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Nimzo-Indian Leningrad Variation
I've had one or two queries regarding Black options in the Leningrad Nimzo, and it got me thinking whether there was anything offbeat that perhaps Black could get away with, or at least use as a surprise weapon from time to time. Also, theoretically speaking Black may be doing more than okay in main lines (e.g. 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Bg5 h6 5 Bh4 c5 6 d5 d6 7 e3 Bxc3+ 8 bxc3 e5) but I think it's a misconception that all Nimzo players are happy to play these blocked positions. Moreover, without a theoretical advantage to hang on to, White players would be rather foolish to enter these lines if they didn't enjoy the stodgy positions! So there's definitely an argument for Black players to aim, at least occasionally, for something a bit different.
The idea that came to mind was the simple-looking solution: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Bg5 h6 5 Bh4 g5!? 6 Bg3 Ne4:
This plan is seen very often in the Nimzo/Queen's Indian hybrid (with a knight on f3 and a pawn on b6), but very rarely here. Is it such a big deal that White hasn't committed his knight to f3? I decided to find out!
With 7 Qd3 the queen is more actively placed: it supports the advance d4-d5 and there's the option of recapturing on g3. Probably more to the point, though, the queen is also more vulnerable and sometimes gets in the way. See Solis Gaitan-Charpentier, Cenfotec 2003.
As far as I can see, 7...d5 is a worthwhile alternative (see the notes to Bagirov-Lputian).
Or 8 Be5?! - see Gaertner - Lendwai, Austria 1996.
8...b6 9 f3
9 Nge2!?, avoiding the doubled pawn, is a serious option - see Krumpacnik - Petit, Budapest 1995.
Inflicting the double pawns with 9...Bxc3+ is studied in Spassky - Birmingham, Angers 1990.
10 hxg3 Qf6
This position is the subject of Bagirov - Lputian, Telavi 1982.
I won't give away any conclusions here (check out the games) except to say that I'm not sure why this line has been neglected so much.
Nimzo Indian: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6 cxd5 exd5 7 Ne2
by John-Paul Wallace
In this month's survey I examine the position that arises after 4 e3 0-0 5.Bd3 d5 6.cxd5 exd5 7 Ne2:
It is closely related system to the 4 e3 0-0 5 Ne2 (Rubinstein) variation that I looked at last month. In many ways the 5 Bd3, 7 Ne2 line makes more sense than its 'cousin' because the bishop is already developed on an active square. Once again White's main idea is to attack on the kingside with f3 and g4. Black will aim for counterplay on the queenside and in the centre, and will usually wait for White to play the weakening f3 before committing to an Isolated Queen's Pawn (IQP) with ...c5. Black will need to decide whether he will prefer to retreat the Bb4 to d6 or f8, the former giving him some tactical chances against the White king, while the latter preparing for a positionally sound kingside fianchetto.
The White players that have contributed a great deal to this variation include Gurevich Milov and Aleksandrov, and their games should be studied carefully whether you play this line as White or Black.
In this mini survey I have also aimed to explain some of the general ideas and strategies of this variation, and to point the reader towards some model games in the notes to the main games. This is because, perhaps more so than in a sharp Sicilian, positional understanding and choosing the right plan is very important if one wants to master this line with either colour.
In a survey I did on this line for New In Chess Yearbook in, I believe, 1994 I suggested that White should aim for f3 and g4 as soon as possible, without fiddling about. Now, over 10 years on, I have grown older and possibly more patient, and I would suggest that the plan with Bd2 and Rc1 or a3 and b4 is stronger. The idea in this case is to take measures against Black's ...c5 counterplay before rushing forward on the kingside. In this way Black is kept guessing and he can not be as sure as to where his pieces are most effectively placed.
After 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 d5 6.cxd5 exd5 7 Ne2 Re8 8.0-0:
Now 8...Bf8 is examined in Adly - Kurajica, while the alternative 8...Bd6 was played in Mirzoev - Pogorelev. Instead, in Aleksandrov - Gaponenko Black experimented in the opening with 8...b6!? but then followed up inconsistently after which White gained the sort of 'automatic attack' that is typical of this variation.
In order to provide a balanced view in that line I have also included in the notes two model games for Nimzo players, a recent Shabalov win and a classic Spassky game.
Finally, we take a look at 7...c5 which is known to be dangerous for Black, and the game Kovacevic - Levacic certainly confirmed this assessment.
Until next time, John