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If you wish to play Nimzo-Indian and Queen’s Indian lines (and not forgetting the Catalan - see below!), it’s beneficial to get a good grasp of the multitude of move-order nuances and tricky transpositions, and this is certainly a common theme throughout this month’s update.

Download PGN of February ’24 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d6 [E32]

4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d6 7 Nf3 Re8!?:

We’ve already seen this move on more than one occasion. Previously we’ve considered both 8 Bg5 h6 9 Bh4 g5!? (Gareev,T-Caruana,F/Warsaw 2021) and 8 b4 (So,W-Caruana,F/Saint Louis 2021). Recently, in a game between Xiong and Keymer, White preferred 8 g3, and here Keymer offered a pawn sacrifice with 8...e5!?, which wasn’t accepted. Instead there followed 9 dxe5 dxe5 10 Bg5 Nc6 11 Bg2 reaching a position which could also arise from the Zurich Variation (4...Nc6). See Xiong, J - Keymer, V for analysis of a miniature win for Black.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 Nc6 [E33]

4 Qc2 d6 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 0-0 7 Bg5 h6 8 Bh4 Nc6 9 Nf3 g5 10 Bg3 Ne4 11 Qc2 f5 12 e3 Qf6 13 Bd3 Nxg3 14 fxg3!?:

This is an aggressive option for Black, and it actually transposes to a line of the Zurich Variation (4 Qc2 Nc6 5 Nf3 d6 6 a3 Bxc3+ 7 Qxc3 0-0 8 Bg5 h6 9 Bh4 etc.) In all earlier games White had recaptured on g3 with the h-pawn. Nakamura instead tried the novelty 14 fxg3!?, which leads to complex position with level chances. See Nakamura, Hi - Yu Yangyi for more details.

Nimzo-Indian: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 e4 d6 [E32]

4 Qc2 0-0 5 e4 d6 6 e5 Nfd7 7 exd6 cxd6 8 Nf3 Nc6 9 Bd3 e5!:

9...e5 is an idea which has breathed new life into the line with 6...Nfd7. Instead of spending a tempo to safeguard the h7-pawn, Black starts immediate counterplay in the centre. We’ve previously looked at 10 dxe5 Ndxe5 in the game Van Foreest,J-Iturrizaga Bonelli,E/ 2023. More recently, Wesley So preferred 10 0-0 exd4 11 Bxh7+ Kh8 12 Nd5, but 12...Nde5! 13 Nxe5 dxe5 14 Bf5! Bd6 15 f4!:

and gained an advantage, but Black can improve - see So, W - Keymer, V for analysis.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 c5 5 dxc5 0-0 6 a3 [E39]

4 Qc2 c5 5 dxc5 0-0 6 a3 Bxc5 7 Nf3 b6 8 Bf4 Bb7 9 Rd1 a6:

The Macieja Variation used to be quite popular but isn’t seen so much these days. Perhaps it’s the realisation that it’s easy for Black to drift into a passive position without counterplay after, for example 10 e4! Nc6 11 b4!, as in the recent game Nemec, J - Thoma, C, a crushing win for White.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Nf3 d5 6 Bd2 [E52]

4 e3 0-0 5 Nf3 d5 6 Bd2 b6 7 cxd5 exd5 8 Bd3 Re8 9 Ne5 Bd6 10 f4:

There are so many move-order nuances in this popular Bd2 line. On a few occasions, we’ve seen the idea of delaying ...Bb7 in favour of ...Re8 and/or ...Bd6. In turn, White can also accelerate Ne5 in order to cement the knight on this important square. Black also has more than one option with the light-squared bishop. Initiating a bishop exchange with ...Ba6 is always a possibility, and here 10...Ba6! looks like Black’s best choice by far. See Gnojek, P - Kollars, D for analysis.

Queen’s Indian: 4 a3 Bb7 5 Nc3 d5 [E12]

4 a3 Bb7 5 Nc3 d5 6 cxd5 Nxd5 7 Qc2 Nxc3 8 bxc3 Be7 9 e4 0-0 10 Bd3 c5 11 0-0 Qc7:

Playing 4...Bb7 and 5...d5 remains a reliable option for Black against the Petrosian Variation. Also, given its liking for Grunfeld structures, this is also the engine’s top choice. The diagrammed position is rich in possibilities for both sides, as demonstrated in the notes to Gnojek, P - David, A.

Queen’s Indian: 4 g3 Bb7 5 Bg2 [E16]

4 g3 Bb7 5 Bg2 Be7 6 0-0 c6!?:

An early ...c6, here and in similar positions, is a favourite of Tiviakov. It does make a strange impression, but Black’s idea is simply to follow up with ...d5 to reach a Catalan-type position. If you like the Closed Catalan positions, but wish to avoid the QGD Three Knights with 4 Nc3, then this line of the Queen’s Indian might be an appealing option. It’s not that simple, however, because given the move order, White can try to steer the game into more favourable Catalan lines. 7 Nc3 d5 8 Nd2! looks the most testing option against Black’s move order, as White’s preparation of e2-e4 is pretty efficient. See the recent game Fernandez, D - Tiviakov, S for details.

Till next time, John

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