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Hi everyone,
The Classical Variation (4 Qc2) remains an extremely popular choice against the Nimzo. As subscribers will be fully aware, 4...0-0 is Black's main response, but this month I've decided to take a look at his two main alternatives, 4...d5 and 4...c5, not that we should ever forget too about the underrated Zurich Variation!

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

Download PGN of December '07 Nimzo and Benoni games

Classical Nimzo: 4...d5 5 a3

Black's sharpest approach against 4 Qc2 is 4...d5 and after White's current main move 5 a3 (5 cxd5 has lost a number of adherents due to Black's success with the solid 5...Qxd5, as we will observe further below) and then 5...Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3, complications can quickly break out.

The main line remains 6...Ne4 7 Qc2 c5 8 dxc5 Nc6 and now in Kasimdzhanov - Karpov the ex-FIDE World Champion remained faithful to an unexplored and extremely complex pet variation of his, namely 9 cxd5 exd5 10 e3 (rather than the standard 10 Nf3). Karpov introduced the novelty 10...Qa5+ and was quickly able to make a rather murky exchange grab with 11 b4!? (the simple 11 Bd2 is less exciting, but may well promise White an edge) 11...Nxb4 12 axb4 Qxa1:

Ivan Sokolov's games in the Classical always merit attention, even if he is no longer the world's leading authority on it. In Sokolov - Lie he prefers the quieter 9 e3, but this topical alternative to 9 cxd5 carries a fair amount of positional sting and currently looks like a pretty good try for an edge.

Black can also bring about huge complications with the Romanishin Gambit, 6...c5!? 7 dxc5 d4. For a long time this was in the shadow of both 6...Ne4 and 6...dxc4, but it is at last receiving some testing and at a very high level. Furthermore, the theory of the critical 8 Qg3 is beginning to get fleshed out:

In Carlsen - Naiditsch, White comes prepared with 8...Nc6 9 b4 e5 10 e4, but Black's novelty, 10...0-0, appears to maintain a rough balance. Nevertheless, this approach is more challenging for Black than the more simple 9 Nf3, White's preference in Gasanov - Miroshnichenko. Do check out too there Black's main alternative, 8...0-0, which continues to hold up well despite a recent attempt to hack it by Morozevich!

A much calmer approach is the Short Variation, 6...dxc4 7 Qxc4 b6. This has long enjoyed quite a good theoretical standing, but White's play in Carlsen - Adams may well force a reappraisal. Indeed, after 8 Bf4 Ba6 9 Qxc7 Qxc7 10 Bxc7 0-0 11 Nf3 Rc8 12 Bf4 Nbd7 13 Nd2, followed by covering the c2-square with Nb3-a1 (!), Black was never able to drum up sufficient counterplay:

Quite possibly the less-charted 8...Nd5, maintaining the c-pawn, should thus be preferred. We'll examine it in Beliavsky - Rozentalis.

Classical Nimzo: 4...d5 5 cxd5

Over the years subscribers have received a real treat from John in the variation 4 Qc2 d5 5 cxd5 exd5, on which he is a leading expert. However, 5...Qxd5, the Romanishin Variation (not to be confused with the Romanishin Gambit!), is a very respectable and much more solid alternative. Indeed, I feel that White's failure to prove any advantage has been responsible for much of the recent interest in 5 a3. White has tried both 6 e3 and, as he does in Sasikiran - Macieja, 6 Nf3 Qf5 7 Qxf5 exf5 8 a3 Bd6 9 g3, but without really troubling Black:

Classical Nimzo: 4...c5

A few years ago the variation 4 Qc2 c5 5 dxc5 Bxc5 was pretty topical, but it has now become quite a rare visitor to the tournament hall. An alternative which has never really caught on is 5...Na6 6 a3 Qa5 7 Bd2 Nxc5, but this positional favourite of Keith Arkell's perhaps isn't so bad:

In Flear - Gormally, White gained a small edge with 8 Rc1, but quite possibly 8 0-0-0 is the only real way to test Black

Next month John will be back and, in the meantime, do have a very good Christmas and New Year, Richard