King's Pawn Opening

Nimzowitsch Defense Chess Opening

Nimzowitsch Defense is a King’s Pawn Opening that starts with 1. e4 Nc6. You may rarely see this opening played in tournament games or even rarely in top-level games. Move 1…Nc6 doesn’t really stop white from playing 2.d4. Black makes a simply developing move keeping an eye on d4 and e5 square and will decide how to challenge center (whether with …e5 or …d5) on the next move.

White has two main choices. 2. d4 and 2.Nf3.

White plays 2.d4

Now with two of the white’s pawns in the center, black has to take a call and challenge the center with either 2…d5 or 2…e5.

Black plays 2…d5

Here, If white plays 3.exd5 Qxd5 4.Nf3, note that the game is transposed to Scandinavian defense with Nf3 variation. After 3.e5 Bf5 structure is similar to caro-kann defense. Black has developed his light squared bishop to f5 and now planning to play e6 and lock the pawn structure. It may be said that here black’s knight on c6 is blocking the c5 break that black may want to play.

The main line goes 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.d5!

White can’t capture 4.Nxe4 directly because the pawn on d4 is hanging. After 4…Ne5 5.Qd4 Ng6 6.Qxe4 Nf6 7.Qa4 Bd7 8.Bb5 we reach the position shown below.

White has moved his queen three times giving black tempi to place his knights on safe squares. On the other hand, black will have difficulty developing his f8 bishop. Because g6 is not possible due to the knight being placed on g6, and after e6, black may have to compromise his pawn structure and get a weak pawn on e6. White has easy development ahead with Nf3-0-0-Bg5..etc. Thus this position is preferable for white.

Black plays 2…e5

If black challenges the center with 2..e5, the game leads to a completely different kind of pawn structure. It may resemble to openings such as kings Indian defense or some e4-e5 openings where the e5 square is the head of black’s pawn chain.

Here, white can play 3. Nf3 and transpose into the Scotch game. White can advance with 3.d5 Nce7 4.c4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Ng6 6.Be3 Bb4 7.f3

The pawn structure reminds of the king’s Indian defense with the difference that black can’t develop his bishop to g7 by playing g6. But some of the ideas are still similar to the king’s Indian defense. Such as, black will play d6-0-0, Ne8 and try to challenge the e4 pawn by playing …f5. White on the other hand can choose to castle 0-0-0 and create a pawn storm with g4-h4-g5-h5, taking advantage of  easily attackable position of the black knights.

White can also take with 3.dxe5 Nxe5

And now white can play naturally with 4.Nf3 but 4.f4 makes most sense, forcing black’s knight to g6. After 4…Ng6 5.Nf3 Bc5 6.Bc4 d6 7.Nc3 Be6 8.Qe2 Bxc4 9.Qxc4 Qd7 10 f5 and white maintains initiative.

White plays 2.Nf3

White should play 2.d4 to make the most of black’s 1…Nc6 move. But white can also play 2.Nf3. Here, after 2…e5 black simply transposes to the main variations of the king pawn’s openings which start with 1e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6. But if black has chosen this off beat opening by playing 1…Nc6, then it doesn’t make sense to go 2…e5 and return to the popular track! Here black should play interesting line with 2…f5!

After 3.exf5 d5 4 Bb5 Bxf5 5 Ne5 Qd6 6.d4 Nf6 7.0-0

Black can continue with 7…Nd7 and break the pin.

Game played with Nimzowitsch Defense

Here is a game played between Yankovsky, Roman vs Richards, Bill


As we have seen, in the most lines, white maintains a better game. Probably that is the reason why this opening is rarely played. But it can surely be prepared as a surprise for your opponent. Also, the main benefit of this opening is that black has a choice of creating the pawn structure that he likes on the 2nd move. By playing 2…d5, he can go for structures similar to caro-kann or Scandinavian defense where the d5 square is the strong point of black’s position. By playing 2…e5, he can go for completely opposite pawn structure where e5 is the strong point.

About Harikrishnan A

I am an International Fide Rated player with 10+ years of experience. Played many International Chess Tournaments and Commonwealth games.
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