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This month's update focuses entirely on a different way for Black to approach the 4 f3 Nimzo-Indian. My thanks go to subscriber Lukas Wedrychowski for reminding me of this line.

Download PGN of January '14 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian 4 f3 d5 5 a3 Be7 [E20]

For many years the top players have been meeting 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 f3 d5 5 a3 almost exclusively with 5...Bxc3+ 6 bxc3, but there is another option for Black if he doesn't want to enter the Sämisch, and that's 5...Be7. This reaches a very different type of position to the Sämisch after the usual continuation 6 e4 dxe4 7 fxe4 e5 8 d5 Bc5 9 Nf3:

There are two main options for Black here, 9...Ng4 and 9...Bg4.

Nimzo-Indian 4 f3 d5 5 a3 Be7, 9...Ng4 [E20]

In the early days the main line was considered to be the Fried Liver style attack with 9...Ng4. White cannot prevent something coming to f2 so the best bet is to attack the bishop. 10 b4 leads to a nice win for Black in Malaniuk - Ivanchuk, Moscow 1988. This was a famous game in this line, and a game which certainly encouraged me to play 5...Be7 around the time, but some questions remain unanswered and it's possible that 10 b4 might just be good for White.

The other, more popular, option for White is 10 Na4 Bf2+ 11 Ke2:

Now 11...b5!? and 11..f5 are covered in Bjelobrk - Zhao, Queenstown 2006, while 11...Bh4 is the subject of Breukelman - Van der Wiel, Hilversum 2006.

Nimzo-Indian 4 f3 d5 5 a3 Be7, 9...Bg4 [E20]

Although the resulting positions are very interesting, there's no doubt that Black is on some theoretical shaky ground after 9...Ng4, and in recent years the much more solid 9...Bg4 has become a more popular way for Black:

It's been tried, though not regularly, by the likes of Anand (in blitz), Caruana, Moiseenko and Hammer. The main line runs 10 h3 Bxf3 11 Qxf3 Nbd7 12 Bd3 0-0 and now White must decide how to develop his dark-squared bishop before castling long.

In Volkov - Ismagambetov, Tashkent 2009, White chooses 13 Bg5, but Black's response is very convincing. More recently Volkov, a leading 4 f3 specialist, has gone for 13 Bd2 - see the notes to Volkov - Hammer, Oslo 2011, for analysis of perhaps the most critical line in this whole variation.

The final two games deal with lesser lines for White after 9...Bg4. In Beckett - Mason, Sunningdale 2008, White unpins with 10 Be2, while in Sieciechowicz - Moiseenko, Warsaw 2010, White breaks the pin with 10 Qa4+. 10 Be2 shouldn't trouble Black, but it's still much better than 10 Qa4+, which troubles White!

Till next time, John

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