[January 23, 2019] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Pirc Defense, Two Knights System

[Line 300 : 1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. Nf3]

Two Knights System is one of the most promising variations for White in the Pirc Defense. After the most common follow-up 4… Bg7 5. Be2 O-O 6. O-O arises a position where Black has a number of popular setups at his disposal.

After the classical 6… c6 7. a4 Nbd7 White is generally able to get somewhat better prospects with 8. a5, 8. Be3, and even with 8. h3.

The idea of 6… Bg4 is to trade that Bishop for the Knight on f3 at an appropriate moment, and later to press the d4-square with Nc6 and e7-e5.

In case of 6… a6 7. Re1 Black shouldn’t hurry with 7… b5 because White gets a big edge there with 8. e5. He should instead continue with 7… Nc6, though White’s position is a bit preferable after 8. d5 Ne5 9. Nxe5 dxe5 10. Bg5.

An unconventional move 6… e6 is connected with Nc6, where in case of d4-d5 Black has a nice square for that Knight on e7. Anyway, due to a slight space advantage, White is slightly better after 6… e6 7. Be3 Nc6 8. Qd2.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black has successfully defended from the attack along the h-file, yet his King remains vulnerable. How should White proceed to gain a substantial advantage?

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[January 22, 2019] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
Sicilian Defense, Najdorf Variation – Amsterdam Variation

[Line 479 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. f4]

The Amsterdam Variation has lost a lot in popularity in the recent years, since Black has found a couple of ways to get good prospects.

Move 6… e5 is considered to be the main line. After 7. Nf3 Nbd7 8. a4 Be7 players of White generally choose between 9. Bd3 and 9. Bc4.

Another reputable option for Black is 6… Qc7, and is often connected with a kingside fianchetto. For example 7. Bd3 g6 8. O-O Bg7 9. Nf3 Nbd7, and the position is about equal.

Black can also start immediately with 6… g6, with the idea to respond to 7. Nf3 with 7… Nc6.

There is also nothing wrong with 6… Nbd7, followed by either g7-g6 and Bg7, or e7-e5.

[Diagram: White to Move] White has better piece development, while black dark-squared Bishop is unprotected. This gives White tactical motifs leading to strong initiative!

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[January 21, 2019] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Open Slav Defense, Carlsbad Variation

[Line 111 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. a4 Bf5 6. Ne5 Nbd7 7. Nxc4 Qc7]

Line 111 covers one of the main variations of the Slav Defense. After almost the exclusive 8. g3 Black usually replies with the Carlsbad Variation (8… e5). The next couple of moves are fairly forced: 9. dxe5 Nxe5 10. Bf4, where the best option for Black is 10… Nfd7. In the position arising after 11. Bg2 there are two well-investigated continuations for Black: 11… g5 and 11… f6.

If Black opts for 11… g5, we recommend 12. Ne3 gxf4 13. Nxf5 O-O-O 14. Qc2 for advanced players, while 12. Bxe5 Nxe5 13. Qd4 and 12. Nxe5 gxf4 13. Nxd7 are somewhat less complicated lines, thus more suitable for club level players.

Move 11… f6 is considered to lead to positions that are more pleasant for White, for example: 12. O-O Nc5 13. Ne3 Bg6 14. b4 with the initiative.

[Diagram: White to Move] D. Fillon – T. Hagen, corr. 2010. There are many pieces aligned on the c-file, and it’s far from obvious how White can make use of the position of his Rook on c1 to make concrete threats to black King. How can White launch a very strong attack?

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[January 20, 2019] Updated Opening Article by GM Aleksandar Kovačević:
June 2018 Revisited: Sicilian Defense, Paulsen Variation: Bastrikov Variation

Our original main line of this variation still follows A. Morozevich – I. Bukavshin, Moscow (rapid) 2015, a marvelous tactical masterpiece by the former World No. 2. New theoretically important developments have appeared since  M. Vachier Lagrave – V. Anand, Karlsruhe/Baden Baden 2018, so it seemed logical to revisit this double-edged line half a year after the previous installment.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position is from a recent game A. Demchenko – D. Saduakassova, Teplice 2018. This is a theoretically important line/position, where players of White have been unable to find a clear-cut path to advantage thus far. However, we believe that there is an ingenious plan that should lead to White’s tangible advantage. Can you give it a try and see if you can find it, too?

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[January 19, 2019] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Nimzo-Indian Defense, Rubinstein Variation – Normal Variation with 5. Bd3

[Line 190 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. Bd3]

From the initial position of our Line 190 5… d5 is considered to be the main move, where 6. Nf3 is covered in our Lines 191-194.

If White opts for 6. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 the principal choice for Black is 6… dxc4 7. Bxc4 c5, and after 8. Nf3 he is able to equalize with 8… Qc7, but also with 8… b6 and 8… Qa5. White sometimes develops the Knight to the other square: 8. Ne2. Black is again fine, for example 8… Qc7 9. Ba2 b6 10. O-O Ba6.

Move 5… c5 is a reasonable alternative to the main 5… d5. If White now plays 6. Nf3, Black gets even chances with 6… b6 7. O-O Bxc3 8. bxc3 Bb7. Also, after 6. a3 Bxc3+ 7. bxc3 Nc6 8. Ne2 Black gets sufficient counterplay with 8… b6, planning Ba6 and Na5, and pressing the weak c4-pawn.

[Diagram: Black to Move] L. Van Wely – P. Acs, Hoogoveen 2002. Black Knight on h2 is very active and his Bishops and Queen are also ready to join the attack on the poorly protected white King. How should Black continue to gain an almost decisive advantage?

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[January 18, 2019] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
Ruy Lopez, Open Variation – Bernstein Variation (incl. Karpov Gambit)

[Line 390 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Nxe4 6. d4 b5 7. Bb3 d5 8. dxe5 Be6 9. Nbd2]

The Bernstein Variation, covered in our Line 390, was a battlefield of important games during three World Championship matches: two matches between Karpov and Korchnoi (Baguio City 1978 and Merano 1981), and Kasparov – Anand, New York 1995.

The main choice of Black is 9… Nc5, where the usual reply is 10. c3. Black has in 10… d4 an interesting alternative to the more common 10… Be7. One of the possible replies to 10… d4 is a quiet 11. Bxe6 Nxe6 12. cxd4, and the other is the sharp Karpov Gambit (11. Ng5).

Move 10… Be7 has became highly popular among top-level players in the recent years – W. So, F. Caruana and Ding Liren play it regularly with Black pieces. The critical position arises after 10… Be7 11. Bc2 d4 12. Nb3 d3, where White can decide between an endgame 13. Nxc5 dxc2 14. Qxd8+ Rxd8 15. Nxe6 fxe6 16. Be3 Rd5, and the complex 13. Bb1 Nxb3 14. axb3 Bf5. In both cases Black has resources to get equal positions.

In case of 9… Bc5, White gets a preferable endgame with 10. Nxe4 dxe4 11. Ng5 Qxd1 12. Rxd1.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position appeared in a couple of strong games, e.g. in P. Svidler – V. Anand, Dos Hermanas 1999, among others. How can White obtain a big advantage?

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