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In this month’s update we look at a new idea for Black in the 4 Qc2 Nimzo-Indian, plus two Nimzo encounters from the recent Candidates tournament.

Download PGN of April ’18 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 d5 5 cxd5 exd5 6 Bg5 h6, 8...Nc6!? [E35]

4 Qc2 d5 5 cxd5 exd5 6 Bg5 h6 7 Bh4 g5 8 Bg3 Nc6!?:

8...Nc6 is a new move to the website. Initially it was played only in some correspondence games, but more recently it has also been tried out over-the-board. 8...Nc6 attacks the d4-pawn and also covers the e5-square, thus making Be5 less desirable for White. So far, the evidence suggests that it’s a perfectly reasonable alternative to 8...Ne4 and the main line, 7...c5.

After 9 e3 Black continues aggressively with 9...h5!:

White has tried numerous moves here. For example:

a) 10 Bb5 pins the knight to avoid the bishop being captured after Be5 makes sense. This move, along with some other 10th move options, is covered in Bellaiche, A - Brkic, A.

b) 10 Bd3 is an interesting option - White simply ignores Black’s ...h4 idea! See the notes to Nguyen, A - Van Kampen, R.

c) 10 f3? looks too passive and was harshly dealt with in Hoyer, J - Hammer, J.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5 [E32]

4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5 7 Bg5 h6 8 Bxf6 Qxf6 9 Nf3 c6:

It’s easy to forget that 6...d5 used to be considered a rare sideline. Now it has almost completely overtaken 6...b6 as Black’s most popular choice at elite GM level.

It made an appearance in Mamedyarov, S - Aronian, L, from the recent Candidates tournament. Mamedyarov avoided the sharper lines with 8 Bh4 and instead aimed for a small edge after exchanging on c6.

In all previous games from the diagrammed position, one of which involving Mamedyarov, White had chosen the obvious 10 e3. Against Aronian, Mamedyarov played the novelty 10 g3 Nd7 and followed up with 11 Bh3!?:

The main idea is to dissuade Black from the typical freeing plan of ...dxc4 followed by ...e5.

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

4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d6 7 g3:

The merit of playing 7 g3 (rather than 7 Nf3 followed by g2-g3) is that it discourages 7...b6. Black’s most popular response has been to offer a pawn sacrifice with 7...e5, which we’ve looked at before. However, Eljanov has shown that Black’s bishop may reach the long diagonal after all, with 7...Bd7!?. See Vaibhav, S - Eljanov, P for details.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Nf3 d5 [E51]

4 e3 0-0 5 Nf3 d5 6 Bd2!?:

Sergey Karjakin was the latest elite grandmaster to join the ‘Bd2 versus the Nimzo’ club, when he unleashed it against Wesley So at the Candidates tournament. After 6...c5 7 a3, Black has normally chosen 7...Bxc3, but So preferred 7...cxd4!? 8 axb4! dxc3 9 Bxc3:

‘Looks a touch better for White’ is what I’d previously noted, and nothing in this recent game changes the mind. See the analysis in Karjakin, S - So, W.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Nge2 d5 [E46]

4 e3 0-0 5 Nge2 d5 6 a3 Bd6 7 Ng3 c6 8 Be2 Nbd7 9 0-0 dxc4 10 Bxc4 e5 11 Ba2:

Looking at recent game it’s clear that 7 Ng3 has overtaken 7 c5 as White’s most popular response to 6...Bd6. Black has more than one way to react, but the Semi-Slav approach with 7...c6 looks pretty reliable. Previously we’ve looked at the IQP position arising after 11...exd4 12 exd4. 11...Nb6 has been played more often, and normally leads to a different pawn structure after 12 dxe5. See Lopez Martinez, J - Meier, G for details.

Till next time, John

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