It is difficult to find a chess player who could be compared with Aron Nimzowitsch by his contribution to modern opening theory. When we talk about Nimzowitsch's opening heritage many chess players would instantly think about the defense against 1.d4 named after him. But of course he's not just the Nimzo-Indian Defense. In my opinion it is not exaggeration to say that any semi-open game in chess has something to do with Aron Nimzowitsch's theory which he described in his iconic book My System.
Today we will discuss his novel approach towards the center. The only acceptable way to play an opening before Nimzowitch was to place your pawns in the center. If you refused to do that, your opening would be called 'irregular' and 'incorrect'. Check the old books and you will see many of the contemporary openings (like the Pirc or Modern for example) in this category.
Aron Nimzowitsch was one of the first strong chess players who demonstrated that you can give up the pawn center if you can replace pawns with your pieces. Here is how one of his most famous games started (notice White's solid pawn center):
Now compare it to White's center after his 17th move:
In the next game Nimzowitsch used the same idea against a very strong grandmaster:
Of course modern grandmasters readily 'borrowed' Nimzowitsch's concept:
But replacing the central pawns with his pieces was not enough for Nimzowitsch and in the numerous games he replaced his central pawn with the opponent's!
If you think that almost 100 years old opening experiments of Nimzowitsch are obsolete and irrelevant for modern opening theory played by leading grandmasters, compare these two games:
Besides the fact that in both cases Black didn't manage to survive to move 30, both games also share the same position. But I have no doubt that attentive readers of our site noticed that a very strong and experienced GM from Germany managed to get the same position being a tempo down (it is Black's move in Nimzowitsch's game)!
To be continued...