[July 19, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Classical Variation (incl. Fianchetto & Boleslavsky Variations)

[Line 469 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 without 6. Bg5, 6. Bc4]

Two main variations are covered separately: Richter-Rauzer Variation (6. Bg5) in Lines 472-476, and Sozin Attack (6. Bc4) in Line 471.

Against the Fianchetto Variation (6. g3) two most common continuations are 6… e6 and the transposition to the Dragon Variation with 6… g6 (Line 464). In either case Black has good prospects.

Move 6. f3 leads to dynamic positions resembling the English Attack of the Najdorf Sicilian. Black’s usual response is 6… e5 7. Nb3 Be7 8. Be3 O-O, and his plan is often connected with the a7-a5-a4 advance.

Boleslavsky Variation 6. Be2 e5 is a classical opening, which is not seen very often in modern grandmaster practice. Moves 7. Nf3 and 7. Nb3 lead to similar positions, with typical maneuvers for both sides.

Black has two viable alternatives against 6. Be2: one is the Classical Scheveningen 6… e6 (Line 470), and the other is 6… g6 – a quiet line of the Dragon Variation.

[Diagram: Black to Move] The diagram shows one of the critical positions of this opening line. How does Black create sufficient counterplay?

Click here to see the line in our viewer…


[July 18, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Slaviša Brenjo:
Ruy Lopez, Closed Defense with 6. Re1 (Miscellaneous)

[Line 393 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1]

White is threatening to play Bxc6 and Nxe5, so Black needs to protect the e-pawn.

Move 6… d6 is rather passive and it allows White to obtain an advantage, both with 7. Bxc6+ bxc6 8. d4 and 7. c3 Bg4 8. d3 Nd7 9. Be3.

The main line of Ruy Lopez goes 6… b5 7. Bb3 where 7… d6 is covered in our Lines 402-413.

The idea of 7… O-O is keeping the option of the Marshall Attack (7… O-O 8. c3 d5), while White has a couple of ways to avoid it: 8. h3 (Lines 397-399), 8. a4 (Lines 395-396) and 8. d3 (Line 394).

From other possibilities for White, moves 8. a3 and 8. Nc3 give Black an easy game, while 8. d4 is more demanding for both sides. If Black continues with 8… d6 White usually plays 9. c3, transposing to Line 402. Capturing on d4 with the pawn 8… exd4 is dangerous for Black, since White gets more than sufficient compensation after 9. e5 Ne8 10. c3 dxc3 11. Nc3. The most common choice of Black is 8… Nxd4, and after both 9. Bxf7+ Rxf7 10. Nxe5 Rf8 11. Qxd4 Bb7 and 9. Nxd4 exd4 10. e5 Ne8 the position is balanced.

[Diagram: White to Move] If White retreats with his Bishop to g3, Black will exchange a pair of Bishops and Queens and defuse White’s initiative. Having that in mind, what is the best reaction for White in the diagrammed position?

Click here to see the line in our viewer…


[July 17, 2018] 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?

Click here to see the line in our viewer…


[July 16, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Queen’s Indian Defense, Kasparov-Petrosian Variation

[Line 208 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. a3 Bb7]

The idea of the Kasparov-Petrosian Variation (4. a3) is to prevent Black from playing Bb4. After 4. a3 Bb7 5. Nc3 Black also has an interesting sideline 5… Ne4, where he should get roughly equal chances.

In case of the main 5… d5, White has a choice between 6. cxd5 (Lines 210-212), 6. Bg5 (Line 209) and moves covered in this opening line: the frequently employed 6. Qc2, and less common 6. Qa4+.

As a response to 6. Qc2, Black has three moves of about the same strength: 6… Be7, 6… dxc4 and 6… c5 where, in any case, he should equalize with relative ease.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black pieces lack coordination and black King is in serious danger. How can White exploit it and get a winning position in a couple of moves?

Click here to see the line in our viewer…


[July 15, 2018] Pick of the Week by GM Boris Avrukh:
December 2017 Revisited: Closed Catalan Defense with 7. Ne5, 9. Na3 & 11. Qd2 

After the original key game W. So – H. Nakamura, Saint Louis 2016 many theoretically relevant games followed, including Brainfish 091016 – Raubfisch ME 262, Internet (blitz) 2016, which so far more or less represents the best mutual play in this line. Among the most recent additions we recommend A. Adly – N. Mohota, Reykjavik 2018 and F. Bindrich – P. Hoeglauer, Karlsruhe 2018 as the most interesting encounters in terms of their relevance for modern opening theory.

[Diagram: Black to Move] The diagrammed position comes from D. Howell – Y. Dzhumagaliev, Riyadh (rapid) 2017. White overplayed his hand, and Black had an opportunity (that he missed) to completely turn the tables. Can you find our improvement?

Click here to see the updated article in our viewer.


[July 14, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Pirc Defense with 4. Be3, incl. Sveshnikov-Jansa & 150 Attack

[Line 298 : 1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. Be3]

The so-called 150 Attack starts with 4. Be3 where White has a pretty straightforward plan in Qd2, f2-f3 and O-O-O. After Black plays Bg7, trading the dark-coloured bishops with Bh6 and launching  a kingside attack is White’s next logical step. Black usually opposes his opponent’s plan by postponing Bg7 and advancing on the queenside instead, where c7-c6 and b7-b5 are his typical moves.

After the most common 4… c6 5. Qd2 b5 White either sticks to the above mentioned aggressive plan, like in 6. f3 Bg7 7. g4, or shifts to a more positional option, such as 6. Bd3 Nbd7 7. Nf3 Bg7 8. h3 O-O 9. O-O. It is generally easier to play the arising positions as White, but Black nevertheless has sufficient resources to get even chances.

Sveshnikov-Jansa Attack (4… c6 5. h3) is another popular setup for White. Move 5… b5 is a dubious one against this plan, since after 6. e5 White gets a very strong initiative. Black usually opts for 5… Bg7 instead, where White has a choice between 6. Qd2 (which is similar to the 5. Qd2 line), and some more sharp alternatives, such as 6. f4 and 6. g4.

[Diagram: Black to Move] F. Caruana – V. Ivanchuk, Biel 2009. Ivanchuk missed the chance to get a decisive advantage. Can you see how Black could have exploited the fact that bishop on b5 was horribly misplaced?

Click here to see the line in our viewer…