The Romanishin Variation Against Nimzo - Indian
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The so-called Romanishin variation is one of the most effective ways to attack the Nimzo-Indian Defense.
It can start in two ways:
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.g3 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nf3
White’s Catalan style kingside fianchetto is the brand of the variation. It may seem risky to play like this as in the Catalan …Bb4 is usually answered with the safe Bd2. Here instead, White’s c3 knight remains pinned giving Black active play. It should also be noted that once White’s bishop is on g2, c4 is left undefended, and during a very early stage of the opening Black can increase the pressure on c3 with active moves like …Ne4 …Qa5. After pointing out these issues it is not surprising to discover that, in one way or another, White’s pawns will be weakened and often captured.
Then, what makes the Romanishin Variation playable?
With a concrete dynamic play, White will, in most cases, compensate for the weak structure or the sacrificed pawn. As we go through the different lines it will become apparent that Black’s play is very demanding and not particularly appealing. In most main lines Black is only struggling to equalize.
The fact that Black has plenty of ways to meet the Romanishin Variation makes its preparation arduous. Black’s available lines are fluctuating from solid equalizing attempts to highly complex and risky tries. As we can see Black faces an annoying dilemma, playing solid aiming for equality would mean in practice being under pressure for several moves. On the other hand, the interesting unbalanced lines tend to be risky.
This line was first played by Akiba Rubinstein, later by Alekhine and much later in the 70s Oleg Romanishin used it extensively and with success, but perhaps the most important milestone for the variation came in 1985 when Kasparov used it successfully to beat Karpov. Nowadays, it is employed by the World’s best players occasionally.
Is time to delve into the details of the Romanishin Variation.
First, I am going to focus on explaining the details starting from the following diagram:
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.g3 c5 5.Nf3
Later I will explain Black usual deviations from the mainline.
When Gary Kasparov decided to play the Romanishin Variation against Anatoly Karpov’s Nimzowitsch-Indian Defence in their 1985 World Championship match he preferred 4.Nf3 discarding the move order with 4.g3 due to 4…d5.
It’s important to mention that in order to build a White repertoire with the Romanishin Variation I found 4.g3 as a more convenient way, as after Kasparov’s 4.Nf3 White needs to prepare many mainstream variations, for instance, 4…b6 reaching a Hybrid Nimzo-Queens Indian or 4…d5 transposing to the Ragozin.
Now I will briefly explain the contents of every chapter:
To start, in Chapter 1, I explain the details of the solid 4.g3 c5 5.Nf3 b6. It usually takes the game to a popular variation of the English opening where Black’s dark-squared bishop is on e7 instead of b4. White usually gets a comfortable plus. As we'll see, some typical Nimzowitsch-Indian positions are also reached in the lines covered.
In Chapter 2, I am going to explain the lines with an early ...d5. Black’s intentions are very solid, trading central pawns and as many pieces as possible in order to equalize smoothly. White must be very precise in order to put some pressure on his opponent's healthy position.
In Chapter 3, we will deal with the sharp 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.Bg2 Qa5.
In this variation, Black tries to punish White's ambitious setup with a combined pressure on c3 and d4. To White's fortune, the position is full of dynamic resources to compensate for the weakness of his pawn formation. White must sacrifice a couple of pawns in order to punish Black’s hazardous play. White’s compensation is based in two main aspects:
1) The exposed situation of the black Monarch
2) Black’s lack of development
Chapter 4 deals with the lines where the temporary lack of defense of c4 motivates an early …Qc7. These lines may seem solid but are indeed very problematic for Black.
Chapter 5 deals with the position arising after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.g3 c5 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.Bg2 cxd4 7.Nxd4
In this position, I deal with the moves 7...Ne5, 7...Qb6, 7...Qa5, and 7...0-0. Black's most ambitious plan is to go for 7...0-0 followed by ...d7-d5. Arising positions are similar to the Tarrasch Defense but with a bishop on b4, instead of e7. In my analysis, it becomes clear that this position of the bishop favors White.
Chapters 6 and 7 cover lines where …Ne4 is combined with …Qa5. These popular lines are extremely complex and require precise handling from both sides.
Chapter 8 deals with 5. Nf3 cd4 6. Nd4 Ne4 7.Qd3 Bxc3+ 8.bxc3 Nc5
A principled alternative for Black. White’s pawn structure gets damaged and Black tries to set a blockade rather than going for the immediate capture of White’s weak pawns. White has several ways to compensate for his damaged c pawns.
Chapter 9 deals with a very interesting line in which Black, again, underlines the weakness of White’s doubled (and in some lines tripled) c-pawns. It’s worth mentioning that Karpov chose this line twice in his 1985’s match against Kasparov and managed to draw both games.
In Chapter 10, I will explain how to attack the line that arises after 5.g3 Nc6 6.Bg2 Ne4 7.Bd2 Nxd2 8.Qxd2 cxd4 9.Nxd4
This is one of the most prestigious lines for Black against the Romanishin Variation. Black is happy to trade a knight for White's dark-squared bishop paying the price of being left with a cramped position. White keeps good control of the most important central squares, some pressure along the d-file and along the long diagonal. But it's quite difficult to get more as Black's position has no weaknesses and in the long-term, his bishop pair may become an important asset. As we will see White has some active plans that may put Black under strong pressure.
In Chapter 11, we will deal with the lines arising from 5.Nf3 cxd4 6.Nxd4 0–0 7.Bg2 d5 8.cxd5 Nxd5 9.Qb3
Both 9...Na6 and 9... Qb6 are very popular and require careful handling from White.
In the next two chapters, I’ll cover what is considered the main line. It’s worth pointing out that, in spite of its good reputation for Black, in this line, White can play risk-free for the victory. Chapter 12 is devoted to the position that arises after 5.Nf3 cxd4 6.Nxd4 0–0 7.Bg2 d5 8.cxd5 Nxd5 9.Qb3 Nc6 10.Nxc6 bxc6 11.0–0 when Black doesn’t play 11...Qa5.
Chapter 13 covers the supposedly best line, approved by many top players 11...Qa5 (also reached via 9... Qa5).
Chapters 14 and 15 cover the lines that occur exclusively after 4.g3.
Chapter 14 covers a line that has an enormous theoretical significance, because of its existence White can play 4.g3 and fight for an opening advantage.
The main position arises after the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.g3 d5 5.Nf3
To avoid releasing the central tension, White needs to sacrifice a pawn. The game resembles a Catalan gambit very much. The idea is not new as it has been played for decades, but only recently became popular among high-level grandmasters.
Chapter 15 deals with lines where Black plays an early ... Bxc3 followed by ...d7-d6. These lines have a closed nature and are very different from what we've seen so far and for this precise reason can be annoying. These lines are solid and in order to achieve an edge White needs to play precisely.
At the end of the database, you will find a test section including 20 interactive exercises.
Try to solve 5 of them.