[April 30, 2017] Dusted Off: Opening Survey by GM Vadim Zvjaginsev
The Leningrad Dutch with 7… Qe8 8. Re1 (10. Ng5!?)

After GM Vučković’s update of our Line 050 it seemed like a logical idea to revisit this article as well. While this opening line might not be the most fashionable one, some top-tier engine games have kept it theoretically relevant over the past few years. However, top level grandmaster clashes remain the most important games in this variation: B. Gelfand – P. Svidler, Jerusalem (rapid) 2014, S. Mamedyarov – A. Grischuk, Baku 2014 & E. Bacrot – V. Ivanchuk, Ashdod 2015.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White is a pawn down, but Black’s light-squared bishop is hanging, and his rook on a8 is doomed. Should Black capture on f3, or he would be better off trying something else?

Click here to see the article in our viewer…


[April 29, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Dutch Defense, Leningrad Variation

[Line 050 : 1. d4 f5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 g6]

A big branching in the Leningrad Variation occurs after 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. O-O O-O 6. c4 d6 7. Nc3. The most popular options here are 7… c6, 7… Qe8 and 7… Nc6.

Move 7… c6 is a flexible choice, not yet revealing the arrangement of the pieces. If White continues with 8. b3, move 8… Na6 followed by Qc7 and e7-e5 gives Black a decent play. In case of 8. Rb1, probably the best reply is 8… Ne4 and the e7-e5 advance soon follows. The third common option is 8. d5, where again after the topical 8… e5 Black should be fine.

The idea of 7… Qe8 is an early e7-e5, but White is able to get somewhat better prospects with 8. b3 e5 9. dxe5 dxe5 10. e4!

After 7… Nc6 8. d5 Black responds with either 8… Na5 or 8… Ne5, and in both cases White’s position is preferable.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Bu Xiangzi – Zhang Zhong, Beijing (rapid) 2008. Black’s plan is clear – exerting pressure on the kingside against the weakened white King. How would you proceed with Black to gain a longterm initiative?

Click here to see the line in our viewer…


[April 28, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
Ruy Lopez, Morphy Defense – Miscellaneous (incl. Modern Steinitz Defense, Caro Variation & Schliemann Defence Deferred)

[Line 383 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 without 4… Nf6]

Apart from the main variation of Ruy Lopez (4… Nf6) covered in our Lines 384-413, there are also a couple of notable alternatives for Black.

Modern Steinitz Defense (4… d6) is solid, yet somewhat passive option. The most promising reply is 5. O-O, where the main line goes 5… Bd7 6. d4 exd4 7. Nxd4 b5 8. Nxc6 Bxc6 9. Bb3, followed by c2-c4, Nc3 and Re1, with a small space advantage for White. There are also other possibilities, such as: 5. c3, 5. Bxc6 and 5. c4, but, with accurate play, Black is generally able to get good prospects there.

An interesting sideline 4… Nge7 is appropriate for club level players, since it does not include too much opening theory. White is generally slightly better after 5. c3 g6 6. d4 exd4 7. cxd4 b5 8. Bc2, though Black is not without his chances.

The idea of the Caro Variation (4… b5) is to trade the Knight for the light-squared Bishop after 5. Bb3 Na5, followed by Nxb3. White gets better piece development and, consequently – more promising positions.

Schliemann Defense Defered (4… f5) leads to a dubious position for Black after 5. d4 exd4 6. e5 Bc5 7. O-O, with more than sufficient compensation for White.

[Diagram: White to Move] Z. Hracek – R. Biolek, Czech Republic 2010. Black’s kingside is weakened, which allows White to gain a big edge with a nice tactical trick. Can you find it?

Click here to see the line in our viewer…


[April 27, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Dragon Variation with 6. Be3

[Line 465 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3]

After the usual follow-up 6… Bg7 7. f3 O-O 8. Qd2 Nc6 comes a big branching in the Dragon Variation. Yugoslav Attack (9. Bc4) is covered in our Line 466, while 9. O-O-O is another very popular option.

If Black responds to castling long with 9… Nxd4 or 9… Bd7, White is able to achieve a longterm initiative. For that reason, the main line goes 9. O-O-O d5, where 10. Kb1, 10. Qe1, and even 10. Nxc6 are interesting alternatives to the most common 10. exd5. The game frequently proceeds with 10. exd5 Nxd5 11. Nxc6 bxc6 12. Bd4. Now moves 12… e5 and 12… Nxc3 allow White to get a small edge, while 12… Bxd4 13. Qxd4 Qb6, though easier to play with White, should generally give Black decent prospects.

For club level players we recommend 9. g4, where from Black’s several responses the best option is 9… Be6, with roughly equal chances.

[Diagram: Black to Move] A. Istratescu – B. Chatalbashev, Graz 2015. Black’s heavy artillery is tripled on the c-file, but how can he gain something concrete out of it?

Click here to see the line in our viewer…


[April 26, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
King’s Indian Defense – Normal Variation; Modern Benoni – Four Pawns Attack

[Line 151 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4]

Line 151 is an introductory line of the Normal Variation in the King’s Indian Defense. Positions arising after 4… O-O usually transpose to those starting with the more common 4… d6. The most frequently played options on 4… d6 are covered in other opening lines: 5. Nf3 in Lines 157-169, 5. f3 in Lines 153-155, 5. Be2 in Line 156, while 5. h3 and 5. Bd3 can be found in Line 152.

Move 5. Bg5 is rarely seen nowadays since Black gets comfortable positions in a couple of ways.

Four Pawns Attack (5. f4) is one of the most aggressive possibilities in the King’s Indian. Our main recommendation for Black is 5… O-O 6. Nf3 c5, where both 7. d5 and 7. dxc5 lead to highly complicated positions with mutual chances.

The other popular choice is 5. Nge2, with positions resembling those from the Saemisch Variation, since White later often plays f2-f3. After 5… O-O White can continue with 6. Ng3 or 6. f3. In both cases Black gets good prospects both with 6… c5 and 6… e5.

[Diagram: Black to Move] The Knight on b4 is under attack and its retreat would give White the necessary time to consolidate. How can Black, in the diagrammed position, gain a longterm initiative with an energetic play?

Click here to see the line in our viewer…


[April 25, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Semi-Slav Defense – Neo-Meran, Wade Variation (Larsen Variation)

[Line 278 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 8. Bd3 Bb7 without 9. O-O]

The initial position of Line 278 is called the Wade Variation (also known as the Larsen Variation), and is currently the most popular treatment of the Neo-Meran. The main continuation for White (9. O-O) is covered in our Line 279, and the other two options are examined in this opening line: 9. a3 and 9. e4.

By playing 9. a3 White plans to proceed with e3-e4, where he can meet b5-b4 with axb4. Black usually chooses 9… Bd6, and is ready to counter 10. e4 with 10… e5. White can slowly develop pieces by playing 10. O-O O-O 11. Bd2 a5, with a roughly equal position. Black also has other means to equalize, for example 9… a6 10. b4 a5 11. Rb1 Nd5 12. Nxd5 exd5, and he should be fine.

Against 9. e4 Black typically immediately reacts in the center by playing 9… b4 10. Na4 c5 11. e5 Nd5, again with equal chances.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black is a pawn up, but it is rather inconsequential since White exerts strong pressure along the e-file. That being said, how can White gain a substantial advantage in the diagrammed position?

Click here to see the line in our viewer…