Christian Bauer: The Nasty Nimzowitsch Defence - A review

by ChessBase
9/21/2022 – Aron Nimzowitsch, theoretician, author of "My System", and one of the world's best players at the end of the 1920s, liked to answer 1.e4 with the provocative move 1...Nc6, the "Nimzowitsch Defence". The move is slightly offbeat but offers Black good chances as the French GM Christian Bauer shows on his ChessBase course "The Nasty Nimzowitsch Defence", published in 2019. Paul Kane, who runs the website "The Caissa Kid", had a look at Bauer's course and concludes: "'The Nasty Nimzowitsch Defence' is a quality piece of work which was a great pleasure to study."

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It’s a nasty defence, but also kind of nice

By Paul Kane

Or, at any rate, it is nice for some.

What is striking about Christian Bauer’s The Nasty Nimzowitsch Defence DVD (also available as a download) is the emphasis that he puts on 2.Nf3 (following 1.e4 Nc6). It is the king’s knight’s move, rather than 2.d4, that is apparently white’s main option.

To be clear, Bauer does a good job of covering 2.d4. He looks at both 2…e5 and 2…d5 very thoroughly indeed, and he gives black ample means to make them work. They are quite different in character, of course, and note also that, after 2…e5, white can go 3.Nf3, transposing into the Scotch Game, so black must be prepared to meet this too. Mind, with this move order (1.e4 Nc6 2.d4 e5 3.Nf3), black has avoided the Ruy Lopez, the Italian Game, and even the King’s Gambit. So that’s something to be happy about.

Against 2.Nf3, Bauer suggests going into the Pirc Defence with 2…d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 (4.c3 is also possible, since if 4..Nxe4 white has the advance 5.d5 when, should the ..Nc6 move, Qa4+ will follow, nabbing the knight on …e4) g6, and so on. Because white has committed his knight to f3 on move two, black has successfully sidestepped the Austrian Attack with f4 and various pseudo-Samisch lines with f3, which is clearly to his benefit. Significant danger has averted. Yet there is a possible downside; the perhaps premature presence of the …Nc6. It is unclear, however, how white can exploit this.

Let us suppose, for example, that white plays 5.Bb5, pinning the sable steed and threatening to pick it up with the pawn advance to d5. Black will respond with 5…a6 6.Bxc6+ bxc6, leading to an unbalanced position where the two bishops, the semi-open b-file and the compact, mobile centre gives black very decent chances. After …Bg7 and …0-0 (two sensible housekeeping moves, making sure the king is safe) black can follow up with …Bb7 and ..;c5; or maybe ..Nd7 and …c5 or …e5; and perhaps throwing in an annoying …Rb8 for good measure. Here black is doing just fine. Note also that if white delays Bb5, even by one move, then …a6 isn’t required to hurry things along (for example, 5.Be3 Bg7 6.Bb5 0-0 is perfectly OK).

Another approach, a more straightforward attempt to show that …Nc6 has been played too soon, is simply the pawn advance d5, played on move 5 or 6, or even a little later. In response, black should definitely retreat to the home square with …Nb8. He can then follow up with either …c6 or …e5 (not fearing dxe6), when he should have enough of a central presence, enough steady pressure in the centre, for equality. One critical line, I would even say that it might be white’s best, is 5.Be3 Bg7 6.Qd2 0-0 7.d5 Nb8 8.Bh6. Here black needs to play very accurately to maintain the balance. The white centre is for the moment secure, black looks at the moment a mite undeveloped (that recalcitrant …Nb8), and storm clouds seem to be gathering over black’s castled position (a quick h4-h5 looms). All told, it is a tense time for black.

Besides 2.d4 and 2.Nf3, Bauer briefly looks at 2.Bb5 (when 2…Nf6 is sensible) and 2.Bb5 (2…Nf6 3.Nc3 d5 should be good enough). Yet neither of these moves, nor the oddball 2.f4, promise white an advantage. If playing white, I would probably plumb for the 5.Be3 line given above (5.Be3 Bg7 6.Qd2 0-0 7.d5 Nb8 8.Bh6, etc.) or maybe play 4.c3, aiming to transpose into Geller’s quiet system.

As well as the videos – where we have Bauer talking to camera, presenting his recommended lines – there are 34 detailed analyses (which are best thought of as full, comprehensive transcripts of the lines given in the videos: the academic paper in full, rather than the presentation) and 146 model games, some annotated. There is also a test section, featuring both tactical puzzles and questions relating to strategy. Here you are sometimes required to find a surprising finesse, at other times an exact continuation.

Overall, I found this a worthwhile survey of a defence (or rather, an astutely chosen set of lines following 1.e4 Nc6) that will give the black player a decent fighting chance against 1.e4. Christian Bauer is a partisan for black’s cause (he plays these lines himself) but there’s no doubting that his sober, salutary assessments approach objectivity. He is an effective communicator, a subtle curator of intricate (and, yes, nasty) opening variations and a conscientious analyst. The Nasty Nimzowitsch Defence is a quality piece of work which was a great pleasure to study. I’d not come across it’s like in many a day.

This review was first published on The Caissa Kid website. Republication with kind permission.

Video sample

• Series running time: 3 hours 44 minutes (English) 
• With interactive training including video feedback 
• Extra: Database with model games 
• Including ChessBase Reader

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