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This month we take an updated look at some promising non-mainline options for Black in the Nimzo: 4 Qc2 b6!?, the Romanishin Gambit, and the Reshevsky Variation with 4 e3 0-0 5 Ne2 c6!?.

Download PGN of November ’16 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 b6 5 e4 c5 6 d5 Qe7! [E32]

We begin with another look at the tricky line 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 b6!?:

Originally considered as simply dubious, more recently 4...b6 has been accepted as an interesting way for Black to mix things up in the opening. The key point is that 5 e4 is met not by 5...Bb7?! 6 Bd3! but instead by 5...c5!, the move which makes 4...b6 playable. The main line runs 6 d5 Qe7! (6...exd5 7 exd5 Qe7+! usually transposes) and now:

a) 7 Nge2 is probably White’s most ambitions move, planning Bg5 (or Bd2) followed by 0-0-0. We’ve already seen that Black can quickly run into trouble if he’s not careful against this plan, and there’s some more evidence in recent games. After 7...exd5 8 exd5 d6 (8...0-0 will transpose if Black follows up with ...d6) White decides where to develop his dark-squared bishop:

a1) 9 Bd2 0-0 10 0-0-0 Ng4! is an important idea for Black:

Given another move, White would play Ng3 with a very strong position, so Black has to disrupt this plan. Check the analysis of this complex position in the see-saw battle Bocharov, D - Tomashevsky, E.

a2) 9 Bg5 h6 10 Bh4 and now:

a21) 10...Qe4? We’ve seen this move in similar positions, and usually it seems to be quite a risky idea. This is definitely a bad version for Black. See the notes to Vallejo Pons, F - Cornette, M for White’s resounding response.

a22) 10...0-0! is a much better option for Black, transposing to Paszewski, M - Bok, B (Black actually played 8...0-0 9 Bg5 h6 10 Bh4 d6 in the game) 11 0-0-0:

In a previous update I’d mentioned 11...Nbd7 here, but Bok’s choice of 11...Re8, keeping the c8-bishop unblocked for one further move, might be more accurate. Black looks okay in this interesting line.

b) With 7 Be2 White is aiming for quick kingside development, castling short and a small advantage. 7...exd5 8 exd5 0-0! 9 Nf3 d6 10 Be3:

In an earlier update I suggested the simple 10...Bg4 11 0-0 Nbd7, a position that still awaits tests. It’s solid for Black, although still probably slightly better for White. A more dynamic and possibly stronger option for Black is the pawn break 10...b5!? - see Docx, S - Cornette, M for analysis.

Nimzo-Indian, Romanishin Gambit: 4 Qc2 d5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 c5 [E36]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 d5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 c5 7 dxc5 d4:

Romanishin’s gambit has been doing well of late. In 2016 Black has scored a very impressive 71% with it! Regardless of its objective merits, more often than not Black gains excellent practical compensation. White’s position is not easy to play over the board, as Anatoly Karpov found out to his cost recently. Reaching this position as White against Romain Edouard, he grabbed a second pawn with 8 Qg3 Nc6 9 Qxg7 Rg8 10 Qh6 e5 but couldn’t cope with Black’s initiative and had to resign just 13 moves later. See the analysis in Karpov, A - Edouard, R.

Nimzo-Indian, Reshevsky Variation: 4 e3 0-0 5 Ne2 [E46]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e3 0-0 5 Nge2 c6!?:

If Black is looking for something slightly offbeat against the increasingly popular 5 Ne2, he could do worse than trying 5...c6 instead of the regular 5...d5. The main ideas are similar, but it’s sufficiently different that it might throw White off track - it certainly did in two recent games.

6 a3 Ba5 and now:

a) 7 Qc2 d5 8 Ng3 Nbd7 9 Be2 dxc4 10 Bxc4 e5 11 0-0 reaches a position more resembling a Semi-Slav than a Nimzo:

Black typically swaps pawns on d4 here, but in Ubiennykh, E - Goryachkina, A Black chose instead to play 11...Bc7, relocating the bishop to a good square. Instead of accepting an IQP, White played 12 Rd1 exd4 13 Rxd4!?, but Black was fine and was soon much better than fine!

b) 7 g3 doesn’t look like a critical test of 5...c6. After the straightforward 7...d5 8 b4 Bc7 Black has nothing to fear - see Karason, A - Stefansson, H for details.

Till next time, John

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