6

4...O-O followed by 6...Ne8!? is a popular line in the f3 Nimzo at master level, but I'm still struggling to understand why it's played.

[FEN ""]
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.f3 O-O 5.a3 Bxc3 6.bxc3 Ne8!?

In this video, Caleb Denby seems to imply the main reason is Black wants to go after the c4-pawn with a typical Nc6-Na5 / b6-Ba6 plan, but wants to stop an eventual pin with Bg5 that could be annoying for Black and "force him to make concessions in the center." But why not just throw in the move ...h6 at some point instead? eg.

[FEN ""]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. f3 O-O 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 c5 7. e4 d6 8. Bd3 Nc6 9. Ne2 h6

To me, it seems pretty bizarre to use a full move to undevelop your knight to a bad square and potentially let White Greek gift you in the future, in anticipation of a move that White isn't even likely to play for another 3 turns.

3
  • 3
    In general, the greek gift tends to work poorly if white doesn't have a pawn on e5 and a knight ready to go to g5, so having a pawn on h7 shouldn't be a great worry for black. Moreover, a black pawn on h6 is a potential liability and makes it easier for white to initiate a potential kingside attack in the future.
    – Scounged
    Dec 2 '21 at 8:11
  • White may play Bg5 earlier than you plan to play ...h6 though (i.e. somewhere between moves 7-9).
    – Annatar
    Dec 2 '21 at 8:26
  • 2
    I don't understand the phrase "a move that White isn't even likely to play for another 3 turns." 7.Bg5 is possible at once if Black doesn't play 6...Ne8! or 6...h6?!
    – Evargalo
    Dec 2 '21 at 8:34
6

6...Ne8 and 6...d5 are the main moves played followed by 6...Nh5 and 6...d6

The move ...h6 can seriously weaken the b1-h7 diagonal.

Going down the main line might help explain what this Knight is doing on e8: 6...Ne8

7.e4 b6

8.Bd3 Ba6

9.Nh3 Nc6

10.0-0 Na5

11.Qe2 c5

12.e5 f6

enter image description here

From this diagram you can imagine if 6...h6 was played instead. Once White gets e4-e5 in the b1-h7 diagonal is very weak.

So, 6...Ne8 is kind of a rope-a-dope move. It free's the f-pawn, opens the queen's view, and avoids e4-e5 with tempo.

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  • Small addition: White has to "attack or bust" on the kingside in the classic Nimzo or else, even a computer (I guess at least 2400 at the time) learnt it against me the hard way. Thus "donkey ears" like h6 are out of question, and f5 (making some urgently breathing space - White's centrum is tendencially weak but still chases all officers out of its way) is the far better plan. For the same reason, Bg5 is extremely annoying. Only unpin is Nbd7 plus Q away, but that N belongs elsewhere. Dec 3 '21 at 11:50

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