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In this month’s update we study the latest trends and ideas in the Nimzo-Indian from recent tournament games including the Superbet event. Watch out for two intriguing novelties unleashed in seemingly well-worn positions.

Download PGN of May ’22 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 e4 d5 [E32]

4 Qc2 0-0 5 e4 d5 6 e5 Ne4 7 Bd3 c5 8 Nf3 cxd4 9 Nxd4 Nd7 10 Bf4 Qh4 11 g3 Qh5 12 0-0 g5 13 cxd5 Bxc3 14 bxc3 exd5:

We begin this month’s update with one of the most topical and forcing lines of the 4 Qc2 Nimzo-Indian. This position, having already been reached nearly 200 times in the database, is a thoroughly analysed one. However, in a recent game Dutch GM Jorden Van Foreest unleashed the striking novelty 15 g4!?. White not only offers a pawn, but he also accepts kingside weaknesses, in order to gain crucial time on the black queen. Check out the notes to Van Foreest, J - Praggnanandhaa, R for analysis of this interesting new development.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5 7 Bg5 [E32]

4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5 7 Bg5 dxc4 8 Qxc4 b6 9 Rd1 Ba6:

Another well-known position, and another novelty! 10 Qa4 is by far the most popular choice here, and 10 Qc2 is also possible. However, in a recent game Richard Rapport tried 10 Qc1!?. This clever queen retreat contains some well concealed points, as explained in the notes to Rapport, R - Nepomniachtchi, I.

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 Bd6 8 Qc2 c6 9 Nge2 Re8 10 Bd2:

6 cxd5 exd5, and more particularly 7 a3, is certainly in favour at the moment, with numerous elite-level games in recent months. In this update we’ll study three recent games of interest:

a) 10...Nbd7 11 f3 c5:

We looked at the f2-f3 plan last month, in the game Bluebaum-Kuzubov. White’s main idea is queenside castling and a pawn storm beginning with g2-g4. Bluebaum played 12 0-0-0, but Wesley So preferred to begin kingside action with 12 h4, and this was met by the novelty 12...h5!? virtually forcing White to sacrifice a pawn to continue the attack with g2-g4. Of course, White will likely be more than willing to do so! See So, W - Sevian, S for analysis.

b) 10...Nbd7 11 f3 Nf8:

11...Nf8 is a good alternative to 11...c5, and it was Vishy Anand’s choice when facing So a few weeks after his game against Sevian. Black delays pawn action for the moment and instead plays the typical knight retreat. The advantage of this choice is seen after 12 0-0-0 b5!, when the pawn on c6 supports a typical pawn attack against the queenside castled king, made all the more potent because of the hook provided by a2-a3. Black gains considerable counterplay here, as seen in the notes to So, W - Anand, V.

c) 10...b6 is a natural alternative to 10...Nbd7, and one we’ve studied previously in Aronian,L-Vidit,S/Berlin 2022.

Aronian chose 11 0-0, but in a more recent game Alireza Firouzja preferred 11 f3. After 11...c5 12 g4 c4 13 Bf5 Bxf5 14 Qxf5 g6 15 Qg5 Nc6 16 0-0 Bf8 17 Qh4 a complex position arose with level chances - see Firouzja, A - Dominguez Perez, L for analysis.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd2 [E46]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd2 c5 6 a3 Bxc3 7 Bxc3 Ne4:

5...c5 seems to be Aronian’s favoured response to 5 Bd2, and in recent games he’s twice enjoyed success with it.

As we’ve seen before, 8 Ne2!, preparing to recapture on c3 with the knight, is a challenging option. Andreikin instead chose 8 Bd3, which looks like an odd decision even if the intention was to avoid theory and just reach a playable position. After 8...Nxc3 9 bxc3 d6:

The Saemisch structure with two pairs of minor pieces exchanged and without the bishop pair isn’t an especially appealing option for White, and my impression here is that Black is already fine - see the notes to Andreikin, D - Aronian, L.

Nimzo-Indian: Karpov Variation [E54]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nf3 dxc4 7 Bxc4 c5 8 0-0 cxd4 9 exd4 b6 10 Re1 Bb7 11 Bd3 h6!?:

It’s noticeable that numerous grandmasters are avoiding or delaying Bg5, and early Bd3 lines are gaining some attention (including 10 Bd3, as played by both Carlsen and Caruana). 11...h6 was first played less than ten years ago, and since then numerous players have recognised the merit of preventing Bg5 at the cost of a tempo and a slightly weakened kingside structure. So far, Black has achieved an impressive score with it, and this trend wasn’t altered in the recent game Salem, A - Niemann, H.

Till next time, John

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