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Just as I'm writing this, Magnus Carlsen has been crowned the new World Champion. The match was always gripping although the games weren't the most exhilarating. The standout exception was Game 9, which happened to be a Nimzo-Indian so it's in this update! Also this month we take a look at two new fresh options for Black in the 4 Qc2 Nimzo, both involving a natural but rare mix of ...0-0 and ...d5.

Download PGN of November '13 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian 4 f3 d5, 8...c4 [E25]

There's no other place to begin than the game which virtually crowned Carlsen as the new World Champion - a Nimzo-Indian which includes quite a startling concept by Black:

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 f3 d5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 bxc3 c5 7 cxd5 exd5 8 e3 c4!?

Maybe Capablanca was right after all, but just couldn't prove it in his game against Botvinnik! Good or bad, this pawn advance, releasing the tension in the centre, has been frowned upon ever since that famous game. However, in this instance there is a concrete reason behind the move. By advancing the pawn at this moment Black messes up White's kingside development plan of Bd3 and Ne2 and forces him to choose a less harmonious set-up.

Anand - Carlsen, Chennai 2013, continued 9 Ne2 Nc6 10 g4 0-0 11 Bg2 Na5 12 0-0 Nb3 13 Ra2 b5 and it soon became an exciting race between Anand's attack on the kingside and Carlsen's on the other wing.

In Ipatov - Debashis, Kocaeli 2013, White adopts the same set-up, but Black chooses a different idea, with 11 Ng3 Na5 12 Bg2 Nb3 13 Ra2 Qa5, activating the queen and attacking c3. The evidence from these games suggests that Carlsen's plan is better.

Nimzo Indian: 4 Qc2 d5, 8...0-0 [E35]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 d5 5 cxd5 exd5 6 Bg5 c5 7 dxc5 h6 8 Bh4 0-0!?:

Believe it or not, this move is very rare. The main line is, of course, the sharp 8...g5 9 Bg3 Ne4 as we have seen many times before. However, recent games show that maybe Black doesn't have to adopt the kitchen sink approach after all, but can instead just develop and regain the pawn on c5. Black's idea is 9 e3 Be6 10 Nf3 Nbd7 and now:

a) 11 Be2 Rc8! is fine for Black - see the notes to Matlakov - Eljanov, St Petersburg 2013.

b) 11 a3! is a better try by White, and this is covered in Romanko - Kovalevskaya, Loo 2013.

Nimzo-Indian 4 Qc2 0-0 Nf3 d5!? [E32]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 Nf3 d5!?:

Black usually plays 5...c5 6 dxc5 Na6 as we have seen here many times before. 5...d5!? is a natural move which, for some reason or other, hasn't yet caught on. But recently it was played twice by Leko. There is some resemblance to 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5, which sprouted out of virtually nowhere to become a main line, and also to the QGD Ragozin Variation.

White's two main options here are 6 Bg5 and 6 cxd5 exd5 7 Bg5. Mamedyarov - Sasikiran, Rhodes 2013, continued 6 Bg5 c5 7 e3 cxd4 8 exd4 h6 9 Bh4:

Now both 9...Nc6 and Sasikiran's 9...Nbd7!? look like good options for Black.

The main alternative, as mentioned above, is 6 cxd5 exd5 7 Bg5 h6:

In Fridman - Leko, Dortmund 2013, White took on f6 and got less nothing. 8 Bh4 is clearly more of a challenge but 8...c5 should be okay for Black - see Shishkin - Doros, Arad 2013, for analysis.

Till next time, John

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