Among the hyper modern chess openings, we find the Nimzo Indian Defense, which is a high level and positional opening for Black.
This opening in the Indian Opening was named after Aron Nimzowitschhence the “Nimzoname.
Aron Nimzowitsch is a chess theory specialist and has written multiple chess books which are still relevant more than 100 years later.
The Nimzo Indian Defense shows Black going head-on attacking the structure created by White after playing 1.d4.
One of the moves used is 3…Bb4which has the intention to create a double pawn structure and slow down White’s plans.
In this article, we will look at the different variations that can arise from playing this opening and how they will impact the structure from both sides.
Learning the variations is very important, so that what happened to Carlsen as a child, losing in the Nimzo Indian Defense in just 12 moves, does not happen to you. ☺
Basic Structure of the Nimzo Indian Defense
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4
The basic structure of the Nimzo Indian Defense finds both players taking different approaches towards the opening.
White is more focused on primarily having center control using the pawns.
It is very clear that White will not castle kingside anytime soon, but can just opt to castle queenside as that can be done after two move.
If White decides to castle kingsidethen there is a high possibility that they will have double pawns on the c-filewhich can be fixed when Black decides to fight for the center.
For Black, the main idea is to have king safety by casting first before launching an attack.
At an elite levelthis is fine, but lower-rated players should rather avoid this structure or understand it better before using it.
The main problem is that White will decide to use the whole kingside to launch an attack on Black’s kingside after they have castled.
In this video lesson, the RCA Academy Manager Angelo Kesaris will present to you some interesting games from the Fajarowicz variation in the Budapest Gambit. He will also explain the general ideas for Black and some of the brilliant traps in this variation.
Nimzo Indian Defense Variations
A key element for all the Nimzo Indian Defense variations is if White is going to accept to have doubled pawns or not and how White is going to deal with that weakness.
Nimzo Indian Defense, Classical Variation
Do you still remember when they told you to not move your queen out early in the chess game? “Well, why is it happening in this variation?” might be your question.
The classical variation finds the white queen moving to the c2-square, so that it can prevent White from having double pawns.
As 4…Bxc3 is met with 5.Qxc3the queen on the c2-square is also covering the e4 central square.
And also it is poised looking at the h7-square in case White wants to launch an aggressive attack.
In this position, Black can just play 40…0-0. This is to just ensure that the king is safe first, then start fighting for the center.
The critical error that lower-rated players make is to think that this variation for White is a mistake.
So, instead of continuing with their normal opening theorythey will rather opt to go into some positions which will lead to blunders.
There is an interesting gambit for you to play in this opening. Learn and play the Vitolins-Adorjan Gambit for the Nimzo Indian Defense, Classical Variation.
Nimzo Indian Defense, Spielmann Variation
In this position, White takes a rather straightforward approach in asking Black what exactly they plan to do with their bishop.
If 4…Bxc3 occurs, then 5.Qxc3 will occur and both players can safely continue with their piece development.
Black can decide to spice up the position by rather keeping everything intact after 4…c5.
Not only is the pawn challenging for the centerbut it also protects the bishop on b4.
White can approach this in multiple ways, but the safest ways are either 5.Nf3 or 5.Bd2.
With 5.Nf3this is just a developmental movesignifying that White has hopes to castle kingside. What this move also does is that it keeps the tension in the center intact.
5.Bd2on the other hand, finds White still trying to castle queenside to activate the rook to provide some assistance in the center.
The major problem with this idea might be Black’s light-squared bishop, as it will have some attacking squares on White’s queenside.
Nimzo Indian Defense, Three Knights Variation
In this variation, White is now deciding to develop their minor pieces on the kingside and castle.
Black has multiple moves to play, but the main ones are either 4…Bxc3 or 40…0-0.
The idea behind 4…Bxc3 is to leave White with a double pawn position with hopes that, if the opponent is not theoretically knowledgeable enough, they will panic.
40…0-0 signifies that Black does not want to make any mistakes that will involve White attacking the king.
As such, after casting, Black can safely launch any attacks either from the center or using their queenside.
This variation offers a slow position where both players have like four-plus move to develop their pieces Safely.
Nimzo Indian Defense, Normal Line
Now here we learn about the normal line played. In this position, White just played a normal developmental move by opening up squares for their light-squared bishop.
The bishop will be able to play to the e2 and d3-squareswhile also protect the pawn on c4.
Again this signifies that White’s plans are to castle kingside and also keep a pawn on the d4-squareas the e3-pawn will replace the d4-pawn in case it’s captured.
For Black, there are two main options to consider, which are 4…Bxc3 or 40…0-0.
If Black opts to play 4…Bxc3then they leave White with a doubled pawn after 5.bxc3.
Meanwhile 4.0-0 signifies that Black plans to keep their bishop pair intact and also the position as it is.
Both sides will have to come up with a solid planand it will revolve around either wanting to open the position up by exchanging pieces or just going for a closed position.
Nimzo Indian Defense, Romanishin Variation
The plan from White’s perspective is very simple: they plan to fianchetto the bishop.
This will create a solid structure protecting White’s king, and also the bishop will have control of a long diagonalwhich cuts through central squares(e4 and d5).
Black has the option to play 4…Bxc3 and just create doubled pawns yet again in this position.
Or play 40…0-0ensuring king’s safety as it is rare to see white building up a great defensive structurethen destroying it by using the pieces to launch a premature attack.
This is yet another settled variation for both sides. This gives both players an equal chance to come up with solid preparation to use.
If you want to make the Nimzo Indian Defense one of your openings, study the course How to Play Chess with Black Pieces (Nimzo-Indian Defense).
Nimzo Indian Defense, Leningrad Variation
In this position, White notices the absolute pin and decides to deliver a pin of their own, which is considered to be a relative pin on the knight and queen.
Going forth, White might have an open queenside position to use to launch some attacks if Black decides to play 4…Bxc3.
Alternatively, Black can decide to keep the position closed by playing 40…0-0 and ensuring that their king is safe.
The third option would be to attack the bishop on the g5-square by playing 4…h6. This leaves White with the question of what the way forward is.
If 5.Bxf6 occurs, then 5…Qxf6 will occur, and the position will continue with the same commotion at the same level as before.
However, if 5.Bh4 occurs, then Black can take an aggressive approach by playing 5…g5.
This leaves the white bishop having to retreat to the g3-square. It also means that Black has a damaged kingside.
The kingside can be used as an attacking instrument while resorting to the queenside for the king’s safety.
The following variation can also work well for both sides: 4…h6 5.Bh4 0-0.
Black’s idea to escape the relative pin would be to retract the bishop on b4 back to e7 or, alternatively, develop the queensidethen play Nbd7 at some point.
We are close to finish, and you may be wondering where is the Samisch Variation. Well, watch here the video lesson Nimzo-Indian Defense, Samisch Variation.
Nimzo Indian Defense, Kmoch Variation
In this position, White plays an unorthodox 4.f3 move, which can be seen as damaging the kingside.
But, in actual reality, this move is doing the following to aid White’s position:
- White might be preparing to play e4 and, in the case that the e4-pawn is captured, the f3-pawn will recapture.
- With this move, the dark-squared bishop can be played on f2. Not only will the bishop be acting as an extra protection mechanism for the king, but will be covering the d4-pawn.
Black can choose to be aggressive by playing 4…Bxc3+ 5.bxc3causing a double pawn position. Then he can start an attack on White’s kingside, as it is clear that it’s the only side that the white king can possibly hope to find shelter from.
If you want to learn this opening in depth, be sure to study our full chess course How to Play the Nimzo with Doubled Pawns.
The Nimzo Indian Defense leaves both players with multiple questions as to what their plan going forth for both sides is. The players need to put their minds into the kind of game they want to create for themselves.
For Black, it provides counter-attacking chancesconsidering that most pieces would not have been activated yet. Hence, we see Black rushing to protect the king first before anything else.
If given the chance to double White’s pawns on the queensidethe player using the black pieces can consider capturing with the knowledge that White probably will not castle queenside.
As for White, the idea is to rather study the opening further, understanding the different positions that might arise after the first five moves. Because here White does not castle immediately and, when they decide to do that, it might be on the queenside.
The question for White will always be “Am I going to allow Black to double my pawns or not… And if they are doubled, how am I going to deal with that weakness going forth?.