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This month’s update includes two more encounters with the ‘Killer Bd2’ Nimzo, plus some new ideas in 4 e3, 4 Qc2 and 4 g3 lines.

Download PGN of February ’19 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 Nf3 b6 5 Bd2 Bb7 6 e3 0-0 7 Bd3 d5 [E52]

4 Nf3 b6 5 Bd2 Bb7 6 e3 0-0 7 Bd3 d5 8 cxd5 exd5 9 Rc1 a6 10 0-0 Nbd7 11 Ne5:

Frowned upon in the old days, an early Bd2 is now seen as a perfectly acceptable way of meeting the Nimzo-Indian. In many games it has transposed to the Tal Variation, using the move-order above or something similar. An early Bd2 and Rc1, combined with Ne5, has proved to be very popular among certain grandmasters.

11...Nxe5!, exchanging knights before White has the chance to play f2-f4. After 12 dxe5 Nd7 13 f4 Nc5 14 Bb1 d4!:

the game opens up and both sets of pieces become active. Despite some impressive play (or preparation) and an eventual win for White, 11...Nxe5 looks like a decent choice for Black. See Yu Yangyi - Vaibhav, S for analysis.

In contrast, Black seems to be struggling a little after 11...Bd6 12 f4!:

The most popular choice here, 12...c5, can be met by 13 Qf3!. White prevents ...Ne4, and a dangerous Pillsbury-style attack is on the cards. In the recent game Xu Xiangyu - Klekowski, M, Black’s knight hopped into e4 while it was still able to, but after 12...Ne4 13 Nxe4! dxe4 14 Bc4 White’s position was still preferable.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Nge2 c6 [E46]

4 e3 0-0 5 Nge2 c6 6 a3 Ba5 7 c5!?:

We recently came across this move in the game Paterek, M - Parligras, M/Douglas 2018, and it’s been played a few times since them as well. The main point behind 7 c5 is to exchange the c-pawn for Black’s d-pawn after 7...d5 8 cxd6! Qxd6. Gupta, A - Vidit, S followed Paterek-Parligras with 9 b4 Bc7 10 Bb2 e5:

but here Gupta deviated with 11 Qc2 (instead of the recommended 11 dxe5!). Vidit responded with the clever retreat 11...Qe7! and reached a comfortable position which turned into a winning one only a few moves later!

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 c5 6 Nge2 [E42]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 c5 6 Nge2 cxd4 7 exd4 d5 8 cxd5 Nxd5 9 0-0 Nc6:

It’s important to note that this position can also be reached via the 4 e3 c5 move order: 5 Bd3 Nc6 6 Nge2 cxd4 7 exd4 d5 8 cxd5 Nxd5 9 0-0 0-0, as well as lines where Black plays ...d5 before ...c5.

The Bd3 / Nge2 set-up is a reasonable choice for White players who are happy to play IQP positions, albeit ones with the knight on e2 rather than f3, especially as there are limited options for Black to avoid this.

From the diagrammed position, White has quite a few options, but probably the most ambitious choice is 10 Bc2!, preparing to attack with Qd3. Black’s defensive resources are sufficient, but White often gains practical attacking chances, as in the recent game Wemmers, X - De Seroux, C..

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

4 e3 b6 5 Nge2 Ne4 6 Qc2 Bb7 7 a3 Bxc3+ 8 Nxc3 f5:

5 Nge2 remains a testing response to the 4...b6 move order, and the main reason most top players prefer 4...0-0, even if they intend to follow up with....b6.

From the diagram, the most popular choice is 9 d5. In Ubilava, E - Short, N, White instead chose 9 Nxe4!?. It looks odd to give Black a tempo on the queen, but after 9...Bxe4 10 Qd1!:

Short felt obliged to retreat the bishop immediately with 10...Bb7, to avoid lines such as 10...0-0 11 d5! which leaves the bishop in real danger. Ubilava gained an edge and it’s very possible that 9 Nxe4! is White’s best move!

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 Bg5 c5 6 dxc5 Na6 [E39]

4 Qc2 0-0 5 Bg5 c5 6 dxc5:

This line is supposed to be completely innocuous (or worse; Black’s results are excellent). However, as we saw, Sam Shankland tried it a few months ago against Wei Yi. Recently he repeated the same line against Nakamura. The key continuation runs 6...Na6 7 a3 Bxc3+ 8 Qxc3 Nxc5 9 Bxf6 Qxf6 10 Qxf6 gxf6 11 Rd1:

White’s idea is e2-e3 followed by Ne2, after which the knight will sit well on either c3 or f4. Wei Yi chose 11...a5, equalised and the game was eventually drawn. Perhaps Shankland felt there were chances of an edge somewhere, but in the event it was Nakamura who diverged first by avoiding....a5, at least for the moment, and choosing 11...b6. See Shankland, S - Nakamura, H for analysis.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 g3 0-0 5 Bg2 d5 [E20]

4 g3 0-0 5 Bg2 d5 6 Nf3 dxc4 7 0-0 Nc6 8 Qa4:

Thanks to this queen move, which has now been tried by several grandmasters, this Nimzo-Catalan line has experienced a new lease of life. A recent game continued 8...Nd5 (8...Bd7 is the main alternative) 9 Qc2, and here, instead of the normal 9...Be7, Black chose 9...Rb8:

9...Rb8 is a rare choice here, but the idea is clear: Black wants to play ...b5. White responded convincingly with 10 e4! Nxc3 11 bxc3 Be7 12 Rd1!, and won a miniature, but this line looks playable for Black as long as he chooses the correct move here. Find out what that is in the notes to Perdomo, L - De Borba, G..

Till next time, John

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