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This month's update features some further developments in the 4 Qc2 Nimzo, coverage of an alternative for Black in the Nimzo/Queen's Indian Hybrid, and a possible 'gambit buster' in the 4 e3 b6 Nimzo.

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 March '11 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian 4 Qc2 6...d5 [E32 & E36]

We begin with a variation which continues to be a hot topic: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5, and here 7 Bg5 c5!? 8 dxc5 d4 9 Qg3:

Previously we've seen that 9...Nc6 10 0-0-0! e5 11 Nf3 Re8 12 e3 doesn't seem to fully solve Black's problems (see the notes to Morozevich-Grischuk, Moscow 2009). The alternative 9...Nbd7 blocks the c8-bishop but the resource of having ...Nxc5 available obviously counts for quite a lot.

Indeed, 9...Nbd7 has been tried twice recently in GM games, both leading to good positions for Black. In Georgiev - Kosintseva, Gibraltar Masters 2011, 10 Nf3!? e5! 11 Nxe5 Nxc5 was a promising pawn sacrifice, while Turov - Zakharov, Aeroflot Open, Moscow 2011, saw an incredible idea from Black: 10 0-0-0 e5 11 e3 Qa5 12 Bh6 Nh5 13 Qg5 Nxc5 14 Qxh5 g6!!:

with ...Bf5 and a strong attack to follow! From a theoretical viewpoint it's by no means one-way traffic, though, and in both games I think I've managed to find key improvements for White in the opening.

Shomoev - Andreikin, Aeroflot Open, Moscow 2011, follows the more positional line 7 Nf3 dxc4 8 Qxc4 b6 9 Bg5 Ba6 10 Qa4 c5 11 dxc5 bxc5:

and now 12 Rc1!? was an interesting novelty. The temptation here is to 'gain' a tempo on the queen with 12 Rd1, as played in virtually all the games up till now. But experience has shown that Black is fine in this line (many games have ended in short perpetual check draws). A key resource for Black is a later ...Rd8, hitting White's rook on the d-file, so maybe it's actually 12 Rc1 which gains a tempo, not 12 Rd1 !

Nimzo-Indian/Queen's Indian Hybrid Variation 5 Qb3 [E21]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Nf3 b6 5 Qb3 is a line which has been favoured by a few strong GMs, for example, Sokolov, Seirawan and Gurevich. Black's main response has been 5...c5, which has been covered here in the past on numerous occasions. In this update, though, I've taken a look at Black's main alternative, 5...a5!?, a move I used to play (although more recently I've chosen 5...c5):

I was prompted by the recent game Bluvshtein - Vitiugov, Aeroflot Open, Moscow 2011, in which Black gained a very comfortable position after 6 Bg5 h6 7 Bh4 Bb7 8 e3 Nc6!? (instead of the usual 8...d6):

and now 9 Bd3 a4! 10 Qc2 a3!.

White doesn't have to make things so easy for Black in that line, but in any case I've always believed the most challenging option for White is 6 g3, after which Black can choose either 6...Bb7 7 Bg2 0-0 8 0-0 (or the rare 6...Nc6!? 7 Bg2 a4). Options for both sides are discussed in Bareev - Yudasin, Philadelphia 2009 and Wang Hao-Laxman, Al Ain 2008, as well as the transpositional possibilities from other lines (4 Qc2 Nimzo and 4 g3 Queen's Indian).

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 b6 [E43]

Finally this month, an interesting option for Black in the main line after 4 e3 b6:

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e3 b6 5 Bd3 Bb7 6 Nf3 Ne4 7 0-0 Nxc3!? 8 bxc3 Bxc3

This pawn grab has been frowned upon by theory in the past, but Black's success in Lauber - Landa, German League 2011, provides some food for thought. Could this be yet another gambit which doesn't seem quite so appealing in the computer age?

Till next time, John

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