Understanding before Moving 57: The Elephant!

by ChessBase
12/12/2021 – Herman Grooten is an International Master, a renowned trainer and the author of several highly acclaimed books about chess training and chess strategy. In the 57th instalment of his ChessBase show "Understanding before Moving", Herman talks about "The Elephant", an animal that particularly likes the jungle of Nimzo-Indian variations. | Photo: Tommy Grooten

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A long time ago I worked together with Dutch IM Leon Pliester (who unfortunately died in 2012) on a book about the Nimzo-Indian and especially the Rubinstein complex. He was asked to write a book about this opening and had asked me to help him to indicate the advantages Black has in these lines.

As I liked to play the so-called Hübner Variation, I showed him the problems White  sometimes has in these lines with the doubled pawns on c3 and c4. If Black manages to exchange the white-squared bishops and win the pawn on c4 by taking it with a knight, White can easily be in big trouble.

When we analysed these lines together and a fantastic knight appeared on c4 Leon liked to call it an elephant! "This knight puts White under such heavy pressure that it can only be an elephant."

In a kind of tribute to Leon I later often managed to create such an "elephant" in my games, and in a game against the strong Dutch player Michiel Blok, I did not only manage to bring my knight to c4 but also won a pawn doing so.

The "elephant" on c4 and the extra pawn helped me to win a long and complicated endgame though Blok defended tenaciously. However, after the game I discovered that I had a much quicker win. I had seen the idea and I had calculated the critical variation but when I reached the diagram position in my mind I did not see how to make progress. Can you do better and do you see what Black should play in this position?


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