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In this month's update I've annotated some recent Nimzo-Indian games which have caught my eye, both in the Classical and Rubenstein variations.

Download PGN of March '12 Nimzo and Benoni games

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

We begin with a line which is refusing to stay quiet: 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 Nd7 10 Bf4 Ndc5 11 0-0 Bxc3 12 bxc3

This continues to provide a challenge for Black. White's score after 12...Nxd3 13 Qxd3 is very good, and probably for this reason Black players are turning more and more towards the tricky 12...Bd7!?, with some success. Not so in the recent game Holt - Lenderman, Richardson 2012, which continued 13 Be2 Na4 14 cxd5 exd5 15 c4 Rc8. Here White played the novelty 16 Rfe1! and Black was soon in some trouble.

In Karavade - Kurukin, Moscow 2012, Black preferred the older line 12...Nxd3 12 Qxd3 b6. After 14 cxd5 exd5 15 Rfd1 Black played the new move 15...Qh4!?:

Even though this move is a novelty, Black's subsequent play indicates that he is just following a plan used successfully by Kaidanov and one or two other players since. The queen joins forces with the c8-bishop and Black employs a light-square strategy. White wins but I think Black can be satisfied with the outcome of the opening.

4 Qc2 d5 [E35]

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 0-0-0!?:

One of the more startling new ideas in recent years is Iweta Rajlich's positional exchange sacrifice in the main line after 4...d5 5 cxd5 exd5, even if it hasn't really put Black under a great deal of pressure. In Grigoryan - Pashikian, Yerevan 2012, the players followed an earlier game between David Navara and Erwin L'Ami, from Wijk aan Zee 2009. Although nothing new of real significance happens in the more recent game, Ami's analysis from the earlier game is important and seems to indicate that Black is okay.

4 e3 0-0: Reykjavik Variation [E56]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nf3 c5 7 0-0 Nc6 8 a3 Ba5:

The Reykjavik Variation is currently enjoying a mini-revival. The game Zilka - Banusz, Vienna 2011, went straight down the main line with 9 cxd5 exd5 10 dxc5 Bxc3 11 bxc3 Bg4, but here White played the rare move 12 a4!?. Black's most popular response has been 12...Qa5, and this is what Banusz chose here. Black's results, however, have been poor with this move, and that doesn't change here. In the notes I suggest some alternatives for Black.

4 e3 0-0: Delayed Sämisch [E53]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 a3 Bxc3+ 7 bxc3 dxc4 8 Bxc4 c5 9 Nf3 Qc7 10 Qd3!?:

10 Qd3, protecting the bishop and also facilitating the desirable e3-e4 advance, is a rare but interesting alternative to the main line with 10 Ba2. It certainly caught out a grandmaster in the game Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son-Li Shilong, Ho Chi Minh City 2012, where Black was soon worse - and probably losing by move 15! Overall, though, I feel that Black doesn't have too much to fear, and in the notes possible improvements are suggested.

4 e3 b6 [E43]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e3 b6 5 Bd3 Bb7 6 Nf3 Ne4 7 Qc2 f5 8 0-0 Bxc3 9 bxc3 0-0:

For a very long time this line was considered to be one of the more appealing ones for Black in the 4 e3 b6 complex. Recently, however, grandmasters such as Leko and Wang Yue have been willing to play the white side, and with some success.

Bartholomew-L'Ami, Reykjavik 2012, goes down the main line with 10 Nd2 Qh4 11 f3 Nxd2 12 Bxd2, and here L'Ami chose 12...d6 (instead of the more common 12...Nc6). A tense battle in the centre arose after White's pawn sacrifice 15 e5!, but overall Black's position looks quite okay to me.

4 e3: Hübner Hybrid [E50]

Finally this month, an unusual line played in the game Lauber - Baramidze, Hockenheim 2012: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e3 c5 5 Nf3 0-0 6 Bd3 Bxc3+!? 7 bxc3 d6

Black is playing a kind of Hübner Variation, but one where he has committed to castling earlier than he might have normally done. However, the actual game takes a twist with 8 e4 (8 0-0 Nc6 transposes directly to the Hübner Variation) 8...e5!? 9 dxe5!? dxe5 10 Nxe5 Re8 11 f4 Nbd7, and here White doesn't play the best move...

Till next time, John

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