Aron Nimzowitsch - The Greatest Opening Innovator

  • GM Gserper
  • | Aug 4, 2013

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...



  • 3 years ago


    nice artical

  • 3 years ago



  • 3 years ago


    Let's salute the father of positional chess.

  • 3 years ago



    In 1911, Grigory Levenfish was just a young 22 years old master, and it was his first ever international tournament. So, Nimzowitsch used his method against a future very strong grandmaster.

    The source of the game is Nimzo's Chess Praxis, by the way.

  • 3 years ago


    Recommend that you check the source for the Nimzowitsch vs Levenfish game.  Black missed a free pawn on move 7 with Nxe5.  Then on moves 21-23 black blunders 2 pawns for no compensation. 

    GM Grigory Levenfish could not have played the black pieces.  He was one of the strongest GMs of his era, twice Soviet Champion, and drew a match with Mikhail Botvinnik.

  • 3 years ago


    great article..

  • 3 years ago



    Tigran Petrosian even wrote a foreword for the second USSR edition of Chess Praxis.

  • 3 years ago


    Tigran Petrosian's favorite book was My System. He was one of the first world champion who follows Nimzowitsch's ideas especially blockade. Tarrasch was exact opposite to Nimzo's ideas. Still today we don't know who is right. Probably there is no correct or wrong answer about controlling the centre with either pawns or pieces. But one thing we are sure, Nimzowitsch was almost totally correct about positional play and prophylaxis. It doesn't mean he was weak on tactics. He was a perfect tactician. He just wanted to show his system with great energy. Karpov was also another follower of Nimzo, but not religiously as Tigran, but he studied My System carefully and use his ideas combined with Tarrasch's. Chess is a complicated game. In Nimzowitsch's time there were many dogmatic players, Aron broke this dogmatism. This is the most imporant point I guess.

  • 3 years ago


    Cool article! :)

  • 3 years ago


    Nimzovich became a favorite of mine recently. I have his book in pdf format (My System) and am trying to get through it. I felt he played along my thinking and figured, "I have another GM who plays like I think (I'm no grandmaster by far...) since he plays for tempo. 

  • 3 years ago


    Each year I study one book on chess completely; this year it is "My system". So for me, this is a timely article. I have noticed the impact of this book on my games, especially "over the board" games, where I find myself trying to control the centre with pieces. Coincidentally, I found a couple of situations in five minutes games on where a situation described in "My system" arose - but this is a conicidence rather than anything significant. Thank you for the article.

  • 3 years ago


    Good article showing how a simple idea (originated by Nimzowitsch) could be used in games by different masters belonging to different generations . This article remembers me a painting exhibition I saw years ago in Verona. A very inspired curator arranged the paintings to show the influence "older" masters had on "newer" one through centuries. 

    The only observation I have is this: the lack of comments for some games is a little bit frustrating for the viewer. Please, write if possible more articles exemplifying the development of chess ideas through years.

  • 3 years ago



    Read the articles batgirl posted (and no, I don't recommend them just because I translated them). You'll probably reconsider much of what you think you knew about Nimzowitsch.

  • 3 years ago


    velocifero, you can have all the talent in the world, you won't make it to the world elite without a good understanding of positional play.

    You won't even get past 2000 FIDE elo.

  • 3 years ago


    you need to watch what you're saying.  Positional players improve the positions of their pieces and are ready for long, thoughtful games full of subtle tactics that they handle with finesse.

  • 3 years ago


    The positional players are built-chess players without natural talent. They are all Nimtzovich's sons.

    The real way to be a chess player is "to look to create or to attack " some weak to catch iniziative.

    Alekine is the master of the chess and the best chess player in the History.

    How many game Nimzovitch did win against Alekine?

  • 3 years ago



    Well, to be fair, Nimzowitsch was reviled in the press, especially by Tarrasch.

  • 3 years ago


    i love to play Nimzowitsch Defenseso I would like to see games and thoughts where Nimzowitsch played black.

  • 3 years ago


    And your point in repeating Chasm1995's comment is...?Cool

  • 3 years ago


    I don't know if I should like him, because I found this article interesting, or dislike him, because I dislike playing against the Nimzo-Indian.Smile

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