Today I want to introduce you to the Nimzo-Indian Defense.
What is the Nimzo-Indian Defense?
The Nimzo-Indian Defense is a chess opening that occurs after the move order 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4.
The Nimzo-Indian is a popular opening against 1. d4 because it’s natural to play for black.
It is, however, also a difficult opening to learn, because white has many possible replies. This means that the Nimzo-Indian Defense requires a high amount of theory.
If you do decide to learn it though, you’ll be rewarded with an opening that lasts for a lifetime and will not be refuted by the white player.
Main Lines of the Nimzo-Indian Defense
White has 9 (!) possible fourth moves that are considered to be playable after 3. Nc3:
In the following, I will give a short summary of the game plan against each of those moves, which you can use as a quick guide to get started with the Nimzo-Indian Defense.
Game Plan Against 4. a3
After a3, black trades the bishop against the knight with 4. … Bxc3+ and after 5. bxc3, black plays the immediate 5. … b6 to target the pawn on c4.
The line could continue with 6. f3 Ba6 7. e4 Nc6 8. Bg5 Qc8:
Game Plan Against 4. Qc2
Black replies with 4. … Nc6 and gets ready to play e5 after 5. Nf3 with 5. … Nd6.
The line could continue: 6. Bd2 0-0 7. a3 Bxc3 8. Bxc3 Qe7 9. e4 e5
Game Plan Against 4. e3
Black replies with the immediate 4. … b6. We have a crossroad here. White can play Bd3 or Ne2.
In case of Bd3, black can go for natural development with Bb7, 0-0 and c5.
A possible continuation could be: 5. Bd3 Bb7 6. Nf3 0-0 7. 0-0 c5.
After 5. Ne2, black can play the interesting move 5. … Ba6 to exploit the fact that the c4 pawn is not protected. This line is very theoretical, but black generally exchanges the bishop on c3 and plays d5.
For example: 6. a3 Bxc3 7. Nxc3 d5 b3 0-0 9. Be2 dxc4 10. bxc4 Nc6.
Game Plan Against 4. f3
Black replies with the immediate 4. … d5 to keep some control over the center. White’s best response is 5. a3, because now that d5 has been played, capturing on c3 wouldn’t create long-term doubled pawns anymore.
Instead, black plays 5. … Be7! and looks for play on the black squares.
The game can continue with: 6. e4 dxe4 7. fxe4 e5 8. d5 Bc5 and white’s black squares are weak.
Game Plan Against 4. g3
Black immediately plays 4. … c5 to attempt to punish white’s slow play.
White has to reply with 5. Nf3, which enables black to play 5. … Ne4, putting pressure on the knight on c3.
The following line is highly tactical and I recommend that you play through it on your own: 6. Qd3 cxd4 7. Nxd4 Qa5 8. Nb3 Nxc3 9. Bd2 Ne4 10. Qxe4 Bxd2+ 11. Nxd2 0-0.
Black will play Nc6 and d5 and achieve a comfortable game.
Game Plan Against 4. Qb3
Qb3 is the weaker queen move and easily gives black a good game after 4. … c5 5.dxc5 Nc6 6. Nf3 Ne4.
Game Plan Against 4. Bg5
Bg5 is not the best move for white. First, black challenges the black bishop with 4. … h6, cutting the white bishop from the c1-h6 diagonal after 5. Bh4. Taking the knight gives black an easy game after Qxf6.
After that, black plays 5. … c5. After 6. d5 Bxc3 7. bxc3 d6 8. e3 e5 9. f3 Bf5 10. e4 Bc8, the position is closed and the white light-squared bishop is completely locked down.
Game Plan Against 4. Bd2
This harmless and passive attempt by white is easy to play against. Black has to simply play the natural line 4. … 0-0 5. a3 Bxc3 6. Bxc3 Ne4 7. Qc2 Nxc3 8. Qxc3 d6 and easily achieves a good game.
Some white players will try to dodge the strong Nimzo-Indian Defense by playing 3. Nf3 instead of 3. Nc3.
In these cases, I recommend that you take a look at the Bogo-Indian.
Is the Nimzo Indian Defense a good opening?
The Nimzo-Indian Defense is a great chess opening that’s been played by strong grandmasters for centuries.
Super-Grandmaster such as Ding Liren, Fabiano Caruana or Magnus Carlsen play the Nimzo-Indian Defense on a regular basis.