[October 16, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
Scotch Game, Classical Variation without 5. Nxc6

[Line 361 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Bc5 without 5. Nxc6]

Apart from move 5. Nxc6 covered in our Line 362, White also has another two highly popular options: 5. Nb3 and 5. Be3.

Move 5. Nb3 has become a frequent choice among the top players in recent years. Though sidelines 5… Bb4+ and 5… Be7 are perfectly viable, they lead to positions with a small edge for White. After the usual 5… Bb6 6. Nc3 Black has three possibilities of about the same strength: 6… Nf6, 6… d6 and 6… Nge7.

The alternative 5. Be3 was the main move back in Kasparov’s time, and it’s not so strange that Garry tried it last year in s couple of blitz games against Nakamura and Caruana. Games often continue with 5… Qf6 6. c3 Nge7 where 7. Bc4 and 7. g3 are the most common options, both leading to complicated strategic battles.

[Diagram: White to Move] F. Vallejo Pons – V. Tkachiev, Legnica 2013. White’s queenside is a bit shaky, but his Knights have dominating positions in the center of the board, while the black Queen went astray. That being said, how can White get a substantial advantage?

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[October 15, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Catalan Defense, Open Defense – Modern Sharp Variation

[Line 241 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 dxc4 5. Bg2 Nc6]

The idea of playing 5… Nc6 is opting for a setup with an early Rb8, followed by defending the c4-pawn with b7-b5.

White has at his disposal a gambit variation 6. O-O Rb8 7. Nc3, but Black’s chances should not be worse there.

More common is 6. Qa4, where replies like 6… Nd7, 6… Bd7 or 6… Bd6 are not sufficient for an equal game. That is why the game usually continues with 6… Bb4+ 7. Bd2, and here 7… Nd5 is the best choice for Black. Here again a couple of options exist, like 8. Bxb4 and 8. Qb5, where Black should be able to equalize with accurate play.

[Diagram: White to Move] White’s centralized Knights certainly look impressive, but can they be used for something more concrete?

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[October 14, 2018] Busted: Opening Survey by GM Slaviša Brenjo
King’s Indian Defense: Saemisch Variation with 6. Be3 c5 (13. Ne3!?)

Less than a week ago an email came from our dear user Mick (“from Crete”, as he likes to put it) with what looked like a refutal of one of the critical lines in the Saemisch Variation of the King’s Indian Defense. Unfortunately, he learned it the hard way – by losing a correspondence game, but he was still kind enough to share his wisdom with us (thanks, again!).

[Diagram: Black to Move] This position stems from the line that represents our improvement on D. Naroditsky – V. Kovalev, Saint Louis 2017. Engines believe that this position is better for White, but we beg to differ. What do you think?

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[October 13, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Queen’s Pawn Game, London System

[Line 055 : 1. d4 d5 without 2. Nf3, 2. c4]

London System (2. Bf4) gained a lot of popularity, particularly because of Carlsen’s and Kramnik’s success with White pieces. There are plenty of  setups for Black, but none of them guarantees an easy path to equality. Probably, the most principal setup is Nf6, c7-c5 and Nc6. After 2… Nf6 3. e3 c5 4. c3 Nc6 5. Nd2, three common choices are 5… e6 6. Ngf3 Bd6, 5… cxd4 6. exd4 Bf5 7. Qb3 Qc8 and 5… Bf5 6. Qb3 Qd7, where in all cases Black is generally able to get even chances with accurate play. For beginners, we recommend 2… e6 3. e3 Bd6, with the following simple plan: Nf6, O-O, b7-b6, Bb7 and Nbd7.

Pseudo-Trompowsky (2. Bg5) is rarely seen nowadays in master practice, as Black gets comfortable position after 2… h6 3. Bh4 c6 4. e3 Qb6. Against both 5. b3 or 5. Qc1 move e7-e5 is a strong response, since White cannot capture on e5 because of the Queen check on b4, and the Bishop on h4 is hanging.

[Diagram: White to Move] G. Kamsky – S. Shankland, Sturbridge 2014. A trick that players entering the London System should be aware of: White to play and get a lasting advantage!

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[October 12, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
Sicilian Defense, Paulsen Variation – Taimanov-Bastrikov Variation (Bastrikov Variation with 6. Be2)

[Line 454 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 Qc7 6. Be2]

After the most common 6… a6 7. O-O Nf6 occurs a big crossroad of this opening line. Move 8. Be3 is considered to be the critical choice. Apart from the transposition to the Classical Scheveningen with 8… Be7 9. f4 d6, Black has a viable alternative in 8… Bb4, where after 9. Na4 arises a sharp and well investigated line of the Bastrikov Variation. Black should be very careful, but he is generally able to obtain roughly equal chances with 9… Be7 10. Nxc6 bxc6 11. Nb6 Rb8 12. Nxc8 Qxc8.

The idea of 8. Kh1 is to continue with an early advance f2-f4. Black can again detour to the Scheveningen (8… Be7 9. f4 d6), or go for the more active 8… Nxd4 9. Qxd4 Bc5, with a balanced position.

There is also a sideline for Black on 7th move 6… a6 7. O-O b5, where he is able to equalize after 8. Nxc6 dxc6 9. f4 Bb7.

[Diagram: White to Move] If Black managed to play Be7 and O-O his position would be very solid. How can White stop his opponent’s plan, and gain a strong initiative?

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[October 11, 2018] 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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