[September 21, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Aleksandar Kovačević:
Sicilian Defense, Najdorf Variation – English Attack with 6… e5 7. Nb3 Be6 8. f3

[Line 498 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be3 e5 7. Nb3 Be6 8. f3 without 8… Be7]

Apart from the main line 8… Be7 covered in our Lines 499-500, Black has the following two options: 8… h5 and 8… Nbd7.

The idea of 8… h5 is to prevent White from launching a typical kingside pawn advance with g2-g4-g5. The game then usually continues with 9. Qd2 Nbd7 10. Nd5, where 10… Nxd5 11. exd5 Bf5 is an interesting sideline. Players of Black more frequently opt for 10… Bxd5 11. exd5 g6, followed by Bg7 and O-O, with reasonably decent prospects.

Against 8… Nbd7 White’s common response is 9. g4. Black now has two possibilities of about the same strength – 9… Nb6 and 9… b5, both giving him sufficient counterplay.

[Diagram: Black to Move] T. Luther – R. Wendt, Bad Wiessee 1998. Black is able to reach a winning position with the right move. What would you propose?

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[September 20, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Maroczy Bind without 5… Bg7 (incl. Gurgenidze Variation)

[Line 431 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 g6 5. c4 without 5… Bg7]

Move 5… Bg7 is the topic of our Line 433, while we deal here with equally popular 5… Nf6. After the most common 5… Nf6 6. Nc3 d6, White has a choice between 7. f3 Nxd4 8. Qxd4 Bg7 9. Be3, 7. Nc2 Bg7 8. Be2, and the most frequently played 7. Be2 Nxd4 8. Qxd4 Bg7. Against the latter setup, White usually opts for one of the following two possibilities – 9. Be3 (covered in Line 432) and 9. Bg5.

The main variation of this opening line goes 9. Bg5 O-O 10. Qd2 where as an alternative to 10… Be6, followed by Qa5 and Rfc8, Black also has 10… a5, typically followed by a5-a4 and Qa5. The overall assessment is that the ensuing positions are a bit more pleasant for White, but Black should be able to equalize with accurate play.

[Diagram: Black to Move] J. Polgar – A. Antunes, Yerevan 1996. By playing 20. b3-b4 Judith missed her opponent’s reply, leading to an almost decisive edge for Black. What did Black play?

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[September 19, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Slaviša Brenjo:
Ruy Lopez, Exchange Variation (Miscellaneous)

[Line 381 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 without 4. Ba4]

The main variation of the Ruy Lopez (4. Ba4) is dealt with in our Lines 383-413, while this opening line covers a good part of the Exchange Variation (4. Bxc6). After the almost exclusive response 4… dxc6 White has two sidelines (5. Nc3 and 5. d4) at his disposal, but 5. O-O is by far the predominantly played move. Two of the frequent choices after 5. O-O – 5… f6 and 5… Bg4 are the topic of our Line 382, while other playable options can be found here.

Variation 5… Qf6 6. d4 exd4 7. Bg5 Qd6 8. Nxd4 has recently become increasingly popular, where both 8… Be7 and 8… Bd7 lead to positions with roughly equal chances.

Another fashionable continuation is 5… Bd6 6. d4 exd4 7. Qxd4 f6, where again Black has sufficient resources to equalize.

From other notable options for Black we will mention 5… Be6, 5… Qd6, 5… Be7 and 5… Ne7; among them 5… Be6 is our recommendation for club level players.

[Diagram: White to Move] L. Vajda – Ki. Georgiev, Herceg Novi 2008. Black’s last move was capturing the Bishop with 16… Be7xg5, expecting the obvious 17. Nxg5. However, there is a stronger reply for White, leading to an almost decisive edge. Can you find it?

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[September 18, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Caro-Kann Defense, Karpov Variation with 5. Ng5 (incl. Ivanchuk Defense)

[Line 309 : 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nd7 5. Ng5]

The Ivanchuk Defense (5… Ndf6) is rarely seen in modern practice, since here White gets better prospects in more than one way.

In case of 5… h6 White holds a long-term initiative after 6. Ne6 Qa5+ 7. Bd2 Qb6 8. Bd3.

The main tabiya of this line of the Caro-Kann Defense occurs after 5… Nhf6 6. Bd3 e6 7. N1f3 Bd6 8. Qe2 h6 9. Ne4 Nxe4 10. Qxe4. Now moves 10… Nf6 and 10… c5 lead to positions that are in White’s favor, so 10… Qc7 is a more common choice. Variation 11. Qg4 Kf8 12. Be3 is a rarely played alternative to the usual 11. O-O b6 12. Qg4 where after 12… Kf8 moves 13. b3, 13. Qh4 and 13. Re1 deserve serious attention.

[Diagram: White to Move] V. Ivanov – V. Bachin, 2005. White has already made a Knight sacrifice and now needs to justify it. How should he proceed to get a substantial edge?

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[September 17, 2017] Updated Opening Article by GM Borki Predojević:
June 2017 Revisited: Italian Game, Giuoco Pianissimo with 8. a4!?

Highlights from the sixth update of this opening article include P. Harikrishna – S. Sethuraman, Tbilisi (m/4) 2017, a fresh all-Indian top level encounter from the ongoing FIDE World Cup, as well as a simple, yet important improvement on the existing opening theory: D. Anton Guijarro – D. Howell, Minsk 2017.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White is a pawn up and has a bishop pair, but it’s Black’s turn to move, so he can create a promising counterplay. What would you try?

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[September 16, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Slaviša Brenjo:
Ruy Lopez, Closed Defense with 8. h3

[Line 397 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. h3]

As a response to the Anti-Marshall starting with 8. h3, Black can transpose to Line 404 with 8… d6 9. c3, but Marshall Attack aficionados prefer 8… Bb7, where after 9. d3 there are several possibilities Black can choose from. Move 9… d6 is covered in our Lines 398-399, while 9… Re8 is also a popular alternative.

The main point of interest of this opening line is the gambit variation with 9… d5. After the only principal reply 10. exd5 Nxd5 Black does not experience problems against the mild 11. a4 or 11. Nbd2. For that reason, more ambitious players opt for 11. Nxe5. Here 11… Nxe5 12. Rxe5 Qd6 deserves serious attention, but 11… Nd4 is much more common. Against the latter players of White have tried the following three options: 12. Nd2, 12. Bd2 and 12. Nc3, and in each case Black can get a sufficient compensation for the pawn.

[Diagram: Black to Move] V. Ivanchuk – W. So, Wijk ann Zee 2015. Wesley So’s exceptional opening preparation led to a longterm initiative. Can you find the powerful idea for Black hidden in the diagrammed position?

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