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This month we're going to catch up on a few possibilities in a key line of the Nimzo-Indian: the Bareev Variation. Many thanks go to subscriber Michael Wilde for suggesting this. He also asked which line I would choose if I had to play against the Nimzo. Good question! Perhaps 4 e3 would suit my style the best.

Download PGN of February '12 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo Indian 4 Qc2: Bareev Variation [E32]

The Bareev Variation is characterized by the early development of White's knight to e2, with the idea of moving the queen and playing Nc3 as quickly as possible: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 b6 7 Bg5 Bb7 8 e3 d6 9 Ne2 Nbd7. The c3-square is generally an excellent post for this knight, so White is justified in slowing down his development in order to fulfil this positional goal.

Here I'm going to focus on 10 Qc2 (10 Qd3 is the alternative) and some of the recent developments with this move:

We begin with 10...h6 11 Bh4 c5 12 dxc5!?. This pawn capture is Morozevich's latest wrinkle, and an attempt to liven up White's chances because Black players have found a solid response to 12 Rd1 in the shape of 12...cxd4.

The "main line" after 12 dxc5 runs 12...bxc5 13 Nc3 d5 and now:

a) 14 Rd1 is covered in Morozevich - Moiseenko, Porto Carras 2011.
b) The sharper 14 0-0-0 is covered in Kacheishvili - Polgar, Batumi 1999.

White can also play Ne2-c3 in lines where Black delays ...Bb7, or forgoes it in favour of ...Ba6, and it's useful to compare how the success of certain plans are affected by these little changes. 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d6 7 Bg5 Nbd7 8 e3 b6 9 Ne2 Ba6 10 Qc2 c5 11 dxc5 bxc5 12 Nc3 Qb6 13 0-0-0 is clearly similar to Kacheishvili-Polgar, but the position of Black's bishop on a6 does make a significant difference. See the annotations to Seirawan - Polgar, Ningbo 2011, to find out why.

Returning to the position after 10 Qc2, I feel that the game Sumets - Spirin, Metz 2008, is a model one for White players to follow. Black relied on just piece play with 10...c5 11 dxc5 bxc5 12 Nc3 Qb6 13 Be2 Rab8 14 0-0 Ba8 15 Rab1:

but White soon built up an imposing advantage, and to me Black does better by challenging White with a quick ...d5.

Another option for Black is to recapture on c5 with the knight: 10...c5 11 dxc5 Nxc5

This recapture looks less natural when White's knight is coming to c3, but it's possibly still okay. See coverage of this idea in Navara - Gelashvili, Ermioni 2006.

White players have been turning to dxc5 lines because, as mentioned above, Black has found ways to virtually nullify Rd1 lines. One example of this is the game Nataf - Teichmann, ICCF email 2009, where Black equalised fairly comfortably after 10...c5 11 Rd1 cxd4! 12 Rxd4 h6 13 Bh4 Qc7, as he has done in other games too (see the notes to this game for details).

Finally, 10...h6 11 Bh4 e5!? remains an interesting alternative way for Black to play:

Black's idea is to unbalance the position by meeting the obvious 12 d5 with 12...b5!. See Getz - De Firmian, Oslo 2011, for details.

Till next time, John

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