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Nimzo-Indian 4 Qc2 0-0
We'll kick off with one of the main lines of the Classical Nimzo. The game Krush - Shirov, Edmonton 2005 begins 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 b6 7 Bg5 Bb7 8 Nf3 (a line popularized by Ivan Sokolov in the early 1990s) 8...d6 9 Nd2 Nbd7 10 e3:
Now of course the immediate 10...c5 is possible, but Shirov prefers 10...Rc8! and demonstrates a neat point behind playing this rook move first.
Nimzo-Indian 4 Qc2 d5
The line 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 d5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 Ne4 is known to often lead to crazy complications in which both sides must be really well prepared. If Black is looking for something slightly more placid, then 6...dxc4 7 Qxc4 b6, planning ...Ba6, is probably the best alternative. This move was Short's idea; he worked it out in his preparation for his 1993 world championship match with Kasparov but had to wait five more years before he unleashed it. Theory has shown that the critical continuation is 8 Nf3 Ba6 and now Bareev's disruptive 9 Qa4+!:
White tempts Black's queen to d7 - where it will be misplaced - before retreating to c2. Instead in Sasikiran-M.Roeder, Vlissingen 2005 Black opted for 9...c6!? but didn't follow up correctly and was soon in major trouble.
Nimzo-Indian 4 a3
Why Black must play ...Ne8!
1 c4 e6 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 d4 Bb4 4 a3 Bxc3+ 5 bxc3 0-0 6 f3 is a typical Sämisch position that can also be reached via the move order 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 f3 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 bxc3.
Now unless Black wants to prevent e2-e4 with 6...d5, his most popular move here is 6...Ne8!. and the game Lavretzkij - Podolchenko, Minsk 2005 illustrates why. Here Black forwent this possibility and following 6...d6 7 e4 Nc6 8 Bg5! the pin was a real pain for Black for the rest of the game.
Nimzo Indian/Queen's Indian Hybrid
In the line 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Nf3 b6 5 Bg5 Bb7 the move 6 Nd2 is still the height of fashion at the moment. It has two major advantages over the older 6 e3:
1) It avoids Black's aggressive idea of ...h6, ...g5 and ...Ne4.
2) In lines where Black captures on c3 and then follows up solidly with ...d6 and ...Nbd7, White often continues with f2-f3 and e4. By avoiding the early advance e2-e3, White can play e2-e4 in one move, thus gaining a tempo.
In Wells - Eljanov, Amsterdam 2005, Black continued with 6...h6 7 Bh4 and now the flexible 7...0-0:
Here Wells played the critical 8 e4!?, virtually forcing Black to accept a pawn sacrifice and weaken his kingside.
Queen's Indian 4 a3
Next up it's Gormally - Hracek, European Team Ch, Gothenburg 2005: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 a3 Bb7 5 Nc3 d5 6 cxd5 Nxd5 7 e3:
In the old days this was the main line of 4 a3 Queen's Indian, but in recent years it has been overtaken by 7 Qc2 (see the next section). However, more recently I've noticed a few GMs returning to this move (Grischuk played it three times in his recent match with Anand).
Clarendon Court Defence
Is it still playable?
Leon writes: 'Is there any life left in 1 d4 c5 2 d5 f5 or did 3 e4 pretty much kill it?'
This provocative-looking opening is generally known these days as the Clarendon Court Variation, so named after a block of flats in London where the English GM Jonathan Levitt lived for over 20 years. As well as Levitt, this line has been used sporadically by grandmasters such as Ehlvest, Tukmakov and Summerscale. Black aims for a kind of Dutch/Benoni hybrid without allowing some of the tricky anti-Dutch lines. For example, if White plays c2-c4 here, Black will continue a la Dutch Leningrad with ...g7-g6, ...Bg7, ...Nf6 and ...0-0 with a perfectly playable position.
There are a couple of attempts at direct refutation. The first, as Leon mentions is the Staunton Gambit-style 3 e4!?, as seen in Schlosser - Bischoff, Austria 1997.
The second dangerous option for White is 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 f3!?, which was recommended by Richard Palliser in Play 1 d4!; this is covered in Ehlvest-J.Williams, Las Vegas 2003.
That's all folks for this month. Next month there's a look at 1 d4 e6 2 c4 Bb4+!?.