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In this month’s update we cover some new ideas in the Nimzo-Indian, including elite-level preparation from the Candidates.

Download PGN of July ’22 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 cxd5 exd5 [E48]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 cxd5 exd5 7 a3 Bd6 8 Qc2:

6 cxd5 exd5 7 a3 Bd6 8 Qc2 is an incredibly fashionable line which we’ve covered in quite a few games. 8...Na6!?, however, is something new to this site, and this idea was unleashed by Radjabov to great effect in the Candidates. Black aims for a very quick ...c5, supported by the knight, without allowing 8...Nbd7?! 9 Nb5!. See Ding Liren - Radjabov, T for analysis.

An earlier game proceeded along a more familiar path with 8...c6 9 Nge2 Re8 10 Bd2 b6 11 f3 c5:

We’ve previously considered 12 g4 c4 13 Bf5 (Firouzja,A-Dominguez Perez,L/Bucharest 2022). More recently, Pentala Harikrishna played the creative 12 b4!?. In a wing gambit fashion, White sacrifice pawns in order to take the pressure off the centre, which in turn allows an early e3-e4 advance and a strong initiative. See the notes to Harikrishna, P - Vidit, S, an entertaining battle.

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 cxd5 exd5 7 Nge2 Re8 8 Bd2 Bd6 9 Qc2:

A week after his game against Vidit, Harikrishna diverged and chose the old main line, 7 Nge2. In the diagrammed position, Le Quang Liem played 9...Na6!, the same idea as in Ding-Radjabov which was played two weeks later - perhaps Radjabov had been inspired by this game. Here ...Na6 is even more tempting given the threat of ...Nb4. See Harikrishna, P - Le, Q for analysis.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 c5 6 Nge2 [E41]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 c5 6 Nge2 d5 7 cxd5 cxd4 8 exd4 Nxd5 9 0-0 Nc6 10 a3 Bd6 11 Re1:

5...c5 seems to be Nakamura’s favoured response to 5 Bd3, which prepares to enter the main lines after 6 Nf3 d5 but avoids other options for White after 5 Bd3 d5, including 6 a3 and the currently fashionable 6 cxd5. The flipside is that White has the extra and important option of 6 Nge2, which Duda chose against Nakamura at the Candidates. Duda followed the current trend, choosing 10 a3 Bd6 11 Re1, which has caused Black some difficulty. In earlier rapidplay and blitz games, Nakamura had played 11...Re8, but at the Candidates he tried a new move, 11...Nce7!?. See Duda, J - Nakamura, H for analysis.

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 dxc4 8 Qxc4 b6 9 Rd1 Ba6 10 Qa4 h6 11 Bh4 Qe7 12 Nf3 Rd8:

Overall, Alireza Firouzja endured a disappointing Candidates. He did, however, demonstrate some notable opening preparation, none more so in his game against Nakamura.

We’ve studied the diagrammed position a few times already, covering 13 e3, 13 e4, 13 Ne5 and 13 g4. Now there’s another to add to the list, Firouzja’s choice of 13 Qc2!?. He blitzed out the further moves 13...c5 14 e4 Bxf1 15 Rxf1 g5 16 Nxg5! hxg5 17 Bxg5 Nc6 18 Qc1!:

reaching a position in which Nakamura had to make difficult decisions. The American was up to the task, and his renowned resilience eventually earned him a draw, but this was impressive opening preparation from Firouzja. See Firouzja, A - Nakamura, H for analysis.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 Nf3 c5 6 dxc5 [E39]

4 Qc2 0-0 5 Nf3 c5 6 dxc5 Na6 7 g3 Nxc5 8 Bg2 Nce4 9 0-0:

It has become clear in recent years that Black seems to be fighting only for a draw in the main line after 9...Nxc3 10 bxc3 Be7 11 e4 d6 12 e5 dxe5 13 Nxe5 Qc7 14 Qe2, so it’s unsurprising that players are looking at more practical options for Black. There’s been a recent shift towards 9...Bxc3 10 bxc3 Qc7, and so far Black has scored well with this idea. In the recent game Mamedyarov, S - Tari, A the Norwegian GM used it to score a fairly comfortable draw.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 f3 c5 [E20]

4 f3 c5 5 d5 b5 6 e4 d6 7 Nge2!?:

We’ve covered some elite-level games with 7 Bd2 Bxc3 8 Bxc3 b4 9 Bd2 but 7 Nge2 is a serious alternative and has been played more often. 7...0-0 would transpose to the line 5...0-0 6 e4 d6 7 Nge2 b5 8 Nf4, but the move order here gives Black a second option in 7...bxc4 8 Nf4. Black can play 8...e5 here, but there’s also the interesting 8...g5!?:

This looks risky, but it’s been played by some strong grandmasters, including Ding. See the recent game Sargsyan, S - Petrosyan, M for details.

Till next time, John

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