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In this month’s update we look at new developments in some of the sharpest and most theoretical lines of the Nimzo-Indian, including 4 Qc2 0-0 5 e4 and 4 f3 c5. Apart from the actual assessments of key positions, other important factors to consider when choosing a particular line are repertoire maintenance and ease of play over the board. If you struggle to remember long lines of theory, or you don’t like the idea of having to reproduce many ‘only moves’ in a row, some of the following may not appeal!

Download PGN of August ’21 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 e4 d5 6 e5 Ne4 7 Bd3 c5 [E32]

4 Qc2 0-0 5 e4 d5 6 e5 Ne4 7 Bd3 c5 8 Nf3 cxd4 9 Nxd4 Nd7 10 Bf4 Qh4 11 g3 Qh5 12 0-0 g5 13 cxd5 Bxc3 14 bxc3:

10...Qh4 continues to dominate developments in the 5 e4 variation, with seemingly none of the top GMs playing 10...Ndc5 at the moment.

In the Aimchess US Rapid, Jorden Van Foreest tried 14...gxf4 against Wesley So, an idea previously played by both Kramnik and Caruana. However, So’s response was convincing and, at least for the moment, this makes 14...gxf4 rather unappealing for Black. See So, W - Van Foreest, J for analysis.

14...exd5 remains by far the most popular choice for Black, who seems to be holding comfortably after 15 Bxe4 dxe4 16 e6 gxf4 17 exd7 Bxd7 18 Qxe4 fxg3 19 fxg3. The pawn sacrifice 15 Be3 Nxe5 16 f3 is the most ambitious attempt by White to get something from the position:

There have been some developments in this line since we last looked at it, and an update of the analysis is provided in the notes to the recent game Lianes Garcia, M - Martin Barcelo, C.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 Nf3 d5 [E32]

4 Qc2 0-0 5 Nf3 d5 6 cxd5 exd5 7 Bg5 h6 8 Bh4:

8...c5 is the most popular choice here, one we’ve covered previously. In the recent game Mamedyarov, S - Le, Q, Black broke the pin with 8...g5 9 Bg3 Ne4. Mamedyarov reacted with 10 Nd2?! (10 e3! is wiser), and after 10...Bf5! Black seized the initiative.

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 dxc4 8 Qxc4 b6 9 Rd1 Ba6 10 Qa4 h6 11 Bh4 Qe7 12 Nf3 Rd8:

Nakamura played the line with 11...Qe7 four times at Saint Louis, with four draws. He was forced to work the hardest for his draw against Le Quang Liem, who unleashed a dangerous novelty in this well-known position. After 13 e4!? Bxf1 14 Rxf1 g5! 15 Nxg5! hxg5 16 Bxg5:

Black is forced to play with extreme accuracy to hold the balance - see the notes to Le, Q - Nakamura, H.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 c5 6 Nge2 [E41]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 c5 6 Nge2 cxd4 7 exd4 d5 8 cxd5 Nxd5 9 0-0 Nc6 10 a3 Bd6 11 Re1!?:

With 11 Re1, White holds back for the moment on typical ideas such as Bc2 and Ne4 and instead improves the rook. In the recent game Yu Yangyi - Wojtaszek, R, Black was unable to solve his opening difficulties and White won convincingly. It’s early days, but 11 Re1 may be one of those quiet moves which is nevertheless an important theoretical development.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 f3 c5 5 d5 b5 6 e4 [E20]

4 f3 c5 5 d5 b5 6 e4:

In this sharp and theoretical line, Black is faced with an early decision here: whether to play 6...0-0, allowing 7 e5, or 6...d6 to prevent that possibility. In this update we’ll take a look at a recent example of both lines.

In a game against Firouzja, Wesley So chose to allow e4-e5 with 6...0-0 and the game continued 7 e5 Ne8 8 f4 exd5 9 cxd5 d6 10 Nf3 c4 11 a4 Nd7 12 Be2 Qb6 13 Bd2!?:

Previously we’ve considered 13 axb5 Nc7 (and 13...dxe5 14 fxe5 Nc7). 13...Nc7 14 Nxb5 is the point of Firouzja’s move order - White gains the option of capturing on b5 with the knight. So far this idea has had very few tests over the board but has been tried in numerous correspondence games. See Firouzja, A - So, W for analysis of this line, as well as an extremely entertaining battle.

It’s easy to see why 6...d6 (or 5...d6 6 e4 b5) might appeal more than 6...0-0, and this was recently played by Caruana against Mamedyarov. After 7 Bd2 Bxc3 8 Bxc3 b4 9 Bd2 0-0 10 Ne2:

10...exd5 was the first new move (previously we’ve seen Caruana face this as White against Aronian, where 10...Nh5 11 Be3 f5 was played). Mamedyarov reacted with 11 exd5, whereupon Caruana still played 11...Nh5! intending ...f5, with reasonable counterplay for Black - see Mamedyarov, S - Caruana, F for analysis.

Till next time, John

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