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Something completely different for this month's update. We take a good look at a rare and previously discarded (by many, including me!) way for Black to meet the 4 Qc2 Nimzo.

Download PGN of January '15 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo Indian: 4 Qc2 b6 [E32]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 b6!?:

4...b6 is a move that has historically come with bad reputation, but perhaps things are about to change. Recently some strong grandmasters have been willing to try it. Previously on this site I'd given 4...b6 a '?!' assessment, but maybe it's time to upgrade it to a '!?'.

Of course there are a number of playable responses by White to 4...b6, but the only critical one, naturally enough, is 5 e4! and this will be the focus of our attention. Here 5...c5! is the key move to give Black hope in this line:

White has three challenging options here:

  1. 6 d5
  2. 6 a3
  3. 6 e5

A) 6 d5

This has been the most common response to 5...c5. Black's counterplay is based on an early ...Qe7 to disrupt White's development, either here or after an exchange of pawns on d5 (with likely transpositions).

6...Qe7! 7 Bd2?! was a novelty for White, but certainly not one that's going to scare Black players away from this line. See Michiels - Klein, Wijk aan Zee 2015, for analysis.

A critical line is 5 e4 c5 6 d5 exd5 7 exd5 Qe7+! and now White has a choice:

  1. 8 Be2 with a further split:
    1. 8...Qe4 is covered in Parligras,M-Bachmann, Iasi 2014.
    2. For 8...Ne4, see Aron - Mas, Kuala Lumpur 2013.
  2. 8 Nge2 is covered in Rezan - Hoelzl, Zadar 2010.

B) 6 a3

6 a3 Bxc3+ 7 bxc3 reaches a kind of Sämisch Variation, where the early Qc2 has allowed a quick e4:

See Hillarp Persson-Gustafsson, Barcelona 2013, for analysis.

C) 6 e5 cxd4 7 a3! is another important line:

Here Black can play either 7...Bxc3+ (see Arnaudov - Volokitin, Struga 2014) or the retreat 7...Bf8 (see Vera Gonzalez Quevedo-Djerkovic, Montreal 1996).

Nimzo-Indian: Botvinnik-Capablanca Variation [E49]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 f3 d5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 bxc3 c5 7 cxd5 exd5 8 e3 0-0 9 Bd3 b6 10 Ne2 Ba6:

Finally this month, a game from one of our subscribers. I'm indebted to Peter Sadilek for sharing his annotations and analysis to an interesting game in the Botvinnik-Capablanca Variation (with quite an amazing finish!). See Peter's annotations to Gstach - Sadilek, Wiener Landesmeisterschaft 2014.

Till next time, John

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