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In this month’s update we’ll focus on some new Nimzo-Indian ideas from the recent World Rapid and Blitz Championships.

Download PGN of December ’22 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 a3 Bxc3+ 7 bxc3 dxc4 8 Bxc4 [E49]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 a3 Bxc3+ 7 bxc3 dxc4 8 Bxc4 c5 9 Ne2 Qc7 10 Bd3:

This bishop retreat has become popular recently. Russian GM Alexey Sarana has played it on numerous occasions, and other grandmasters have followed his lead. Here we’ll study three recent games.

a) 10...Nc6 11 f4!?
We’ve seen this move before in Duda,J-Sevian,S/ 2022. White gains space and prevents the ...e5 pawn break. After 11...b6 (Sevian played 11...Rd8) 12 0-0 Bb7 13 Ng3 Grischuk played 13...Ne7!:

This was the move I suggested in the notes to Duda-Sevian, and the only previous occasion it was played was over 70 years ago! See the notes to Salem, A - Grischuk, A.

b) 11...e5
With 11...e5 Black is aiming to reach the line 10...Nc6 11 0-0 e5, without allowing 11 f4 as an option for White. Here 11 0-0 Nc6 transposes, but White isn’t forced to oblige:
11 dxe5!?
This move changes the pawn structure and looks like a decent alternative to 11 0-0.
11...Qxe5 12 0-0:

Here 12...Bf5!, offering a bishop trade, looks like a logical choice for Black. See Sarana, A - Quparadze, G for analysis.

c) 10...Nc6 11 0-0 e5
Or 10...e5 11 0-0 Nc6.
12 Ng3 Be6 13 f4!?:

It was 12 Ng3 followed by f2-f4 which originally breathed new life into the 10 Bd3 line. One of the key ideas for White is the positional pawn sacrifice 13...cxd4 14 cxd4 exd4 15 e4! after which the mobile pawn majority offers White promising kingside action. In Petrov, N - Nakamura, H, the American GM preferred 13...exd4 14 cxd4 Rad8! keeping the tension in the centre, and this looks like a wise practical choice.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 a3 Bxc3+ 7 bxc3 c5 8 cxd5 exd5 [E49]

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

With the move order 5...c5 6 Nge2 d5 7 cxd5 Black usually heads for an IQP with 7...cxd4 8 exd4 Nxd5, but 7...exd5 is another option and this heads towards the Botvinnik-Capablanca variation. 8 a3 Bxc3+ 9 bxc3 b6 10 0-0 Ba6 11 f3 Re8 12 Ng3 Bxd3 13 Qxd3 Nc6 14 Bb2:

The recent Bundesliga game Gustafsson, J - Grigorian, S isn’t of theoretical importance. However, it’s a stark reminder, if one is needed, that Black must play concretely in this position, either by 14...h5 or 14...c4. Instead, Black chose the natural-looking 14...Rc8? but after 15 Rae1 Rc7 16 e4! White’s position was already extremely favourable and Gustafsson later won in fine attacking style.

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

4 a3 Bxc3 5 bxc3 c5 6 e3 0-0 7 Bd3 Nc6 8 Nf3!? d6 9 e4 e5:

Grischuk has played 8 Nf3 (instead of the main line, 8 Ne2) on a few occasions, one of which was against Maxim Matlakov. Matlakov was impressed enough by Grischuk’s idea to later try it with White. The conventional wisdom is that 8 Nf3 is inaccurate because ...d6 and ...e5 leads to a Huebner Variation where White has lost a tempo with a2-a3. Evidently, some grandmasters, including Grischuk and Matlakov, don’t view this as a major issue. In the blocked positions the loss of tempo should be insignificant. It’s interesting, however, that instead of 10 d5, both Grischuk and Matlakov have preferred to keep the tension with 10 h3. See the notes to Matlakov, M - Alonso Rosell, A for analysis.

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

4 f3 c5 5 d5 b5 6 e4 d6
We’ll look at two games in this line:
a) 7 cxb5!?

7 cxb5 is rare, and for a good reason. In general, there’s clearly some risk involved in accepting Black’s ...b5 gambit in the f3 Nimzo. In addition, Stockfish’s instant reaction is one of disapproval. However, in today’s game, deep preparation allows many more lines to be used as weapons. It’s also worth noting that Erigaisi played 7 cxb5 three times in Almaty, and he scored three wins! See Erigaisi, A - Grischuk, A for details.

b) 7 Nge2 bxc4 8 Nf4 e5 9 Nfe2 Ng8!?:

Re-routing the knight from f6 to e7 is a common theme in this particular line. However, it’s rare for Black to do it so quickly. See Anton Guijarro, D - Heimann, A for analysis.

Till next time, John

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