Barging on the Danube with Nimzowitsch

A new book has recently hit the market exploring, very extensively, an unknown territory in the battle against the Queen’s Indian.

The Nimzowitsch Variation with 6.d5, has been used on occasions, by a few players, Shirov being its main promulgator. The line is complex and daring and has not found too large a following. But, even less has it been analysed in a deeper study or a manual.

The miss has been noted by a young Hungarian GM, Imre Hera, who took it to task to bring this sharp, exciting gambit closer to a wider chess audience. And what a wonderful job he did!

Hera’s book, entitled “A Cutting-Edge Gambit against the Queen’s Indian” offers a thorough study of an overlooked topic: the Nimzowitsch Variation with 6.d5! The line goes: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Ba6 5 Qc2 c5 and now, the pawn sacrifice, 6 d5!

Imre Hera - with a detail of the gambit on the board

Imre Hera – with a detail of the gambit on the board

One would expect that an author would write about a specific line because he plays it himself. But this is not the case with Imre Hera and his choice of a topic. On the contrary, this line has never been part of his repertoire. He has chosen to write about it simply because he has been genuinely intrigued by its complexity and richness of options.

Actually, he has his own theory about why it is not advisable to write about a line that the author plays himself: “When the New in Chess offered me the opportunity to write a book, I was thinking, which way I should go. It would be normal to write about a line because one plays it, which means one has a lot of experience. Naturally, GMs write about their own topic because they are best equipped to give a full analysis. But, why would one give away all the secrets in a book?! I had another idea – to choose something that does not contain my usual repertoire, because then I would have nothing to hide! It would be also a challenge to sit down and research and study a completely new material.”

And so he did. He chose the Nimzowitsch Variation with 6.d5 against the Queen’s Indian. The book is now out and about, published recently by New in Chess. Anyone who takes the challenge to tackle this complex topic will realize what a thorough research the author has undertaken to bring out extensive examples and variations for both the black and the white.

Imre says: “Although I recommend it mainly for white, I am also giving many examples about how to equalize with black in other main lines.”

Imre also chose an original setting in which to reveal to me some of the intricacies about this line and how the book came about – by inviting me to an afternoon’s cruise on the Danube by a river barge. Now, this is a gambit that I gladly accepted.

Imre Hera at the entrance of the river barge

Imre Hera at the entrance of the river barge, with the captain, whom I found had an uncanny resemblance to Ernest Hemingway

Nothing to hide! Imre browsing through his new creation.

Nothing to hide! Imre browsing through his new creation.

The line with 6. d5 against the Queen’s Indian had caught his attention already back in 2007. He himself has played lots of games in the 4.g3 line of the Queen’s Indian defence on both sides of the board, but he got intrigued by this particular variation where White sacrifices a pawn early. At the time, he had analysed some games with friends but had not reached clear conclusions, apart from the daunting prospect that the line would require big analysis before one could play it.

That is exactly what Imre did in a form of a well researched book with a dense material, exhausting all aspects for both sides. Serious players of all levels could benefit from this book, if they are prepared to do a hard work.

An important incentive for Imre choosing this particular topic was because it was relatively unknown. When he made his research, looking for some references about this line, he found only four, notably by Steve Giddins, Alexey Kuzmin, Emil Anka and Tibor Karolyi, all in the New in Chess’ Yearbook Surveys; they were not deep studies but just casual analysis of games featuring this line.

He checked many games, even by amateur players of under 2000. He found at least 1000 games, from amateur to grandmaster levels, but no deeper theoretical studies.

Imre was enthusiastic about wading through an untreated field. I felt it would be an interesting topic for me. Almost a historic moment – a lot of games, but no theory or deep studies.

Imre in front of a yacht in the suburban marina in Budapest where we mounted the barge

Imre in front of a yacht in the suburban marina in Budapest where we mounted the barge

The book is composed of three parts, each consisting of several chapters: Part I – Black declines; Part II – Black Accepts with 6…cxd5 7.exd5 Bb7 8.Bg2 Bxd5 and Part III – Black Accepts with 6…cxd5 7.exd5 Bb7 8.Bg2 Nxd5…

The seriousness of the matter treated is lightened by often a humorous, playful writing style. You will see exclamations like … Attention please! … Time has come for a little tactic … One of the two knights will have to be returned … The white pieces come out one by one like ghosts from a bottle … push back the annoying black cavalry … White accepts the invitation to the dance and also sacrifices something … This is too greedy and it gets punished in a nice way….

For the technical analysis of games, Hera was assisted by Ufuk Tuncer, a German born Fide Master, IM Elisabeth Pähtz’ opening theory coach and author of many opening Surveys for the New in Chess Yearbooks.

Imre in a relaxed mood at the marina, away from it all

Imre in a relaxed mood at the marina, away from it all

Imre Hera is a young grandmaster, born in Budapest in 1986. At 8 years of age, he was the youngest player in the U-10 in the 1994 World Youth Championship where he reached the 6th place. He made his first IM norm when he was only 11,5 years old. The early successes were interrupted with a 5-year break (2000 -2005) because he took the unusual step for chess players, to stay away from chess and dedicate his time to his secondary school education. Afterwards, he started playing chess again and became a grandmaster within 1,5 years.

One of his biggest successes followed, at the European Championship in 2007, when he qualified for the World Cup with a performance of 2703. He was unbeaten at the European Club Cup in 2008 on board one, drawing with top GM Vassily Ivanchuk.

As a team player he was the top scorer on his boards in the premier leagues of Slovakia (2005 – 2006 and 2006-2007), Hungary (2009-2010) and Poland (2011). Currently, he plays for a number of European National team championships including Austria, Poland, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and France.

He is unassuming but with great qualities as both a chess player and a person and now also as a published author.

Imre with a backdrop of the Hungarian Parliament building

Imre with a backdrop of the Hungarian Parliament building

The ‘Cutting-Edge Gambit against the Queen’s Indian’, has been endorsed by GM Alexey Shirov, one of the most consistent and successful players of this particular line.

Shirov has written the book’s Foreword in which he says: “Of course, nobody claims that the moves 5.Qc2 and 6.d5! win the game by force. But this book shows exactly why the line is so attractive for white players. Fascinating chess, great complexity, chances to create fantastic attacking possibilities. This is exactly what we love chess for.”

And he praises the book further, by ending his foreword with the words: “This is not only a book on a single variation of the Queen’s Indian, it is a book on Modern Chess.”

Imre Hera and Ufuk Tuncer, A Cutting-Edge Gambit against the Queen’s Indian (New in Chess 2014). 174 pp., €19.95/$24.95.

By Diana Mihajlova

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