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Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights (E21)
1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Nf3

Number of games in database: 3192
Years covered: 1887 to 2023
Overall record:
   White wins 35.6%
   Black wins 26.9%
   Draws 37.5%

Popularity graph, by decade

Explore this opening  |  Search for sacrifices in this opening.
With the White Pieces With the Black Pieces
Alexei Barsov  54 games
Etienne Bacrot  45 games
Alexander Moiseenko  42 games
Sergey Karjakin  17 games
Michael Adams  16 games
Anatoly Karpov  15 games
NOTABLE GAMES [what is this?]
White Wins Black Wins
Kasparov vs Karpov, 1985
Botvinnik vs I Kan, 1939
Botvinnik vs V Chekhover, 1938
H Mattison vs Nimzowitsch, 1929
J Bai vs Ding Liren, 2017
Bogoljubov vs M Monticelli, 1930
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 page 1 of 128; games 1-25 of 3,192  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Englisch vs J Noa 1-05618875th DSB Congress, FrankfurtE21 Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights
2. P Komarov vs Zavelevich 1-0221915Ch St.Petersburg UniversityE21 Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights
3. Bogoljubov vs I Rabinovich 1-0311917TribergE21 Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights
4. Bogoljubov vs Nimzowitsch 1-02819202nd Stockholm JubileeE21 Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights
5. Rubinstein vs Maroczy 1-0351921LancashireE21 Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights
6. Rubinstein vs Maroczy 1-0351922LondonE21 Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights
7. Kostic vs Maroczy  ½-½561922Teplitz-SchönauE21 Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights
8. S Y Harwich vs Lasker ½-½231923Simul, 31bE21 Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights
9. Bogoljubov vs A A Smirnov  1-0291925LeningradE21 Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights
10. O C Mueller vs H Mattison  ½-½691925Bromley prel-AE21 Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights
11. I Rabinovich vs Saemisch  ½-½451925Baden-BadenE21 Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights
12. Bogoljubov vs Nimzowitsch 1-0381925BreslauE21 Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights
13. Marshall vs Saemisch 0-1641925MoscowE21 Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights
14. Gilg vs Tarrasch 0-1341926SemmeringE21 Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights
15. Euwe vs Alekhine 0-1401926Alekhine - Euwe Training MatchE21 Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights
16. S Kalabar vs I Censer 0-1311927London OlympiadE21 Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights
17. V Rauzer vs I Rabinovich  1-0341927USSR ChampionshipE21 Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights
18. Saemisch vs L Steiner  1-0461928Berlin Cafe KoenigE21 Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights
19. Petrov vs T Bergs  1-02819281st Reiner Cafe tE21 Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights
20. S Rosselli del Turco vs M Monticelli  0-1211929ITA-ch MatchE21 Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights
21. W Winter vs Capablanca 0-1471929Ramsgate schevE21 Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights
22. W Winter vs Znosko-Borovsky  1-0471929Ramsgate schevE21 Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights
23. Alekhine vs Fink / Branch 0-1361929Clock simul, 3bE21 Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights
24. J van den Bosch vs E Straat  1-0221929Dutch ChampionshipE21 Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights
25. E Straat vs E Mulder  1-0381929Dutch ChampionshipE21 Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights
 page 1 of 128; games 1-25 of 3,192  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
Oct-27-03  Benjamin Lau: Chris Ward and several other GMS christened this the Kasparov Variation since Kasparov used it to such great effect as white against his nemesis Karpov in their epic world championship matches.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Benzol: The following game is an interesting one with this opening. L Aptekar vs O Sarapu, 1977
<Benjamin Lau> Ben, it seems strange that they don't list Kasparov as a major practitioner of this line. Did he transpose into other variations against Karpov?
Dec-22-03  Benjamin Lau: It doesn't seem strange to me that he's not listed as a major practitioner. When Kasparov played Karpov for the world championship, Kasparov was still very young (he in fact was historically the youngest person to win the championship (22), beating out Tal's former record (23).) Kasparov's repertoire was still relatively unsophisticated and his opening preparation was not very good to put it mildly. In fact, he chose some suspect lines against Karpov, and was soon trailing 5-0 against him. Anyway, back to the point, Kasparov stopped playing the three knights variation after the championship. Although he did well against Karpov, it was mainly because, to put it bluntly, the Three Knights variation equalizes for black, and so Karpov did not study it in depth. It was simply not something he expected a world class opponent to employ. Why would anyone study an inferior variation for white? Kasparov knew that this trick would probably not work the next time, so he gradually switched over to the classical variation Qc2 among others. Still, he was the one that made this variation so famous, so some call it the Kasparov variation. To answer your second question, yes, it does tranpose sometimes, and that can make it tricky to play for black even though it should equalize under best play.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Benzol: OK, so he used mainly in the first match but was the first major player to use it frequently (at least in 1984). Thanks.
Dec-22-03  Benjamin Lau: I don't want to be nitpicky, but so that future people don't get confused, it was actually in 1985... :)
Premium Chessgames Member
  Benzol: The first match did start in 1984 didn't it?
Dec-22-03  Benjamin Lau: Ah, nevermind, I got confused. That's a good point. The match started in 1984 as you pointed out. The Nimzo Indian Three Knights variation was played mainly in the second match however. Good point.
Aug-04-05  Eric6312: What's Blacks best reply? 3...d5 into the Ragozin or 3...b6 into the QI are two options that come to mind.
Aug-04-05  Koster: < Eric6312: What's Blacks best reply?>

Many playable moves, as usual in the Nimzo. I would play c5, aiming for the Huebner after 5. e3 Nc6 6. Bd3 Bxc3+ 7. bxc3 d6 but it's a matter of taste.

Mar-22-06  PowerLifter1450: I don't think Kasparov ever used this version. He played 4. a3 so Black couldn't play Bb4.
Premium Chessgames Member
  WTHarvey: Here are some puzzles from E21 miniatures:
Jan-02-08  KingG: It seems to me that this line has been quite fashionable during that last year or so. Ponomariov in particular has used it quite a few times, but Topalov, Ivanchuk, Aronian, Grischuk, and Bacrot have all tried it as well. From what i can tell, only Bacrot has been playing it for a long time. In general the results have been quite favourable for White as well. For example:

Aronian vs Ponomariov, 2007
Grischuk vs Gelfand, 2007
Ponomariov vs Judit Polgar, 2007
Bacrot vs M Roiz, 2007

Topalov also got a good position against Karpov, Topalov vs Karpov, 2007.

I'm not very familar with the theory of this variation, so i'm not sure if new ideas have been found, or if some people just got tired of the 4.Qc2 line. Or maybe this is just an illusion, and the line has always been this popular?

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