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If you’re looking to add some challenging lines to your repertoire against the Nimzo-Indian, you could certainly do worse than following Shakhriyar Mamedyarov’s games. The Azerbaijani grandmaster is not one to dodge sharp, theoretical lines, and this month’s update includes three of his games as White in the Nimzo.

Download PGN of December ’19 Nimzo and Benoni games

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

4 Qc2 d5 5 cxd5 exd5 6 Bg5 h6 7 Bh4 c5 8 dxc5 g5 9 Bg3 Ne4:

With the emergence of other options (for example, 8...0-0), in recent years there have been fewer high-level games in this sharp line, so it was interesting to see Mamedyarov and Giri debating this position. Mamedyarov chose 10 Bxb8!? (10 e3 is the main line) and Giri reacted with 10...Bxc3+ (the alternative is 10...Qf6) 11 bxc3 Rxb8. Here Mamedyarov played 12 Qa4+:

White accepts that he will eventually lose the c5-pawn, but the idea behind Qa4-d4 is to prevent ...Nxc5 as the knight is well placed on that square. If White succeeds in forcing the knight back, he may gain a positional edge, and this is indeed what happens in the game. See the notes to Mamedyarov, S - Giri, A for analysis of this position and also an update on 10...Qf6.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 c5 5 dxc5 0-0 6 Nf3 [E39]

4 Qc2 c5 5 dxc5 0-0 6 Nf3 Na6 7 g3 Nxc5 8 Bg2 Nce4 9 0-0 Nxc3 10 bxc3 Be7 11 e4 d6 12 e5 dxe5 13 Nxe5 Qc7:

In this mainline position, White’s most popular choice by far is 14 Qe2. In a recent game between Korobov and Aronian, the Ukrainian grandmaster instead chose the rare 14 Re1!?. This move could transpose to 14 Qe2, but the game took a different course with 14...Bd6 15 Bf4. Here Aronian played the critical 15...Nh5!, exploiting the absence of Qe2 to force a knight-for-bishop exchange. After 16 Rad1!? Nxf4 17 gxf4:

White’s pawn structure isn’t a pretty sight but his piece activity shouldn’t be discounted. See Korobov, A - Aronian, L for analysis.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 e4 [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 Bxc3 13 bxc3 g5 14 cxd5 exd5:

This key position has provided the battleground for numerous high-level encounters. The most popular continuation is 15 Bxe4 (or 15 e6, first which usually transposes) 15 dxe4 16 e6 gxf4 17 exd7 Bxd7 18 Qxe4, a position we’ve covered in previous updates. However, recently Mamedyarov has twice tried 15 Be3!?, offering the e5-pawn. See the notes to Mamedyarov, S - Navara, D for analysis of this new idea.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Nf3 c5 5 g3 [E20]

4 Nf3 c5 5 g3 Nc6:

5...Nc6 is an option for Black that we haven’t covered before. After 6 Bg2 Black follows up with 6...Ne4! aiming to get the bishop pair. After 7 Bd2 Nxd2 8 Qxd2 cxd4 9 Nxd4:

the knight-for-bishop exchange certainly helps Black, but White’s development lead and space advantage still offers him some chances for an edge. Nevertheless, this is a solid line for Black which has attracted a few 2700+ grandmasters. See Mamedyarov, S - Bogner, S for details.

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

4 e3 0-0 5 Nf3 d5 6 Bd2 b6 7 cxd5 exd5:

This line refuses to die down, and we can now add Wei Yi to the list of 2700+ grandmasters who have been persuaded to try Bd2 against the Nimzo. His game against Karjakin continued 8 Bd3 Bb7 and here, instead of 9 0-0 or 9 Rc1, Wei Yei played 9 Ne5!?:

Placing the knight on e5 so early allows White to meet ...Nbd7 with f2-f4 and to recapture on e5 with the f-pawn. Karjakin reacted logically with 9...Bd6! 10 0-0 c5 11 Rc1 Nc6 but 12 Ng4! ensures that Black doesn’t get an easy equality. Karjakin’s 12...Nbd7!?, allowing 13 Nh6+, is certainly provocative but, as analysis shows, not necessarily bad! See Wei Yi - Karjakin, S for details.

The Indian grandmaster Chanda Sandipan is another Bd2 advocate, and a recent game of his illustrates perfectly the chances White gets in this line if Black strays even slightly: 8 Rc1 Be7 9 Ne5 Bb7 10 Bd3 c5 11 0-0 Nbd7 12 f4!:

The position after 12 f4! may objectively be okay for Black but it’s not easy to handle in practice, as shown in Sandipan, C - Kastek, T.

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

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 cxd5 exd5 7 Nge2 Re8 8 Bd2 Bd6 9 Rc1 a6 10 0-0:

This is like a QGD Exchange Variation, with the difference that White’s dark-squared bishop is inside the pawn chain instead of on g5 or f4. Don’t be fooled by this apparent swing in Black’s favour - this line is still pretty challenging for Black. 6 cxd5 is David Navara’s favourite line against the Nimzo-Indian, and recently he added another win to his already excellent score with it. After 11...b6 11 Nf4 Bb7 12 Qf3! c5?!,

Navara unleased a powerful novelty which gave White a significant advantage. Find out what this was in the notes to Navara, D - Bogner, S.

Till next time, John

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