Nimzo-Indian Defence


The Nimzo Indian Defence is a chess opening where Black wants to give up his bishop pair to double white’s c-pawns on the Queenside.

When this is done (called the Samisch Variation), Black wants to close up the board (by blocking white’s pawn center), so White can’t utilize his bishop pair as an advantage.

Then Black should close off the Kingside (by putting his Knight on h5 and pawn on f5) so White can’t successfully launch an attack.

Typically, then Black can attack on the Queenside, exchange pieces off and win the endgame.

The Nimzo can be played without needing to memorize lines or variations, and it is easy to switch to other variations (since the pawns end up closing up the position)

White's plans is to:

  1. Open up the position for the two bishops
  2. Launch an attack on the Black King, since White needs to attack before White’s positional weakness (doubled c-pawns) become huge weaknesses during the endgame

Black looks to:

  1. Double up the pawns on the c-file in exchange for his dark square bishop.
  2. With the knight on c3 being the key defender of the e4 square, Black can focus his energy on controlling the e4 and the light squares.

The Nimzo-Indian defence can be attacked in four different ways based on White's fourth move:

  • the Samisch Variation (4. a3)
  • the Rubinstein System (4. e3)
  • the Classical Variation (4. Qc2)
  • the Kasparov Variation (4. Nf3)

The Samisch Variation (4. a3) is where White lets Black execute his strategy and double his c- pawns (by trading the bishop for the Knight).

This, in general, is white’s worst option since Black typically gains an advantageous game.

The other variations (Rubinstein, Classical and Kasparov) do not allow White to get doubled pawns and try to prevent the doubled pawns in numerous ways.

The Rubinstein System is White's most common method of combating the Nimzo-Indian and prevents the doubled pawns by playing 5. Ne2 (which allows White to retake Knight with Knight)

Here, White accepts an isolated pawn position.

During the middle game, this isolated pawn can be used as an anchor for an attack and control space for White.

But during the endgame, this pawn becomes a huge weakness since it can just be blockaded/attacked by pieces.

White should choose this variation if he wants a more positional game and accepts that he needs to be aggressive and try to checkmate black in the middle game (or he will lose the endgame)

The Classical Variation is just as popular as the Rubinstein and White avoids the pawn weakness by playing 4. Qc2.

If Black chooses to exchange, White can take back with the Queen and avoid the permanent bad pawn structure (even though the Queen has to move twice to do this -- from d1 to c2 and from c2 to c3)

White should choose this variation if he prefers more aggressive games.

The Kasparov variation is not very popular at the amateur levels of chess but is very powerful at the master levels.

This variation is very strategic and is used to transposition (switch the board) from one position to another that your opponent is not familiar with defending.

The opening can change either to a Queen’s Gambit Ragozin Defense if black plays 4…d5, a Queen’s Indian if Black plays 4...b6, or a Nimzo Indian if black plays 4…c5.

By playing 4. Nf3, Black should place his pawns/pieces on dark squares (d6 and e5) using the dark square strategy instead of light squares (e6 and d5) which normally occurs.

That way he can keep his good bishop, pair of knights and close the board off from White.

Why Play The Nimzo-Indian Defence?

When playing against 1.e4, most people have a system to play against it (whether it is 1...e5, 1..c5, 1...e6, etc.)

But against 1.d4, a lot of players switch between different openings (Queen’s Pawn Declined, Slav, King’s Indian, etc.) and never really master one.

The Nimzo Indian opening, however, is an opening that is worth learning and mastering and can be used consistently and reliably against 1.d4

The benefits to the Nimzo Indian are:

  • It is possible to play this opening without needing to memorize many lines
  • Has a lot of similar themes across different variations
  • Puts asymmetries/imbalances on the board that are beneficial for Black to gain an edge without risking anything

The term nimzo means “flexible”.

Black's delay in committing to a pawn structure makes the Nimzo-Indian very flexible since it can transpose (swap) into different openings like the Queen’s Indian Defense, Queen’s Gambit, or Bogo-Indian Defense.

By pinning White's knight, Black prevents the White from playing e4 and Black wants to give White doubled pawns.

This ends up being a really effective strategy because it gives White a permanent weakness and gives Black concrete plan on how to beat White.

Because the Nimzo Indian is so troublesome, White has ways to avoid it (by playing 3.Nf3) and transitioning into a Bogo-Indian defense or a Catalan.

Luckily for Black, the same strategies and themes in the Nimzo Indian can be used in both (by using the dark squared strategy instead -- putting the pawns on c5, d6, and e5).

If you were to choose learning the Queen’s Indian Defense or Queen’s Gambit, you would have to learn an entirely new line against the Catalan as well.

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