ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
In this month’s update we focus on new Nimzo-Indian and Queen’s Indian developments from the recent elite event, the Tata Steel Masters at Wijk aan Zee.

Download PGN of January ’23 Nimzo and Benoni games

>> Previous Update >>

Queen’s Indian: 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qc2 [E15]

4 g3 Ba6 5 Qc2 Bb7 6 Bg2 c5 7 d5 exd5 8 cxd5 Nxd5 9 0-0 Be7 10 Rd1 Nc6 11 Qf5 Nf6 12 e4:

Due in the main to the rise in popularity of the QGD and the sheer number of QGD options available for Black, the Queen’s Indian is now seen less frequently, particularly at the elite level. Magnus Carlsen tried it against Anish Giri at Wijk aan Zee, but Giri’s response proved to be an inspired choice, luring Carlsen into concrete lines in which mistakes by Black carry the harshest penalties.

In this key position, the main line runs 12...g6 13 Qf4 0-0 14 e5 Nh5, which was discussed in the brilliant game AlphaZero-Stockfish 8/Google Deep Mind 2017. Carlsen instead chose the rare move 12...d6!?, which has been played just a few times over the board and in correspondence chess. See Giri, A - Carlsen, M for analysis.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 b6 5 Nge2 [E44]

4 e3 b6 5 Nge2 Ne4 6 Qc2 Bb7 7 a3 Bxc3+ 8 Nxc3 Nxc3 9 Qxc3 d6!?:

This traditional Nimzo approach with 4...b6 was a favourite of mine (and others) in my youth. It’s refreshing to see that it’s still occasionally played at the elite level, despite the challenge 5 Nge2! poses. We’ve seen before that this move order nuance with 9...d6 has injected some new life into this line. Black normally castles first and then follows up with ...d6 and ...Nbd7, but there’s some merit to delaying castling. Rapport played this at Wijk aan Zee, and after 10 b3 Qh4 11 Bb2 Be4!? (a novelty) 12 Qd2, he produced the amazing strategic idea 12...g5!:

and later won convincingly. See Erigaisi, A - Rapport, R for details.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 c5 5 Nge2 [E42]

4 e3 c5 5 Nge2 d5 (5...cxd4 6 exd4 d5 7 a3 Bxc3+ 8 Nxc3 is another move order) 6 a3 Bxc3+ 7 Nxc3 cxd4 8 exd4 dxc4 9 Bxc4 Nc6 10 Be3 0-0 11 0-0:

This is an IQP, albeit one where Black’s dark-squared bishop has been exchanged for a white knight. This is an old line that has typically been recognised as favouring White. However, Black’s position is fairly solid and it’s noticeable that Wesley So has recently tried this twice, including against Carlsen at Wijk aan Zee.

After 11...b6, the critical line is 12 Qf3! Bb7 13 Bd3 intending Qh3. Rather than test So’s preparation in the IQP position, Carlsen chose to relieve the tension with 12 d5 exd5 13 Nxd5, expecting that the bishop vs knight advantage would count for a little something in the resulting open position. See Carlsen, M - So, W for analysis of both lines.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 c5 6 Nge2 [E47]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 c5 6 Nge2 cxd4 7 exd4 d5:

In this common position White usually accepts an IQP with either 8 cxd5 Nxd5 or 8 0-0 dxc4 9 Bxc4. However, in the recent game Sarana, A - Lazavik, D, White instead chose 8 c5!?. This pawn advance is a rare choice for White here, although the idea is seen in a few other Nimzo lines. After 8...b6! 9 a3! (White should force Black to part with the bishop) 9...Bxc3+ 10 Nxc3:

we reach an interesting, imbalanced position which has so far received very few practical tests.

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

4 e3 0-0 5 Nf3 d5 6 Bd2 b6 7 cxd5 exd5 8 Bd3 Re8 9 0-0 Bd6 10 Re1!?:

10 Re1 is another new idea (among many new ideas for White in this line) and it was tried at Wijk aan Zee by Vincent Keymer, against Gukesh. The young Indian star responded with 10...Bg4?!. Part of the reason to delay ...Bb7 (or ...Ba6) is that the bishop might in certain circumstances be more effectively developed on the c8-h3 diagonal. This isn’t one of them! After 11 h3 Bh5, 12 e4! is obvious, and strong.

See Keymer, V - Gukesh, D for analysis.

Nimo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Nf3 d5 [E51]

4 e3 0-0 5 Nf3 d5 6 Bd2 Nbd7!?:

6...Nbd7 is new to the site, but it has been played many times, notably by Carlsen, Aronian and now by Caruana (against Keymer, at Wijk aan Zee). By developing the knight, Black maintains maximum flexibility with the pawn structure, which can be especially useful if White plays a quick cxd5. After 7 Rc1 Be7!? 8 Bd3 dxc4! 9 Bxc4 a6 10 Bd3 c5 11 0-0 b5! the opening was a complete success for Black, who has a favourable QGA-type position. See Keymer, V - Caruana, F 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 d5!?:

7...d5 is only the third most popular choice here, well behind 7...b6 (the Macieja Variation) and 7...Nc6. However, in recent years there’s been a general trend towards ...d5 options in many lines of the Nimzo, reaching QGD-like positions, at the expense of more traditional Nimzo development.

At Wijk aan Zee, Aronian tried 7...d5 against Erigaisi, who responded with 8 Bf4 (8 Bg5 has been the most popular choice). After the natural 8...Nc6 9 e3 we’ve actually transposed to a major main line of the QGD. Aronian instead preferred a QGA structure after 8...dxc4!? 9 e3 9...a6 10 Bxc4 b5:

Both this and 8 Bg5 are analysed in Erigaisi, A - Aronian, L.

Till next time, John

>> Previous Update >>

Feel free to share your ideas and opinions on the Forum (the link above on the right), while subscribers with any questions can email me at