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The Wijk aan Zee tournament always seems to deliver lots of exciting chess, and this year certainly didn’t disappoint in that regard. It also provided a fair share of new ideas in the Nimzo-Indian and Queen’s Indian, so this month’s update is pretty much confined to one event!

Download PGN of January ’24 Nimzo and Benoni games

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Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Nf3 d5 6 Bd2 [E51]

4 e3 0-0 5 Nf3 d5 6 Bd2 b6 7 cxd5 exd5 8 Rc1 Be7 9 g3!?:

The Bd2 lines in the Nimzo remain popular, but 9 g3 is something quite different, as it’s very unusual for White to fianchetto in this line. In effect, White is aiming for a Catalan-type position. Vidit tried 9 g3 at Wijk aan Zee against Abdusattorov, and after 9...Nbd7 10 Bg2 Ba6?! 11 Qa4! Bc4? 12 b3!:

his experiment had worked beyond expectations, as White already enjoys a big advantage here - see Vidit, S - Abdusattorov, N for analysis.

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 c6 9 Nge2 Re8 10 Bd2 Nbd7 11 f3 c5:

This aggressive way of treating the 6 cxd5 variation became popular in 2022. Instead of castling kingside, White’s idea is to launch the pawns forward as a platform for an attack. After 12 h4 Nb6 13 g4 Nc4:

the position is already extremely complex - see the notes to Donchenko, A - Gukesh, D.

Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 a3 Bxc3+ 7 bxc3 dxc4 [E49]

4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 a3 Bxc3+ 7 bxc3 dxc4 8 Bxc4 c5 9 Ne2 Qc7 10 Bd3 Nc6:

This is another ambitious line which has become popular over the last couple of years. White has two main options here:

a) 11 0-0 e5 12 Ng3

This knight move has become the most popular choice, not least due to the efforts of the Russian grandmaster Alexey Sarana. The resulting positions can become very sharp. Objectively, Black should be okay, but careful defence is certainly required. Divya, D - Santos Latasa, J continued 12...Rd8 and here White played 13 Nh5!?, an idea we’ve seen before in similar positions. After 13...Nxh5 14 Qxh5 h6 15 Rb1 b6 16 f4! White gained a strong attack on the kingside.


b) 11 f4 is another ambitious idea, gaining space and preventing ...e5. Black should be okay here too, but again accuracy and subtlety is required. After 11...b6 12 0-0 Bb7 13 Ng3 Rfd8 14 Qe2 Rac8 15 Bb2 Ne7 16 e4!:

without doing anything clearly wrong, Black finds himself facing a daunting kingside attack. See Olsen, F - Storme, I 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:

In recent years, 7...c5 seems to have overtaken 7...e5 as Black’s most popular choice, and there have been a few high-level games in this line. Previously we’ve looked at the most common choice here, the logical 11...Bd6. At Wijk aan Zee, Ding Liren preferred 11...h6 against Vidit, but the Indian grandmaster’s response was a convincing one. After 12 Bf4! Bd6 13 Qd2! Re8 14 0-0 Bg4 15 Bd3! White was able to gain an advantage - see the notes to Vidit, S - Ding Liren.

Queen’s Indian: 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qa4 [E15]

4 g3 Ba6 5 Qa4 Bb7 6 Bg2:

It’s been a while since we’ve looked at 5 Qa4. At Wijk aan Zee it was twice played by the young Dutch grandmaster Max Warmerdam, who introduced a couple of fresh ideas.

a) 6...Be7

With this move, Black plays just like in the 4...Bb7 variation and argues that the queen is no better placed on a4 than on d1.

7 0-0 0-0 8 Nc3 Ne4:

In this position White typically plays 9 Qc2, transposing to a 4...Bb7 main line, or 9 Nxe4. Warmerdam instead chose 9 Bd2!?, a very common move with the queen on d1, but rare in this position. See Warmerdam, M - Firouzja, A for analysis.

b) 6...c5 7 dxc5 bxc5

6...c5 remains Black’s most popular choice. Exchanging the d-pawn after ...c5 looks unambitious, but the resulting positions aren’t so easy for Black to navigate without care.

8 0-0 Be7 9 Nc3 0-0 10 Rd1 Qb6 11 Bf4 Rd8 12 Rd2 d6 13 Rad1 h6 14 g4!:

14 g4 is a nice idea. Black can take the pawn, but White will be able to regain it by targeting d6. Another merit of g4 is that it gives the dark-squared bishop some much-needed breathing room - in response to ...e5, the bishop can retreat to g3. See Warmerdam, M - Ding Liren for analysis.

Till next time, John

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