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A New Try in the King's Indian Fianchetto

This was a game between Anna Zatonskih (White) and Tatev Abrahamyan (Black) in the recent US Womens' Championship. White tried the new 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. g3 Bg7 4. Bg2 O-O 5. c4 d6 6. Nc3 Nc6 7. O-O a6 8. Bf4!?, which sets up a possible e5 break and discourages e5 breaks by Black. It also seeks to draw Black's Knight offsides onto the rim at h5.

Black's plan in this line is similar to the Benoni or English given the pawn structure -- expand on the Queen side. In this particular variation, the c4 pawn is a target because the Black Knight is driven to a5 and is hitting that square and the natural White defender, the Bishop, is fianchettoed. Therefore, Black could have considered 15...bxc4, loosening White's defenses on that square and setting up future operations.

But the most logical move would have been 16...f5! -- there is no point for Black in going ...Nh5 in a King's Indian if she does not follow it up with either Nf4 and/or f5 -- doing so in this case would have taken the battle to White's center as well as her c4 square.

Black was still OK, but it would not have done any good to try 17...Nb7? 18. g4 Nf6 19. e5! dxe5 20. Nxe5 e6 21. Bf4. Black may have been thinking of expanding on the Queen side, but it turns out that this play was too slow -- the e5 pawn break is similar to the Benoni -- if White can get it in profiably, she will be much better.

But Black should have strengthened her center on move 18 by recapturing with the pawn instead of the Bishop. After 18...fxe6 19. g4 Nf6 20. e5 dxe5 21. Nxe5 Bc6 22. Nxc6 Nxc6 23. Qg3 e5 24. Nb2 Nd4!, Black has significant counterplay and her Knight is off the rim and into the game. The move she actually played, Bxe6?!, simply allowed White's dormant d1 Knight to come to life and occupy the d5 square.

Black could have struggled on with 20...Nxd5 21. exd5 Ne5, avoiding the worst but facing a long grind thanks to White's space advantage and the locked Queen side. But her losing move was 20...Qd7? (too slow), and she made things worse by 23...Nd4?, opening lines for White's pieces. After that, White successfully infiltrated Black's Queen side along the c-file that Black gratuitously opened and created a passer. White returned the exchange to kill off Black's counterplay and forced resignation by move 40.

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