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This month we look at new ideas and games in the 4 g3 line, the Kasparov Variation, 4 Qc2 and 4 e3.

Download PGN of November ’18 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 g3 0-0 5 Bg2 d5 [E20]

4 g3 0-0 5 Bg2 d5 6 a3 Be7:

Previously we’ve looked at 6...Bxc3+ 7 bxc3, but the bishop retreat to e7 is equally popular. 7 Nf3 is the most popular response, reaching a Catalan where White has played an early Nc3 and also has the extra move a2-a3. In a recent game, however, Akobian played 7 cxd5!?. Normally with a Catalan structure it would be inaccurate to exchange on d5 so early, but here Akobian had something specific in mind: 7...exd5 8 Nh3!:

This is the idea. White utilises the delayed development of this knight to choose a more suitable square. The knight is heading for f4, and keeping the f-pawn unblocked allows White to choose a plan involving f2-f3 and e2-e4. See Akobian, V - Bruzon Batista, L for details.

4 g3 0-0 5 Bg2 d5 6 Nf3 dxc4 7 0-0 Nc6 8 a3 Be7 9 e4:

8 Qa4 is the fashionable choice, but 8 a3 remains an important option. This is a real gambit. White isn’t going to regain the c4-pawn any time soon, but his strong pawn centre and piece activity provide reasonable compensation. 9...Na5 has been the most popular move for Black, but 9...a6 intending ...b5 is an important alternative. Keeping the knight on c6 for the time being maintains pressure on the d4-pawn. See Theodorou, N - Van Foreest, L for analysis.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Nf3 c5 5 g3 [E20]

4 Nf3 c5 5 g3 Ne4 6 Qc2 Qa5 7 Qxe4 Bxc3+ 8 Bd2 Bxd2+ 9 Nxd2 Nc6:

5...Ne4 6 Qc2 (or 6 Qd3) 6...Qa5 remains a decent option for Black, although some players may be put off by the forcing nature of the critical lines. White’s two choices here are 10 d5 and 10 dxc5, both of which are analysed in the recent game Khenkin, I - Van Wely, L. The Dutch GM has been willing to play this line before as Black, and here he wins after some excellent endgame play.

Another topical game saw 4 g3 c5 5 Nf3 b6:

Although playable for Black, an early ...b6 and ...c5 don’t mix particularly well against the Kasparov Variation. After 6 Bg2 Bb7 7 0-0 Bxc3 8 bxc3 Qc8? 9 d5!:

White was already well on top. Alternatives are covered in Atalik, E - Granda Zuniga, J.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Nf3 0-0 5 Bg5 c5 [E21]

4 Nf3 0-0 5 Bg5 c5 6 Rc1 h6:

White normally retreats the bishop to h4 here. In the game Miranda Llanes, Y - Dzagnidze, N, White instead chose 7 Bxf6, but it doesn’t seem to threaten Black at all. After 7...Qxf6 8 e3 cxd4 9 exd4 d5! 10 c5 Nc6 11 a3 Bxc3+ 12 Rxc3 e5! Black was already on top and went on to win quickly.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 Nf3 d5 [E32]

4 Qc2 0-0 5 Nf3 d5 6 cxd5 exd5 7 Bg5 h6 8 Bh4 c5:

We’ve previously covered 9 e3 here, but 9 dxc5 is an important alternative and has been played recently. Both 9...Nbd7 and 9...Be6 are decent responses, but Black went for 9...g5!?, the most aggressive option. After 10 Bg3 Ne4 11 e3 Nd7!:

White unleashed 12 Bd6!, a new move, and a good one. See Karavade, E - Prithu, G for details.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 a3 Bxc3+ 7 bxc3 dxc4 8 Bxc4

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 a3 Bxc3+ 7 bxc3 dxc4 8 Bxc4 c5 9 Ne2 Qc7 10 Ba2 b6 11 0-0 Ba6:

In this key position, 12 Re1 has been White’s most popular choice, but Carlsen has played 12 Bb2 and this was also White’s choice in Vishnu, P - Short, N. White’s idea is to play Rc1 and c3-c4 as quickly as possible, in order to activate the b2-bishop and to block out the one on a6. This worked well for White after 12...Nc6 13 Rc1 Na5 14 c4! Rfd8?! 15 d5!, although Black does have improvements.

Till next time, John

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