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This month’s update focusses on Nimzo-Indian developments in the latest high-level tournaments.

Download PGN of April ’19 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5 7 Nf3 [E32]

4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5 7 Nf3 dxc4 8 Qxc4 b6 9 h4!?:

9 h4 was a completely new idea when Kasparov introduced it at his one-off comeback tournament in August 2017. He played 9 h4 three times at the Saint Louis blitz event, first against Aronian, then Nakamura and finally Anand. He scored 1.5/3 but got excellent positions in two of the games.

A recent game from the European Championship reminded me of Kasparov’s 9 h4, so I took a look to see what had happened since 2017. I was surprised to find only four subsequent games with 9 h4 on the database, two by US grandmaster Varuzhan Akobian. However, these four games do include two(!) 17-move wins by White, plus an entertaining battle in Akobian, V - Lenderman, A.

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 Bd7!?:

7...Bd7 is a move we’ve seen before here. 7 g3 discourages ...b6, but Black can get the bishop onto the long diagonal another way. 7...Bd7 was first played by the Hungarian grandmaster Istvan Csom, and more recently it has been tried by Pelletier, Eljanov and now the American GM Jeffery Xiong. After 8 Bg2 Bc6 9 Nf3 a5 10 b3 Black played 10...a4!?:

This is a committal decision, and I’m not a fan of it. Black does gain some light squares, but crucially he also loses the chance of pressure down the b-file after a later ...b5. See analysis in the recent game Akobian, V - Xiong, J.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 b6 7 Bg5 Bb7 8 f3 [E32]

4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 b6 7 Bg5 Bb7 8 f3 d6:

8...d6 is actually new to this site (8...h6 9 Bh4 d5 is the main line), but it has been played in many games. Moving the pawn to d6 is normal against 8 e3 but it’s much less popular against 8 f3, probably because it allows White to play e2-e4. Nevertheless, it’s certainly playable for Black. A recent encounter continued 9 e4 c5 (Black must strike immediately in the centre, or else e4-e5 becomes a worry) 10 dxc5 bxc5 11 0-0-0 Nc6 12 Bxf6 gxf6!:

reaching a sharp position with chances for both sides to attack the enemy kings. See Pogosyan, S - Bindrich, F for details.

Nimzo-Indian 4 Qc2 0-0 5 Nf3

4 Qc2 0-0 5 Nf3 d6:

5 Nf3 has become a popular alternative to the main line with 5 a3, and 5...d6 is a non-committal response. Depending on circumstances, Black may play ...e5, ...c5, or ...b6 and ...Bb7. The recent game Fier, A - Wang Hao soon became lively after 6 Bd2 b6. Here Fier grabbed the centre with 7 e4!?, and Wang Hao struck back with 7...e5!?:

offering a pawn to activate his position.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Nf3 c5 5 g3 [E20]

4 Nf3 c5 5 g3 cxd4 6 Nxd4 0-0 7 Bg2 d5 8 0-0!?:

Recently we’ve seen a revival of the gambit 4 g3 0-0 5 Bg2 d5 6 Nf3 dxc4 7 0-0 Nc6, chiefly because of the interest in 8 Qa4. In the recent Champions Showdown event in Saint Louis, David Navara tried a similar gambit idea in the 4...c5 line against Wesley So.

8 0-0 is another new move to this site (the main line is 8 cxd5, while we have also previously considered 8 Qb3), but it’s been known for many years. Black should accept the pawn offer, and after 8...dxc4 the main line runs 9 Qa4 Na6 10 Ndb5 Nd5 11 Rd1:

The old recommendation for Black here is 11...Bxc3, but So instead chose 11...Qe8. See Navara, D - So, W for analysis of both moves.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 a3 Bxc3+ 7 bxc3 [E49]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 a3 Bxc3+ 7 bxc3:

6 a3 has been favoured by Carlsen, who has also played 6 cxd5 but has avoided 6 Nf3.

The main line from the diagram remains 7...dxc4 8 Bxc4 c5, while Black could also allow the Botvinnik-Capablanca variation with 7...c5 8 cxd5 exd5. However, there’s a third option in 7...c6!?:

This is an interesting sideline which can lead to positions reached via a few different move orders. Black gets ready to recapture on d5 with the c6-pawn, and plans light-squared play with ...b6 and ...Ba6. See the recent game Tomashevsky, E - Martirosyan, H for analysis.

Nimzo-Indian, Karpov Variation: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nf3 c5 7 0-0 cxd4 8 exd4 dxc4 9 Bxc4 b6 [E54]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nf3 c5 7 0-0 cxd4 8 exd4 dxc4 9 Bxc4 b6 10 Bg5 Bb7 11 Rel Nbd7 12 Rc1 Rc8 13 Bd3:

Strangely enough, we’ve not looked at a game from this position before now, although we’ve covered many similar positions. 13 Bd3 is a particular favourite of the Ukrainian grandmaster Anton Korobov, who has reached this position on a few occasions. It seems that the bishop move has overtaken 13 Qb3, which was Kramnik’s choice against Kasparov in their 2000 World Championship match.

A typical continuation is 13...Re8 14 Qe2 Bxc3 15 bxc3 Qc7 and now 16 Bh4! is critical:

White plans to claim the diagonal with Bg3, and Black has to be careful here. See Korobov, A - Karthikeyan, M for analysis.

Till next time, John

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