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|Nimzo Indian Defense - 4.e3|
|Chess Opening Tutorial|
Overview - 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4
One of the best moves to meet the Nimzo Indian Defense (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4) is 4.e3 (ECO E40-59). Many authorities call this the 'Rubinstein Variation'.
Unlike other moves, 4.e3 doesn't attempt to refute Black's setup. White builds a strong center and aims for flexible development. One idea is to continue Ng1-e2, recapturing with the Knight if Black plays ...Bxc3+.
Of Black's several moves, the most common is 4...O-O. Now White has at least three continuations, which also come into consideration after Black's other 4th moves.
Another good move is 4...c5. It has independent value if Black plays ...d6 instead of ...d5. White again has 5.Bd3, 5.Nge2, and 5.Nf3. The sequence 5.Nf3 O-O 6.Bd3 is the same as above.
Other moves are 4...b6, 4...d5, and 4...Nc6.
B: Why not 4.e3 Bxc3+?
If Ng1-e2 is White's objective after 4.e3, why not play 4...Bxc3+ 5.bxc3 immediately? This is the position shown in the diagram.
The first thing to notice is the weak Pawn on c4, which can't be protected by another Pawn. Black can attack it with ...b6 & ...Ba6, then ...Nc6 & ...Na5, perhaps followed by maneuvering the Queen to a4. The second thing to notice is that if Black can entice White to play d4-d5, Black will get a good square on c5 for a Knight.
Experience has shown that the c4-Pawn is rarely lost. White can protect it as necessary with the Bishop, Knight, and Queen. During this maneuvering, White can also aim to play e3-e4. The Pawn on e4 supports an attack on Black's King castled Kingside, which has been abandoned by its pieces on the a-file (Ba6, Na5, Qa4) chasing the c4-Pawn.
Black would prefer to play ...Bxc3+ only after White has provoked it with a2-a3. Note the difference between the diagram and the continuation 4...O-O 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3. Black has castled while White has played the inconsequential 5.a3. Black has effectively gained a tempo on the diagram.
White in turn can avoid the doubled c-Pawns with 4...O-O 5.Nge2, which we'll look at below. If White waits longer to play a2-a3, as in 4...O-O 5.Bd3 d5 6.a3, Black can retreat 6...Be7 or 6...dxc4 7.Bxc4 Bd6, keeping the dark squared Bishop.
C: 4.e3 O-O 5.Bd3 d5 6.Nf3 c5 7.O-O Nc6
The diagram shows the position after 4.e3 O-O 5.Bd3 d5 6.Nf3 c5 7.O-O Nc6. This is one of the positions most frequently seen in the Nimzo Indian.
Play normally continues 8.a3 Bxc3 (8...Ba5 is also possible) 9.bxc3. Black has several main lines.
D: 4.e3 O-O 5.Bd3 d5 6.Nf3 c5 7.O-O
After 4.e3 O-O 5.Bd3 d5 6.Nf3 c5 7.O-O, as shown in the diagram, Black has moves other than 7...Nc6.
E: 4.e3 O-O 5.Bd3 c5
After 4.e3 O-O 5.Bd3, an alternative to 5...d5 is 5...c5, shown in the diagram. The first thing to notice is that the Pawn on c5 blocks any retreat of the Bishop to e7. The second is that after 6.Nf3, the move 6...d5 transposes into the variation we just saw.
After 6.Nf3, Black can instead play 6...Nc6, when a future ...d6 leads to a closed center, or 6...b6. Both moves lead to new struggles over e4.
White can also try 6.Nge2 or 6.a3 Bxc3+ 7.bxc3, intending 8.e4. This is stopped by 7...Nc6, but not by 7...b6 8.e4.
F: 4.e3 O-O 5.Nge2
The purest form of the Rubinstein Variation is probably the line 4.e3 O-O 5.Nge2, as shown in the diagram. Rubinstein played this variation in several games.
If 5...d5 6.a3, Black is not forced to take the Knight on c3. Better is 6...Be7, when White usually continues 7.cxd5.
Now 7...Nxd5 followed by 8.Qc2, 8.g3, or 8.Bd2 is playable, but Black more often plays 7...exd5. Here White can play to fianchetto the Bishop after 8.g3, or unblock it by 8.Ng3 or 8.Nf4.
G: 4.e3 c5 5.Bd3 (with ...d6)
The diagram shows the board after 4.e3 c5 5.Bd3. Once again, this line only has independent significance if Black plays ...d6 instead of ...d5; for example, 5...d5 6.Nf3 O-O leads to the main line that we've already seen. If Black plays 5...O-O immediately, it transposes into variations that start 4.e3 O-O 5.Bd3 c5.
If instead 5...Nc6, White can try 6.Nf3. This allows 6...Bxc3+ 7.bxc3 d6. Black blockades the White center with Pawns on the dark squares, which no longer hinder the dark squared Bishop. Continuations like 6...d5 or 6...O-O would lead back to known paths after 7.O-O. White can also play 6.Nge2.
Less sound is 5...b6, which Kasparov condemns as 'a mixture of two different plans'. White can play 6.Nge2 or 6.Nf3 Bb7 7.O-O O-O 8.Na4.
H: 4.e3 c5 5.Nge2
The diagram shows the position after 4.e3 c5 5.Nge2. White could have also continued 5.a3, allowing 5...Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 b6, but 5.Nge2, following Rubinstein's main idea, is stronger.
Now the Bishop's retreat is blocked after both 5...b6 6.a3 and 5...d5 6.a3. If, in that second line, Black tries 6...cxd4, White has 7.axb4 dxc3 8.Nxc3.
Black's best is 5...cxd4 6.exd4. There are still problems to solve after 6...d5 7.c5 or 6...O-O 7.a3 Be7 8.Nf4.
I: 4.e3 b6
The position in the diagram, which occurs after 4.e3 b6, is sometimes called the Bronstein Variation. Black waits to commit the c- and d-Pawns, while creating the option of playing the Bc8 to either a6 or b7.
White can play Rubinstein's move with
J: 4.e3 (with 4...d5 or 4...Nc6)
We've already seen three possibilities after 4.e3 : 4...O-O, 4...c5, and 4...b6. There are two other moves worth mentioning .
The first move is 4...d5. Now 5.Nf3 O-O 6.Bd3 transposes to a position we've seen, where 6...c5 is the same position that has cropped up again and again. After 5.a3, Black can continue 5...Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 c5, hindering White's plan to play f2-f3 and e3-e4. Alternatively, Black has 5...Be7. Now 6.Nf3 gives a position similar to the Queen's Gambit Declined, with the additional move a3 for White. In fact, the extra tempo has little importance, while White has shut in the Bc1.
The second move is 4...Nc6. White has the usual replies 5.Bd3, 5.Nge2, and 5.Nf3, while Black has made it more difficult to advance the c-Pawn.