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This month we're back to looking at recent games in the Nimzo-Indian, including two interesting gambit ideas for Black, a sharp line against 4 f3, and a Bd2 idea for White which is more dangerous than it looks!

To download the January '16 Nimzo and Benoni games directly in PGN form, click here: Download Games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 b6 [E32]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 b6:

The 4...b6 bug is catching on, and this update includes two more recent games.

In the first, White tries 5 e4 c5 6 dxc5, but this is probably White's least challenging option here. Black's pawn offer with 6...Bb7! is a strong reply, and after 7 Bd3 Black can continue with in gambit style with 7...Na6!?:

as suggested in an earlier update. See Li-Neiksans, Melbourne 2015, for details.

5 a3 is an option for White if he wishes to avoid the critical 5 e4 lines and aim for ‘normal' lines. 5...Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 Bb7 (6...0–0 transposes to the main line 4...0–0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 b6, whereas 6...Bb7 keeps it slightly different) 7 f3 c5 8 dxc5 bxc5 9 Bg5 Nc6:

This is a position we've covered previously (Abdelnabbi-Fedoseev, Dubai 2015). There 10 e3! was suggested as an improvement for White, and indeed this was played in the recent game Nyzhnyk-Lenderman, US Chess League 2015.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d6 [E32]

After 1 d4 e6 2 c4 Nf6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0–0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3, 6...d6 remains a decent option for Black. It's similar to but less theoretical than 6...b6, and also it's less forcing than 6...d5. One of White's options here is 7 f3, and we've previously looked at both 7...c5 and 7...d5 as replies.

A third option for Black is 7...e5!?:

This pawn sacrifice, first tried by Rafael Vaganian back in 1974, is extremely rare, but recently it was played with success. See the game Ronka-Edouard, London Classic Open 2015, for analysis.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 d6 [E32]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 d6 5 e4 c5:

Next up, we revisit a line which is similar to 4...0–0 5 e4, but 4...d6 (instead of 4...0-0) brings in some subtle differences and 5...c5 becomes a more appealing option for Black. See Ponkratov-Bocharov, Khanty-Mansiysk 2015.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 f3 c5 5 d5 b5 [E20]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 f3 c5 5 d5 b5 6 e4 0–0 7 e5 Ne8 8 f4 exd5 9 cxd5 d6 10 Nf3:

This is undoubtedly one of the sharpest and most critical variations of the f3 Nimzo. Previously we've focussed on 10...Nc7, but in Gasanov-Ismagambetov, Pavlodar 2015, we look at Black's main alternative, 10...c4.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Nf3 [E51]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e3 0–0 5 Nf3 d5 6 Bd2:

Generally speaking, Bd2 against the Nimzo has always been viewed as innocuous, but in certain positions it's less harmless than it looks, and perhaps this is one of them. In any case, when someone like Anand struggles against it, we need to take notice. See Aronian-Anand, London Classic 2015, for details.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Nge2 [E46]

After 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e3 0–0 5 Nge2 d5 6 a3 Bd6, 7 Ng3 is a good option for White if he prefers less blocked positions to those we reach after 7 c5. One of the main lines is 7...c5 (the other option for Black is 7...c6) 8 dxc5 Bxc5 9 b4:

Previously we've looked at 9...Be7, but 9...Bb6!? is also possible – see the notes to Tin-Terekhov, Penang 2015.

Till next time, John

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