Monday, March 13, 2017

How not to play a hypermodern defence like the Nimzo-Indian

The following game was played under correspondence chess rules on the ICCF server. It is one of my shortest ever wins, a true miniature with some nice touches. It is also highly instructive for average players or those new to strategic play.

Beginners will benefit from a study of it and experienced players will shake their heads as they enjoy the punishment of Black for taking liberties with one of the finest defences in the chess canon. My opponent varied at move 4 with the non-traditional Bxc3+ and never recovered.

In the Nimzo, you cannot concede a powerful pawn centre (space) to White, as well as time, and then hope to survive.

George Eraclides (Elo 1831) Versus Wynand de Wit (Elo 1744) January 2017

Nimzo-Indian Defence

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 Bxc3+ (not recommended; in the Nimzo-Indian you should hold onto the King’s Bishop until forced to exchange it by a3 or for other sound tactical reasons, none of which apply here; that said some players like to double c-pawns early because they see them as a strategic weakness if followed up correctly and White commits later  errors; normal is c5, b6, Nc6, or 0-0) 5.bxc3 O-O (White’s centre must be challenged or Black will be destroyed; that is the essence of Hypermodern play so therefore c5 could be tried; even b6 was preferable and at least in the spirit of the venerable Nimzovich) 6.Bd3 (threatening e4 and more space control) Nc6 (better was d5 with a cramped position but not yet lost) 7.e4 d5 (one move too late) 8.e5! (Black now has a Nimzo-Indian players worst nightmare; a strong White centre, unassailable in the short term, with a severe space and time deficit; Black is lost) Nd7 (slightly better than the alternative) 9.Qg4 f5 10.Qg3 (refusing to free Black’s game with PxPep and threatening Bh6) Kh8 11.Ba3 (here the Bishop dominates a critical diagonal; White’s classical play of simple moves gaining space and time has been made to look better than it normally is by Black’s poor opening) Rf7 (anywhere else and White wins a pawn after cxd5) 12.Nf3 h6 13.h4 Nf8 (hard to recommend anything else; Black hurries to defend his King but walks into a sacrifice of sorts) 14.Ng5 hxg5 (14...Rd7 15.cxd5 exd4 – Rxd5 is even worse – 16.Bxf5 loses quickly as well) 15.hxg5+ Kg8 16.Qh4 Rd7 17.Bxf8! Kxf8 (17...Qxf8 18.g6! and it’s over)18.Qh8+ Kf7 (18...Ke7 19.Qxg7 Ke8 20.Rh8++) 19.g6+! (if Kxg6 then Qh5++; if Ke7 it is mate in two) 1-0

A massacre. The lesson? Hypermodern play is no longer the modern concept it was in the 1930s and its ideas are well known today. Black concedes a pawn centre (space) to White in order to undermine it from a distance or by later pawn thrusts to create weaknesses. It is based on the insight of Nimzovich that you do not need to occupy the centre in order to be centralised; you can contest the centre from a distance e.g. a fianchetto or by various pins and restrictive strategy. All that is true but I think Tarrasch was right; it is better to occupy the centre space with pawns and then support them. The indirect approach is much harder to play in practice. You have to get it right or you will lose quickly. I know this because I too play the Nimzo-Indian; it is sound but you have to get the strategic moves right or you will have the middle-game from hell assuming you survive the opening.

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