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Despite being an old opening, the theory of the 4 e3 Nimzo-Indian still seems to be developing at quite a rate. In this month’s update we consider some new developments from recent super-GM events.

Download PGN of March ’23 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 c5 6 Nge2 Nc6 [E47]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 c5 6 Nge2 Nc6 7 0-0:

Typically 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 c5 6 Nge2 leads to IQP positions. Recently, however, there’s been considerable interest in lines where Black keeps the tension in the centre for a move or two more. As you could imagine, move orders are important here.

After 7...d5 8 cxd5 exd5 9 a3, the move 9...c4! looks critical:

Now White has a choice:

a) 10 Bxh7+ Nxh7 11 axb4 Nxb4 12 b3 a5 13 bxc4 dxc4 was played in So, W - Aronian, L.

There’s considerable imbalance here. White dominates the centre, but Black has three(!) connected passed pawns on the queenside.

b) 10 Bc2 Bd6 11 Ng3 Rb8 and Black starts queenside counterplay - see Sarana, A - Caruana, F.

8 a3 is the only serious alternative to 8 cxd5, and this was played in another game between Sarana and Caruana. After 8...cxd4 9 axb4 dxc3 10 b5 (a new move) 10...Ne5 11 c5 an interesting position was reached:

See Sarana, A - Caruana, F for analysis.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 c5 5 Bd3 Nc6 6 Nge2 [E47]

4 e3 c5 5 Bd3 Nc6 6 Nge2 cxd4 7 exd4 d5 8 c5!?:

Staying on the theme of avoiding the IQP, it’s not just Black who has a say in this. White can also avoid the IQP, and this is a way to do so. We’ve previously seen Sarana play c5 in a similar position (after 5...0-0 6 Nge2 cxd4 7 exd4 d5, versus Lazavik) and here he repeated his idea against Wesley So. After 8...0-0 9 0-0, So reacted with the logical pawn break 9...e5 - see Sarana, A - So, W for details.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 c5 5 Nge2 d5 [E42]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e3 c5 5 Nge2 d5:

We saw Wesley So use this move order as Black against Carlsen (Wijk aan Zee 2023), and he was willing to play the IQP position resulting from the main continuation 6 a3 Bxc3+ 7 Nxc3 cxd4 8 exd4 dxc4 9 Bxc4. He was happy to repeat this move order in a more recent game, against Caruana, who diverged with the relatively rare 6 cxd5. After 6...Nxd5 7 a3 Nxc3 8 Nxc3 Ba5! 9 dxc5 Bxc3+! 10 bxc3 Qxd1+ 11 Kxd1 Nd7 12 c6! Ne5! So offered a pawn for activity, which seems to be a decent solution for Black.

See Giri, A - So, W for analysis.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Nf3 d5 6 Bd2 [E52]

4 e3 0-0 5 Nf3 d5 6 Bd2 b6 7 cxd5 exd5 8 Bd3 Re8 9 Rc1 Bf8 10 0-0 Bb7 11 Ne5 c5 12 f4 Nc6 13 Ne2:

This is a familiar position to us, and previously we’ve looked at the extremely complicated forcing line 13...Rc8 14 Be1 Ne4! 15 Bxe4 dxe4 16 Nxf7! Kxf7 17 Qb3+ c4! 18 Qxc4+ Kg6 19 f5+ Kh6 20 Bg3 Ne5! (Keymer,V-Bjerre,J/Terme Catez 2021). In a more recent game, Esipenko preferred 13...Ne4 against Abdusattorov but after 14 Ng3! he went wrong immediately and quickly faced a deadly sacrificial attack - see Abdusattorov, N - Esipenko, A.

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd2 d5 6 Nf3 b6 7 cxd5 exd5 8 Rc1 Bb7 9 Bd3 Re8 10 Ne5 Bf8 11 f4 c5:

We’ve certainly seen White play Ne5 (and sometimes f4 as well) before castling, and it can be a useful option to make sure White is able to achieve it. Normally it simply transposes to a typical position. However, in a recent game Matthias Bluebaum avoided castling altogether in favour of 12 g4!?. After 12...cxd4 13 exd4 Nc6 14 g5 Ne4! 15 Be3! an interesting and completely new position was reached:

This is yet another idea to be considered in a line full of them! See Bluebaum, M - Sevian, S for analysis.

Till next time, John

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