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This month I've been catching up with developments in the ever-popular Fianchetto Variation. In a number of these examples KID players have been experimenting with move order ploys, which in some cases haven't previously been covered in this column. So by delving below you'll definitely find some new ideas this time!

Download PGN of July ’21 KID games

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Subscriber query, Panno 7.Bf4 [E62/3]

Here I've been looking at White's 7.Bf4 (or by transposition 7.0-0 a6 8.Bf4) against the Panno, as requested by a subscriber.

This begins as an E62 but soon transposes to E63. The question is how should Black seek a playable game, preferably 'equalish' and dynamic, now that the early ...e5 has been cut out? A sideline that looks worth thinking about is 7...Bg4, which I discuss in the notes. However, the stubborn approach involves playing for ...e5 anyway, but this requires pushing the bishop back first, so 7...a6 8.0-0 Rb8 9.Rc1 h6 10.h3 g5 11.Bd2 e5 is the main focus of the analysis. GM Luis Paolo Supi in his request was fairly pessimistic about Black's chances, but I'm somewhat more upbeat, as you can see in the Subscriber Question game segment.

Fianchetto Variation early ...c5, 5.Bg2 cxd4 6.Nxd4 0-0 7.Nc3 Qc7 8.Nd5 [E60]

The World Champion set in motion a big squeeze in Carlsen, M - Radjabov, T but Black did miss a couple of opportunities to 'equalize' (or at least get very close!) before going down? The first of these was in the following position:

I wasn't keen on Radjabov's chosen 15...Ng4?! as after 16.Bxg7 Kxg7 17.Qd4+ Kg8 18.h3 White's control of the centre was significant, and after the further moves 18...Ne5 19.f4 Nc4 he could have created problems with 20.Bf1! pinning the knight. Instead, from the diagram position, I prefer 15...Rac8 just placing a rook on an open file and preparing some eventual counterplay if White insists on pressing ahead in the centre. Overall, I'm not sure if the unsuual 11...Nd7 (as played here) makes a big difference from 11...Qa6 (which is more common), as the Azeri GM placed his queen on a6 anyway, just one move later.

Fianchetto Variation irregular 5...Bf5 [E60]

Developing the bishop to f5 is becoming a regular feature of modern chess, but in Socko, B - Piorun, K it was employed a little earlier than usual:

Provocation is one of the ideas as White might then decide that his opponent's cheek could do with some punishment! So 6.Qb3 looked like good timing to induce 6...Qc8 and then after 7.Nc3 c6 8.0-0 0-0 9.Nh4 (9.Re1 is a decent alternative) Be6 10.d5 Socko was gaining space, but Piorun wasn't without chances. Of course, double-edged play almost inevitably results, where one's assessment might depend on a player's personal vision of the world. White blundered later and lost, which happens, but maybe the fact that he was challenged (by a slightly unusual opening choice) contributed to his downfall!

Fianchetto Variation irregular 6..Bf5 7.Nc3 Ne4 [E60]

In Afanasiev, N - Antipov, M the following position arose:

Although it has been known as an occasional surprise weapon for a long time, it's popularity has really come on by leaps and bounds in the last couple of years. Black moves his knight for the second time in the opening, but is seeking some sort of concession. This may come in the form of giving White doubled pawns, or involve a longer-term grip on e4 or, simply by exchanging a pair of minor pieces, obtaining an easier life in general! In the game, 8.Nd5 c6 9.Ne3 hit the bishop on f5 and so gained a tempo, but it wasn't possible for White to demonstrate how the knight was otherwise useful posted on the unusual e3-square. However, I'm not convinced by the alternatives either and even the engine suggestion of 8.Nb1 beggars belief! So all-in-all, 7...Ne4 is clearly going to be here to stay.

Fianchetto, Uhlmann Variation 6...Nc6 7.Nc3 e5 8.d5 Nb8 [E62]

After the further moves 9.e4 a5 of Socko, B - Heberla, B the game reached this position:

In the game, 10.h3 Na6 11.Be3 involved a fairly straightforward piece deployment by Socko, which might not be bad, but his follow-up was sloppy and soon led to him dropping a pawn. Life can get complicated in the KID and the tables were later turned, but with the accelerated time limits of the present day anything can happen in the later stages!

When reviewing the various attempts from the diagram position, I was surprised to find no convincing ways forward for White, despite the fact that Black has lost two tempi with his knight! Statistically, Black has been scoring really well with 8...Nb8 (rather than the traditional 8...Ne7), which has perhaps led to a decline of confidence in 8.d5. So suddenly, all the current interest in the alternative 8.dxe5 can be explained.

Fianchetto, Yugoslav Exchange 8.dxc5 dxc5 9.Be3 Be6 10.Bxc5 Qa5 [E65]

There can certainly be all sorts of subtleties in these Exchange Yugoslavs, but I couldn't see why Timofeev chose 12.Nd2 in Timofeev, A - Jones, G as it looks toothless to me. If he wants to change something from one of his previous games then there are more challenging alternatives, for example on moves ten (10.Qa4) and eleven (11.Ba3) that are more likely to test an opponent. The result of the present game didn't reflect who was in charge early on as you can see from the diagram:

Here, Gawain Jones went for the piece 'sac' with 14...Bxg4 and then obtained a powerful attack, showing that White's opening hasn't worked very well at all!

Gallagher System 8...exd4 9.Nxd4 Re8 10.h3 a6 [E68]

In Lenderman, A - Belous, V I think that White was doing quite well after the opening:

If Black has nothing better than 16...Bxb5 then it suggests that this version of the Gallagher system without ...b5 is a little passive for Black. Although the recapture 17.Nxb5 is not bad it can perhaps be neutralized by the careful retreat 17...Na6, whereas 17.axb5 of the game, had an even greater cramping effect. White gradually lost his way, but had more than one opportunity to obtain a big advantage (see moves 18 and 23).

The inclusion of 12.a4 by White, and 13...a5 not so long later, gives Black some good footholds (b4 and especially c5) but no real counterplay. So Lenderman's prophylactic choice is a decent alternative to the main line (with 12.b3).

Pseudo-Gallagher System 8...a6 9.h3 b5 [E68]

In Saduakassova, D - Murzin, V White was unable to find any chinks in the black position.

Here Black has three main options: 11...c6 and 11...Bb7 (which can easily transpose) and the Murzin's choice 11...b4. The disruptive b-pawn push is more lively, but could lead to some loosening of the black queenside. In the game, Saduakassova's plan of creating an oupost on c5 was insufficient to yield any advantage but, instead of 13.Nxf6+, I think that 13.Qc2! offers chances of an edge.

Classical Fianchetto 8.e4 Re8 9.d5 [E68]

Many commentators, here and in analogous positions, have frowned on ...Re8 before ...exd4, but now it's widely accepted that the response d4-d5 by White isn't necessarily a problem. Such was the case in Gledura, B - Gabuzyan, H:

After 9...Nc5 10.Qc2 a5 the knight is sitting pretty on c5, and the further moves 11.Be3 Ng4 12.Bg5 f6 13.Bd2 f5 didn't give the impression that Black was making a major concession by having his rook on e8. A tense middlegame followed where all three results were possible. What more can a KID player ask for?

Classical Fianchetto 8.e4 c6 9.Be3 [E68]

The early 9.Be3 was probably intended as a 'semi-surprise weapon' (i.e. part surprise, part move order ploy, part steering the game to positions where experience counts more than outright theory) to throw his young opponent on his own resources in Wojtaszek, R - Maurizzi, MA. However, instead of going down the main lines involving 9...Ng4, the young Maurizzi opted for 9...exd4 10.Nxd4 Ne5 and now it was White that was out of his book, as this position had only occurred on a handful of previous occasions.

Two moves later Wojtasezek innovated i.e. after 12.b3 Nfg4 with 13.Bf4, whereas 13.Bc1 had been played in earlier games. Whether or not Black's approach is objectively a good one is debatable, but it was certainly good enough to help Maurizzi to outplay his esteemed opponent, and he should really have won in the middlegame.

Classical Fianchetto 9...Qb6 10.c5 [E69]

Kotronias became embroiled in a theoretical discussion in Pajeken, J - Kotronias, V in a line where he has great experience as a player and analyst.

In a previous encounter 20.Rd1 was played by Pantsulaia, but Kotronias was able to obtain full equality. Here Pajeken opted for 20.Re1 and then met 20...Rd8 with 21.Ng5 hitting the rook and perhaps threatening to boost his kingside chances with Be4. Now the natural move would be 21...Re7, which could do with a test, as Kotronias's offer of the exchange might not be water-tight if accepted. In any case, this variation still seems to have plenty of secrets waiting to be uncovered.

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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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.