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This month's update focuses on some developments in the Nimzo-Indian, Hübner Variation (thanks go to subscriber Mehmet Ali for reminding me of this line). Also, fellow Chess Publishing columnist Chris Ward annotates one of his recent Nimzo/Queen's Indian games from the London League.

Download PGN of April '14 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: Hübner Variation with 4...0-0 [E41]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 c5 6 Nf3 Nc6 7 0-0 Bxc3 8 bxc3 d6:

The traditional move order for the Hübner Variation is 4...c5 5 Bd3 Nc6 6 Nf3 Bxc3+ 7 bxc3 d6, and this remains a reliable option for Black. However, Black's chances of actually reaching the position after 7...d6 is actually quite slim, since many White players choose to avoid the line altogether by playing either 6 Ne2 or 5 Ne2.

In recent times a number of Black players have chosen to use Hübner's plan after 4...0-0, even if it means that Black loses some options such as 4...c5 5 Bd3 Nc6 6 Nf3 Bxc3+ 7 bxc3 d6 8 e4 e5 9 d5 Ne7 10 0-0 h6 11 Nh4 g5.

In the diagram position White usually chooses between two options:

  1. Block the centre with e3-e4 and d4-d5; or
  2. Play Nd2 and keep the tension in the centre.

a) If White chooses to block, the main line is 9 e4 e5 10 d5 Ne7 11 Nh4:

The most popular response by Black has been 11...h6, and here 12 Qf3! certainly looks more testing than the older 12 f4. White's idea is to meet 12...Ng6 with 13 Nf5 and to induce a favourable knight-for-bishop exchange. After 13...Bxf5 White has tried both 14 Qxf5 and 14 exf5. See the games Tomashevsky - Michiels, Legnica 2013, and Potkin - Zhigalko, Olginka 2011, for analysis.

Returning to the above diagram, 11...Kh8 is an interesting alternative to 11...h6. Black avoids creating any weaknesses and also plans ...Nfg8 to prepare a possible ...f5 - see Gelfand - Grischuk, Astana 2012, for details.

b) 9 Nd2 e5:

White maintains the tension in the centre and moves the knight away from a potential ...e4 fork. White is prepared to gambit a pawn in the centre, but in practice it's an offer Black rarely accepts because the position opens up for White's bishops.

After 10 Re1 Re8 White can return to the blocking plan with 11 d5, now that Black has misplaced his rook, but 11...e4!? cuts across this idea - see the notes to Stathopoulos - Oparin, Athens 2012.

The most direct plan for White is to aim for f3-f4, for example after 10 Rb1 b6 11 h3 Bd7 12 f4:

See the notes to Van der Stricht-Dgebuadze, Antwerp 2013, for analysis of what looks like a critical line.

Nimzo-Indian: 7 d5 [E51]

Finally, with the 4...0-0 move order White has the option of avoiding the main lines with 5 Bd3 c5 6 Nf3 Nc6 7 d5!?:

although this line shouldn't worry Black too much - see Vitiugov - Ponomariov, Kallithea 2008.

Nimzo-Indian/Queen's Indian Hybrid 7 Nd2 [E13]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 Nc3 Bb4 5 Bg5 h6 6 Bh4 Bb7 7 Nd2 0-0:

See Chris's annotations to Ward - Mackenzie, London League 2014.

Till next time, John

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