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In this month’s update we look at some new ideas for both White and Black in currently fashionable Nimzo lines, plus we revisit one of the old main lines to study an interesting alternative for Black.

Download PGN of February ’20 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 b6 7 Bg5 Bb7 8 f3 [E32]

4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 b6 7 Bg5 Bb7 8 f3 h6 9 Bh4 d5 10 e3:

The rise of 6...d5 over the last decade means that the old main line is not as popular as it once was, but it still remains important. The most popular choice in the diagrammed position, by far, is 10...Nbd7 which prepares ...c5. However, the immediate 10...c5, a move we haven’t previously covered, has been played in numerous correspondence games and looks like an interesting and forcing alternative. The main continuation is 11 dxc5, after which Black can recapture but may instead offer a gambit with 11...Nbd7!?:

From this position White has tried two moves:

  1. 12 cxd5 is the subject of Nasshan, D - Aczel, G.
  2. 12 cxb6 is covered in Brzoza, M - Gorzkiewicz, L.

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 g5 13 cxd5 gxf4 14 dxe6:

This line is currently very popular at the elite level, but it isn’t the easiest to get to grips with. From move 12 there are numerous captures, threats, zwischenzugs and move orders to deal with, and no clear main line has emerged. Last year against Mamedyarov, Caruana had earlier captured on c3 with the bishop. Twice at Wijk aan Zee, first against Giri and then against Vitiugov, Caruana preferred to reach this position and then take with the knight. For analysis of 14...Nxc3!?, see the notes to Vitiugov, N - Caruana, F.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 d5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 0-0 7 Bg5 [E32]

4 Qc2 d5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 0-0 (4...0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5 is the more common move-order) 7 Bg5 dxc4 8 Qxc4 b6 9 Rd1 Ba6 10 Qa4:

10...Qd7 11 Qc2 Qc6 is a typical idea we’ve seen here and in similar positions. However, it’s noticeable that more recently Black has preferred to keep the queens on the board with ...Qe7 followed by ...Rd8. The recent game Mamedyarov, S - Sargsyan, S continued 10...h6 11 Bh4 Qe7 12 Nf3 Rd8:

Mamedyarov had played 13 e3 twice in 2018, but here he lunged in typical fashion with 13 g4!?. Sargsyan responded with 13...c5!?, a novelty, and exploited mistakes to win quickly.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Nf3 d5 6 Bd2 [E51]

4 e3 0-0 5 Nf3 d5 6 Bd2 b6 7 cxd5 exd5 8 Rc1:

This line, and especially this particular move order with an early Bd2 and Rc1, shows no sign of slowing down, and this update includes another two successes for White:

a. 8...Bb7 9 Bd3 Nbd7 10 0-0 a6 11 Ne5 Nxe5 (the critical response is to capture on e5 before White has a chance to play f2-f4) 12 dxe5 Nd7 13 f4 Nc5 14 Bc2!:

We’ve previously looked at 14 Bb1 d4! 15 Ne2 Qd5 (Yu Yangyi-Vaibhav,S/Caleta 2019). Retreating the bishop the bishop to c2 looks less natural as it blocks the rook’s path on the c-file. However, the idea is revealed next move - see Banusz, T - Bjerre, J for analysis.

b. 8...Re8 9 Ne5 a6?! 10 Bd3 Bd6? 11 f4! c5 12 0-0 Bb7 13 Be1!:

This is an example of Black mixing up plans paying a heavy penalty for doing so. White has managed to achieve the ideal set-up and a strong kingside attack is inevitable. See Janzelj, T - Urh, Z for analysis and suggested improvements for Black.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 f3 c5 5 d5 b5 6 e4 d6 [E20]

4 f3 c5 5 d5 d6 (5...b5 6 e4 d6 is another move order) 6 e4 b5 7 Bd2 Bxc3 8 Bxc3 b4 9 Bd2 exd5 10 cxd5 0-0 11 Be3 Nfd7 12 Ne2 f5:

Combining an early ...d6 and ...b5 is becoming an increasingly popular option for Black, who avoids the 5...b5 6 e4 0-0 7 e5 line. Last October, Carlsen played this idea against Aronian at the FIDE Grand Swiss, and the recent game Lombaers, P - Alekseenko, K followed up to this point.

Aronian captured on f5, but Lombaers diverged with 13 Nf4, eyeing the desirable e6-square. Of course Black will move the d7-knight to meet Ne6 with ...Bxe6, but White will hope that his bishop pair and light-squared control will be worth the time invested on the knight manoeuvre. Despite finally losing, White gained some advantage, so Lombaers’ direct play warrants further attention.

Till next time, John

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