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In this month’s update we study some aggressive ideas for White against the Queen’s Indian. We also take a look at how Fabiano Caruana dealt with the Nimzo-Indian at the FIDE Candidates tournament.

Download PGN of March ’20 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 f3 d5 5 a3 Be7 [E20]

4 f3 d5 5 a3 Be7 6 e4 dxe4 7 fxe4 c5!?:

It’s interesting that Caruana believes 4 f3 to be a critical test of the Nimzo-Indian. Caruana favours sharp lines where his exceptional preparation skills come to the fore, so 4 f3 certainly fits the bill on that front. During the Candidates he only had to wait until Round 2 before unleashing his new weapon.

7...c5!? is a fresh idea (7...e5 is the main line) which has so far been tried out by grandmasters such Anand, Karjakin and Leko, to name a few. After 8 d5 exd5 9 exd5 0-0, Caruana played 10 Be2!?:

This is a small but perhaps important nuance. By developing the bishop before the knight, White prevents ...Bg4 for a couple of moves and thus restricts Black’s move-order options. Play soon became complex after 10...Re8 11 Nf3 Bg4 12 0-0 Nbd7 13 d6!? - see Caruana, F - Alekseenko, K for analysis.

Things may change after Caruana’s game, but so far 10 Nf3 has been the most common move. Then 10...Bd6 11 Be2 Bg4 12 0-0 Nbd7 leads to an interesting position where both sides hold positional trumps:

White enjoys more space and has a strong protected passed pawn on d5. On the other hand, Black can develop easily and can aim for dark-squared control. See Tsvetkov, A - Najer, E for a typical struggle in these positions.

Queen’s Indian: 4 a3 Bb7 5 Nc3 d5 [E12]

4 a3 Bb7 5 Nc3 d5 6 cxd5 Nxd5 7 Qa4+!?:

7 Qa4+ is much less popular than 7 Qc2, 7 e3 and 7 Bd2, but it does have some sting to it. One of the main points is that after the natural 7...Nd7 8 Nxd5! Black is no longer able to recapture with the queen. Following 8...Bxd5 there follows 9 Qc2! preparing e2-e4:

In Erdos, V - Rapport, R, the Hungarian GM chose the sharpest option in 9...c5. After 10 e4 Bb7 11 Bf4 cxd4 12 Rd1! the position springs into life and both sides need to careful in the ensuing complications.

Queen’s Indian: 4 a3 Bb7 5 Bf4 [E12]

4 a3 Bb7 5 Bf4!?:

This is a rare line, but noticeably over the last couple of years it’s been tried by GMs Mamedyarov, Jakovenko, Fedoseev and most recently by Vidit. There are some similarities to 5 Nc3 d5 6 Bf4, but leaving the knight on b1 gives White a key extra option. After 5...d5 6 cxd5! Nxd5 7 Bg3 we see the point of White’s move order:

After e2-e4 Black will have to retreat the knight, as without a knight on c3 there’ll be no easy option of ...Nxc3. Black soon got into some trouble in Vidit, S - Navara, D, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of this line in the future.

Queen’s Indian: 4 a3 c5 [E12]

4 a3 c5 5 d5 Ba6 6 Qc2 exd5 7 cxd5 g6 8 Nc3 Bg7:

Having played this line for Black on numerous occasions, I have a particular fondness for it, and it’s a natural option for those who like the Modern Benoni pawn structure. However, judging by recent evidence, it’s not looking in good shape. The aggressive 9 h4!? has scored well from a handful of games, and seems to cause Black quite a few problems - see the analysis in the recent game Risting, E - De Rover, Y.

Queen’s Indian: 4 g3 Ba6 5 Nbd2

4 g3 Ba6 5 Nbd2 Bb7 6 Bg2 c5:

This is one of numerous lines in the Queen’s Indian where Black tries to exploit the blocking of White’s queen (either by Nd2 or Bd2) to arrange ...c5 without the fear of d5, aiming for simplification after 7 0-0 cxd4 8 Nxd4 Bxg2 9 Kxg2.

The critical response is 7 e4!. Taking the pawn on e4 with 7...Nxe4? looks extremely risky and is in fact a decisive mistake! See Kantarji, P - Krayz, A for details.

Bogo-Indian: 4 Bd2 [E11]

4 Bd2 Qe7 5 g3 Bxd2+ 6 Nbxd2 0-0 7 Bg2 d6 8 0-0 e5 9 e4:

Usually in the Bogo-Indian White prefers to recapture on d2 with the queen (6 Qxd2!), because with the typical ...d6/...e5 pawn structure, White’s knight is much better suited on c3 than on d2. Additionally, Black usually prefaces the ...d6 and ...e5 plan with ...Nc6. Here the knight is still on b8, and in the recent game Vedder, R - Womacka, M, Black played 9...Bg4 and soon demonstrated that there are merits to delaying the knight’s development.

Till next time, John

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