Checkia – SmithyQ, Feb 2017: White’s Nizmo Nightmare

The Nizmo-Indian is probably the best opening Black can play.  It’s completely sound.  It can be super-tactical or pure positional.  It introduces imbalances at an early stage, allowing the stronger player to outplay a weaker one.  The positions are diverse, and ten games can have ten completely different positions by move 10.

Honestly, the only downside is that White can completely avoid it by not playing an early c4 or Nc3, which is admittedly frustrating.

The following game shows about the worst that can happen to White: an imprecise move leads to a small blunder, and suddenly White is naked facing a flood.  Let’s take a look.

[Event “2- Chess is for fun – Round 4”]
[Site “Chess.com”]
[Date “2017.02.05”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Checkia”]
[Black “SmithyQ”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “E30”]
[WhiteElo “1775”]
[BlackElo “2165”]
[PlyCount “50”]
[EventDate “2017.??.??”]
[TimeControl “1”]

{White plays the opening poorly and then never really has a chance.} 1. d4 Nf6
2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 {In all honesty, I’m not an especially good Nimzo player,
and I don’t find many of the positions especially intuitive, but there’s no
doubting it’s a fantastic opening, one well worth learning.} 4. Bg5 {Theory
isn’t kind to this move, but I’ve always thought it to be fairly principled.
Black is going to trade his dark-square Bishop, so why take advantage and
install an unbreakable pin? The main disadvantage is that it weakens the White
Queenside, as we will quickly see.} c5 5. a3 $6 {A waste of time, as Black is
going to trade anyway. d5 is the mainline.} ({Just to show the potential
danger for White, the obvious move leads to immediate disadvantage.} 5. e3 $2
Qa5 $1 {[%cal Gb4c3,Gc5d4,Ga5g5,Gf6e4] Black is threatening Bxc3+, winning a
pawn and disrupting the Black King, as well as Ne4, attacking c3 and the
Bishop g5, as well as cxd4, letting the Queen attack the Bishop as well. Black
will win material}) 5… Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 Qa5 {This is the most natural move,
which is similar to the line shown above. What I love about the Nimzo, though,
is that Black can play this position in so many different ways.} ({Here is one
option, very positional in nature.} 6… d6 7. Nf3 Nc6 8. e3 O-O 9. Bd3 e5 {
Black has no dark-square Bishop, so he puts all his pawns on dark squares.
Play might continue.} 10. d5 Na5 11. O-O b6 12. Qe2 Ba6 {[%cal Ga5c4,Ga6c4]
White is tied down defending his weak pawn. Black has no weaknesses, and
White’s two Bishops are worth little in this blocked position. Black will
later expand on the Kingside with decent play.}) ({Another option is to use
pure piece play.} 6… h6 7. Bxf6 (7. Bh4 g5 8. Bg3 Ne4 9. Qc2 f5 {is a fun,
Dutch-like double-edged position.}) 7… Qxf6 8. e3 b6 {[%cal Gc8b7,Gb7h1]
Black will play some combination of Bb7, d5 and dxc4, getting play on the long
diagonal. This is why you never get bored with the Nizmo: there are so many
different ways to play.}) 7. Qc2 $6 {This thematic move (in most normal
positions) has a pretty big drawback, namely it hangs the d4-pawn due to the
pin. White likely saw that Qd2? Ne4 is simply losing, and Rc1 allows Qxa3, but
Qc2 isn’t much better.} ({For better or worse, White had to try} 7. Bd2 {
True, it wastes time and his opening is a failure, but he’s not losing.}) 7…
cxd4 {[%cal Ra5e1]} 8. Nf3 Nc6 $6 {Rather than taking on c3 right away, I
decide to develop and keep the tension. This looks intuitive and strong, but
it gives White an interesting opportunity.} (8… Ne4 {This is the computer’s
recommendation, which I contemplated but didn’t like falling so behind in
development.} 9. Bd2 (9. Qxe4 $2 Qxc3+ 10. Kd1 Qxa1+ 11. Kc2 {at the time I
was vaguely worried that White;s big lead in development might lead to danger
against my King, but looking at it now, White has nothing for the material
disadvantage.}) 9… Nxd2 10. Nxd2 Qxc3 11. Qxc3 dxc3 12. Ne4 {Though this is
not as good as what happens in the game (hence why I didn’t play it), it
prevents a White possibility that I missed, hence why it is better.}) 9. Kd1 $6
{Poor White. He didn’t want to play e3, he couldn’t take on d4, he didn’t know
what to do … and so he tried to get out of the pin the only way he thought
possible.} (9. Bd2 {This retreat is now surprisingly strong, and it’s a much
better way of breaking the pin.} dxc3 10. Bxc3 Qh5 11. g3 O-O 12. Bg2 {White
is down a pawn, yes, but in exchange he has two very good Bishops and a
half-open d-file staring straight at my backward pawn. My Bishop is very
passive, and White can make pressure. He has full compensation for the pawn,
and this is why my natural 8…Nc6 was an inaccuracy.}) 9… dxc3 10. e3 d5 {
With his King stuck in the centre, I immediately try to open it up. Simple
stuff.} ({The computer prefers} 10… b6 {by a decent margin. Both try to get
the light-square Bishop in the game, but b7 or a6 are both better squares than
d7. I was slightly worried that my Queen might feel exposed, what with the
b6-pawn stopping any potential retreats. Besides, d5 can’t be a mistake. I
should point out the more I let the computer think, the more it prefers Black
in the mainlines with d5 instead.}) 11. Bxf6 gxf6 12. cxd5 Qxd5+ 13. Qd3 {
White would obviously love an exchange of Queens, which I rightly refuse.} Qa5
{It’s extremely hard to find a good move for White here. Moving the Rook hangs
the a3 pawn. Be2 doesn’t do much. g3 and Bg2 makes sense but takes a lot of
time. What can White really do?} 14. Kc2 $2 {This move looks good on first
blush, trying to pick off the annoying c-pawn, but it has a tactical
refutation.} Nb4+ $1 15. axb4 Qxa1 16. Qxc3 Qxc3+ 17. Kxc3 {The dust has
settled after my little combination, and now I’m up an exchange and a pawn.
Worse for White, despite my undeveloped state, I actually have the far better
position! Two moves will show why.} Bd7 18. Bc4 Bc6 {[%csl Yf6][%cal Gc6g2,
Gh8g8,Gg8g2,Yf6e5,Yf6g5,Yf3e5,Yf3g5] My Bishop completely dominates the White
Knight. It can’t move or it costs a pawn. In addition, I have the open g-file,
which allows my Rook to pressure the very same pawn. Finally, my ‘weak’
doubled-pawn completely stops the Knight from finding a good square even if it
could move. I can’t overstate this enough, but when it comes to the long
diagonal, a Bishop against the Knight is much stronger for the Bishop, and
that advantage only increases the less pieces there are.} ({That said, for
completion sake} 18… Rc8 {is more accurate, as it gains a tempo. White must
move his King.} 19. Kb3 (19. Rd1 $2 b5 {[%cal Gc8c3] and the pin wins.}) 19…
Rg8 20. Rg1 Bc6 {and we reach an improved version of the maingame, with extra
moves for Black.}) 19. Rd1 Rg8 20. b5 {The pressure mounts against g2, so
White tries to provoke a trade. Unfortunately, it just makes things worse.}
Bxf3 21. gxf3 Rg2 {Now my Rook is a monster, and he can’t save his pawns.} 22.
Rd2 Rxh2 23. f4 {This is an interesting moment. White is still trying to make
threats. If I do nothing, f5 could be annoying.} f5 {Stops any potential White
ideas, and also, it keeps my pawns on light-squares, keeping White’s Bishop as
passive as possible.} (23… Ke7 24. f5 {leaves me with a choice.} e5 (24…
exf5 {[%csl Gf5,Gf6,Gf7] My tripled pawns are ugly and hard to defend.}) 25.
Bd5 {[%cal Ge3e4,Gd5b7] and White will play e5 and cement in his fantastic
Bishop. Am I still winning? Of course, but it’s not so easy. Why allow any of
this when I could stop it with one move?}) 24. Kc2 Rd8 {I offer the exchange
of Rooks, which of course White must not allow.} 25. Re2 h5 {And now, with is
pieces awkwardly placed and my h-pawn set to march down the board, he resigns.
White made several small errors which snowballed into an early defeat.} 0-1

Conclusions

I don’t think I can distill a single teaching moment from this game.  I think it simply shows the worst possible result out of an opening.  Black got to do everything he wanted, and White was in a mess despite making fairly natural moves throughout the first eight moves.  Perhaps we can take this as a warning to developing the Queenside too early in the Nimzo.

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