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In this month's update I've focussed a little on a variation of the 4 e3 Nimzo, and there's also coverage of yet another gambit idea for Black against 4 Qc2.

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 '10 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 c5 5 Nge2

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e3 c5 5 Nge2:

When I checked whether this popular line had an actual name in Nimzo books, I was quite surprised to find it called "the Rubinstein Variation". Surprised, because that is also typically the name given to the whole 4 e3 complex. So, as Carsten Hansen pointed out in his book on 4 e3, you could say this is the Rubinstein Variation of the Rubinstein Nimzo!

The subject in this update is the position after 5...cxd4 6 exd4 d5:

White's main choice these days is 7 a3 Be7 8 Nf4. Black can obviously castle here, usually leading to the rather dry 8...0-0 9 cxd5 Nxd5 10 Ncxd5 exd5 11 Bd3 Nc6 12 0-0. But here I'm looking at the line where Black forces an IQP position, at a cost of allowing the bishop to reach c4 in one go: 8...dxc4!? 9 Bxc4 Nc6 10 Be3 0-0 11 0-0:

We've reached a typical IQP position except for one thing: White's knight is on f4 rather than f3. See Grachev - Ambartsumova, St Petersburg 2010, where Black plays 11...b6, and Sokolov - Meier, Antwerp 2010, with 11...Bd6, for a look at some of the differences this makes.

In other lines after 6...d5 I haven't spotted any real major developments in recent times, and so I've relied mainly on older games.

7 c5 used to be the rage, but it is much rarer these days. 7...Ne4 remains the recommended antidote for Black, but there are interesting and perhaps unfairly dismissed ideas for both sides after 8 Bd2 Nxd2 9 Qxd2 b6!? (Saunders - Edwards, ICCF email 2002) or 8...Bxc3!? (Muir - Bryson, Oban 2005).

Finally, there's 7 a3 Be7 8 c5:

This has been more or less completely overtaken by 8 Nf4. It seems that most players have accepted that Black has at least one good way to reach a decent position. He certainly does so in Martinovic - Meier, Budapest 2006, albeit with some help from White. Black's unusual idea looks just as good as the established lines.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2

In Sakaev - Zhigalko, St Petersburg 2010, Black comes up with yet another Romanishin-style gambit, and quite a surprising one:

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d6 7 f3 d5!? 8 Bg5 c5!?:

I really like this completely new idea. At first sight it appears as if Black is stretching the Romanishin gambit concept a bit too far, given that he has spent two moves getting in ...d5. But once you consider that White's spare move here is f2-f3, often useful but much less helpful under these circumstances, Zhigalko's 8...c5 starts to feel more and more logical.

Finally this month, in the game Oleksienko - Polivanov, Lviv 2010, we revisit the line 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 d5 5 cxd5 exd5 6 Bg5 c5 7 a3 Bxc3+ 8 Qxc3 cxd4!? 9 Qxd4 Nc6:

In the early days of 7 a3 Black tended to play 8...c4, and this still looks a decent option. But the ...cxd4 and ...Nc6 plan has become more popular in recent times, not just here but in similar positions, with Black players showing more of a willingness to accept a weakened kingside structure in return for active piece play.

Wishing you all a happy Christmas and the very best for 2011!

Till next time, John

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