[January 23, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
King’s Indian Defense, Averbakh Variation & Semi-Averbakh System

[Line 156 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Be2]

The Averbakh Variation, arising after 6… O-O 7. Bg5, is rarely seen in modern grandmaster practice. Black should generally avoid playing 7… e5, because White wins an exchange after 8. dxe5 dxe5 9. Qxd8 Rxd8 10. Nd5. However, Black has several good options, among them 7… Na6 and 7… c5.

After 7… Na6 8. Qd2 e5 9. d5 players of Black usually seek counterplay on the queenside with 9… c6 10. f3 cxd5 11. cxd5 Bd7. In a setup that resembles the Ben-Oni Defense that occurs after 7… c5 8. d5 h6 9. Be3 e6 the ensuing positions tend to be roughly equal.

Semi-Averbakh System (6… O-O 7. Be3) has its share of followers, among which grandmasters Riazantsev and Sokolov stand out. The two most popular replies are 7… c5, and in this case quite viable 7… e5. Though Black should typically be the more careful side, he has the means to equalize.

[Diagram: Black to Move] S. Mohandesi – A. Kovalev, Eupen 1994. White has overlooked his opponent’s powerful blow, which leads to Black’s considerable advantage. What would you play?

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[January 22, 2017] Updated Opening Article by GM Slaviša Brenjo:
February 2014 Revisited: Ruy Lopez, Marshall Attack with 12. d3 (17. Nd2!?)

Our original main line of this variation stems from F. Caruana – L. Aronian, Zürich 2014, which has recently been improved upon: Black seems capable of equalizing if he follows the recipe from M. Nayhebaver – C. Repka, Banska Stiavnica 2016. The most recent top-level game in this line is P. Harikrishna – L. Aronian, Wijk aan Zee 2017.

[Diagram: Black to Move] The diagrammed position had originally appeared in M. Adams – L. Aronian, Tromsø (ol) 2014, and what followed was probably still a part of the Armenian grandmaster’s deep opening preparation. White was exerting pressure all over the board, so something had to be done about that. Can you follow in Aronian’s footsteps and maintain the balance as Black?

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[January 21, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Semi-Slav Defense – Normal Variation without 6. Qc2

[Line 275 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 without 6. Qc2]

Stoltz Variation (6. Qc2) of the Semi-Slav Defense is covered in our Lines 280-285, while this opening line deals with the alternatives.

Meran Defense (6. Bd3) is certainly, along with 6. Qc2, the most important option on 6th move. After 6… dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 the main move 8. Bd3 can be found in Lines 276-279. Move 8. Be2 is an interesting possibility, though Black should not have difficulties reaching the equality.

White has also a couple of sidelines at his disposal. We recommend 6. Be2 to club level players, and 6. Ne5 to beginners.

The idea of 6. Be2 is to meet 6… dxc4 with 7. a4, stopping the b7-b5 advance. However, Black is able to equalize after 7… Bd6 8. Nd2 O-O 9. Nxc4 Bc7, as well as with 6… Bd6 7. O-O O-O, since White can hardly play e3-e4 with his Bishop on e2.

The above mentioned 6. Ne5 is typically followed by a straightforward plan f2-f4, Bd3 and O-O, though position arising after 6… Nxe5 7. dxe5 Nd7 seems rather balanced.

[Diagram: White to Move] L. Fressinet – W. Spoelman, Germany 2011. Fressinet missed the chance to get a big advantage with a surprising blow! How should White continue?

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[January 20, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Open Slav Defense, Czech Defense – Dutch Variation with 9. Qe2

[Line 108 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. a4 Bf5 6. e3 e6 7. Bxc4 Bb4 8. O-O Nbd7 9. Qe2]

The Dutch Variation is not longer as popular as the Krause Attack (6. Ne5), but still remains one of the most important lines of the Open Slav Defense.

The main choice of the players of Black is 9… O-O, where White usually continues with 10. e4 Bg6 11. Bd3. Move 11… Bh5, with the idea e6-e5, stands out as the most reliable option. After 12. e5 Nd5 13. Nxd5 cxd5 14. Qe3 occurs the critical position of this opening line, where Black has a couple of paths to equality.

Black also has two reasonable alternatives on 9th move: 9… Bg4 and 9… Bg6.

Move 9… Bg4 is aimed against 10. e4, where Black gets excellent prospects with 10… Nb6, attacking both the bishop on c4, and the d4-pawn. After 10. h3 Bh5 11. Rd1 O-O 12. e4 the ensuing position is roughly equal, yet still a bit more pleasant for White.

Against 9… Bg6 White has at his disposal an interesting gambit variation – 10. e4 Bxc3 11. bxc3 Nxe4 12. Ba3 with sufficient compensation, though Black should be fine if he plays accurately.

[Diagram: Black to Move] A. Pashikian – T. L. Petrosian, Yerevan 2009White carelessly took the b7-pawn with his Queen. How can Black punish his opponent and capture the Queen?

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[January 19, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Reti Opening – King’s Indian Attack with 2… g6; Polish Defense

[Line 025 : 1. Nf3 Nf6 without 2. c4, 2. d4]

Since move 2. d4 is covered in our Line o76, and 2. c4 in Line 029, the main point of interest of this opening line is the Reti Opening 2. g3.

A type of the Polish Defense occurring after 2. g3 b5 is an unorthodox, yet perfectly viable variation. White has played g2-g3, and is practically obliged to proceed at some point with Bg2; hence, the exposed b5-pawn can not be attacked as easily as in the line 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 b5.

After the more common 2… b6, White can again transpose to the English opening with 3. c4 or to the Queen’s Pawn game with 3. d4. The game usually continues 3. Bg2 Bb7 4. O-O e6 5. d3, followed either by c2-c4, or Nbd2 with e2-e4.

Black has many alternative setups, including a kingside fianchetto with 2… g6, while 2… d5 (Lines 026-028) leads to the main line of the Reti Opening.

We recommend 2. b3 for beginners. White’s plan includes Bb2, e2-e3 and c2-c4, with a small amount of theoretically important positions.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White’s last moves was 9. Bc3, intending to recapture with 10. Qxd2 on the next move, also defending the d4-pawn. If Black plays 9… Qb6, White will play another intermediate move 10. dxc5. So, what should Black do in the diagrammed position?

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[January 18, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Italian Game, Giouco Pianissimo with 5… a6 – Main Line

[Line 366 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d3 a6 6. Bb3 d6 7. O-O]

Giouco Pianissimo has become an extremely popular opening in recent years, especially on the highest level. There are two basic continuations for Black on 7th move: one is an early Bishop retreat – 7… Ba7, and the other is 7… O-O.

In the second case, after the usual 8. Nbd2, the most frequent response is 8… Be6, though an alternative 8… Re8 is also perfectly fine.

The idea of 7… Ba7 is to prevent White from playing d3-d4 in an early stage of the game. Moves 8. Re1, 8. h3, 8. Be3 and 8. Nbd2 have been extensively played, but the verdict stays the same – Black has no difficulties getting even chances.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Black is exerting pressure on the kingside and the most important defending white piece is the Knight on f3. How can Black disrupt the position of that Knight and gain an advantage?

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