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In this month’s update we look at new ideas in the Nimzo-Indian from recent tournaments, including the 2022 US Championship, where it featured in some key battles.

Download PGN of October ’22 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Nf3 [E50]

4 e3 0-0 5 Nf3 Bxc3+!?:

Exchanging on c3 without any provocation by a2-a3 often creates a strange impression. The occasions in which there’s some justification for doing so normally involve an early Nf3 by White, because in the Saemisch structure the knight usually prefers the e2-square. It’s interesting also to note that Black has scored well with this move. Having previously faced this idea in a game against Alexey Sarana, Wesley So was impressed enough to try it himself when playing with the black pieces against Ray Robson at the US Championship. Unfortunately for So, he came up against a well-prepared response. After 6 bxc3 d6 7 Bd3, So offered a pawn sacrifice with 7...e5!:

Instead of accepting it, Robson offered a counter-gambit with 8 e4! Re8 9 0-0! See Robson, R - So, W for analysis.

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

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd2 c5 6 a3 Bxc3 7 Bxc3 Ne4 8 Ne2 b6 9 d5 Ba6:


This is a critical position for the 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd2 c5 line. Previously we’ve considered 10 b3 b5 11 Qd3 Nxc3! 12 Nxc3 bxc4 13 bxc4 exd5 14 Qxd5 Qa5! which is complex but fine for Black - see the notes to Tabatabaei, M-Martirosyan,H/Krasnaya Polyana 2021. In more recent games, 10 Qd3!? is an attempt to improve on White’s play, and this is analysed in Abdusattorov, N - Gelfand, B.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5 7 Bg5 [E32]

4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5 7 Bg5 h6 8 Bxf6 Qxf6 9 Nf3 dxc4 10 Qxc4 Nc6 11 Qc3 Re8:

7...h6 has attracted interest recently as a practical alternative to 7...dxc4 and 7...c5. Black’s plan of ...dxc4 followed by arranging ...e5 looks quite sound, and White has struggled to find any advantage. As we’ve seen before, 12 e3 allows Black to equalise without any effort with 12...e5! since 13 d5? is met convincingly by 13...Nd4!. At the US Championship, against Caruana, Hans Niemann instead played 12 Rd1, which at least allows White to answer 12...e5 with 13 d5. However, Black was basically fine after 13...Nb8 14 e3 Bf5 - see Niemann, H - Caruana, F for details.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5 7 Nf3 [E32]

4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5 7 Nf3 dxc4 8 Qxc4 b6 9 Bg5 Ba6 10 Qc1!?:

The position after 9...Ba6 has been reached over 1000 times in the online database, but no-one had played 10 Qc1 until Sam Shankland tried it against Hans Niemann at the US Championship. There’s a striking similarity between Shankland’s move and Rapport’s 10 Qc1 against Nepo we previously considered, which was also a novelty (7 Bg5 dxc4 8 Qxc4 b6 9 Rd1 Ba6 10 Qc1). Here the queen move looks stranger, because the queen blocks the rook’s path. However, Shankland intended c1 to only be a temporary post for the queen. After 10...Bb7 11 h4!? Nc6 12 Qf4! White gained a pleasant edge - see Shankland, S - Niemann, H for analysis.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 d5 5 cxd5 exd5 [E35]

4 Qc2 d5 5 cxd5 exd5 6 Bg5 h6 7 Bh4 Nc6 8 e3 g5 9 Bg3 h5:

7...Nc6 8 e3 g5 9 Bg3 (7...g5 8 Bg3 Nc6 9 e3 is another move order) has gained some interest in recent years, and it has become a perfectly reasonable alternative to the main line, 7...c5. In a recent game it was tried by Magnus Carlsen. Although he eventually lost the game, he certainly won the opening battle. After 10 h3 Ne4 11 Bh2 Qe7 12 Bb5 Bf5 13 Qc1?! (a dubious novelty) 13...Rh6!:

Black was already doing well - see Mamedyarov, S - Carlsen, M for details.

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

4 f3 d5 5 a3 Be7 6 e4 dxe4 7 fxe4 c5 8 d5 exd5 9 exd5 0-0 10 Be2 a6 11 Nf3 Bd6 12 0-0 h6:

7...c5 continues to be topical, and at the US Championship, against Samuel Sevian, Fabiano Caruana added his name to the list of grandmasters who have tried it. We recently looked at this position and 13 h3 - see the notes to Erigaisi,A-Dominguez Perez,L/Chennai 2022. Caruana was of course a teammate of Dominguez Perez’s at the Olympiad, so he would have been well aware of that game. Sevian deviated with the novelty 13 Ne1!?, which intends to reroute the knight to d3, and also enables Bf4 if required. After 13...Nbd7 14 Nd3, Caruana’s 14...b5! looks like a dynamic way of exploiting the time taken for White’s knight manoeuvre.

See Sevian, S - Caruana, F for analysis of this line.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Nf3 0-0 [E21]

4 Nf3 0-0 5 Bg5 c5 6 e3 cxd4 7 exd4 h6 8 Bh4 d5 9 Rc1 Nc6 10 a3 Be7 11 c5 Ne4! 12 Bxe7 Qxe7 13 Be2 Rd8:

Earlier, 11...Ne4! is an important move, without which Black would be worse. In previous games Black has equalised easily after 14 0-0 e5!. In a recent game against Wesley So, Jeffery Xiong played the novelty 14 b4, and this game is a good demonstration of how a seemingly small nuance can cause an opponent significant problems. See the notes to Xiong, J - So, W.

Till next time, John

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