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This month we examine some new developments in the 4 Qc2, 4 e3 and 4 a3 Nimzo-Indian.

Download PGN of November '11 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian 4 Qc2 0-0, 6...d5 [E36]

Today's main line is undoubtedly 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5, and it's continuing to produce new ideas for both colours with amazing frequency.

One of the key lines is Wojtaszek's gambit, 7 Bg5 c5!? 8 dxc5 d4, which continues to be popular:

After 9 Qc2 e5, recently White has immediately challenged Black's centre with 10 e3!?. Judging by the statistics so far - White has scored four wins out of four! - this move is certainly a serious test of the gambit. See Matlakov - Krysa, Chennai 2011, for analysis of critical lines.

White's other main option is 9 Qg3, and here 9...Nbd7 is still considered to be Black's best response. In Kotanjian - So, Jakarta 2011, White played the novelty 10 Bh6, but it doesn't look especially threatening for Black, who was soon doing well.

The game Ibrayev - Kotsur, Tashkent 2011, is much less important from a theoretical standpoint, since White chooses a toothless line in 7 Nf3 dxc4 8 Qxc4 b6 9 Bg5 Ba6 10 Qc2 Nbd7 11 Rd1 (there are far more challenging options at moves 10 and 11). However, this game does show that White can quite easily drift in these quiet positions if he isn't careful. In fact, after 11...h6!? 12 Bh4?! Black was already a bit better and won very smoothly.

Nimzo-Indian 4 e3 b6 [E43]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e3 b6 5 Bd3 Bb7 6 Nf3 Ne4 7 Qc2 Bxc3+ 8 bxc3 f5 9 0-0 0-0:

This particular line against 4...b6 has always been considered fairly harmless and not used by the world's elite, but are things about to change? In Leko - Andreikin, Saratov 2011, the Hungarian super-GM unleashed the rare 10 c5!?. Black responded with the tempting 10...Rf6, aiming for a typical kingside attack, but Leko was well prepared, accepted a piece sacrifice, consolidated and won convincingly.

Nimzo-Indian 4 e3 0-0, 9...a6 [E54]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 c5 6 Nf3 d5 7 0-0 cxd4 8 exd4 dxc4 9 Bxc4 a6:

9...a6 is slightly different and a good alternative to the more popular Karpov Variation (9...b6). It enjoys the advantage that if White plays passively, Black's slightly more aggressive queenside set-up allows him to fight more easily for the initiative. But of course, spending three moves instead of two on the fianchetto does carry some risk.

Statistically White's most successful line has been 10 a3 Bxc3 11 bxc3. Black now has a choice:

a) 12...b5 12 Bd3 Bb7 13 a4! continues to be troublesome for Black. It doesn't seem to matter that White "wasted" a tempo with a3 and then a4. See Iordachescu - Filip, Brasov 2011.

b) With 11...Qc7, depending on White's response Black aims to either grab the c3-pawn or play ...b5 under more favourable circumstances. See Nisipeanu - Karjakin, Medias 2011 for analysis of the critical lines.

Nimzo-Indian Sämisch [E29]

Finally this month, we revisit the rare gambit line 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 a3 Bxc3+ 5 bxc3 c5 6 e3 0-0 7 Bd3 Nc6 8 Ne2 b6 9 e4 Ne8 10 0-0 Ba6 11 Ng3!?:

This pawn sacrifice is a specialty of the Hungarian GM David Berczes (11 f4 is the main line). In Jobava - Wojtaszek, Khanty-Mansiysk 2011, Black manages to defuse White's initiative and gains a clear advantage, but possible improvements for White are considered in the notes.

Till next time, John

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