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Hi everyone!
This month John-Paul Wallace studies the controversial Psakhis-Romanishin Variation of the Nimzo, which I noticed has gathered some interest in the forum (it's one of the 'missing variations' - glad to correct this problem!).
Staying with the Nimzo, I revisit an old line in the Classical (4 Qc2) Variation. And to finish with, there's a second look at a fast-growing and dangerous gambit in the Queen's Indian.

Remember, if you have any opinions, ideas or questions, please either make yourself heard at the Forum (the link above on the right) or subscribers can email me at

Download PGN of January '07 Nimzo and Benoni games

Nimzo-Indian: Psakhis-Romanishin Variation

(or the 'Super Snake Benoni'?) by John-Paul Wallace

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e3 b6 5 Nge2 c5:

The Psakhis-Romanishin variation that occurs after 4 e3 b6 5 Ne2 c5 (or alternatively 4...c5 5 Ne2 b6) is designed to suit the type of player that wishes to gain a very complex game and is not averse to taking risks. Perhaps this type of player likes to push the positional limits in a strategic opening such as the Nimzo, rather than the more direct tactical mayhem that would occur in, say the Kings Indian defence. Consequently the opening has been named after GMs Psakhis and Romanishin, both who enjoy complex and rich positional systems that, while not always directly confrontational, do push the 'positional' limits of chess. Thus Psakhis is also a famous exponent of the French defence, including the risky Winawer, while Romanishin likes the heavy duty battles on the Black side of the Chigorin Lopez, and both players bring their own ideas into these openings.

In the Psakhis-Romanishin variation of the Nimzo Black immediately confronts White with very tricky and unusual problems to solve. He refuses to exchange his bishop straight away leaving the question of what will happen in the centre and on the queenside (and will White accept doubled c-pawns or not?) hanging over White's head. White is 'allowed' to go ahead and play d5 and set up a Benoni like pawn structure that is supposed to be good for him, but matters are not that simple because the pin produced by Black's bishop on a5 has some big advantages - the pawn e4 is now weaker and it can be easier to play....b5. After all - hasn't Black gained a 'SUPER SNAKE BENONI'?? (The Snake Benoni occurs after 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 c5 4 d5 exd5 5 cxd5 Bd6 followed by Bc7-a5.) Clearly the Psakhis-Romanishin variation gives a few tempos up on this, not to mention the 'ridiculous' placement of the Ne2...

Finally, while I sometimes like to present statistics I do caution the reader that they can sometimes have little to do with the objective merit of an opening variation, and they might also be irrelevant for you personally depending upon what level you and your average opposition compete at. Nevertheless, from a database search with the criteria 2006-07 and with both players 2500 rated or more the result was 5 draws of 5 games, while with both rated 2300 or more the total was plus 5 to Black!

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e3 b6 5 Nge2 c5 (This is the usual move order, although it is equally possible for 4...c5 5 Ne2 b6 to occur. As the Psakhis-Romanishin variation is a favourite of creative players, the text move order is the most likely, as 4...b6 gives Black more 'unique' options after White's other 5th moves than 4...c5.) 6 a3 Ba5 7 Rb1 This is the most common response by White and is very logical - he threatens to trap the bishop and punish Black for his impertinence. Funnily enough, however, it is not clear that 7 Rb1 is the strongest as in any case it is always impossible to win the bishop. 7...Na6:

The characteristic answer - again accordance to the general principle of 'breaking all the rules' :)

Now we shall take a look at the following games:

Nimzo-Indian Classical Variation

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 b6 7 Bg5 Bb7 8 e3 d6 9 f3:

In recent years 9 f3 has been more or less replaced as the main line by the plan of bringing the knight to c3: 9 Ne2 Nbd7 10 Qd3 Ba6 11 Nc3, which we've seen more than once on this website. For example, 11...h6 12 Bh4 d5 13 Qc2 Bxc4 14 Bxc4 dxc4 15 Qa4 c5 16 Rd1 - see Khenkin-Timman, Malmö 2006.

Nevertheless, it's worth Black knowing what he should be doing after 9 f3: it's a very natural way for White to play and it might become fashionable again if White gets bored trying to find a small advantage after the trendy-at-the moment 9 Ne2.

In Almond - Greet, Hastings 2006, Black plays very well at least equalise and goes on to convert the type of edge Black can hope for if White plays inaccurately.

Czakon - Rozentalis, Ustron 2006, is pretty more of the same, but this time White doesn't put up quite as much resistance!

Queen's Indian: 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qc2

Recently this line has taken off big-time due to the pawn sacrifice 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qc2 c5 6 d5! exd5 7 cxd5 Bb7 8 Bg2 (White has another way to sacrifice a pawn here with 8 e4!? Qe7 9 Bd3 Nxd5 10 a3 - see Mamedyarov-Gelfand, Wijk aan Zee 2006 in the archives) 8...Nxd5:

We've also seen 8...Bxd5 (Tregubov-Greet, European Club Cup, Feugen 2006). I mentioned in that update (October last year) that there are certain advantages in capturing with the knight and it's interesting that very recently 8...Nxd5 has become the move to play (although to be honest Black's results with both moves have been nothing short of disastrous!).

First up there's Williams - Prosviriakov, Hastings 2007, in which White plays the automatic 9 0-0, but Kazhgaleyev - Al Sayed, Doha 2006 demonstrates that White has another, more intriguing option in the shape of 9 Qb3!?. In both games White was rewarded richly for some imaginative play. In practice, if perhaps not objectively, Black really has some work to do in this line.

Until next time, John