ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
In this month’s update we look at some fresh ideas for both sides in the Nimzo, including an interesting option tried by Caruana in the 4 e3 Nimzo, and a crazy-looking (but engine approved!) f2-pawn sacrifice in the 4 Qc2 Nimzo.

Download PGN of August ’19 Nimzo and Benoni games

>> Previous Update >>

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 c5 6 Nge2 d5 7 cxd5 exd5 [E48]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 c5 6 Nge2 d5 7 cxd5 exd5:

As Black, grandmasters virtually always enter an IQP position with 7...cxd4 8 exd4 Nxd5 (or with 6...cxd4 7 exd4 d5), so it’s interesting that Caruana chose 7...exd5 in a recent game against Nakamura. 8 a3 Bxc3+ 9 bxc3 transposes to the Botvinnik-Capablanca Variation, and it would be intriguing to see a 2800+ player on the Black side of this line.

Instead Nakamura opted for 8 0-0, against which 8...Nc6 is by far the most common response. However, Caruana instead chose 8...c4! followed by 9 Bc2 Nc6 10 a3 Ba5!:

Given that White’s most natural plan involves central expansion with f2-f3 and e3-e4, retreating to a5 rather than d6 keeps more pressure on key squares c3 and d4. This rare line looks fully playable for Black - see Nakamura, H - Caruana, F for analysis.

Nimzo-Indian, Karpov Variation 9...b6 10 Bg5 Bb7 11 Re1 [E54]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nf3 c5 7 0-0 dxc4 8 Bxc4 cxd4 9 exd4 b6 10 Bg5 Bb7 11 Re1 Nbd7 12 Rc1 Rc8 13 Bd3:

We saw a game involving Korobov with 13 Bd3 against Karthikeyan in the April update, and more recently he has repeated his favourite move, against Praggnanandhaa. The Indian prodigy responded solidly with 13...h6 14 Bh4 Be7 and here Korobov played 15 Bc2!?:

This move is actually a novelty. White aims to set up the usual queen and bishop battery along the b1-h7 diagonal, but helping the c1-rook with the more natural 15 Bb1 has been played previously. 15 Bc2 is tricky as White keeps the option of using the bishop on the d1-a4 diagonal in some lines, but Black’s response in the game looks quite convincing - see the notes to Korobov, A - Praggnanandhaa, R.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 c5 5 dxc5 0-0 6 a3 Bxc5 [E39]

4 Qc2 c5 5 dxc5 0-0 6 a3 Bxc5 7 Nf3 Qb6:

Just like with Romanishin’s 5...Bxc5 6 Nf3 Qb6, the idea behind 7...Qb6 is to force White into blocking the c1-bishop with 8 e3, after which Black typically adopts a Hedgehog formation with ...Be7, ...d6, ...Nbd7 etc. However, a game between Sam Shankland and Yu Yangyi in 2014 showed that e2-e3 wasn’t as enforced as previously thought; White could actually allow 8 e4!? Ng4:

Before Shankland’s game, it was quite understandable that no strong player had chosen to invite such pressure against f2, and until recently no-one had repeated Shankland’s idea either. However, modern engines are happy with White’s chances here.

Shankland chose to defend the f2-pawn with 9 Nd1. However, in a recent game White instead offered the pawn with 9 Na4!?. Furthermore, inviting Black to capture the f-pawn with the crazy-looking 9 h3 is even possible here. See Hambleton, A - Quintiliano Pinto, R for analysis.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 d5 5 cxd5 exd5 6 Bg5 h6 [E35]

4 Qc2 d5 5 cxd5 exd5 6 Bg5 h6 7 Bh4 0-0 8 e3 c5 9 dxc5 Be6 10 Nf3 Nbd7 11 Be2 Rc8:

The solid option with early castling (instead of ...c5 with ...g5) continues to appeal to those playing Black, who has scored particularly well from the diagram position. Previously we’ve looked at both 12 a3 and 12 0-0, but in a key clash between the top seeds at this year’s British Championship, David Howell tried 12 c6!? against Mickey Adams. It’s not immediately apparent what this pawn move achieves but there is a point behind it, even if it is quiet nuanced! See the notes to Howell, D - Adams, M.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 b6 7 Bg5 c5 [E32]

4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 b6 7 Bg5 c5:

We haven’t covered 7...c5 for a long time, so it’s worth a revisit. Black immediately strikes at the centre and postpones the decision about where to place the light-squared bishop. It may even remain on c8 for quite a while. The main line is 8 dxc5 bxc5 9 e3 d6:

This was played in the recent game Dreev, A - Vitiugov, N, and it’s not the first time the Russian grandmaster has played 7...c5. As well as the game’s 10 Bd3, I also take a look at an interesting idea for Black against the supposedly critical 10 0-0-0, plus there’s a round-up of other options.

Nimzo-Indian Saemisch: 4 a3 Bxc3+ 5 bxc3 c5 6 e3 Nc6 7 Bd3 0-0 [E29]

4 a3 Bxc3+ 5 bxc3 c5 6 e3 Nc6 7 Bd3 0-0 8 Ne2 b6 9 e4 Ne8 10 0-0 Ba6 11 f4 f5 12 Ng3 g6 13 Be3:

The Saemisch Variation, at least with the 4 a3 move order, isn’t the most popular choice for White, but it remains a reasonable option and perhaps a good surprise weapon. The recent game Radovanovic, M - Wei Yi travelled all the way down an old main line, and in the diagram position Wei Yi reproduced a simplifying procedure which was first worked out by Anatoly Karpov many years ago, and it’s still recognised as perfectly sufficient. After 13...cxd4! 14 cxd4 d5! 15 cxd5 Bxd3 16 Qxd3 fxe4 White has got rid of his doubled c-pawns, but in return Black has gained some light-squared control.

The stem game with 13...cxd4 continued 17 Qxe4 Qxd5 18 Qxd5 exd5 (see the notes to Yusupov,A-Karpov,A/Linares 1993). Radovanovic instead chose 17 Nxe4, keeping the queens on the board, and the chances remained roughly level until Wei Yi prevailed in a study-like pawn endgame.

Queen’s Indian: 4 g3 Bb7 5 Bg2 Be7 6 0-0 0-0 7 Nc3 [E18]

4 g3 Bb7 5 Bg2 Be7 6 0-0 0-0 7 Nc3 Ne4 8 Bd2 Bf6 9 Re1!?:

9 Re1 is a subtle move that Ding played against Rapport in 2017. Since then it has been seen in a number of games, and Ding himself repeated it against Zhao Jun at the Chinese Team Championship in July. Zhao played 9...Re8, but after 10 Rc1! Nxd2 11 Qxd2 d6 12 e4!

we reach a typical position but one where Rfe1 proves to be more useful than ...Re8. See Ding Liren - Zhao Jun for analysis.

Till next time, John

>> Previous Update >>

Feel free to share your ideas and opinions on the Forum (the link above on the right), while subscribers with any questions can email me at