ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
In this month’s update we take a look at fresh ideas for both colours in the Nimzo-Indian, including a promising option for Black against the increasingly popular Bd2 variation.

Download PGN of October ’21 Nimzo and Benoni games

>> Previous Update >>

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd2 d5 6 Nf3 [E51]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd2 d5 6 Nf3 b6 7 cxd5 exd5 8 Rc1 c5!?:

Most of the new ideas originating from the Bd2 variation have been from White’s point of view, so it’s refreshing to see a new option for Black which - on the albeit limited evidence so far - looks like quite an encouraging one.

We’re used to seeing Black retreating the bishop to safety before challenging the centre with ...c5, and it’s true that playing the advance as early as move eight means that Black must be willing to exchange the dark-squared bishop. However, it also offers Black some interesting possibilities that aren’t available in the main lines. One key point is that Black hasn’t yet committed the light-squared bishop, which may yet prefer g4 or f5 as locations instead of b7.

In the recent game Gupta, A - Giri, A, White played 9 Be2 and Giri responded with the novelty 9...c4, after which 10 0-0 a6! demonstrates a key idea in this line:

Black prepares to meet the pawn break b2-b3 with ...b5, to maintain the pawn chain and some grip on the position. I also briefly look into 9 a3 and 9 Bd3 in the notes.

In another recent game, Erigaisi, A - Gukesh, D, White chose a different tactic, responding to 8...c5 with 9 dxc5 to relieve the tension in the centre and give Black the hanging pawns. We saw a similar approach earlier this year in Shankland,S-Abasov,N/Prague 2021, albeit one with Black’s dark-squared bishop back on e7. There followed 9...bxc5 10 Na4 Bxd2+ 11 Nxd2:

and now Gukesh’s novelty 11...d4! logically aimed to open the position with White’s king still in the centre.

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

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 c5 6 Nf3 b6 7 0-0 Bb7 8 Bd2 cxd4 9 exd4 d5 10 cxd5 Nxd5 11 Ne5!?:

White’s most popular choice is 11 Qe2, which we studied in Tanmay,C-Adams,M/ 2021. 11 Ne5 is rare in this position, but the knight jump to e5 is ambitious and direct as it allows the queen to join the kingside attack via g4 or h5. I’m reminded of a similar idea for White in the Bd3 Queen’s Indian / Colle Opening (1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 e6 3 e3 b6 4 Bd3 Bb7 5 0-0 c5 6 c4 Be7 7 Nc3 cxd4 8 exd4 d5 9 cxd5 Nxd5 10 Ne5!). In that line the early Ne5 is extremely dangerous for Black to meet. Here I would say that it’s slightly less so, but Black still needs to be careful as there are pitfalls to avoid.

In a recent game Black responded with 11...Nd7!, a novelty and an important one too! See the notes to Iordachescu, V - Jumabayev, R for analysis.

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

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd2 b6 6 Nge2!?:

Here’s yet another fresh idea to consider. White mixes Bd2 with Reshevsky’s Nge2, taking the avoidance of doubled c-pawns to a new level! The justification, I guess, is that Nge2 is known to be quite effective in ...b6 lines, so it should always be a consideration after ...b6 even if White has already played Bd2 or Qc2. Clearly there are similarities to the main lines 4...b6 5 Nge2 and 4...0-0 5 Nge2.

In the game Maghsoodloo, P - Naiditsch, A, Black responded logically with 6...Ba6, but it’s not the only option and both 6...Bb7 and 6...d5 are considered in the notes.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d6 [E32]

4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d6 7 Nf3:

Against an early Nf3, Black usually adopts the typical ...b6, ...Bb7, ...Nbd7 set-up. However, at the US Championship Fabiano Caruana chose the rare move 7...Re8!? against Wesley So, seemingly aiming for ...e5. However, following 8 b4 (8 g3 is an important alternative for White, covered briefly in the notes) Caruana switched plans with 8...a5 9 Bb2 axb4 10 axb4 Rxa1+ 11 Bxa1 b5!:

This was an interesting positional sacrifice by Caruana, which enabled him to gain some light-squared control in the centre. See So, W - Caruana, F for details.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 a3 Bxc3+ 5 bxc3 b6 [E24]

4 a3 Bxc3+ 5 bxc3 b6 6 f3 Nc6 7 e4:

Magnus Carlsen is continuing to use the Saemisch Variation with White in rapidplay and blitz games, with mixed results. At the Meltwater Tour Final, he tried it against Levon Aronian, who played the slightly unusual 7...d6, delaying the ...Ba6/...Na5 plan and discouraging e4-e5 (7...Ba6 is the main choice here, and a position Carlsen has played with both colours - we most recently covered this in So,W-Carlsen,M/ 2021). In reality, 7...d6 is likely to transpose to 7...Ba6 lines, and following 8 Nh3 Na5 9 Bd3 Ba6 the players reached a position they had previously battled against each other:

Instead of his earlier 10 Qe2, Carlsen played the interesting novelty 10 Rb1!?. This move prevents the ...Nb3 idea after Qe2, and there are other benefits too - see Carlsen, M - Aronian, L for analysis.

Queen’s Indian: 4 g3 Bb7 5 Bg2 Bb4+ 6 Nbd2 [E16]

4 g3 Bb7 5 Bg2 Bb4+ 6 Nbd2 0-0 7 0-0 d5:

Black’s set-up with ...d5 against the g3 Queen’s Indian isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but this particular version is one of the more favourable that Black can achieve. The key point is that White’s knight on d2 is passively placed to meet Black’s plan of ...c5, so White isn’t able to apply as much pressure to Black’s centre as usual. There’s some overlap and transpositions between the g3 Queen’s Indian and the Catalan, and indeed a game from the recent Russian Championship, Andreikin, D - Alekseenko, K, began with the Catalan move order.

Despite the sub-optimal knight on d2, White has reasonable chances of claiming an edge in this line, and in the game Andreikin demonstrated a vital resource for White. After 8 Ne5 Bd6 9 cxd5 exd5 there followed 10 Ndc4!:

This is the key tactical idea that’s worth remembering. Crucially, it allows White to improve the poorly placed knight, and this position already looks quite promising. Within the notes, I briefly discuss an alternative for Black to avoid this scenario.

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