Nimzo-Indian Defense: A Fantastic Opening Against 1. d4

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.

Nimzo-Indian Defense Chess Opening Main Position

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:

Nimzo Indian

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

Nimzo Indian a3

Summary: White gets a strong center in this variation, but the c4 pawn will be a constant problem. Black plans to attack this pawn with the Bishop, Knight and Queen.

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.

Nimzo Indian b6

The line could continue with 6. f3 Ba6 7. e4 Nc6 8. Bg5 Qc8:

Nomzo Indian Main Ideas

Game Plan Against 4. Qc2

Nimzo Indian Qc2

Summary: White plays Qc2 to stop the creation of a doubled pawn and to support e4. Black replies with Nc6 and wants to play d6 and e5. Black is ready to trade the bishop on b4 against the knight.

Black replies with 4. … Nc6 and gets ready to play e5 after 5. Nf3 with 5. … Nd6.

Nimzo Indian Chess

The line could continue: 6. Bd2 0-0 7. a3 Bxc3 8. Bxc3 Qe7 9. e4 e5

Nimzo Indian Chess e5

Game Plan Against 4. e3

Nimzo Indian e3

Summary: White has two ways to continue play after 4. e3: 5. Bd3 and 5. Ne2. Black always replies with 4. … b6 and executes the financhetto against 5. Bd3. Against 5. Ne2, black tries to get dynamic play with 5. … Ba6.

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.

Nimzo Bd3

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.

Nimzo Ne2

Game Plan Against 4. f3

Bildschirmfoto 2020 09 02 um 19.57.22

Summary: White wants to dominate the center. Black immediately plays d5 and keeps the bishop on b4 instead of exchanging it to get dynamic play on the black squares.

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.

Bildschirmfoto 2020 09 02 um 19.57.41

The game can continue with: 6. e4 dxe4 7. fxe4 e5 8. d5 Bc5 and white’s black squares are weak.

Bildschirmfoto 2020 09 02 um 19.57.53

Game Plan Against 4. g3

Bildschirmfoto 2020 09 02 um 19.58.10

Summary: White strives for fast development — but 4. g3 is slow. Black can take the initiative quickly with 4. … c5 and 5. … Ne4 and put the knight on c3 under pressure.

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.

Bildschirmfoto 2020 09 02 um 19.58.40

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.

Bildschirmfoto 2020 09 02 um 19.58.58

Black will play Nc6 and d5 and achieve a comfortable game.

Game Plan Against 4. Qb3

Bildschirmfoto 2020 09 02 um 20.00.06

Summary: Black can cover the bishop with natural developing moves. He can also use the square e4 which is, unlike in the line with Qc2, not covered by the queen.

Qb3 is the weaker queen move and easily gives black a good game after 4. … c5 5.dxc5 Nc6 6. Nf3 Ne4.

Bildschirmfoto 2020 09 02 um 20.00.51

Game Plan Against 4. Bg5

Bildschirmfoto 2020 09 02 um 20.01.25

Summary: Black replies with h6, which forces white to commit the bishop to h4. Black continues with c5 and wants to create a closed position with weak doubled pawns for white.

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.

Bildschirmfoto 2020 09 02 um 20.02.00

Game Plan Against 4. Bd2

Bildschirmfoto 2020 09 02 um 20.02.15

Summary: Black has an easy game here, the bishop on d2 is not placed on the optimal square. Black develops naturally and follows a3 up with Bxc3. After the white bishop takes back, black can easily exchange it with Ne4.

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.

Bildschirmfoto 2020 09 02 um 20.02.34

Some white players will try to dodge the strong Nimzo-Indian Defense by playing 3. Nf3 instead of 3. Nc3.

Bildschirmfoto 2020 09 02 um 20.02.55

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.