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This month’s update covers recent Nimzo-Indian and Queen’s Indian action from Wijk aan Zee and Gibraltar. We’ll look at Nakamura against the Kasparov Variation and Rapport’s favourite Queen’s Indian variation.

Download PGN of February ’17 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: Kasparov Variation: 4 Nf3 0-0 [E21]

4 Nf3 0-0 5 Bg5 c5:

Against the Kasparov Variation it’s interesting that Nakamura favours 4...0-0 over the traditionally more popular choices 4...c5 and 4...b6. In this update we’ll look at two of his games where he more than holds his own with the black pieces.

a) 6 Rc1 is the fashionable choice for White. This caused Black quite a few problems, but recently a solution appears to have been found: 6...h6 7 Bh4 cxd4 8 Nxd4 d5!:

This direct advance in the centre seems to be establishing itself as Black’s best choice here. After the further 9 e3 e5! 10 Nf3, 10...d4! look like a strong pawn sacrifice, as demonstrated convincingly by Nakamura in Eduoard, R - Nakamura, H.

b) 6 e3 became the main line after it was used by Kasparov against Karpov in their 1985 World Championship match, but recently it has been overtaken by 6 Rc1. Carlsen tried this move twice against Nakamura, without making any impression. After 6...cxd4 7 exd4 d5 8 Rc1 h6 9 Bh4:

we reach a position that could easily become an IQP, but White also has the option of c4-c5. Against Kasparov, Karpov played 9...dxc4?! forcing an IQP but allowing White’s light-squared bishop out in one go. Nakamura’s choice of 9...Nc6 was Kasparov’s recommended improvement for Black, and Nakamura succeeded in equalising comfortably. There is a big similarity here with a line in the Caro-Kann, Panov-Botvinnik Attack - see Carlsen, M - Nakamura, H for analysis.

Nimzo-Indian: Keres Variation: 4 e3 b6 5 Bd3 Bb7 6 Nf3 0-0 7 0-0 c5 [E43]

4 e3 b6 5 Bd3 Bb7 6 Nf3 0-0 7 0-0 c5 8 Na4 cxd4 9 a3 Be7 10 exd4 d6 11 b4 Nbd7:

The recent game Jumabayev, R - Yatzenko, A, without being theoretically important, is a good example of both sides carrying out their early plans in this typical formation. Black often aims for ...e5, after which White must choose how to deal with the tension in the centre. In the game he makes the wrong decision, and is punished quite dramatically.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 b6 5 Nge2 [E44]

4 e3 b6 5 Nge2 Ne4 6 Qc2 Bb7 7 a3 Bxc3+ 8 Nxc3 Nxc3 9 Qxc3 0-0:

When I first started playing the Nimzo-Indian, 5...Ne4 was one of my favourite lines as Black. My enthusiasm for it was dampened upon the realisation that objectively White should keep an edge with best play. However, it’s pleasing to see that 5...Ne4 still makes some appearances at Grandmaster level, and as the recent game Tregubov, P - Moiseenko, A convincingly demonstrates, it’s still a decent practical weapon for Black.

Queen’s Indian: 4 g3 Bb7 5 Bg2 Be7 6 0-0 0-0 7 Nc3 [E18]

4 g3 Bb7 5 Bg2 Be7 6 0-0 0-0 7 Nc3 Ne4 8 Bd2 Bf6:

This old and ultra-solid line has been in the limelight recently, not least because it has become part of Richard Rapport’s repertoire as Black. He twice played it at Wijk an Zee, and although he lost both games, he should certainly have won one of them.

a) After the most popular move for White, 9 Rc1, Rapport chose 9...Nxd2!?, not the most common reply by Black, but there’s a good reason behind the move, 10 Qxd2 d6 11 d5 e5:

The bishop on f6 doesn’t look very good at the moment. However, it is a bishop without an opponent, and just watch it later! See So, W - Rapport, R for analysis.

9...d6 has been played much more often than 9...Nxd2, but 10 d5 Nxd2 11 Nxd2! seems to lead to a comfortable edge for White, although Black also has the option of 10...Nxc3 - see the notes to Nakamura, H - Iturrizaga, E..

b) In a later round at Wijk aan Zee, Rapport repeated the line against Aronian, but Aronian had done his homework and prepared a surprise: 9 Be1!?:

This clever move is a rare choice. White retreats the bishop to remove Black’s option of ...Nxd2, and will follow up with either Qc2 or d4-d5. Rapport reacted poorly to Aronian’s surprise, with 9...Re8?!, was soon worse and ended up on the wrong end of a brilliant attacking game by the Armenian grandmaster. See Aronian, L - Rapport, R for analysis.

Till next time, John

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