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In this month’s update we study some interesting new ideas for both colours in the 4 Qc2 and 4 e3 Nimzo-Indian.

Download PGN of January ’19 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 c5 5 dxc5 0-0 6 a3 Bxc5 [E39]

4 Qc2 c5 5 dxc5 0-0 6 a3 Bxc5 7 Nf3 b6 8 e4!?:

In the Macieja Variation, White’s two most popular choices by far are 8 Bf4 and 8 Bg5. In comparison, 8 e4!? is extremely rare, although it has been played previously by both Wei Yei and Morozevich.

The immediate attack on White’s weak point with 8...Ng4 is critical, and undoubtedly this move is the reason White players have been reluctant to play 8 e4.

However, a recent game demonstrates that this position is most definitely playable for White. The game’s 9 b4!? looks like a beginner’s mistake - Black is forced to carry out a threat! However, after 9...Bxf2+ 10 Ke2 things are far from clear, as White threatens h2-h3 and the bishop faces an awkward retreat to h4. Analysis of this and the equally crazy 9 h3!? can be found in the notes to Sjugirov, S - Tregubov, P.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 c5 5 dxc5 0-0 6 Nf3 [E39]

4 Qc2 c5 5 dxc5 0-0 6 Nf3 Na6 7 g3 Nxc5 8 Bg2 b6 9 0-0 Bb7 10 Nb5 Be4 11 Qd1 Nb7 12 a3 Be7 13 Bf4:

This position after 13 Bf4 is a critical one for the 8...b6 variation. Black has a few options here including 13...Rc8, 13...d6 and 13...d5, all of which we’ve looked at previously. In a recent game, Tang, A - Izoria, Z, Black tried a fourth option, 13...a6, but after 14 Nc3! Bc6 15 b4 White enjoyed a small but stable edge.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5 7 Bg5 c5 [E36]

4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5 7 Bg5 c5!? 8 dxc5 d4:

Wojtaszek’s gambit remains fairly popular and it scores well for Black. In this position White normally chooses to move the queen to either c2 or g3. In a recent game, though, Indian Grandmaster Vidit Gujrathi opted for the rare 9 Qf3!?. His opponent, fellow countryman Surya Shekhar Ganguly responded with 9...Nbd7!, and following 10 e3! h6 11 Bxf6 Nxf6 12 0-0-0 e5 13 Ne2! A very sharp position arose:

See the analysis in Vidit, S - Ganguly, S.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 d5 5 cxd5 Qxd5 [E34]

4 Qc2 d5 5 cxd5 Qxd5 6 Nf3 Qf5 7 Qb3 Nc6 8 Bd2 0-0 9 h3!:

7 Qb3 has scored better than entering into the queenless position after 7 Qxf5 exf5, and part of the reason for this is 9 h3!. This deceptively strong move was introduced by Vishy Anand in his 2008 World Championship match with Kramnik, and since then it has remained a threat to Black. The possibility of g2-g4 destabilises the black queen, who was otherwise sitting very comfortably on the f5-square.

Kramnik chose 9...b6 in the stem game, but Anand gained an edge after 10 g4 and later won. Since then those playing Black have tried other options, including 9...Rd8, 9...a5 and 9...Bxc3. Exchanging on c3 without any provocation seems a drastic measure, but it does allow the black queen to sit comfortably on e4 or d5. See Vallejo Pons, F - Harikrishna, P for details.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 b6 5 Bd3 Bb7 6 Nf3 0-0 7 0-0 c5 [E43]

4 e3 b6 5 Bd3 Bb7 6 Nf3 0-0 7 0-0 c5 8 Na4 cxd4 9 exd4 Re8 10 a3 Bf8 11 b4 d6 12 Bb2 Nbd7 13 Re1 Rc8 14 Nc3 a6 15 Bf1 g6 16 Nd2:

This is a typical position arising from the Keres Variation. Previously we’ve seen how effective the plan of Nb3 followed by a4-a5 can be for White, and Black needs to find effective counterplay to avoid reaching a passive position. In the recent game Shtembuliak, E - Cordova, E Black was successful with 16...Bg7 17 Nb3 h5 18 a4 Ng4!:

The threat is....Qh4, but more significantly Black improves both the kingside minor pieces with the plan of...Ng4-h6-f5.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nf3 c5 7 0-0 cxd4 8 exd4 dxc4 9 Bxc4 b6 [E54]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nf3 c5 7 0-0 cxd4 8 exd4 dxc4 9 Bxc4 b6 10 a3 Bxc3 11 bxc3 Qc7!:

White often plays a2-a3 to attack the bishop, but playing it at move 10 may be premature. 11...Qc7! is critical, as it interferes with White’s plan and gives him problems with the c3-pawn. Black has scored well from here and was successful again in the recent game Garcia Trobat, F - Saric, A.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nf3 c5 7 0-0 dxc4 8 Bxc4 b6 [E55]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nf3 c5 7 0-0 dxc4 8 Bxc4 b6!?:

8...b6 is an alternative to the Karpov Variation (9...cxd4) and the Parma Variation (9...Nbd7). 9 a3! is a good response which exploits Black’s delay in exchanging pawns on d4, the point being that after 9...Bxc3 10 bxc3, White is now ready to meet any ...cxd4 with cxd4! (rather than exd4). Even so, this line is certainly playable for Black. Djurhuus, R - Tari, A continued 10...Bb7 11 Qe2 Qc7 12 Bb2 Nbd7:

Here 13 Nd2!, getting ready to expand in the centre with f2-f3 and e3-e4, kept a slight edge for White.

Till next time, John

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