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.


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) ...


... the following was on page 187:


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.’


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.



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


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).

Latest update: 5 April 2019.

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