[April 26, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Slaviša Brenjo:
Ruy Lopez, Closed Defense without 6. Re1 (Miscellaneous)

[Line 391 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 without 6. Re1]

Line 391 mainly deals with the highly popular 6. d3, as well as other alternatives to 6. Re1 (Lines 393-413).

Apart from 6. d3 b5, covered in Line 392, Black has in 6. d3 d6 another popular choice of defending from the threat of Bxc6 followed by Nxe5. Here, White has an interesting sideline in 7. c4, which is often followed by Nc3 and Bxc6 – by giving away his bishop pair, White gains a better pawn structure in return.

After 7. c3 O-O 8. Nbd2 occurs a typical Ruy Lopez position with lots of maneuvering. Black has a few ways of obtaining even chances with 8… b58… Re8 or 8… Nd7 being some of the usual introduction moves.

The Double Deferred Exchange Variation (6. Bxc6) can sometimes be seen in strong grandmasters’ practice. After 6… dxc6 7. d3 Bishop on e7 feels less comfortable than on c5 or d6, but Black still has just enough time to transfer the pieces to good squares, before White gains some activity. Black’s common plan is Nd7 and f7-f6, followed by transferring the Knight from d7 either to c6 or e6.

[Diagram: White to Move] V. Ivanchuk – V. Kramnik, Monte Carlo (blindfold) 2002. By moving his Knight from e3 White can attack the pinned e4-pawn. Therefore, the question is: what is the best place to move the Knight to?

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[April 25, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
King’s Indian Defense, Sämisch Variation – Normal Defense with 6… c5

[Line 155 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. f3 O-O 6. Be3 c5]

Line 155 deals with what’s currently considered the most promising reaction from Black against the Sämisch Variation of KID. There are many double-edged positions occurring in this line, whatever White chooses to play: 7. dxc5, 7. d5 or 7. Nge2.

If White accepts the pawn sacrifice with 7. dxc5 dxc5 8. Qxd8 Rxd8 9. Bxc5, Black generally gets a nice compensation, for example 9… Nc6 10. Nge2 b6 11. Ba3 Ba6, with good development advantage.

In case when White decides to block the center with 7. d5 e6 8. Qd2 exd5 9. cxd5, a Benoni-type positions occur, and again Black is able to get sufficient counterplay, like in the following line: 9… a6 10. a4 Re8 11. Nge2 Nbd7 12. Ng3 h5.

The most demanding line for both sides is the flexible 7. Nge2. Black can decide between an interesting sideline 7… Qa5 8. Nc1 cxd4, that has been seen in a few recent games, and the critical 7… Nc6 8. d5 Ne5 9. Ng3 h5 10. Be2 h4 11. Nf1 e6 with very sharp play.

[Diagram: Black to Move] A. Istratescu – E. Berg, Eritrea 2011. White’s last move was the careless g2-g4, allowing his opponent a strong blow that immediately turns things into his favor.

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[April 24, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Four Knights Variation (incl. Lasker-Pelikan Variation)

[Line 434 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6]

Lasker-Pelikan/Sveshnikov Variation is not as popular as it used to be, but according to the latest opening theory, Black can achieve rather promising positions.

To begin with, Line 434 deals with early deviations in the Lasker Variation, starting with various choices for White on move six, i.e. after 5. Nc3 e5.

By far the main move is 6. Ndb5, and after 6… d6 we arrive at the first big crossroad. For club level players we recommend 7. Nd5, and for beginners 7. a4, since they are much less demanding than the main lines.

After the main 7. Bg5 a6 8. Na3 b5 White can decide between two types of position – he can either opt for the calm 9. Nd5, followed by Bxf6, or capture on f6 immediately, where Black is obliged to take the Bishop with his pawn. Move 9. Nd5 is covered in our Lines 437-439, and the position occurring after 9. Bxf6 gxf6 10. Nd5 f5 in our Lines 435-436.

The main focus of this line is 9. Bxf6 gxf6 10. Nd5 Bg7, which was Kramnik’s pet line at the time when he used to play the Sicilian Defense. Black’s idea is to quickly trade the strong white Knight on d5 with Nc6-e7, followed by the thematic f6-f5, which is often connected with a pawn sacrifice. The main tabiya in this line is the position occurring after 11. Bd3 Ne7 12. Nxe7 Qxe7 13. O-O O-O 14. c4 f5, where great complications typically arise.

[Diagram: White to Move] White is a few pawns up, but three of his pieces are under attack. How can he deal with that and gain substantial advantage?

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[April 23, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Slav Defense, Chebanenko Variation with 5. e3 b5 6. b3

[Line 103 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 a6 5. e3 b5 6. b3]

Chebanenko Variation of the Slav Defense has lost a lot of popularity in recent years, mainly because of the line covered here.

The most frequently played continuation is  6… Bg4, with the idea Nbd7, e7-e6 and Bd6. White typically counters it with 7. Be2 Nbd7 8. h3. If Black trades his bishop for a knight with 8… Bxf3 9. Bxf3 e6 10. O-O, White gets a stable advantage due to his bishop pair. On the other hand, after 8… Bf5 9. g4! Bg6 10. Ne5 White has the initiative.

Black’s alternatives on 6th move are 6… Bf5 and 6… g6, but in either case, White can secure an opening edge.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position is from the key game R. Wojtaszek – V. Malakhov, Jurmala (rapid) 2013. Black needs only one tempo to fully equalize, but it’s White’s turn and it makes all the difference…

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[April 22, 2018] Trusted: Opening Survey by GM Aleksandar Kovačević
May 2017 Revisited: Sicilian Defense, Accelerated Dragon with 8… d5!? (10. Qd2)

The original article dealt with Gelfand’s recipe against 1. e4 that he tried both versus Giri and Vachier-Lagrave, and this update brings a number of theoretically relevant games that represent important contributions to our understanding of this line. For instance, while Aroshidze did manage to win twice by ignoring the initial pawn sacrifice, the most recent engine games seem to have refuted his approach quite convincingly.

[Diagram: Black to Move] The diagrammed position is the introduction to the grand finale of the current main line of this variation. White pawns appear unstoppable, so Black has to act quickly. Any last minute thoughts?

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[April 21, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
Caro-Kann Defense, Advance Variation (incl. Tal Variation)

[Line 316 : 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 with 4. Nd2, 4. h4]

Line 316 covers two tricky lines of the Advance Variation in the Caro-Kann Defense – the aggressive Tal Variation (4. h4), and the more positional, but equally demanding 4. Nd2.

The idea behind the Tal Variation is to disturb black light-squared Bishop with g2-g4, which delays Black’s thematic e7-e6. Black has many possibilities, like 4… Qb6, 4… a6, 4… Qc8 or 4… c5, but only 4… h6 and 4… h5 allow him to gain equal chances. After 4. h4 h5 White has to decide between two essentially different treatments of the position: to exploit the g5 weakness with 5. Bd3 Bxd3 6. Qxd3 (followed by Bg5), or to go for the more complicated 5. c4 e6 6. Nc3 Ne7 7. Bg5 Qb6 8. Qd2.

By playing 4. Nd2, immediately followed by Nb3, White wants to hamper Black’s typical breakthrough c6-c5. After 4… e6 5. Nb3 Nd7 6. Nf3 Ne7 7. Be2 Bg6 Black needs to be careful with the topical Nf5 and Be7 idea, because White can often react with g2-g4, which results in a pressure on the kingside. Anyway, with precise play, Black usually gets good prospects.

[Diagram: White to Move] E. Andreev – V. Iordachescu, Al-Ain 2013. White has somewhat better development and he needs to act fast to obtain tangible advantage. How should he continue?

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