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In this month’s update, we take a look at some new anti-Nimzo ideas from Alexander Grischuk, using the 4 e3 0-0 5 a3 Saemisch move order. We also study aggressive options for White in 4 e3 lines, with the black king being very much the target!

Download PGN of April ’22 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 bxc3 [E28]

4 e3 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 bxc3:

It’s noticeable that Grischuk has played this move order a few times recently. White is getting a Saemisch where:

1) Black has committed to kingside castling; and

2) White has committed to e2-e3.

4 a3 Bxc3+ 5 bxc3 0-0 6 e3 is the traditional move order, used by ECO, but 5...0-0 is no longer such a popular choice as players prefer either 5...c5 or 5...b6/5...Nc6. In addition, against 5...0-0, many players prefer 6 f3 to 6 e3.

From the diagrammed position, Black has numerous options, and Grischuk faced four different approaches in the following games.

Grischuk, A - Caruana, F continued 6...b6 7 Bd3 Bb7 8 f3 c5 9 e4 Ne8 10 Be3 Nc6 11 Nh3!:

This is a fresh idea. With the knight on h3 rather than e2, White can more easily defend the c4-pawn with Qe2. In addition, the queen’s path to the kingside is unblocked after f3-f4. Caruana was soon in trouble, and Grischuk won in only 26 moves.

In Grischuk, A - Matlakov, M, Black chose the most popular move, 6...c5, aiming for the main line of the Saemisch, but again Grischuk has something different planned: 7 Bd3 Nc6 8 Nf3!?:

8 Ne2 is the main line, but Grischuk’s choice proved to be successful after 8...b6 9 e4! Ne8?! 10 d5! Na5 11 e5! and White had won the opening battle.

In Grischuk, A - Niemann, H, Black tried a logical approach with 6...d6 7 Bd3 e5, but this was met by another fresh idea: 8 e4!?:

This is the first time this move has been tried by a 2500+ grandmaster. Most players have chosen the obvious 8 Ne2, but 8...e4! looks fine for Black. Grischuk’s 8 e4!? looks more challenging.

Finally, in Grischuk, A - Maghsoodloo, P, the Iranian GM chose 6...c5 7 Bd3 d5, transposing into the Botvinnik-Capablanca Variation, with both players heading down the main line: 8 cxd5 exd5 9 Ne2 b6 10 0-0 Ba6 11 f3 Re8 12 Ng3 Bxd3 13 Qxd3 Nc6 14 Bb2:

This position has been the battleground for a number of correspondence games in recent years, and the notes provide an update on theory.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 cxd5 exd5 [E48]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 cxd5 exd5 7 a3 Bd6 8 Qc2 c6 9 Nge2 Re8 10 Bd2 Nbd7:

We studied this latest trend of 7 a3 last month, and since then there’s been more action. In the diagrammed position, a typical plan would be 0-0 followed by a plan involving f2-f3 and e3-e4. However, the newly crowned European Champion Matthias Bluebaum instead chose 11 f3 c5 12 0-0-0!:

This is a novelty, and a promising idea. The earlier f2-f3 can also be preparation for g2-g4! As is customary for positions with opposite-side castling, play soon becomes extremely sharp. See Bluebaum, M - Kuzubov, Y for analysis.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Nf3 d5 6 Bd2 b6 [E52]

Finally this month, two interesting ideas in the popular Bd2 Nimzo:

4 e3 0-0 5 Nf3 d5 6 Bd2 b6 7 cxd5 exd5 8 Bd3 Bb7 9 Qc2!?:

We haven’t covered 9 Qc2 before (White usually plays one of 9 Rc1, 9 0-0 or 9 Ne5), but it was recently tried by Aronian and then, two weeks later, repeated by Praggnanandhaa. After 9...Re8 10 a3 Bf8 Aronian uncorked 11 Ng5! g6 12 h4!:

White doesn’t castle kingside and instead begins a crude but effective attack. Both Aronian and Praggnanandhaa won inside 25 moves! See Aronian, L - Esipenko, A for analysis.

4 e3 0-0 5 Nf3 d5 6 Bd2 b6 7 cxd5 exd5 8 Bd3 Re8 9 0-0 Bd6 10 Qb1!?:

Qb1 is a clever move and yet another option for White. On b1 the queen supports both the b2-b4 and e3-e4 advances. See Bluebaum, M - So, W for details.

Till next time, John

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