black side recently chose 9...Qe7!? The alternatives are 9...exd4 (tried by Magnus in a blitz game) and 9...Ng4, which was Kotronias's recommendation. I found both a bit lacking, so we take a look at Shevchenko, K - Chigaev, M. Here 10.c5 is a critical try, but Chigaev was obviously prepared, as he had faced this before. Instead 10.d5N is what my engine screams for, and it may well be best. So I think this hybrid of White’s lines is theoretically very challenging, but some may still like Black’s practical chances.

Until next month, David

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Don't hesitate to share your thoughts and suggestions with me. Any queries or comments to the KID Forum, or to me directly at (subscribers only) would be most welcome.