Andrew Martin: Nimzowitsch Defence 1.e4 Nc6 - Review

by ChessBase
6/24/2016 – The Nimzowitsch Defence (1.e4 Nc6) is an underestimated answer to 1.e4. But it is a fully valid line with possible transpositions to the French, the Scandinavian or the Pirc-Defence. On his new ChessBase-DVD IM Andrew Martin explains the chances this opening offers for Black. Markus Reinke, a Nimzowitsch expert himself, took a critical look at the DVD.

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Andrew Martin: Nimzowitsch Defence - A Review

Exciting DVD with slight repertoire weaknesses

by Markus Reinke

Recently, Andrew Martin released a new ChessBase DVD. Martin is one of my favorite ChessBase authors and you can always feel that he is an experienced coach: He does not get lost in random sidelines but always remains focused on the main ideas of a line or a game. This helps you to learn a lot and he also manages to show a lot of excellent games in a short time - in contrast to other authors who need a long time to analyse only a few games.

Martin shows these qualities on his most recent DVD, which is dedicated to a rare but exciting opening: The Nimzowitsch Defence 1.e4 Nc6!?. I have been waiting for a long time for a DVD about this opening and of course I did not hesitate one second to order the DVD. For the most part I have not been disappointed.

Martin carefully selected a sizeable number of relevant master games which he presents in his ususal relaxed and easy-to-understand manner. However, his repertoire recommendations more or less center around 2. …d5 – which, to my mind, is a first weakness of the DVD. I would have wished for a more comprehensive review of the Nimzowitsch Defense, including the move 2. …e5 (after 2. d4 by White). Much more so because some time ago Martin had published a DVD about this opening where he looked at the very move 2. …e5 – here an modern update with a ChessBase DVD of  six to seven hours length would have been ideal. Moreover, Martin used to play this line himself with Black.

Martin explains his decision to leave out the 2...e5 complex by pointing out that White after 1.e4 Nc6 2.d4 e5 can transpose to the Scotch with 3.Nf3 and that he does not like to give White this option. Well, White might transpose to the Scotch but I am still not fully convinced by Martin's argument. First of all, the Scotch - at least on club level - is rather rarely played and Martin's recommendation to continue with 2. …d5 often transposes to the Scandinavian or the French. I think it's a pity that 2...e5 is not covered and I feel that omitting this move makes Martin's coverage of the Nimzowisch Defense somewhat incomplete.

After 1.e4 Nc6 2.Nf3 Martin also recommends 2...d7-d5 – the second weakness of his repertoire recommendation because it's been known for a long time that this form of the Scandinavian does not give Black enough play. After 2...d5 White simply continues with 3.exd5 Qxd5 4.Nc3 Qa5 ( 4...Qh5 does not really work because of Nb5! ) 5.Bb5! Bd7 6. d4! and in all lines White is clearly better. The black queen is misplaced on a5, Black's position is very passive and after ...a6 by Black - which can hardly be avoided - White has a target of attack and with a3 followed by b4 he will quickly develop a strong attack on the queenside.

Martin also proposes an alternative set-up against  2.Nf3, namely 2. …d6 followed by Bg4?!. But this old line, which had already been played by British Grandmaster Tony Miles, is also considered to be better for White. However, in contrast to the line mentioned above, it is still playable.

In my opinion Black has only two valid ways to answer 2. Nf3: transposing with 2. …e5 into the Open Games - and here 1...Nc6 helped Black to avoid the King's Gambit, the Vienna Gambit and the Centre GAme. Or - and this is what I would recommend - Black opts for a kind of Pirc set-up with 2. …d6 followed by Nf6, g6, Bg7 and almost always e7-e5. This is what FM James Schuyler recommends in his good book „The Dark Knight System“. To my mind it is the third weakness of the DVD that Martin does not mention this set-up at all.

But apart from these weaknesses the repertoire recommendations by Martin are very interesting - and for me it was particularly inspiring to see that he recommended to counter the line 1.e4 Nc6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3, which has been hitherto considered to be awkward for Black, with 3...e6!? to transpose to a rare but quite playable line of the French.

After 1.e4 Nc6 2.d4 Martin also recommends the classical Nimzowitsch move 2. …d5, which here is absolutely valid because Black now - in contrast to the variation after 2. Nf3 – has a target to attack on d4, which he can quickly threaten after an exchange on d5 by playing Qxd5, Bg4, 0-0-0 and a possible e7-e5. These lines are simply fun to play with Black and on club level they often lead to a quick win against unprepared opponents.

Martin's illustrative games explaining the positions arising after 3.e5 Bf5 also convince. Here Martin offers the Nimzowitsch fan an aggressive set-up that includes with castling queenside followed by ...f7-f6. And if White strengthens his central pawn with f2-f4, the game of GM Rogers, which Martin analyses and in which Black plays the sharp g7-g5!? offers good illustrative material.

Summury: If you are looking for a new opening which allows you to obtain interesting, playable positions without having to know much theory, you will find Martin's DVD very useful. But if White answers 1...Nc6 with 2. Nf3 I recommend something different than the DVD - a Pirc set-up or simply transposing to the Open Games with 2. …e5.

Sample Video:

Andrew Martin:
Nimzowisch Defence 1.e4 Nc6

• Video running time: 4 hours 08 min (English)
• With interactive training including video feedback
• Extra: Additional database with recently played games
• Including CB 12 Reader


€25.13 without VAT (for Customers outside the EU)
$27.14 (without VAT)

This DVD can be purchased as a hard copy or it can be downloaded directly from the Internet, that way sparing you the few days needed for it to arrive by post.

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