ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
This month we focus entirely on an old, almost forgotten option for Black in the Nimzo-Indian that has recently returned to the limelight thanks at least in part to the efforts of Women's World Champion Hou Yifan. I'm indebted to subscriber Lukas Wedrychowski for reminding me of this line.

Download PGN of October '13 Nimzo and Benoni games

>> Previous Update >>

Nimzo-Indian 4 Qc2 0-0: Keene's 6...Qe8 [E32]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 Qe8!?:

This weird-looking move is the invention of Raymond Keene. Initially it certainly didn't catch on, but more recently a number of strong Grandmaster have been willing to try it, including Hou Yifan, who has managed to score a perfect 4/4 with it!

What does Black achieve by moving the queen one square to the left? Well, its main point seems to be that it discourages Bg5, initially because it would run into ... Ne4 and sometimes later on simply because the knight on f6 won't be pinned. Most initial impressions would surely be that this isn't a strong enough reason to spend a tempo on what's basically a non-developing move. However, there are some other hidden ideas behind 6...Qe8 and there seems to be no obvious way for White to gain anything more than a small edge, if that.

We'll begin by looking at the first game with 6...Qe8, Dueball - Keene, Dortmund 1973, where White chooses what has since become most popular response: 7 f3

This is a very logical move, preventing ...Ne4 and preparing to dominate the centre with e2-e4. Keene chose 7...d6 and gained excellent counterplay after 8 e4 e5 9 d5 Nfd7!, preparing ...f5.

White can pose more problems by playing 9 Be3! instead of 9 d5, and maybe it's this idea that put many players off 6...Qe8 for a long time - see Biriukov - Kulicov, Suvorov 2012, for details.

The new way for Black to meet 7 f3 is with 7...d5!?, which is Hou Yifan's choice:

A ...d5 advance by Black is often a logical response to f2-f3, and here it's no different. See Romanko - Hou Yifan, Antakya 2010, for details.

Next up is another game involving Hou Yifan. White plays 7 Qc2, with ideas similar to 7 f3. White covers the e4-square in preparation of either (or both) e2-e4 and Bg5. See Huang Qian-Hou Yifan, Ningbo 2011.

White's main alternative to seizing the e4-square is rapid kingside development with Nf3, g3 and Bg2, delaying the central battle till later on. In Deepan Chakkravarthy-Arun Prasad, Kolkata 2012, Black was able to carry out a plan which looks quite attractive to 6...Qe8 players: 7 Nf3 d6 8 g3 a5!? 9 b3 a4 10 b4 b5! seizing some key light squares in the centre:

7 g3 d6 8 Bg2 a5 9 b3 is likely a more accurate move order for White, since Black's ...b5 advance will require more preparation, such as with the strange-looking 9...Ra7!?:

In Villegas - Bartel, Istanbul 2012, Black was able to execute the plan and reached a decent position after 10 Nf3 a4 11 b4 b5! 12 c5 Bb7.

In our final game, Navara - Harika, Caleta 2013, White chose 10 Bg5 (instead of 10 Nf3) 10...Nbd7 11 e4, which cuts across the ...a4, ...b5 plan. Harika was forced to revert to ...e5, but even so White didn't get much from the opening.

Till next time, John

>> Previous Update >>

Feel free to share your ideas and opinions on the Forum (the link above on the right), while subscribers with any questions can email me at