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The Bogo-Indian has experienced some rough times in recent years, in particular the key line after 4 Nbd2 0-0 5 a3 Be7 6 e4 d5 7 e5, where you may get checkmated unless your defensive skills are perfect. In this update we look at two options for Black which avoid such a practically difficult line. Also included this month is an idea for Black in the Nimzo Saemisch and a rare but interesting try for White in the Rubinstein Nimzo.

Download PGN of August ’20 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Bogo-Indian: 4 Nbd2 0-0 5 a3 Be7 6 e4 d6 [E11]

4 Nbd2 0-0 5 a3 Be7 6 e4 d6 7 Be2 Nfd7:

Given the problems Black has been forced to endure after 6...d5 7 e5 Nfd7 8 Bd3 c5 9 h4!, it’s unsurprising that some grandmasters have turned to 6...d6. Carlsen has played it himself, but at the recent Legends of Chess event he found himself playing the white side against Vassily Ivanchuk.

One of the justifications for the ...d6 and ...e5 plan is the position of the d2-knight - it’s poorly placed against Black’s dark-square set-up. Here Carlsen played 8 Nb1, which is actually a well-known idea. The c3-square is a far better home for the knight, and such is the slow nature of the position, White has time to expend two moves getting it there. Ivanchuk’s response, however, is surprising: 8...d5!?:

Black has been seemingly gearing up for ...e5, but suddenly reverts back to the ...d5 plan! Ivanchuk tried this move twice in his mini-match with Carlsen - see Carlsen, M - Ivanchuk, V for analysis.

Bogo-Indian: 4 Nbd2 b6 5 a3 Bxd2+ 6 Qxd2 Bb7 [E11]

4 Nbd2 b6 5 a3 Bxd2+ 6 Qxd2 Bb7 7 e3 0-0:

This is the main alternative to 4...0-0 5 a3 Be7. Black’s idea is to exchange on d2 and then set up with the typical Queen’s/Nimzo-Indian formation ...Bb7, ...d6, ...Nbd7, etc. White may have a theoretical edge in these lines, but the simplicity of Black’s plan makes it an attractive option on a practical level.

The idea behind recapturing with the queen on d2 is to develop the dark-squared bishop on the long diagonal. White either plays b2-b3 (of his own accord, or if Black plays ...a5 first) or more aggressively with b2-b4. In the latter case, White must be also wary of a quick ...a5 (e.g. 8 b4 a5!?).

8 b3 was chosen in the recent game Galaktionov, A - Giri, A, which continued in typical fashion with 8...d6 9 Bb2 Nbd7 10 Be2 Ne4 11 Qc2 f5 12 0-0:

Here Giri resisted the temptation for the rook lift ...Rf6 in favour of 12...Qe7, although of course it remains a possibility in the future.

In Kashlinskaya, A - Sielecki, C, White chose b2-b4: 8 Be2 d6 9 0-0 Nbd7 9 0-0 0-0 10 b4 Ne4 11 Qc2 f5 12 Bb2 Rf6!?:

In this game Sielecki played the most aggressive option, and the position immediately sharpened after 13 d5! Rh6. At most levels, the aggressive ...Ne4 and ...f5 plan is a good practical option for Black and definitely the most fun if the kingside attack goes to plan! Objectively White is better, but some accurate play is required and a small slip can easily hand the advantage over to Black.

Nimzo-Indian, Saemisch Variation: 4 a3 Bxc3+ 5 bxc3 c5 6 e3 [E26]

4 a3 Bxc3+ 5 bxc3 c5 6 e3 Qa5!?:

As we saw in last month’s update, none other than Magnus Carlsen has been playing the Saemisch Variation in recent times, and this very fact may well lead to a spike in its popularity. One positive for Black is that, given the slowness of White’s development, there are numerous playable options to choose from. One of these is 6...Qa5, which Pavel Eljanov has played previously and again in the recent game Kotrotsos, V - Eljanov, P. The point of attacking the c3-pawn is to disrupt White’s smooth development. The queen will likely retreat after a few moves, so the key question for Black is whether the disruption caused is worth the time expended.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 e4 d5 [E32]

4 Qc2 0-0 5 e4 d5 6 e5 Ne4 7 Bd3 c5 8 Nf3 cxd4 9 Nxd4 Nd7 10 Bf4 Bxc3+ 11 bxc3 Qh4 12 g3 Qh5:

The recent game Holt, C - Vidit, S provides a good example of the importance of move-orders in many opening variations. The diagrammed position looks quite familiar, but the main line actually goes 10...Qh4 11 g3 Qh5. Even though ...Bxc3 is often played, nothing is gained by playing it so soon, and unfortunately for Black, key options are lost. 13 0-0 g5! would transpose to the main line, but with 13 Be2! White can exploit the premature exchange on c3.

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

4 e3 0-0 5 Nf3 d5 6 a3 Bxc3+ 7 bxc3 c5:

We’ve previously covered in some detail 6 a3 in a similar position, with the bishop on d3 and the knight on g1. However, we’ve only briefly touched upon 5 Nf3 d5 6 a3 Bxc3+ 7 bxc3, which contains a subtle difference. With the bishop on d3, Black normally exchanges on c4 and then plays ...c5 to reach the desired set-up. The difference here is that ...dxc4 would effectively lose a tempo, so Black plays 7...c5 instead and waits for the light-squared bishop to develop before committing to ...dxc4.

Of course, White is by no means forced to move the bishop yet, as other useful options are available. For example, Caruana recently tried 8 a4!?, a rare move and an interesting one which frees the a3-square for the bishop and prepares a4-a5 under the right circumstances - see the notes to Caruana, F - Dominguez Perez, L.

A more popular move for White is 8 Bb2. Vassily Ivanchuk has played this on a few occasions, and in the Legends of Chess event he succeeded in gaining advantages against both Anish Giri and Vishy Anand. Giri chose the rare 8...b6, and Ivanchuk responded with 9 cxd5! exd5 10 c4!:

The addition of Bb2 and ...b6 has made opening the position an attractive plan for White, and it’s justified despite the fact White is still two moves away from castling. See Ivanchuk, V - Giri, A for analysis and details of alternatives for Black on move eight.

Till next time, John

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