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The Queen’s Indian is the sister defence of the Nimzo-Indian, and in strategical terms it’s the nearest option to the Nimzo that Black can choose after 3 Nf3 - both defences rely heavily on light-square play. The Queen’s Indian is therefore a very natural and logical choice for those wanting to complete their ...Nf6 / ...e6 repertoire.
However, there are many variations and sub-variations of the Queen’s Indian, so it does take some effort to keep abreast of new ideas - it’s not quite as low maintenance as the Bogo-Indian for example. In this update we’ll take a look at a few recent developments.

Download PGN of March ’19 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Queen’s Indian: 4 a3 Bb7 5 Nc3 Ne4 [E12]

4 a3 Bb7 5 Nc3 Ne4!?:

5...Ne4 is actually new to this site, but the idea is well known and I remember now that I played it a few times many years ago. You could say that 5...Ne4 is a pure Queen’s Indian type of move, with Black looking to use only pieces to occupy and control the centre. Ultimately White gains control of the centre, but the exchange of minor pieces does free Black’s position to some extent. Interestingly, Richard Rapport has played it a number of times, and Duda has also tried it. We’ll study one game of each in this month’s update.

6 Nxe4 remains White’s most popular response, and after 6...Bxe4 7 Nd2 Bb7 8 e4 is the most ambitious follow up (there’s also a brief look at 7 e3 and 7 Bf4). At a cost of misplacing the knight, White chases away the bishop and gets in e2-e4.

The tricky 8...Qf6, the most common choice, is considered in the notes, but Rapport instead opted for 8...g6!? and a Hippopotamus formation. See the notes to Fedoseev, V - Rapport, R for analysis.

6 Qc2 is the alternative to 6 Nxe4. After 6...Nxc3, White normally recaptures with the queen, but in the recent game Gupta, A - Duda, J White played 7 bxc3!?, accepting doubled c-pawns with the aim of keeping some control of e4:

However, Duda’s 7...f5! and his follow-up moves were convincing, and Black achieved a more than reasonable position.

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

4 e3 Bb7 5 Bd3 d5 6 0-0 Bd6 7 Nc3 0-0 8 b3 Nbd7 9 Bb2 a6 10 a4!?:

10 a4 is relatively rare (we’ve previously considered the more popular 10 Rc1 and 10 Qc2, while 10 Qe2 and 10 cxd5 are also options for White) although interestingly the push of the a-pawn is a leading suggestion from Stockfish. White’s basic plan is a4-a5 and a strategically desirable exchange on b6, which will leave White with the better pawn structure and more central pawns. Indeed, after 10...Ne4 11 a5! White soon achieved an edge in Grachev, B - Xu, Y . Black certainly needs to take the advance of the a-pawn seriously, and 10th move alternatives for Black are considered in the notes.

Queen’s Indian: 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qc2 [E15]

4 g3 Ba6 5 Qc2 c5 6 d5 exd5 7 cxd5 Bb7 8 Bg2 Nxd5 9 0-0 Be7 10 Rd1 Nc6:

For a while the d5 gambit threatened to wipe out 4...Ba6, but in recent years some reliable defences for Black have been discovered. Even so, it’s worth noting that 4...Bb7 has become at least as popular as 4...Ba6 - no doubt in part because of the practical difficulties Black faces against the gambit. It’s also worth remembering that 5 Qc2 was AlphaZero’s choice in its match against Stockfish, and we shouldn’t ignore the opinion of the World’s strongest ever chess player!

The recent GM encounter Paravyan, D - Debashis, D continued in typical fashion with 11 Qa4 (11 Qf5 was AlphaZero’s choice) 11...Nf6 12 e4 0-0 13 e5 Ne8 14 Nc3 Nc7:

Here White varied from the usual 15 Be3 and tried 15 h4!?. The intention is to use the h-pawn as a battering ram to create weaknesses on the kingside, but the game continuation demonstrates that the h-pawn push may also become a source of counterplay for Black.

Queen’s Indian: 4 g3 Bb7 5 Bg2 Bb4+ [E16]

4 g3 Bb7 5 Bg2 Bb4+ 6 Bd2 a5 7 0-0 0-0 8 Bf4 Be7 9 Nc3 Ne4 10 Nb5!?:

The ...Bb4+ / ...a5 line has a reasonable following and recently it’s been played by Richard Rapport.

In the game Nielsen, PH - Maze, S, Peter Heine Nielsen chooses an idea for White that we’ve seen in a recent update. On b5, the knight can be chased back with ...c6, but White can argue that the new weaknesses created are worth the time spent moving the knight. In fact, after 10...c6, White can even try 11 Nc7!?, as we saw in Xiong,J-Le Quang Liem.

Maze preferred 10...Na6, the most popular response, but Nielsen gained an edge with the clever temporary exchange sacrifice 11 Rc1 d6 12 Nd2! Nxd2 13 Bxb7! Nxf1 14 Qxf1 Qd7 15 Qg2!:

Analysis of this and earlier options are in the notes.

The main alternatives to 8 Bf4 are 8 Bg5 and 8 Nc3, the latter of which was used recently.

Black chose the typical idea 8...Bxc3 9 Bxc3 Be4, but perhaps it’s a bit premature to do so and it’s better to play the useful 9...d6. After all, there’s no longer any chance of the bishop getting stranded on b4 - if the knight moves it can always capture the bishop, and vice versa. Following 10 e3 d6 11 Qe2 Nbd7 12 Rfd1 Qb8:

White played 13 Bf1!, employing the usual idea of vacating the diagonal in order to force the e4-bishop back without allowing an exchange of bishops, and soon reached a very nice position. See Krejci, J - Bartel, M for details.

Queen’s Indian: 4 g3 Bb7 5 Bg2 Be7 6 0-0 0-0 7 Re1 [E17]

4 g3 Bb7 5 Bg2 Be7 6 0-0 0-0 7 Re1 c6!?:

7...c6!? is a rare move and an interesting way to meet the 7 Re1 variation. The immediate 7...d5 is met by 8 cxd5! exd5 when the resulting pawn structure is known to be favourable for White, although Black’s position is certainly playable (indeed, 7...d5 is Black’s most popular response).

The idea behind 7...c6 is to be able to recapture with the c-pawn after playing ...d5, reaching a more favourable structure. In effect, after ...d5 Black is aiming for a closed Catalan where Re1 would be slightly unusual.

The critical response remains 8 e4, and this is covered in the notes to Lenderman, A - Andreikin, D, but in the actual game White chose 8 Nc3. After 8...d5 9 Nd2, Andreikin unleashed the novelty 9...b5!:

This idea is known from similar positions in the Catalan, and it seems to equalise comfortably.

Till next time, John

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