The Nimzoindian Defence – The Easy Way

9/24/2006 – Jacob Aagaard is on the verge of become a grandmaster, mainly by using the Nimzoindian Defence. But here's a secret: Jacob knows very little of the theory of the opening. He does it by understanding general structures and where to put his pieces. The secret is revealed in his entertaining and instructive DVD. Buy it now or read this review by Steve Giddins.

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The Nimzoindian Defence,
The Easy Way by Jacob Aagaard

Review by FM Steve Giddins

This DVD gives you a complete Nimzoindian repertoire for Black, based on variations that Aagaard himself has played over the past ten years. His principal stated aim is to equip you with a repertoire based on understanding, rather than memorisation of concrete variations. Indeed, as he points out in the Introduction, he is on the verge of becoming a Grandmaster (needing only a few rating points to reach 2500), and has achieved that status by playing primarily the Nimzoindian against 1.d4, yet by his own admission, he knows very little of the theory of the opening. What he does have is a well-worked-out set of lines, which lead to well-defined and easy-to-understand structures. This allows the Black player to orientate himself in the resulting positions, based on his general understanding of the structures, and where to place his pieces. Such a repertoire is perfect for the amateur player, who is likely to have neither the time, nor the inclination, to remember vast reams of concrete analysis.

The material is organised into 15 separate lectures, lasting a total of just over four hours. After a couple of introductory chapters, dealing with key strategical ideas, notably the attack on the square c4, Aagaard then moves on to dealing with each of White’s fourth move alternatives – 4.Qb3, 4.a3, 4.f3, 4.e3, 4.Qc2, 4.Nf3 and 4.Bg5. Clearly, the moves 4.e3 and 4.Qc2 are the most important in practice, and these are therefore dealt with at greater length than the others. In all other variations, only one repertoire system is examined in detail, but against 4.e3, two separate options are offered. These are the Karpov System, where Black isolates White’s d-pawn, and what Aagaard calls the Petrosian System, with 0-0, d5, b6 and Bb7. The Karpov System is extremely solid, but as Aagaard admits, it is hard for Black to win, unless White plays very ambitiously. Against weaker opponents, therefore, or in must-win situations, the Petrosian System offers a slightly more complex fight, with more scope to outplay the opponent.

4.Qc2 is the bane of most Nimzo players’ lives these days, and in view of the amount of theory which has accumulated on the line, it is hard to recommend a reliable system, which does not require significant memorisation. Nonetheless, Aagaard has done so, coming up with a reputable set-up, where Black has a very clear plan of development, and can carry it out against almost any White response. You are no doubt itching to know what line he recommends, but of course, I have no intention of telling you – you will have to buy the DVD! In my opinion, as a Nimzo player myself, and one who has agonised for several years over what to do against 4.Qc2, Aagaard’s achievement here is the most noteworthy part of the whole DVD, and is worth the purchase price in itself.

Four hours’ is a lot of time to listen to somebody demonstrating an opening, but any fears you may have about being bored can be dispelled right now. Jacob Aagaard, despite presenting the whole DVD in English, his second language (perhaps I should say his third language, given that he is Danish and lives in Scotland...), manages to be entertaining throughout, with a fluent presentation, and a wry, self-deprecating humour that would be the envy of many a native English speaker.

There are only two criticisms I would make, both of which involve omissions in move-order tricks. Against 4.e3, Aagaard goes out of his way to recommend the move-order 4...d5, rather than 4...0-0. His idea is to avoid the line 4...0-0 5.Nge2, the point being that after 4...d5 5.Nge2 is ineffective because of 5...dxc4. However, he does not address the point of what Black should do after 4...d5 5.a3. This is the move which has had 4...d5 under a cloud, ever since the famous Botvinnik-Capablanca game, from AVRO 1938. After 5...Bxc3+ 6.bxc3, White has a favourable Samisch variation, where he can dissolve his doubled pawns by a subsequent cxd5. If Black is to play the 4...d5 move-order, he needs an antidote to 5.a3, and as far as I can see, Aagaard does not offer one.

The other small omission is the line 4.Nf3 b6 (Aagaard’s recommendation) 5.Qb3, which is also not covered. This is not an especially terrifying line, but it has been played extensively by Yasser Seirawan and Ivan Sokolov, and should not be underestimated. Aagaard covers 4.Qb3, and also 4.Nf3 b6 5.Bg5, but 5.Qb3 seems to have slipped through the cracks.

All in all, though, this is an excellent product for the Nimzoindian player, both an existing player, who wants to refresh certain parts of his repertoire, and the newcomer, who is looking for a sound and easy-to-learn defence to 1.d4. Of course, White can avoid the Nimzo altogether by 3.Nf3 or 3.g3, but these are covered in a companion DVD, also by Aagaard, devoted to the Queen’s Indian. Put the two together and you have a near-complete repertoire against 1.d4, which will stand you in good stead against almost any opponent (Aagaard admits at one point that if you play Kramnik as Black, you may want to prepare the variations in a little more detail...).

Come to think of it, I play the Nimzo and Queen’s Indian myself, so my thanks go out to those nice people at Chessbase, for kindly giving me review copies of the two DVDs. They certainly won’t be getting them back.


The Nimzoindian Defence – The Easy Way

24,99 incl. VAT
21,54 without VAT (for Customers outside the European Union)
27,14 US $ (without VAT)

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