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This update is devoted to what could be described as a system-type approach against the Nimzo-Indian, ...b6 lines, and Queen’s Indian. White’s basic plan is to develop with e2-e3, Bd3, Nf3 and possibly Bd2, and to capture if Black plays ...d5. This is a fairly simple approach for White which has proved to be popular with numerous players.

Download PGN of June ’18 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nf3 b6 [E52]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nf3 b6 7 0-0 Bb7 8 cxd5 exd5 9 Bd2:

There’s more than one move order to consider in this line, and recently many White players have chosen to play Rc1 before castling, but the basic plans remain the same. It makes some sense for White to release the tension in the centre with cxd5 if he wants to play Bd2, as the bishop looks less at home on that square in ...dxc4/...c5 lines.

In this position after 9 Bd2 (and the similar one with Rc1 played instead of 0-0), Black has to decide which set-up to deploy, including where to put the dark-squared bishop (d6, e7 and f8 are all options), and whether to play ...Nbd7 or ...Nc6 (after ...c5).

In Yu Yangyi - Wang Hao, Black chose to retreat to e7. In an earlier game between the two Grandmasters (also annotated on this site), Yu Yangyi went for the typically aggressive plan of Ne5 and f2-f4, but it backfired and he was soon worse. In their more recent game Yu Yangyi opted for a more subtle approach: 9...Be7 10 Rc1 c5 11 Ne5 Nc6 12 Be1 a6 13 f3:

This idea is not as harmless as it looks, and in the game Yu Yangyi succeeded in gaining a small edge which soon grew.

Another option for Black is 9...Re8:

This is a flexible move, keeping options open and allowing the possibility of ...Bf8. So, W - Karjakin, S continued 10 a3 Bf8 11 b4 Nbd7 12 b5 Ne4 13 a4 Ndf6 14 Ne2 a5 15 Bc1!:

Even with the loss of time, the plan to exchange dark-squared bishops with Ba3 remains a strong one, and So was able to secure a long-lasting edge. In the notes I suggest some earlier alternatives for both sides.

Playing Bd2 and Rc1 before developing the light-squared bishop has become a popular choice for White:

4 e3 0-0 5 Nf3 d5 6 Bd2 b6 7 cxd5 exd5 8 Rc1 Bb7 9 Bd3

Transpositions are likely, but Riazantsev, A - Tsydypov, Z took a different path with 9...c5 10 0-0. Black has attacked the centre with ...c5 without retreating the bishop to safety, and because of this he has to be ready to exchange the bishop on c3 at some stage. In the game Black chose 10...c4 and White got a typically strong attack after 11 Bb1 Nc6 12 Ne5 Re8 13 f4 Bxc3 14 Bxc3 b5 15 Rf3!:

However, Black’s earlier play can be improved, and in any case 10...c4 is hardly forced.

Returning to the main line, the recent game Kovalenko, I - Miezis, N produced a startling novelty for White: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nf3 b6 7 0-0 Bb7 8 cxd5 exd5 9 Qc2 a6:

Previously we’ve studied 10 a3 Bd6 11 e4!? (Eljanov,P-Wang Hao/Shamkir 2014), with Black equalising after 11...dxe4 12 Nxe4 Nxe4 13 Bxe4 Bxe4 14 Qxe4 Nd7 15 Bg5 Qe8 16 Qc6 Qe6!. With the new move 10 e4!, Kovalenko demonstrated that it’s not vital to kick back the bishop before advancing in the centre, and this helps White’s cause.

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

4 e3 b6 5 Bd3 Bb7 6 Nf3 0-0 7 Bd2!?:

7 0-0 is by far the most popular choice by White, but 7 Bd2 is an interesting anti-Keres option. The point is that 7...c5 can be met by 8 a3! securing the bishop pair. In the recent game Sandipan, C - Thing, B, White gained an edge after 8...Bxc3 9 Bxc3 cxd4 10 exd4 d5 11 b3!:

The notes to the game cover earlier options and move-order subtleties.

Queen’s Indian: 4 e3 Bb7 5 Bd3 d5 [E14]

1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 e6 3 c4 b6 4 e3 Bb7 5 Bd3 d5:

From a repertoire point of view, 4 e3 against the Queen’s Indian is a practical choice for those who also play 4 e3 lines of the Nimzo-Indian, and there’s a strong resemblance between this line and the Tal Variation of the Nimzo.

White normally keeps the tension with 6 0-0 or 6 b3, but there is some merit to taking on d5 early. After 6 cxd5 exd5 7 0-0 Bd6, the usual sequence is 8 Nc3 0-0 9 b3 followed by Bb2. However, White has an alternative in the shape of 8 b3 0-0 9 Ba3!?:

White wants to exchange the dark-squared bishops, which is often strategically desirable with this pawn structure. Black must choose whether to agree to the exchange or to avoid it. In Kovalenko, I - Meskovs, N Black chose 9...Bxa3 10 Nxa3 Qe7!, while in Dominguez Perez, L - So, W the exchange was prevented with the 9...c5. Both are reasonable choices for Black, but 9...c5 leads to more complex positions.

Till next time, John

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