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This month’s update includes some new Nimzo-Indian ideas played at the first two FIDE Grand Prix events. Six wins out of seven for White this month, but Nimzo players need not despair - there are many improvements suggested in the notes!

Download PGN of March ’22 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5 7 Nf3 [E32]

4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5 7 Nf3 b6 8 Bg5 dxc4 9 Qxc4:

We’ve already discussed this well-known position on many occasions, and it has occurred over a thousand times on the database. Black usually plays the automatic 9...Ba6 here, although 9...Bb7 is also possible. However, recently Alexander Grischuk unleashed the novelty 9...c5!?. Even though gaining time with 9...Ba6 is so natural, it still surprised me that 9...c5 had never been tried before. In Shankland, S - Grischuk, A we examine the merits of holding back with the bishop move.

Nimzo-Indian 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 b6 [E32]

4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 b6 7 Bg5 Bb7:

The old main line with 6...b6 has been somewhat overshadowed by 6...d5 in recent years, but it certainly remains a viable option for Black.

The most popular choices for White from the diagrammed position are 8 f3, 8 e3 and 8 Nf3. In the first FIDE Grand Prix, however, Rapport instead played 8 Nh3!?. We haven’t previously looked at this move, which was fashionable as far back as the early 1990s but interest has faded somewhat since then. See the notes to Rapport, R - Fedoseev, V for analysis of an amazing game.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 cxd5 exd5 [E48]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 cxd5 exd5 7 a3!?:

7 Nge2 is by far the most common choice in this line, but 7 a3 has become popular recently. Given that the bishop often retreats of its own accord, it does at first sight looks a little strange to chase it back. However, there are certainly merits in doing so. For one thing, chasing it back now doesn’t give Black the option of ...Re8 followed by ...Bf8. Also, in some lines Black may benefit from keeping the bishop on b4.

After 7...Bd6 8 Qc2 Black usually prevents Nb5 in one of two ways:

a) 8...a6 9 Nge2 Re8 10 0-0 b6 11 b4! (discouraging ...c5) 11...Nbd7 12 Nf4 Bb7 with a typically complex position:

See Rapport, R - Vidit, S for analysis.

b) A few weeks earlier Vidit had the same position, but against Levon Aronian. Here he chose 8...c6 9 Nge2 Re8 10 Bd2 and now the novelty 10...b6!?:

See Aronian, L - Vidit, S for details.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 a3 Bxc3+ 7 bxc3 dxc4 [E49]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 a3 Bxc3+ 7 bxc3 dxc4 8 Bxc4 c5 9 Ne2 Qc7 10 Bd3 e5 11 0-0 Nc6:

As we’ve seen before, Carlsen has preferred 10 Ba2 in this line, but 10 Bd3 remains an important option for White. In the diagrammed position White has typically chosen 12 Bb2 or 12 Qc2. However, recently the young Russian GM Alexey Sarana has played the rare 12 Ng3!? in numerous games, with some interesting ideas for White to challenge Black. See Sarana, A - Caruana, F for analysis.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Nf3 d5 6 Bd2 b6 7 Rc1 Bb7 8 cxd5 exd5 [E52]

4 e3 0-0 5 Nf3 d5 6 Bd2 b6 7 Rc1 Bb7 8 cxd5 exd5 9 Bd3 Be7 10 0-0 c5 11 dxc5!? bxc5 12 Re1:

In the game Shankland,S-Abasov,N/Prague 2021, we were introduced to a new way of playing line as White. Instead of the usual plan involving 11 Ne5 and keeping the pawn on d4, White gives Black the hanging pawns complex. The idea is to strike at it quickly with e3-e4, after which White will enjoy a structural advantage. Shankland’s plan was repeated in the recent game Artemiev, V - Aronian, L. Instead of 12...Nbd7, Aronian chose 12...Na6!?, and despite losing the game he demonstrated that this idea certainly has some merit.

Nimzo-Indian, Karpov Variation: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nf3 dxc4 7 Bxc4 c5 8 0-0 cxd4 9 exd4 b6 [E54]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nf3 dxc4 7 Bxc4 c5 8 0-0 cxd4 9 exd4 b6 10 Bd3 Bb7 11 a3 Be7:

This bishop retreat back to d3 is played in conjunction with a2-a3. It’s certainly less common than the main lines 10 Bg5 and 10 Qe2 but it was tried by Carlsen against Aronian, and recently Caruana followed Carlsen’s approach.

Carlsen had continued with 12 Re1 Nbd7 13 Qe2 Nd5 14 Nxd5 Bxd5 15 Bf4. Caruana chose a similar plan but played the immediate 12 Bf4, not committing the f1-rook. See Caruana, F - Sarana, A for analysis.

Till next time, John

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