The Nimzowitsch Defence (1 e4 Nc6)

Edward Winter



nimzowitsch defence


It may be wondered when Nimzowitsch’s name was first associated with the defence 1 e4 Nc6. He played it against Důras at Ostend, 1907, and the tournament book (page 153) mysteriously headed the game ‘Königsläufer Eröffnung’, whereas in the index (page 334) it was referred to as ‘Verteidigung Niemzowitsch’. And when was the opening first ascribed to Nimzowitsch in his own writings? We offer pages 181-183 of the November-December 1920 issue of Tidskrift för Schack, in which he annotated a 1 e4 Nc6 game against Olson from the recent Stockholm tournament, the heading being ‘Niemzowitsch’s spelöppning’.

That issue of the Swedish magazine had Nimzowitsch’s annotations to no fewer than 15 games.

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Jean-Pierre Rhéaume (Montreal, Canada) draws attention to the entry on page 152 of the Dictionnaire des échecs by François Le Lionnais and Ernst Maget (Paris, 1967):

‘Fischer-Nimzovitch (Défense)

1. é4, Cç6. On tend de nos jours à ne plus conserver à ce coup que le nom de Nimzovitch qui lui a trouvé de nouvelles justifications. Quant à Fischer (ou Fisher), c’est un joueur allemand qui vivait au XIXe siècle.’

Our correspondent asks for information about Fischer and the reasons for associating his name with 1 e4 Nc6.

References to Eduard Fischer (why the Dictionnaire added ‘Fisher’ is unclear) are frequently found in German-language sources. A prime example is the 76-page book Die Fischer-Nimzowitsch-Verteidigung by Georg Deppe (Heidelberg, 1979):

deppe fischer

Below is the first part of a note on Fischer (page 73):

deppe fischer

As to volume 25 of the Handbuch der Schach-Eröffnungen by Rolf Schwarz (Hamburg, 1969) ...

schwarz

... the following was on page 187:

schwarz

Hugh Myers’ books on 1 e4 Nc6 discussed such references to Fischer. The passage below, for instance, comes from page i of The Nimzovich Defense to 1. e4 (Yorklyn, 1995):

‘A couple of things should be said about this opening’s name. Nimzovich was by no means its originator or inventor, as he has been called in some books. It was at least known as far back as the sixteenth century. In the 1800s, several players introduced it into master competition before Nimzovich was born (1886). Nevertheless, Nimzovich Defense is widely applied to 1 e4 Nc6, and there is no clearly preferable name. It’s called The Fischer Defense, or Fischer-Nimzowitsch Defense, in Germany. That’s apparently because Wilfried Paulsen learned about 1 e4 Nc6 from Eduard Fischer during 1858-59. Then he and his brother Louis Paulsen played it in serious competition in the late 1860s. They gave credit to Fischer. The Oxford Companion to Chess (1984) states that 1 e4 Nc6 was “used regularly by the German player Eduard Fischer (1831-97)” and that it was “reintroduced by Nimzowitsch”. The problem with crediting Fischer, primarily known as a correspondence player, for his regular use of 1 e4 Nc6 is that I have never seen the score of a single game in which he played it. It’s doubtful that such a score would prove much anyway; 1 e4 Nc6 games by other players had been published in the 1840s. They are in this book.

As for Nimzovich, I don’t know that it should be said that he “reintroduced” 1 e4 Nc6 (others besides Fischer and the Paulsens had played it; Kennedy and Williams played it in the 1840s, and there are records of games with it by other players in every decade since then), but there’s no doubt that he was the first to play it with frequent success in major international competition. That is an acceptable reason for naming it The Nimzovich Defense.’

In the next paragraph Myers briefly discussed the spellings Nimzovich and Nimzowitsch, mentioning too Niemzowitsch, Niemtsowitsch, Nimzovitsch and Nimzovitch.

Regarding Modern Chess Openings, Eduard Fischer’s name was introduced in the 11th edition (1972), edited by Walter Korn. From page 192:

‘This “bizarre” defence was first advocated by the German master Fischer in the last century. Nimzowitsch subjected it to deep study in 1919 and came to the conclusion that it was sound.’

myers

Below are the books on this opening in our collection:

Of the above books the only one mentioned in the ‘Bibliography’ on page 4 of Christophe Wisnewski’s volume is the second edition of 1...Sc6! ...aus allen Lagen.

wisnewski

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As noted in A Sorry Case, Heikki Westerinen has never written a monograph on 1 e4 Nc6, contrary to the assertion on page 50 of Unorthodox Openings by Joel Benjamin and Eric Schiller (London, 1987):

benjamin schiller

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Another monograph in our collection is Играйте 1...Кс6! by И. Бердичевский (Moscow, 2010).

An addition from Michael Allard (Bowie, MD, USA): The Dark Knight System: a Repertoire with 1...Nc6 by James Schuyler (London, 2013).



David McAlister (Hillsborough, Northern Ireland) sends a game published on page 3 of the Belfast News-Letter, 6 September 1888 with this heading:

dublin defence

1 e4 Nc6 2 Bc4 Ne5 3 Bb3

dia

3...f5 4 d3 Nf6 5 Qe2 fxe4 6 dxe4 d6 7 Nf3 Bg4 8 h3 Bh5 9 Nbd2 Qd7 10 Qe3 c6 11 Nxe5 dxe5 12 O-O Qd4 13 c3 Qxe3 14 fxe3 O-O-O 15 Bc2 Bg6 16 Nc4 Bxe4 17 Bxe4 Nxe4 18 Nxe5 Rd5 19 Nf3 Ng3 20 Re1 e6 21 e4 Rd3 22 Bf4 Bc5+ 23 Kh2 Nh5 24 Be5 Rhd8 25 Bd4 Bxd4 26 cxd4 Nf4 27 Rad1 c5 28 Rxd3 Nxd3 29 Re3 Nxb2 30 dxc5 Rd3 31 Re2 Na4 32 Rc2 h6 33 e5 Kc7 34 Kg3 Kc6 35 Kg4 Nxc5 36 Kf4 Kd5 37 Re2 g5+ 38 Kg3 Ne4+ 39 Kh2 Nc3 40 Rb2 b6 41 a3 Re3 42 Rb3 Nd1 43 Rb5+ Kc4 44 a4 Rd3 45 Rb1 Nc3 46 Re1 Kb4 47 a5 Kxa5 48 Ra1+ Na4 49 Kg3 Kb4 50 Kg4 a5 51 Ra2 Kb3 52 Rf2 Nc5 53 Kh5 Ne4 54 White resigns.

The players were not identified, the score was without notes, and no other information was provided, either about the occasion or to explain the term ‘Dublin Defence’.

From page 96 of The Nimzovich Defense to 1. e4 by Hugh E. Myers (Yorklyn, 1995):

myers

The Popov v Ermenkov game on pages 156-157 was played in the FIDE Zonal tournament, Warsaw, 1979.

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Latest update: 16 August 2020.

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