[October 20, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Bogo-Indian Defense, Gruenfeld Variation with 4… b6

[Line 197 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Bb4+ 4. Nbd2 b6]

After 5. a3 Black is practically forced to give away the Bishop from b4 for the Knight on d2 with 5… Bxd2+, since the position after 5… Be7 6. e4 remains firmly in White’s favor.

If White takes on d2 with the Bishop (6. Bxd2), his plan is usually connected with Bg5 and e3. On the other hand Black, at some point, usually reacts with h6, g5 and Ne4, typically obtaining equal chances.

Capturing with the Queen (5. a3 Bxd2+ 6. Qxd2) leads to small but stable advantage for White – the most common plan is e2-e3, Be2, O-O and Bb2, followed by either b2-b3 or b2-b4. A model line could be: 6… Bb7 7. e3 O-O 8. Be2 d6 9. O-O Nbd7 10. b4 Ne4 11. Qc2 f5. Black here intends to create some activity on the kingside with a typical maneuver Rf6-h6(g6). Thematic reaction from White 12. d5! ought to gives him the initiative, while after 12. Bb2 Rf6 13. d5 Rh6 Black gets sufficient counterplay.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black Bishop on d5 is unprotected and by moving the Knight from d4 white Rook from d1 will immediately attack it; what is the best way for White to make use of that fact?

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[October 21, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
French Defense, Winawer Variation

[Line 343 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4]

Line 343 is an introductory line of the Winawer Variation of the French Defense and, as can be expected, White has many, substantially different, possibilities at his disposal.

Exchange variation (4. exd5) typically leads to quiet positions. After 4… exd5 5. Bd3 a common continuation could be 5… Nc6 6. a3 Bxc3+ 7. bxc3 Nge7 with White having a pair of Bishops and his opponent relying on a better pawn structure.

Old move 4. Nge2 doesn’t seem to pose real problems to Black. After 4… dxe4 5. a3 Be7 6. Nxe4 Nf6 occurs a position similar to the Rubinshtein Variation (3… dxe4 4. Nxe4), but the Knight on e2 is here a bit passive.

By choosing 4. a3 White is heading for sharp lines 4… Bxc3+ 5. bxc3 dxe4 6. Qg4 Nf6 7. Qg7 Rg8 8. Qh6, where Black has a few ways to get sufficient counterplay.

By far the main move is 4. e5 and the main option 4… c5 is covered in our Lines 344-346. Other popular variations for Black are 4… b6 and 4… Qd7, while 4… Ne7 usually transposes to positions from 4… c5, for example 4… Ne7 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 c5 is the initial position of Line 345.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black has a Bishop+Queen battery aiming towards the White King, and the g2-pawn is under attack. How can White protect his King and activate the pieces to gain a clear advantage?

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[October 20, 2016] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
English Opening, Four Knights Variation – Romanishin & Stean Variations

[Line 013 : 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e5 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. e3]

This update is a small tribute to our late colleague GM Dragan Paunović. In memory of our dear friend, our Editorial Board will continue updating his lines and articles.

By choosing 4. e3 against the Four Knights Variation of the English Opening, White supports the d4-square with his e-pawn and later indends to play d2-d4.

Depending on the taste, Black usually opts for one of the following: 4… Bb4, 4… Be7, 4… d6 or 4… d5.

Variation 4… Bb4 is aimed against White’s d2-d4 advance, and after 5. Qc2 the two most frequent continuations from Black are the Romanishin Variation (5… Bxc3) and 5… O-O 6. Nd5 Re8, where 7. Qf5 is the initial position of the Stean Variation.

Move 4… Be7 leads to less demanding positions, and two common follow-ups are 5. a3 O-O 6. Qc2 d5 7. cxd5 Nxd5 and 5. d4 exd4 6. Nxd4 O-O.

Line 4… d6 5. d4 g6 offers White an immediate opportunity to enter the endgame with 6. dxe5 Nxe5 7. Nxe5 dxe5 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8, where Black ought to get equal chances without much effort.

Reversed Paulsen Variation of the Sicilian Defense, occuring after 4… d5 5. cxd5 Nxd5, is typically very sensitive for Black since it requires his full attention.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White’s last move was a defensive one: Rd1-d4 brings the Rook to an active role in protection against Black’s strong attack. Still, Black has a powerful response, which should secure him a big advantage!

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[October 19, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, French Variation (incl. Kramnik Variation)

[Line 440 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 without 3. d3, 3. d4]

As a reaction against the French Variation (2… e6) of the Sicilian Defense, apart from 3. d4 (Lines 442-456) and 3. d3 (Line 441), White has several other possibilities and 3. Nc3 and 3. b3 are some of the interesting sidelines.

Early King’s fianchetto (3. g3) is one of the most popular options. Black, on his behalf, has a number of setups to choose from. Move 3… Nf6 forces White to chose the way how to defend the attacked e4-pawn, and the common reactions are 4. Qe2, 4. e5 and 4. Nc3. After 3… Nc6 4. Bg2 Black again has a few choices, and both 4… Nf6 and 4… d5 can be frequently seen on the highest level.

In the Kramnik Variation (3. c4) White postpones the d2-d4 advance until he has developed his kingside pieces. The game often continues in the following mold: 3… Nc6 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. Be2, where moves 5… b6 and 5… d5 look most promising for the players of Black.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black is currently a Rook up, but White can get a strong attack with accurate play.

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[October 18, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Boris Avrukh:
Catalan Defense, Closed Variation – Main Line with 8. Bf4 Nbd7 9. Qc2 b6 10. Rd1 Ba6

[Line 234 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 Bb4+ 5. Bd2 Be7 6. Bg2 O-O 7. O-O c6 8. Bf4 Nbd7 9. Qc2 b6 10. Rd1 Ba6]

Line 234 covers one of the main lines of the Catalan Defense. As a response to Black’s attack on the c4 pawn, White usually opts for one of the following moves 11. b3, 11. Ne5 or 11. cxd5.

By choosing 11. cxd5 cxd5 12. Ne5 White narows the possibilities for both sides, but makes things a bit easier for Black. After 12… Nxe5 13. dxe5 Ng4 some complications typically arise, as seen in the recent B. Gelfand – S. Karjakin, Jurmala (rapid) 2015 game.

After 11. Ne5 Rc8 White can go either for the calm 12. cxd5 cxd5 13. Nc6 with later Nxe7+, or he can sacrifice a pawn with 12. Nc3 Bxc4 13. Nxc4 dxc4 14. e4.

Move 11. b3 keeps the tension, and is the most frequently seen move in this position. Most often the game continues 11… Rc8 12. Nc3, where Black has a few ways to achieve good prospects, such as 12… Nh5 13. Bc1 Nhf6, 12… Qe8 13. e4 dxc4 and 12… h6 13. e4 dxc4 14. Nd2 b5.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White is a pawn up and holds a pair of strong Bishops. Yet, it’s Black’s move and with a nice Knight’s ‘dance’ Black is able to obtain a substantial edge!

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[October 17, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Queen’s Pawn Game; Modern Defense – Pterodactyl Variation

[Line 046 : 1. d4 without 1… d6, 1… d5, 1… e6, 1… f5, 1… Nf6]

Line 046 is the introductury line that comprises Black’s various replies to the Queen’s Pawn Game (1. d4). Some of the variations covered here are 1… c5, 1… Nc6 and 1… b6, but they are rarely seen in contemporary practice since none of them offer Black equal prospects.

Modern Defense (1… g6), on the other hand, has its share of followers. White can transpose to King’s pawn systems with 2. e4 or stay true to closed systems with 2. c4 or 2. Nf3, while Black can either switch to the King’s Indian/Grunfeld Defense with 2. c4 Nf6, or stick to his initial choice with 2. c4 Bg7.

The main focus of our Line 046 is 3. Nf3; move 3. Nc3 belongs to Line 047, while 3. e4 d6 4. Ne2 represents an interensting extra option that possible due to Black’s late development of his Knight on g8.

After 1. d4 g6 2. c4 Bg7 3. Nf3 d6 4. Nc3 c5 5. e4 Black usually opts for either 5… Nc6 or 5… Qa5. The first option allows White to obtain preferable positions with 6. d5 Nd4 7. Nxd4 cxd4 8. Nb5, while the second one can be successfully met with 6. d5 Bxc3+ 7. bxc3.

[Diagram: White to Move] One of the critical positions of this opening line: how can White seize the initiative from the diagrammed position?

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