[February 24, 2019] Updated Opening Article by GM Dragan Paunović:
September 2015 Revisited: English Opening, Bremen System with 7. Nf3

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.

All full-time Catalan players have faced quite a number of “pawn keepers” – in theory, White generally welcomes greedy opponents, as such pawn snatching typically comes at a price. Though Catalan aficionados certainly appreciate the initiative and Black’s somewhat arrested development, being a pawn down tends to be a tad unsettling, which is exactly the kind of hard currency that players of Black can count on.

The update of this article is focused on one of Black’s rarely-used resources – Bb5, in one of the less frequently employed sidelines – 5… Bd7. New human and engine games seem to confirm that this a reasonably decent plan, so we will continue to keep track of the developments in this line.

[Diagram: White to Move] White has a material advantage, but his pieces are uncoordinated and pawns hopelessly scattered. How can he restore order and secure a stable advantage?

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[February 23, 2019] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Slav Stonewall & Semi-Slav

[Line 067 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 without 3… Nf6]

The most frequently played move 3… Nf6 is covered in our Lines 069-070, and two common replies to 3… e6 (4. e4 and 4. Nf3) can be found in Line 068. From other options after 3… e6, move 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bf4 leads to some simplifications and we recommend it to beginners, while after 4. e3 move 4… Bd6 is most often connected with the Slav Stonewall, which occurs when Black plays f7-f5. A typical position for this variations arises after 5. Bd3 f5 6. Nf3 Nf6 7. O-O O-O, with a complex strategic battle.

The other popular line is 3… dxc4 where moves 4. e4 and 4. e3 are of about the same strength. This line is generally easier to play with White, but Black is able to equalize with accurate play.

[Diagram: White to Move] J. Timman – A. Balshan, Jerusalem 1967. White is a pawn down and his Knight is under attack. How should he continue and get an almost decisive advantage?

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[February 22, 2019] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Nimzo-Indian Defense, Rubinstein Variation – Normal Variation without 5. Bd3

[Line 189 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O without 5. Bd3]

Apart from 5. Bd3 (Line 190-194) another highly popular choice for players of White in the Rubinstein Variation is 5. Nge2, while 5. Nf3 often transposes to positions from the 5. Bd3 line, that is after White places his Bishop on d3.

Black has three satisfactory options against 5. Nge2 and they are 5… d5, 5… Re8 and 5… c6.

Move 5… d5 is the most straightforward one, preparing a retreat with the dark-squared Bishop when White attacks it with a2-a3. After the usual 6. a3, Black’s response is either 6… Be7, or 6… Bd6. In the latter case Black prevents White from playing Nf4, provoking the c4-c5 advance.

The idea of 5… Re8 is to save a tempo by moving the Bishop immediately back to f8. White can try to make use of it with 6. a3 Bf8 7. d5,which gains some extra space.

By playing 5… c6, Black plans to maneuver the Bishop from b4 to c7 and, if White allows it, intends to continue with d7-d5. An exemplary line could be 5… c6 6. a3 Ba5 7. b4 Bc7 8. e4 d5 9. e5 Ne8, typically creating counterplay with f7-f6 and a7-a5.

[Diagram: White to Move] D. Navara – K. Kulaots, Heraklio 2007. It looks like Black has efficiently stopped White from making a pawn advance on the kingside by playing 13… h5. Nonetheless, White can launch a strong attack – can you see how?

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2016-03-14 - Update Line 020[February 21, 2019] Updated Opening Line (originally by GM Dragan Paunović):
English Opening, Symmetrical Variation – Three Knights System

[Line 020 : 1. Nf3 c5 2. c4 Nc6 3. Nc3]

There are three major lines covered in Line 020, and the first one is the highly popular 3… e5 that can lead to very dynamic positions, like in the main line: 3… e5 4. e3 Nf6 5. d4 cxd4 6. exd4 e4 7. Ne5. After 3… g6 4. e3 Nf6 5. d4 cxd4 6. exd4 d5 a tricky type of the Panov Attack usually occurs. Finally, there is also a not particularly promising line for Black, starting with 3… Nd4.

Moves like 3… Nf6 and 3… e6 lead to positions covered in other opening lines: the former is covered in Line 032, while the latter transposes to Line 033 after 3… e6 4. g3 Nf6.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black has a space advantage and just needs to develop his light-squared Bishop to fortify his position. However, it’s White’s turn to move, and he has an energetic way to seize the initiative!

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[February 20, 2019] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Najdorf Variation – Poisoned Pawn Variation

[Line 483 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 Qb6]

The Poisoned Pawn Variation is the most crticial continuation in the 6. Bg5 line of the Najdorf Variation in the Sicilian Defense. It occurs when Black takes the b2-pawn after 8. Qd2 Qxb2. The old move 9. Nb3 is considered not too promising for White, as Black gets satisfactory positions in more than one way.

The main line is 9. Rb1 Qa3, where 10. e5 remains the most ambitious choice. After 10… h6 11. Bh4 dxe5 12. fxe5 there are three options for Black of about the same strength. Heavily investigated and extremely sharp positions arise both after 12… Nfd7 13. Ne4 Qxa2 14. Rd1 Qd5 15. Qe3 Qxe5, 12… g5 13. exf6 gxh4 14. Be2 Qa5 15. O-O Nd7 and 12… Nd5 13. Nxd5 exd5 14. e6 Bxe6 15. Nxe6 fxe6.

If Black avoids capturing the pawn, and goes for 8… Nc6, White gets a small but durable edge with 9. Bxf6 gxf6 10. Nb3.

There are other possibilities for White on 8th move: 8. Qd3, which has some similarities with the 8. Qd2 line, or defending the b2-pawn by means of 8. Nb3 or 8. a3. In any case, position remains sharp and Black has more then one path to get balanced positions.

[Diagram: White to Move] M. Kolesar – V. Filipchenko, corr. 2004. White Rook on h3 is not only participating in the attack on the black King, but can also create threats to the opponent’s Queen along the 3rd rank. How can White gain a considerable advantage starting from the diagrammed position?

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[February 19, 2019] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Queen’s Indian Defense, Miles & Spassky Variations

[Line 202 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 without 4. Nc3, 4. a3, 4. g3]

The most popular variations in the Queen’s Indian Defense are 4. g3 (Lines 213-228)4. a3 (Lines 206-212) and 4. Nc3 (Lines 203-205).

Miles Variation (4. Bf4) is a line that’s generally suitable for beginners, since White’s plan is easy to grasp: it typically includes e2-e3, h2-h3, Bd3(e2), O-O and Nbd2(c3).

Spassky Variation (4. e3) is another line for White that’s not particularly ambitious. Black has several decent responses, and 4… Bb7 is the most natural choice among them. In the position arising after 5. Bd3 d5 6. b3, Black has a few moves of about the same strength at his disposal. Move 6… c5 leads to a rather symmetrical position, while some other popular options here are 6… Bd6 7. O-O O-O 8. Bb2 Nbd7 and 6… Bb4+ 7. Nbd2 c5.

[Diagram: White to Move] A. Blees – H. Grooten, Eindhoven 1983. White has a strong initiative and his piece activity allows him to gain a decisive advantage. What would you propose?

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