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Various lines are under scrutiny this month, including two razor-sharp lines of the Nimzo-Indian and, as a contrast, the relatively sedate 4 g3 Bb7 Queen’s Indian.

Download PGN of August ’18 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 e4 d5 [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:

In the past couple of years, 10...Qh4 seems to have overtaken 10...Ndc5 as Black’s most popular choice in this line. The main move here is 12 0-0, but recently both David Howell and Vallejo Pons have tried the rare 12 h4!?, which threatens to trap the black queen with 13 Be2 Qg6 14 h5,when there’s no option for both sides other than to enter great complications. See the analysis in Howell, D - Adair, J.

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

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 Bg5 c5 6 dxc5 (or 4...c5 5 dxc5 0-0 6 Bg5)

This line isn’t meant to give White anything at all, and Black scores incredibly well. However, nothing gets into Sam Shankland’s opening repertoire by chance, and it’s often interesting to see what happens when an elite player enters a supposedly discredited line. See Shankland, S - Wei Yi for details.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nf3 c5 7 0-0 Nc6 8 cxd5 [E56]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 c5 6 Nf3 d5 7 cxd5 exd5 8 dxc5:

If anyone gets the IQP in main 4 e3 lines, it’s usually White, the obvious example being the Karpov Variation. However, in recent years some GMs have preferred an early cxd5 to give Black the IQP: 7 cxd5 exd5 8 dxc5 or the closely related 7 0-0 Nc6 7 cxd5 exd5 9 dxc5. Giving Black the IQP seems to be a general trend at the moment. For example, the Semi-Tarrasch line 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 Nc3 Nc6 4 e3 e6 5 d4 d5 6 cxd5 exd5 7 Bb5 (followed by dxc5, or ...cxd4 and Nxd4) has been played by numerous elite GMs including Carlsen, Kramnik and Aronian. This is very similar to the Nimzo line here.

Black’s most popular choice from the diagrammed position is 8...Nbd7 intending ...Nxc5, while another option is 8...Bg4 9 0-0 Nbd7, both of which we’ve previously covered. Yet another option is 8...Nc6 9 0-0 and now, instead of the normal 9...Bxc5, 9...Bg4!?, which is analysed in So, W - Wei Yi.

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

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Nf3 0-0 5 Bg5 c5 6 Rc1 h6 7 Bh4 cxd4 8 Nxd4 d5 9 cxd5 g5 10 Bg3 Qxd5 11 e3:

4...0-0 has become a popular response to 4 Nf3 at elite level, and it’s strange to think that this natural move was once a sideline! It does seem, however, that if you choose 4...0-0, you have to be prepared to enter some sharp lines, with this being one of them.

We’ve seen this position before in the game Gelfand,B-Inarkiev,E/Magas 2016, where Black chose 11...Ne4. In a more recent game Black decided to snatch the pawn on a2 with 11...Qxa2!?, and White responded with the dangerous novelty 12 Bd3!, after which Black must defend with great care. See Topalov, V - Ding Liren for analysis.

Queen’s Indian: 4 g3 Bb7 5 Bb2 Bb4+ [E16]

4 g3 Bb7 5 Bg2 Bb4+ 6 Bd2 c5 7 Bxb4 cxb4:

I feel that the ...Bb4+ / ...c5 line is a fighting option against the 4 g3 Queen’s Indian, as a strategic imbalance arises after the exchange on b4. White normally either plays an early a2-a3 or tries to occupy the centre with e2-e4. In Swapnil, S - Wang Hao White chose the latter plan with 8 Qd3 0-0 9 Nbd2 d6 10 0-0 Nbd7 11 e4, but Wang Hao convincingly demonstrates how Black can create counterplay.

4 g3 Bb7 5 Bg2 Bb4+ 6 Bd2 Bxd2+ 7 Qxd2 0-0 8 Nc3 Ne4 9 Qd3 f5:

6...Bxd2+ is a more straightforward option for Black, who is looking to equalise in typical Queen’s Indian fashion. We’ve previously considered the sharp 10 Ne5 here, but in Rodshtein, M - Baklan, V White was able to keep an edge with 10 0-0 Nxc3 11 Qxc3 d6:

Quiet play allows Black to equalise, but 12 c5! gives Black some problems.

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:

In this key mainline position, 9 Rc1 remains White’s most popular choice, while we’ve also previously looked at 9 Re1 and 9 Be1. Another important option for White is 9 Ne5 Nxc3 10 Bxc3 Bxg2 11 Kxg2:

In a recent game Black chose 11...d5 here, while 11...d6 and 11...c5 are alternatives. See Vrolijk, L - Saravanan, V for details.

Till next time, John

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