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This month’s update includes recent Nimzo-Indian action from both the World Junior Championship and the Meltwater Tour Final. Indian Grandmaster Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa takes centre stage, as he’s involved, as White or Black, in four of the games!

Download PGN of November ’22 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nf3 c5 [E53]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nf3 c5 7 cxd5 exd5 8 dxc5:

With 7 cxd5 (instead of the main line, 7 0-0) White’s plan is to give Black the IQP. Although this line doesn’t appear dangerous, it’s worth pointing out that some players are more comfortable in possession of an IQP than others, and it’s rare for Black to be the player with the IQP in the Nimzo. Black has more than one way to respond here, and in Praggnanandhaa, R - Le, Q Black chose 8...Nbd7 intending to recapture with the knight. There followed 9 0-0 Nxc5 10 Ne2!:

Black should be okay here, but the optimal set-up for Black isn’t immediately obvious.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 b6 5 Bd3 Bb7 6 Nf3 0-0 7 0-0 c5 [E43]

4 e3 b6 5 Bd3 Bb7 6 Nf3 0-0 7 0-0 c5 8 Na4 cxd4 9 exd4 Re8 10 a3 Bf8 11 b4 d6 12 Bb2 Nbd7 13 Re1 g6:

The Keres Variation remains a reasonable option for players who enjoy playing the Hedgehog-type structure in the diagram. Despite having less space, Black’s position is full of dynamic possibilities, including ...d5, ...e5 and kingside expansion with ...Nh5 and ...f5. Praggnanandhaa, R - Le, Q is a good demonstration of both sides’ chances in this line.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Nf3 d5 6 Bd2 b6 [E52]

4 e3 0-0 5 Nf3 d5 6 Bd2 b6 7 cxd5 exd5 8 Rc1 Bb7 9 Bd3 a6 10 0-0 Bd6 11 Ne5 c5 12 f4 Nc6!:

This move sequence is one of the most logical choices for Black against White’s fashionable Bd2 set-up. With ...a6, ...Bd6, ...c5 and then ...Nc6, Black is able to put considerable pressure on d4, and White finds it difficult to calmly increase the pressure on the kingside. See Raahul, V - Siddharth, J for analysis of this key line.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd2 c5 [E46]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd2 c5. Playing ...c5 is the alternative option for Black against an early Bd2, and it’s widely recognised that 6 a3 Bxc3 7 Bxc3 Ne4 8 Ne2 b6 9 d5 is a critical continuation:

In October’s update we considered the sharp 9...Ba6 (Abdusattorov,N-Gelfand,B/ 2022). Black may also accept a Modern Benoni structure after 9...Bb7 10 f3 Nxc3 11 Nxc3 exd5 12 cxd5 d6 and this seems to be a reasonable alternative:

See Mladek, R - Budisavljevic, L for analysis,

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 d5 [E40]

4 e3 d5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 bxc3 c6:

An early ...d5 in conjunction with a2-a3 normally leads to the Botvinnik-Capablanca Variation, but ...c6 is a decent alternative for Black, who is now able to recapture on d5 with the c6-pawn and plans light-squared action with ...b6 and ...Ba6. White typically responds with either 7 Bd3 or 7 Nf3, but 7 a4!? is an interesting option, which has scored quite well. White delays kingside development in favour of activating the dark-squared bishop. After 7...0-0 8 Ba3 Re8 9 Nf3 b6 10 cxd5 cxd5 White can play 11 Bb5! which disrupts Black’s ...Ba6 plan:

This shows an advantage of delaying the development of the light-squared bishop. See Mendonca, L - Bournel, A for details.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 e4 d6 [E32]

4 Qc2 0-0 5 e4 d6 6 e5 dxe5 7 dxe5 Ng4 8 Nf3 Nc6 9 Bf4 Nd4 10 Qd2!:

5...d5 has dominated in elite games in recent years, and it makes a refreshing change when something else is tried.

This is a position we’ve studied before, and here Black normally plays either 10...f6 or 10...Nxf3+. In So, W - Praggnanandhaa, R, the Indian GM instead tried 10...c5?, which was a novelty but not a successful one. So’s response 11 h3! forced exchanges and the resulting position is in White’s favour.

Nimzo-Indian Saemisch: 4 a3 Bxc3+ 5 bxc3 c5 6 f3 [E24]

4 a3 Bxc3+ 5 bxc3 c5 6 f3 Nc6 7 e4 d6 8 Be3 b6 9 Bd3 Na5 10 Ne2 Ba6 11 0-0 Nd7:

The Saemisch Variation continues to be seen in top level chess, where evidently it’s viewed as a decent weapon for White in rapid and blitz time limits. In this particular line with Ne2, White needs to play Ng3 early if the plan is to support the c4-pawn with Qe2. However, another option is simply to sacrifice the pawn, as Giri did against Pragg at the Meltwater Tour Final. After 12 f4! Bxc4 13 f5 White has good compensation for the pawn - see the notes to Giri, A - Praggnanandhaa, R.

Till next time, John

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