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There have been some Nimzo-Indian battles at the very highest level recently, including the recent Anand-Gelfand world championship match and the Tal Memorial tournament. This month we look at some of those games, with developments in both the 4 Qc2 and 4 e3 variations.

Download PGN of June '12 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 [E32-36]

We begin with the very recent game Morozevich - Carlsen, Tal Memorial, Moscow 2012, 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 Rc1!?:

11 Rc1 is very rare but tricky. It certainly succeeds in catching Carlsen completely off guard and Morozevich soon reaches a dominating position. In the notes I look at possible improvements for Black.

Carlsen was involved in another 4 Qc2 Nimzo at the Tal Memorial, this time on the white side, against Kramnik, 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5 7 e3 b6 8 cxd5 exd5:

In a previous battle between the same two players, Kramnik recaptured with the knight, and reached a decent position (see Carlsen-Kramnik, Moscow 2011, in the archives). This time he decided to recapture with the pawn, and after just a few more moves it was White who was trying to equalise. See Carlsen - Kramnik, Tal Memorial, Moscow 2012, for analysis.

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 e4 d5 6 e5 Ne4 7 Bd3 c5 8 Nf3 cxd4 9 Nxd4 Nc5!?:

We previously looked at this crazy idea, giving up the h-pawn with check, in Li Chao-Ni Hua, Xinghua Jiangsu 2011. Recently Volokitin has tried it twice with Black and on the evidence of these two games, 9...Nc5 is not a move that is going to go away quietly. See Baramidze - Volokitin, Austrian Bundesliga 2012, for details.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 [E54-55]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nf3 c5 7 0-0 dxc4 8 Bxc4:

One practical advantage of this line, from Black's viewpoint at least, is that there are so many options, similar to each other but also containing slight but sometimes important differences. Here we'll look at two rare but very playable alternatives to 8...cxd4 and 8...Nbd7.

1) 8...Bd7

This is the move which Anand used to surprise Gelfand in the 11th game of their match. See Gelfand - Anand, World Ch. 2012, Moscow 2012, for details.

2) 8...b6!?

This is yet another option for Black. Obviously it's closely related to the Karpov (8...cxd4) and Parma (8...Nbd7) variations, and many transpositional possibilities exit, but there are also some independent lines.

a) 9 Qe2 Bb7 10 Rd1 cxd4 11 Nxd4!? Qe7 12 Bd2 Nbd7! transposed to the Parma Variation, and looks fine for Black - see Laznicka - Quesada Perez, Havana 2012, for analysis.

b) 9 a3! is more testing in my opinion: 9...Bxc3 10 bxc3 and now:

b1) 10...Qc7 11 Bd3! gives White good chances of an edge - see Salem - Snuverink, Golden Sands 2012.

b2) 10...Bb7 11 Re1 Nbd7 12 Bd3 Ne4!? is perhaps a more promising approach for Black - see Kaidanov - Akobian, Saint Louis 2012.

Till next time, John

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