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In my April update I mentioned that one of Anton Demchenko's favourite weapons for blitz games is 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 d6 3.Nc3 e5 4.Nf3 Nc6!?, using Aczel - Sedlak to illustrate 5.dxe5. I promised to cover the critical 5.d5 it in a future update, now is that time!

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4...Nc6 Old Indian: White Plays 5.d5 [A54]

Is 4...Nc6 any good, given Demchenko's reluctance to use it at a standard time limit? This may not be the right question. Regardless of what its objective value may be, 4...Nc6 is a novel, interesting and little explored line that you can introduce as early as move four:











It's very unlikely that you will encounter effective preparation by White, partly because it's so rare and partly because the critical line (5.d5) produces a closed position. So far just a few adventurous GMs have tried it at a standard time limit, but they include the super-strong Richard Rapport together with Alexander Rakhmanov. This makes me think we're looking at a great practical weapon.

After 5.d5 Ne7 Black might be able to transpose into a version of King's Indian if he follows up with 6...g6 and 7...Bg7. More commonly his knight goes to g6 and he develops the bishop on e7, a bit like an Old Indian with White having played an early d4-d5 or some lines of the Czech Benoni where Black has got White to play d4-d5 without his own ...c7-c5. These are both encouraging signs.

Many of Black's plans will be similar to the Old Indian and/or Czech Benoni, sometimes Black will play for ...f7-f5 and sometimes he will exchange dark square bishops with ...Be7-g5. Other possibilities include an advance of Black's h- or a-pawns and ...a7-a5 might be coupled with bringing his f6 knight to d7 and c5.

White's most logical set-up would seem to be a kingside fianchetto, largely to counteract Black's knight on g6. Other people evidently agree with me, so after 5.d5 Ne7 6.e4 Ng6, the main line is with 7.g3 Be7 8.Bg2 0-0 9.0-0:











In this key position Black's most common choice has been 9...Ne8 (Lahiri, A - Kos, T ), preparing ...f7-f5 and maybe ...Be7-g5 if White moves his knight on f3.

Black has also tried 9...c6 (Gasanov, E - Mirsoev, E), which may seem less logical with Black's pieces committed to the kingside.

A third possibility is Rakhmanov's choice of 9...a5 (Ganguly, S - Rakhmanov, A ), which restrains a White queenside pawn expansion whilst keeping other options open.

Peeling back a few moves, the high level encounter, Moiseenko, A - Rapport, R, featured the aggressive 8.h4:











looking to immediately exploit the position of the knight on g6.

Early h2-h4 ideas may well be place to look to refute Black's opening, and Bluebaum, M - Demchenko, A saw another version of this with 6.h4:











A more standard set-up was seen in Girish, A - Rozum, I, with White choosing 7.Be2:











rather than a kingside fianchetto.

In the game Antic, D - Ivanisevic, I, White chose to combine e2-e4 with 8.h3 and 9.Bd3:











This is regarded as a standard plan against the Czech Benoni but here Black seems to have good counterplay.


4...Nc6 Old Indian: White Plays 5.Bg5 [A54]

Amongst White's 5th move alternatives, 5.g3 would transpose into an English Opening (1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.g3 d6 5.d4) as would 5.e3 (1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.e3 d6 5.d4). On the other hand, 5.Bg5 is Old Indian territory, with Rapport providing a good antidote in 5...h6 6.Bh4 exd4 7.Nxd4 g5 8.Bg3 Bg7:











See Semcesen, D - Rapport, R.

Overall it seems that 4...Nc6 is a way to get a tense, fighting game. White may be objectively 'better', but he's on his own in a fresh and interesting position.



See you next month! Nigel

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