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The critical main lines of the Nimzo-Indian always seem to be overflowing with many new ideas, for both White and Black. In this update I'll cover a few which have caught my eye recently.

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

Download PGN of June '11 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 d5 [E35]

We begin this month by revisiting the ultra-sharp line which became famous after its use in the 1993 Kasparov-Short match (the 'PCA Variation' as David Vigorito calls it), 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 d5 5 cxd5 exd5 6 Bg5 h6 7 Bh4 c5 8 dxc5 g5 9 Bg3 Ne4 10 e3 Qa5 11 Nge2 Bf5 12 Be5 0-0 13 Nd4:

In this position Black has two main tries:

a) 13...Nxc3:
Previously, the latest word on this line, at high-level over-the-board chess at any rate, was Bareev-Carlsen, Khanty-Mansiysk 2005, with 13...Nxc3 14 Nxf5 Ne4+ 15 Kd1 Nc6 16 Bd6 Bxc5! and a quick draw resulted. The evidence from the recent game Yu Yangyi-Hou Yifan, Danzhou 2011, however, as well as some correspondence games, is that this line has yet to be fully resolved and Black still has one or two issues to deal with.

b) 13...Re8
White wins quickly in Kuljasevic - Kleiman, Lubbock 2011, when Black plays inaccurately after 14 Nxf5 Rxe5 15 Nxh6+ Kg7 16 Ng4 Re6 17 Bd3!, but analysis in the notes suggests that Black should be okay, in both this line and against the alternative 14 Bxb8.

A line that is similar in many ways to the PCA Variation (it can even transpose) and which is becoming increasingly popular is 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 d5 5 cxd5 exd5 6 Bg5 c5 7 Nf3 h6 8 Bh4 g5!? 9 Bg3 Ne4 10 dxc5 Bf5:

In an earlier update I suggested the novelty 11 Nd4!, offering a rook sac, as an alternative to 11 Bxb8. Since then 11 Nxd4 has actually been played in three recent games. See the analysis to this idea in Romanko - Kosteniuk, Tbilisi 2011.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 [E32]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5 continues to be both popular and pretty successful for Black. Against 7 Bg5, 7...dxc4 8 Qxc4 b6 has proved to be a solid alternative to the 7...c5 gambit. After 9 Rd1 Ba6 10 Qa4 (10 Qc2 is also possible),

the queen manoeuvre 10...Qd7 11 Qc2 Qc6 turned out well for Black in the recent game Leon Hoyos-Bluvshtein, Havana 2011, where Bluvshtein successfully deviates from an earlier Kramnik game.

I came across an idea I hadn't seen before in this following position: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d6 7 g3

Previously I'd written about 7 g3: "If White wishes to exploit a downside of 6...d6, this looks like the logical course - Black is 'punished' for not playing 6...b6 and a fianchetto of the c8-bishop is now more or less unworkable."

I was forced to eat my words after seeing Black's next move in the game Debray - Pelletier, French League 2011: 7...Bd7!?. There's more than one way to fianchetto a bishop! This interesting idea was first played by the Hungarian GM Istvan Csom, but more recently it has been tried by Pelletier and also by Eljanov.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 e4 [E32]

The main line after 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 e4 is currently 5...d5 6 e5 Ne4 7 Bd3 c5 8 Nf3 (or 8 Nge2) 8...cxd4 9 Nxd4:

and now 9...Nd7 10 Bf4 Ndc5 (or 10...Qh4). In Li Chao-Ni Hua, Chinese Championship 2011, Black instead chose the astonishing idea of offering the h-pawn with check: 10...Nc5!? 10 Bxh7+ Kh8. This looks like it should never work, at least at first sight, but in fact it leads to highly unclear positions, and White has been confused by 10...Nc5 on more than one occasion. However, Li Chao's novelty 11 Nf3! looks strong and I suspect it will discourage Black a bit, despite some suggested improvements in the analysis.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 Nf3 [E32]

We finish this month with a warning for Black to avoid the following line: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 Nf3 b6?!

This move looks dubious on account of White's obvious and strong reply 6 e4!. I was quite surprised to find that 5...b6 has been played many times, and even by such GMs as Leko and Onischuk. One way to look at it is that White gains a favourable version of the 5 e4 variation, where Nf3 is much more useful than ...b6. See Erdos - Bruedigam, Deizisau 2011, for details.

Till next time, John

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