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Nimzo-Indian 4 Qc2 - Another Possibility for Black?
1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 d5!?:
Previously here we've seen Black play 6...b6, 6...b5, 6...d6 and 6...Ne4. Is 6...d5 yet another option? On the evidence of two recent games involving Vishy Anand, the answer may well be yes.
6...d5 is a kind of hybrid between 4...0-0 and 4...d5, and indeed there are some transpositions to watch out for. I should mention that the move itself is hardly new - in fact it has been seen in a considerable number of games. However, previously it was played as a solid option, with Black happy to accept a slight disadvantage; only recently has Black played it in a more dynamic way.
In Kramnik - Anand, Nice 2009, White chose 7 cxd5, only to be hit by the creative novelty 7...Ne4!?, and Black soon equalised. Three days later, in Morozevich - Anand, Nice 2009, White instead chose the natural 7 Bg5, but Anand was again ready. Here he unleashed 7...c5!? - a delayed Romanishin Gambit! - and again Black had no reason to complain out of the opening. Expect further developments!
Queen's Indian 4 g3 - Something Different
1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Bb4+ 5 Bd2 Bxd2+ 6 Qxd2 Ba6:
Theory after 4 g3 is dominated by 4...Ba6 and, to a lesser extent, 4...Bb7. However, 4...Bb4+ shouldn't be ignored. In fact, I was a bit surprised to find that I hadn't previously covered it at all on this website, so in an attempt to redress the balance just a bit, I've provided a mini-survey on its main line: 5 Bd2 Bxd2+ 6 Qxd2 Ba6.
This was fairly popular in the 1980s, with Tony Miles being one of its main advocates, but then it more or less fell off the radar. However, recently there's been a minor revival. For example, Magnus Carlsen has played it a few times, and this in itself should be enough for us to sit up and take note.
I'm indebted to FM Igor Kragelj, not only for reminding me of this variation, but also for pointing out an important theoretical development in one of the critical lines, which might force White players to reassess how to gain a theoretical edge.
This has been White's most common choice, but there are decent, if less critical alternatives. 7 Na3 is covered in Pelletier - Carlsen, Biel 2006, and I also found it interesting to look back at Beliavsky - Razuvaev, USSR 1978, in which White plays 7 Qc2.
As usual, Black aims for ...d5, and intends to recapture with the c-pawn. 7...0-0 followed by ...d5 is discussed in the notes to Lahno-Riazantsev.
After 7...c6 White must make a decision:
- The most aggressive response is 8 Nc3!? d5 9 e4, but a new - and successful - idea for Black is demonstrated in Saric - Riazantsev, Budva 2009.
- As an alternative to (8 Nc3 d5) 9 e4, White can choose 9 Bg2, but Black's play was also pretty convincing in Lahno - Riazantsev, Chelyabinsk 2008.
- If White is aiming for a small but secure edge, 8 Bg2, as played in Postny - Cvitan, Budva 2009, is probably the move to play. With the knight back on b1, it's much easier for White to defend the c4-pawn after ...d5. Postny's approach is worth seeing and it certainly causes some problems, but with accurate play I still think Black has fairly good chances of equalising here.
Till next time, John