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The recent FIDE Grand Swiss, held at Douglas, Isle of Man, produced some exciting chess. Many of the World’s elite were competing, but they were mixed with many lower-rated players too. There was the added spice of a Candidates spot up for grabs, which went to the worthy tournament winner Wang Hao.
So many games from the event started with openings particular to this site, so much so that I’ve taken the unusual step of focussing entirely on this one event. In this month’s update we look at key Nimzo games from Douglas, while Queen’s Indians and Bogo-Indians are covered next month.

Download PGN of October ’19 Nimzo and Benoni games

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

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd2 d5 6 Nf3 b6 7 Rc1 Bb7 8 cxd5 exd5 9 Bd3 Be7 10 0-0:

Bd2 against the Nimzo is seemingly becoming even more popular. Amazingly, the position after 6 Nf3 occurred six times in the Isle of Man. After 6...b6 the game transposes to the Tal Variation with an early Bd2.

The Round 1 encounter Najer, E - Anand, V continued 10...Nbd7 11 Ne5 Nxe5!?, after which play became very sharp. 12 dxe5 Nd7 13 f4 Nc5 14 Bb1 d4!:

This pawn advance opens up the b7-bishop and gives Black considerable piece activity, but White’s chances on the kingside, spearheaded by the e4/f4 pawn chain, cannot be ignored. Najer was able to drum up a powerful attack against Black’s king, which Anand was unable to repel.

In Round 2, Black chose a different approach with 10...c5 11 Ne5 Nc6!:

In lines where Black plays an early ...c5 and White reacts with Ne5, c6 is the ideal square for the queen’s knight because it attacks d4 as well as e5. White responded with 12 Be1! This isn’t the first time we’ve come across this clever move. It seems very logical to play it after f2-f4, but often it’s more flexible to play it before. See Ponomariov, R - Yilmaz, M for details.

Nimzo-Indian Main Line: 7...dxc4 8 Bxc4 Nc6 [E55]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nf3 dxc4 7 Bxc4 c5 8 0-0 Nc6!?:

8...Nc6 is an interesting and lesser-explored alternative to the main lines 8...cxd4 and 8...Nbd7. Black doesn’t yet commit to an IQP but the pressure against d4 after ...Nc6 limits White’s options.

A Round 1 game from Douglas continued 9 Bd3 h6!? 10 Bc2 cxd4 11 exd4 Bd6!:

This demonstrates a point behind 9...h6. With the Bg5 pin no longer a concern, Black’s bishop can choose a more active square than e7. See Danielian, E - Bluebaum, M for details.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 f3 c5 [E20]

4 f3 c5 5 d5 b5 6 e4 d6!?:

Needing a final-round win to have any chance of getting the Candidates spot, 4 f3 was Levon Aronian’s choice against Magnus Carlsen’s Nimzo-Indian.

6...d6 has been played on far fewer occasions than both 6...0-0 and the older 6...bxc4, but in 2019 it has been used by Rapport, Wojtaszek and now Carlsen. Playing ...d6 here avoids all the complications of the line 6...0-0 7 e5. Furthermore, in contrast to the 5...0-0 6 e4 d6 line, Black gets to pressure c4 with ...b5 a little earlier.

The game continued 7 Bd2 Bxc3!? 8 Bxc3 b4 9 Bd2 0-0 10 Be3 exd5 11 cxd5:

and here Carlsen gained some activity with the novelty 11...Nfd7!? 12 Ne2 f5 13 exf5 Rxf5. See the analysis in Aronian, L - Carlsen, M.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 f3 d5 5 a3 Be7 [E20]

4 f3 d5 5 a3 Be7 6 e4 dxe4 7 fxe4 c5!?:

This was played in the Round 7 game Najer, E - Leko, P. 7...c5 is a rare choice for Black, but appears to be a decent alternative to the main line 7...e5. In all previous games with 7...c5, White had responded with the natural 8 d5, but here Najer played the novelty 8 e5!?. This led to sharp play but Leko’s treatment of the position looks pretty convincing.

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

4 Qc2 d5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 c5 7 dxc5 d4 8 Qg3 Nc6 9 Nf3 e5 10 b4 e4 11 Nd2 Be6!?:

The Romanishin Gambit (6...c5) is still played by strong players and continues to score reasonably well for Black. This continuation seems to be the main line and 10...Be6 is the latest development (in earlier games Black had castled instead). See the analysis in Kashlinskaya, A - Huschenbeth, N.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5 [E32]

6 Qxc3 d5 7 Nf3 dxc4 8 Qxc4 b6 9 Bg5 Bb7!?:

6...d5 followed by 7...dxc4 is one of Black’s most dependable options against 5 a3. Boris Gelfand remains one of the best prepared grandmasters around, so it’s always worthwhile to take note of his choices. It’s interesting that he prefers 8...Bb7 to the far more common 9... Ba6, and this was again his choice in Douglas. Dreev, A - Gelfand, B continued 10 Rd1 Nbd7 11 Ne5 h6 12 Bh4 c5:

A few weeks ago, 12...c5 was a played as a novelty, but since then it has already been played on four more occasions. The results - five draws - underline its reliability.

Till next time, John

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