Main Line of the Nimzo-Indian Defense

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The Nimzo Indian Defense is one of the most popular responses to d4. It’s played on all levels, and it hasn’t lost its popularity ever since it’s inventor, the great Aaron Nimzowitsch, introduced it in the early 20th century.

For the basics of the opening and plans and ideas for both sides, watch this introductory video:

The main line of this popular defense starts after white plays e4 on move 4. This is the most solid of all options white has against the Nimzo. Unlike all the other moves he can play, e3 prepares to simply develop and castle. In most other lines, white falls behind in development and allows black a quick positioning of his pieces in exchange for the broad center and making sure that black can’t take on c3, doubling white’s pawns. In the main line, therefore, white often does have to accept the fact that black can take on c3 and ruin his structure.

In several variations of the main line, white also has to accept having an isolated queens pawn. This is not the place to argue whether that’s a weakness or a strength, but it’s definitely a big thing to consider. Having an IQP means that you have to play dynamically and aggressively. It also means that you shouldn’t be trading pieces off. If you do, your pawn will become weaker and weaker, and in any endgame, black will be better.

As for black, his choices are diverse. The main line Nimzo can be met with three different moves, which lead to three different setups and types of positions,. Black can play b6, c6 or simply castle. I prefer the move c5, it seems to be more aggressive than the main move.

So the e3 Nimzo Indian starts after:

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3, and here are the variations black could choose from:

5. Bd3 Bishop Attack
5. Ne2 Reshevsky Variation
4…c5 Huebner Variation
4…b6 St. Petersburg Variation



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