Son of Nimzovich

Son of Nimzovich

| 12 | Amazing Games

xombie said, “I aim for a restraint formation to prevent black’s development and park on the light squares, following which some tactics emerge in the form of a pawn break and a knight sacrifice. Black’s pieces are too slow to prevent collapse, and he gets mated. So the game ends rather violently after starting out with some innocent weak square play.”

I usually use games where the sender makes lots of mistakes so I can see what his personal chess weaknesses are and help fix them. There’s a bit of that here, but the fact is that xombie played a wonderful game. However, my attraction to his play goes deeper than that: I’ve never seen an amateur get so involved in basic Nimzovichian concepts. Xombie acts like a seek-and-destroy robot when a weak square appears, he agonizes over holes, and he gasps in ecstasy when he’s able to demonstrate the advanced concept of restriction. This makes his games incredibly instructive, and more than a bit impressive (of course, if I could see his losses I might be able to figure out what his main weakness are – xombie, if you want to reach master, you need to toss aside a bit of vanity and put your worst moments out there for all to see).

In fact, after looking at several of his games, I came to the conclusion that he was Nimzovich himself in a past life! But how can I prove this? I pondered this question for a while, and then noticed this piece by Hans Kmoch:

“Nimzovich suffered from the delusion that he was unappreciated and that the reason was malice. All it took to make him blossom, as I later learned, was a little praise. His paranoia was most evident when he dined in company. He always thought he was served much smaller portions than everyone else. He didn’t care about the actual amount but only about the imagined affront. I once suggested that he and I order what the other actually wanted and, when the food was served, exchange plates. After we had done so, he shook his head in disbelief, still thinking that he had received the smaller portion.” 

Yes! That’s it! I will eventually treat xombie to a meal and if he complains that he got the smaller portion, then my reincarnation theory will become fact! All you readers – please don’t alert xombie to my plot! It will be our secret. 

Okay, now it’s time to step into the fascinating world of xombie chess!

xombie (1899) vs. NN (2063) FICS standard game 2009 [A10]

1.c4 b6 2.Nc3 Bb7 3.e4 

An excellent move – Black let White have the center so he might as well take it and dare Black to break it down. Another way to do this is 3.d4 e6 4.a3 (defending the e4-square by preventing …Bb4), which is also extremely popular. Here’s a quick sample:

R. Wojtaszek (2605) – Ch. Bauer (2627), Montpellier 2006

1.d4 b6 2.c4 Bb7 3.Nc3 e6 4.a3 f5 5.d5 Nf6 6.g3 Na6 7.Bg2 Nc5 8.Nh3 Bd6 9.0-0 Be5 10.Qc2 0-0 11.Bd2 Qe8 12.Rad1 a5 13.Nf4 Nce4 14.Nxe4 Nxe4 15.Bc1 a4 16.Bxe4 fxe4 17.Qxe4 Bxf4 18.Bxf4 exd5 19.Qc2 c5 20.cxd5 Qh5 21.e4 Rxf4 22.gxf4 Qg4+ 23.Kh1 Qf3+ 24.Kg1 Qg4+, 1/2-1/2.


A tad rare, but some big names have given it a shot. Black’s main choice is 3…e6:

1.c4 e6 2.Nc3 b6 3.Nf3 Bb7 4.e4 Bb4 5.Bd3 Ne7 6.0-0 0-0 7.Bc2 (7.a3 Bxc3 8.dxc3 d6 9.Re1 Nd7 10.Nd2 Ng6 11.Bc2 a5 12.a4 Nc5 13.Nf1 e5 14.f3 Ne7 15.Ne3 Bc8 16.Nd5 Be6 17.Bg5 f6 18.Bh4 Kh8 19.b4 Nd7 20.Qd2 Ng6 21.Bf2 Qc8 22.Red1 Rd8 23.h4 Ngf8 24.Rab1 Bf7 25.Bb3 Qb7 26.Qa2 h5 27.c5 dxc5 28.Ne7 Ng6 29.Bxf7 Nxe7 30.Qe6, 1-0, Y. Drozdovskij (2603) – D. Semcesen (2387), Copenhagen 2009) 7…f5 8.exf5 Bxf3 9.Qxf3 Nbc6 10.Ne2 Bc5 11.f6 Ng6 12.Be4 Rxf6 13.Qh3 Qf8 14.d4 Nxd4 15.Nxd4 Bxd4 16.Bxa8 Rxf2 17.Be3 Nf4 18.Qg4 Rxf1+ 19.Kxf1 Bxe3 20.Qf3 Qc5 21.b3 Ng6 22.Re1 Bd4 23.Be4 Ne5 24.Qf4 b5 25.cxb5 Qxb5+ 26.Re2 c5 27.Qh4 g6 28.Bc2 Qb8 29.Re4 Qb5+ 30.Re2 Qb8 31.Re4 Nc6 32.Rg4 Bg7 33.Qg3 Be5 34.Qf2 Bd4 35.Qg3 Qf8+ 36.Rf4 Qh6 37.Qh4 Qxh4 38.Rxh4 Nb4 39.Bb1 Nd5 40.Be4 Ne3+ 41.Ke2 d5 42.Bf3 e5 43.Rh3 h5 44.Bxh5 Nxg2 45.Rg3 Nf4+ 46.Kf3 Nxh5 47.Rxg6+ Kf7 48.Ra6 e4+ 49.Kg4 e3 50.Rxa7+ Kf6 51.Kf3 c4 52.Ra6+ Kf5 53.bxc4 Nf4 54.cxd5 e2 55.Re6 Nxe6 56.Kxe2 Nf4+ 57.Kf3 Nxd5 58.a4 Bb6 59.h4 Nc3 60.h5 Nxa4 61.h6 Nc3 62.h7 Bd4 63.Kg3 Kg6 64.Kf3 Kxh7 65.Kg4 Kg6 66.Kf3 Kf5 67.Kg3 Be3 68.Kf3 Bf4 69.Kg2 Kg4 70.Kf2 Bd2 71.Kg2 Be1 72.Kf1 Bh4 73.Kg2 Bg3 74.Kg1 Kf3 75.Kh1 Ne4 76.Kg1 Nf2 77.Kf1 Bh2 78.Ke1 Ne4 79.Kd1 Ke3 80.Kc2 Nd2, 0-1, U. Smirin (2691) – S. Atalik (2537), Sarajevo 2001.


xombie said, “I had seen somewhere that this scheme of development is quite effective against the …Bb7 setup. It stands to reason that the pseudo-stonewall should work well in blocking the bishop on the long diagonal.”

White’s most popular choice nowadays is 4.Nf3, though play remains complicated, with chances for both sides:

1.c4 b6 2.Nc3 Bb7 3.e4 e5 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.d4 (5.Be2 g6 6.d4 exd4 7.Nxd4 Bg7 8.Be3 Nge7 9.h4 h5 10.0-0 d6 11.Nf3 Qd7 12.Qb3 0-0-0 13.Rfd1 f5 14.c5 fxe4 15.Nxe4 d5 16.cxb6 axb6 17.Rac1 Qf5 18.Neg5 Rd6 19.Qa3 Rhd8 20.Bd3 Qf6 21.b4 Nf5 22.Bf4 R6d7 23.Rxc6 Qxc6 24.Rc1 Qf6 25.Qa7 Nd6 26.Ba6 Re7 27.Bxd6 Rxd6 28.Qxb7+ Kd8 29.Qc8 mate, A. Shabalov (2569) – A. Melekhina (2287), 37th World Open 2009.) 5…exd4 6.Nxd4 Bb4 7.Nxc6 Bxc3+ 8.bxc3 Bxc6 9.Qd4 Qf6 10.Bd3 Qg6 11.0-0 Ne7 12.Ba3 d6 13.f3 Qg5 14.f4 Qa5 15.Bb4 Qh5 16.Rf3 Bd7 17.Rg3 Rg8 18.Qe3 c5 19.Ba3 0-0-0 20.f5 f6 21.Rh3 Qf7 22.Rxh7 Nc6 23.Rf1 Ne5 24.Bc1 Bc6 25.Qe2 Rge8 26.Rf4 Re7 27.Rh3 Bb7 28.Rfh4 Ba6 29.Rh8 Bxc4 30.Rxd8+ Kxd8 31.Bxc4 Qxc4 32.Qd1 Kc7 33.Qd5 Qe2 34.Bd2 Nc4, 0-1, A. Delchev (2560) – P. Blatny (2512), Budapest 2000.

Note the difference in concepts between 4.Nf3 and xombie’s 4.d3 – 4.Nf3 instantly counterattacks by hitting e5 and also strives to make more central gains by following up with d2-d4 (this plan is more in line with modern dynamics). On the other hand, 4.d3 seeks to prevent enemy counterplay by nullifying the activity of the b7-Bishop. I should add that those seeking to study Nimzovich’s ideas should pick up a copy of his classic CHESS PRAXIS (I’ve always liked it much more than his MY SYSTEM), which in one sense serves as a book of his games, while using those games to demonstrate his ideas of Centralization, Restriction and Blockade, Overprotection, and Prophylaxis.
















Illogical. One of black’s perks is the hole on d4. By chopping on c3, the b-pawn moves to c3 where it will make d4 uninhabitable. Instead of depriving himself of the use of d4, Black usually plays moves that strive to claim it like 4…Nc6 and 4…Bc5.

The game V. Korchnoi (2610) – N. Short (2660), Groningen 1997 showed how both sides can fight for d4: 4...Nc6 5.g3 Bc5 6.Bg2 Nge7 7.Nf3 0-0 8.0-0 a5 9.Be3 d6 10.d4 exd4 11.Nxd4 Nxd4 12.Bxd4 Nc6 13.Bxc5 bxc5 14.e5 dxe5 15.Na4 Qd6 16.Qd5 Nd8 17.Qxc5 Bxg2 18.Qxd6 cxd6 19.Kxg2 Ne6 20.Rad1 Nd4 21.b3 f6 22.Rd2 Rab8 23.Nc3 Rfc8 24.h4 h5 25.Rfd1 Rc6 26.Nb5, 1/2-1/2.


xombie said, “5…Bxc3 seemed ineffective to me here because it bolsters white’s center and plugs his d4 weakness. The central pawns should then do a good job restricting black’s play. I think black should then go for the f5 break to release his bishop.”

Xombie is wise!

5…Bxc3+ 6.bxc3













If white’s d-pawn stood on d4, then the c4-pawn might become a target since it can’t be protected by a pawn. However, this structure is a different matter; here White is clamping down on d5, his center pawns give him space, his solid e4-pawn blocks the b7-Bishop, the c3-pawn deprives Black of the use of the d4-square, and the c4-pawn is rock solid.


xombie said, “I remember thinking after this move had been played that it did not make much sense. d4 is solid for me, and he seems to weaken d6 without any real chances.”

Not very good (wastes a tempo to do… what?). Moves like 6…Ne7 and 6…Nf6 followed by …0-0 were better. Also, when reading xombie’s comment, one has to be drawn to the fact that he instantly leaps on any weak (or potentially weak) square. Everyone should train their mind to think in the same way (In my How to Reassess Your Chess, 4th Edition, I call it, “Target Consciousness.”).


xombie said, “Not necessarily with the aim of attacking g7 (which is defended easily enough with …Qf6 – actually I was hoping to provoke this) but to restrict the …f5 break, which would have become even more difficult to play after …Qf6.” 

Oh xombie, how my heart flutters when you talk to me that way. Yes it’s true, positional ideas excite me! Here our Nimzovich clone isn’t seeking blatant threats, but instead dreams of stopping an eventual …f7-f5 push which would ignite the h1-a8 diagonal and thus add considerably to the b7-Bishop’s powers.

Where does xombie get such “heady” ideas? (hint: what do zombies eat?).


xombie said, “Black falls for it. Perhaps …Kf8 or …g6 (preparing …f5) was better. But black can still prepare the break with …g6, …Qg7 and …f5.”

Is 7…Qf6 so bad? I’m not a fan of 7…g6 since that creates gaping wounds on the dark squares, which isn’t wise if your opponent owns a dark-squared Bishop and you don’t. However, xombie remains true to himself – once he sees what he deems to be a logical plan (for either side) he does his utmost to find moves that help make it a reality. By knowing what his opponent should play, he’s able to snuff it out before the opponent even thinks of it! (Petrosian was famous for this).

Very noble (and effective), but here we begin to get a sense of a potential xombie weakness: he’s so wrapped up in his dreams of structure and static weaknesses and long-winded plans that he sometimes fails to appreciate the position’s quietly bubbling dynamics, which can easily erupt at any moment. Note that I said, “potential weakness” since, at the moment, I don’t have enough data to make a fully educated prognosis.


xombie said, “Again working to prevent …f5 by anticipating …Qg6.” 


xombie said, “Black starts to weaken squares.”

I can almost imagine xombie getting chills of delight at the thought of his opponent weakening new squares! The contrast between the two players is quite striking: White is going all out for restriction, while his opponent is chugging out “aggressive” but ultimately planless moves like 4…Bb4 and now 8…h5.

9.Qg3 h4

Black should have just developed with 9…Nc6. Of course, we already knew that Black wouldn’t be able to resist threatening the Queen again. It clearly never occurred to him that …h5-h4 gave up the g4-square, and that White would eventually make use of this weakening of the h3-c8 diagonal.
















xombie said, “Now there’s a gaping diagonal weakness on h3-c8.”

White continues with his positional musings, but more pointed and dynamic plans are also possible. For example, 10.Qe3 Ne7 11.Nh3 Nbc6 12.0-0 0-0-0 13.Bd2 intending f2-f4 seems promising (it cracks open the f-file and also opens new lines for white’s two Bishops). Ultimately, a player needs to understand Nimzovich’s ideas and, to some degree, think like xombie does, but he also needs to temper his lust to create Nimzovichian art with straightforward dynamic play. [For those repetitious parrots that keep squawking, “What about tactics?” – I’m not talking about tactics at this moment, nor about endgames, nor about politics. Stay on point, or your brains might end up on somebody’s dinner menu!].

Having said all that, I must admit that our flesh eater isn’t just thinking of creating some serious Nimzovichian art, he’s actually doing it!

10…Ne7 11.Bg4 Ng6 12.Ne2

xombie said, “More prevention. This time, it guards the c3-pawn (on the half-open diagonal) by anticipating …Nf4.”


xombie said, “For some reason, black’s play looks uninspired here. My setup was aimed to make this move ineffective.”

While there’s no doubt that White has had all the ideas in this game, and that black’s not demonstrating that he’s any kind of great thinker, his 12…Nf4 is probably best since it permanently stops white’s thematic f2-f4 idea and, after the captures on f4, gives black’s other Knight eventual access to the e5-square. Yes, White can keep him out of e5 by d3-d4, but then the c4-pawn (once so safe with the pawn on d3) gets a bit loose.


White is happily continuing with his plan, but Janowski would have been very unhappy here – giving up the two Jans (two Bishops) isn’t something he did lightly. However, xombie knows what he’s doing since 13.Qf3 h3! 14.g3 Ng2+ (the old Knight on the 7th trick) 15.Kf1 Qxf3 16.Bxf3 f5 gives Black far too much counterplay (Black succeeded with the plan that White was trying to prevent). Play might continue: 17.Ng1 fxe4 18.dxe4 0-0 19.Bg5 Rxf3! 20.Nxf3 Bxe4 with a mess.

Another alternative to 13.Bxf4 is 13.Nxf4 exf4 14.0-0 when 14…0-0 15.Qf3 leads to some interesting variations:

* 15…Qxc3 16.Rb1 f5 17.Bb2! Qd2 18.Bh5 and white’s Bishops have become terrifying.

* 15…g5 16.g3! hxg3 17.hxg3 Qg7 18.Bf5! (and not 18.gxf4 f5!).

It seems that after 13.Nxf4 exf4 14.0-0 black’s best is 14…Nc6! when 15.Bxd7+ Kf8 is better than it seems – though black’s a pawn down, the Bishops of opposite colors (if White chops on c6) and pressure against d3 (after …Rd8 and/or …Ne5) gives him counterplay. 

Clearly, our prevention and restriction oriented xombie will do everything he can to avoid such chaos from occurring!

13…exf4 14.O-O g5

xombie said, “This probably deserves a question mark, even if we pass lightly over the two previous weakening moves.”

I admit that 14…g5 looks disgusting, but what else should Black do (perhaps 14…Nc6!? 15.Bxd7+ Kf8 is still worth a punt)?


White can handle this position in a couple ways. One is a3-a4-a5, intending to create a new target on b6. That’s a quiet positional idea, but shouldn’t White have more? Black’s King is in the middle, white’s pieces are more active, and White also has a lead in development. Since these kinds of dynamic plusses are usually temporary, White should look for something violent (whether violence will work out is another matter, but the imbalances warned White to look, so he needs to do that).

The move I would desperately want to play is 15.d4! with the idea of cracking open the center, which might help me reach black’s King. On the other, the advance of the d-pawn does leave c4 badly compromised, while …Nc6 will also target d4. Nevertheless, 15.d4! has to be explored! The first thing one would notice is that 15.d4! Bxe4? fails to 16.Rae1 0-0 17.Nxf4 with a clear advantage for White. That leaves the following replies, both of which are critical:

* 15…Qe7 16.dxc5 (white’s center destroys itself but the position opens up) 16…bxc5 17.Rad1 Kf8 18.e5!? with fun complications.

* 15…d6 16.e5! dxe5 17.dxe5 Qxe5 18.Bf3 Nc6 19.Rae1 0-0 20.Qd7 Na5 21.Nc1! (even stronger than 21.Bxb7 Rad8 22.Qg4 Nxb7 23.Nd4 Qf6 24.Nf3) 21…Qb8 22.Qf5 Qd6 23.Bxb7 Nxb7 24.Qxg5+ Qg6 25.Qxh4 and white’s advantage is obvious (extra pawn and a vulnerable black King).

Truth to tell, I could happily analyze the position after 15.d4 for a few days, but we’ll excuse my lack of time and leave the issue with the following useful generalization: “Dynamic plusses call for dynamic moves!”


xombie said, “White’s development is now complete. Black has difficulties in developing his knight (not on d7), in playing …0-0-0 which is illegal, and …0-0 which would be dangerous.”


xombie said, “The logical pawn break – notice how the c3-pawn helps.”

White wisely realizes that it’s time for battle, but holding off for one move (remember I recommended 15.d4) considerably lessens the effect since black’s gotten in …d6, while white’s Re1 move might prove to be sub-optimal. Nevertheless, every move white’s made has been logical and sound (though not always the most accurate).


I think Black should have played 16…Nc6!, giving the e5-square more support, and also pressuring the d4-pawn. Obviously 16…Nc6 17.d5?? would be unthinkable (to me, a move like 17.d5 would be worse than hanging a piece) since after 17…Ne5 Black would suddenly have a strategically won position (white’s central play would be gone, the e5-square would be black’s possession, and the c4-pawn would be a chronic weakness). That means that White would have to maintain d4 via 17.Rad1 when 17…Rd8 appears to prevent Bd7+ and tighten up black’s game, and 17…Kf8 steps away from the e-file and stops white tricks based on a tactical e4-e5 advance. Since White is suddenly suffering positional problems due to the newly created weaknesses on c4 and d4, he needs to somehow generate central dynamics. However, this won’t prove easy:

17…Rd8!? 18.Nc1 Ba6! (18…cxd4? 19.cxd4 Nxd4?? 20.Qc3 wins for White; 18…Na5?! wastes time going after the c4-pawn, which allows White to start his hoped for central operations: 19.Nd3 Nxc4 20.e5 dxe5 21.dxe5 Qg6 22.e6 and white’s generated the kind of chaos that he was dreaming of) 19.e5 dxe5 20.dxe5 Nxe5 21.Nd3 Rxd3! 22.Qxd3 0-0 23.Qf5 Qxf5 24.Bxf5 Re8 25.Bd7 Re7 26.Bb5 Bb7 and black’s mighty Knight, superior pawn formation, and extra pawn give him enough compensation for the sacrificed Exchange.

17…Kf8! 18.Nc1 Kg7 (and not 18…cxd4? 19.cxd4 Nxd4?? 20.Qc3 and White wins) 19.Nb3 (On b3, the Knight is no longer black’s the e1-Rook, it’s defending d4, and it also stops black’s thematic attack against c4 via …Na5) 19…Bc8. I don’t see a shred of advantage for White in this position.

















An unfortunate choice for Black. Instead, he should have finally developed and prepared to place pressure against white’s vulnerable pawns on c4, d4, and e4 via 17…Nc6 18.Qg4 Qg7 when an interesting battle is in store.


Threatening Nxf4.

18…Kh6 19.e5! 

xombie said, “A fairly routine idea.”

At last! As they say, better late than never.

19…dxe5 20.dxe5

xombie said, “The pawn cannot be captured because of Ng3 Qf6, Qh5+ and Qh7 mate.”

20…Qe7 21.Rad1 Rd8 Here I will give the rest of the game in problem form:















Lessons From This Game

* Positional skills must be complemented with tactical skills, and vice versa.

* Knowing when to change gears and switch from subtle positional maneuvering to wielding a dynamic fist is both extremely important and also very, very hard to master. 

* Anyone that wishes to make real gains in chess comprehension needs to develop “Target Consciousness” – a mindset that is always noticing existing targets in your and your opponent’s camp, and also striving to create these targets when none exist.

* Nimzovich's CHESS PRAXIS is a must for every serious chess library.

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