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This month's update includes some Nimzo games from the Qatar Masters and the London Classic. Fans were starved of Nimzo action in the main event at the London Classic (unfortunately and perhaps predictably, the event became a bit of a Berlin fest!) but luckily the Super Rapid saw both Anand and Kramnik strutting their Nimzo stuff.

Download PGN of December '14 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian Classical: 4 Qc2 c5 5 dxc5 0-0 6 a3, 7...Qb6 [E39]

We begin this month's update with another look at a line covered last month, 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 c5 5 dxc5 0-0 6 a3 Bxc5 7 Nf3 Qb6:

This is a typical idea. Black spends a tempo with the queen in order to force White to play e3. But what happens if White doesn't do what he is told, and plays 8 e4!? instead? This move is virtually a novelty - no one has been inclined to open up the dark diagonal for Black, especially with ...Ng4 coming. Can White really get away with this cheeky move? See the analysis in Shankland - Yu Yangyi, Doha 2014.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 e4 d6 [E32]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 e4 d6 6 a3 Bxc3+ 7 bxc3 c5:

An ideal scenario for Black after 7...c5 is to get 8 Bd3 Qc7 9 Ne2 b5!, an idea we've previously covered here. However, 7...c5 remains Black's riskiest seventh-move option in view of the direct 8 e5!. The game Holt - Corallo, Richardson 2014, is an excellent demonstration of the attacking chances White can obtain in this line.

Nimzo-Indian Classical: 4...c5 5 dxc5 0-0 6 Nf3 Na6 [E39]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 Nf3 c5 6 dxc5 Na6 7 g3 Nxc5 8 Bg2:

This line continues to be popular, especially among those who are happy to risk little in the search for the tiniest edge.

L'Ami-Tomashevsky, Doha 2014, continued 8...b6 9 0-0 Bb7 10 Nb5 Be4 11 Qd1 Nb7 12 a3 Be7 13 Bf4 Rc8 14 Rc1 a6 15 Nc3:

In many similar positions Black usually meets Nc3 with ...Bc6, but here Tomashevsky introduces a new and double-edged idea 15...Bxf3!?.

Returning to the position after 8 Bg2, 8...Nce4 and 8...b6 are the most popular choices for Black. However, there's another possibility in 8...d6!?:

In contrast to 8...b6, Black plans to develop his light-squared bishop more modestly on d7, but he can still pressure the c4-pawn with ...Rc8. See Fedorovsky - Postny, Bundesliga 2014, for analysis.

Nimzo-Indian: Karpov Variation [E54]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nf3 c5 7 0-0 cxd4 8 exd4 dxc4 9 Bxc4 b6 10 Bg5 Bb7 11 Ne5 Nbd7 12 Qe2 Bxc3 13 bxc3 Rc8!?:

You can always rely on Kramnik being at the cutting edge of theory in the Nimzo-Indian, and his recent game against British Champion Jonathan Hawkins is yet another example of this. Black's most popular choice is to break the pin with 13...Qc7, but in Hawkins - Kramnik, London Classic Super Rapidplay 2014, the former World Champion convincingly demonstrates the value of the rook move.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 b6 5 Bd2 [E52]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e3 b6 5 Bd2 Bb7 6 Nf3 0-0 7 Bd3:

Winants - Eliet, Belgium 2014, certainly isn't of huge theoretical significance - it can hardly be when White has played Bd2! However, this game does demonstrate that lines with Bd2 are not always as harmless as they appear, as well as the multitude of transpositional possibilities in the Nimzo-Indian.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 f3 d5 5 a3 Be7, 9 Bg5 [E20]

Finally this month, a sharp line which might just have been in Anand's prep for his recent World Championship match with Carlsen, 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 f3 d5 5 a3 Be7 6 e4 dxe4 7 fxe4 e5 8 d5 Bc5 9 Bg5:

9 Nf3 is more popular but 9 Bg5 was the move Nakamura played against Carlsen earlier in 2014. Anand chose 9...h6 10 Bh4 Bd4, the original recommendation for Black, and White went for the critical line 11 Nb5!? Bxb2 12 Rb1. See Stopa - Anand, London Classic Super Rapidplay 2014, for details.

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. See you all in 2015!

Till next time, John

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