[January 21, 2019] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Open Slav Defense, Carlsbad Variation

[Line 111 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. a4 Bf5 6. Ne5 Nbd7 7. Nxc4 Qc7]

Line 111 covers one of the main variations of the Slav Defense. After almost the exclusive 8. g3 Black usually replies with the Carlsbad Variation (8… e5). The next couple of moves are fairly forced: 9. dxe5 Nxe5 10. Bf4, where the best option for Black is 10… Nfd7. In the position arising after 11. Bg2 there are two well-investigated continuations for Black: 11… g5 and 11… f6.

If Black opts for 11… g5, we recommend 12. Ne3 gxf4 13. Nxf5 O-O-O 14. Qc2 for advanced players, while 12. Bxe5 Nxe5 13. Qd4 and 12. Nxe5 gxf4 13. Nxd7 are somewhat less complicated lines, thus more suitable for club level players.

Move 11… f6 is considered to lead to positions that are more pleasant for White, for example: 12. O-O Nc5 13. Ne3 Bg6 14. b4 with the initiative.

[Diagram: White to Move] D. Fillon – T. Hagen, corr. 2010. There are many pieces aligned on the c-file, and it’s far from obvious how White can make use of the position of his Rook on c1 to make concrete threats to black King. How can White launch a very strong attack?

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[January 20, 2019] Updated Opening Article by GM Aleksandar Kovačević:
June 2018 Revisited: Sicilian Defense, Paulsen Variation: Bastrikov Variation

Our original main line of this variation still follows A. Morozevich – I. Bukavshin, Moscow (rapid) 2015, a marvelous tactical masterpiece by the former World No. 2. New theoretically important developments have appeared since  M. Vachier Lagrave – V. Anand, Karlsruhe/Baden Baden 2018, so it seemed logical to revisit this double-edged line half a year after the previous installment.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position is from a recent game A. Demchenko – D. Saduakassova, Teplice 2018. This is a theoretically important line/position, where players of White have been unable to find a clear-cut path to advantage thus far. However, we believe that there is an ingenious plan that should lead to White’s tangible advantage. Can you give it a try and see if you can find it, too?

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[January 19, 2019] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Nimzo-Indian Defense, Rubinstein Variation – Normal Variation with 5. Bd3

[Line 190 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. Bd3]

From the initial position of our Line 190 5… d5 is considered to be the main move, where 6. Nf3 is covered in our Lines 191-194.

If White opts for 6. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 the principal choice for Black is 6… dxc4 7. Bxc4 c5, and after 8. Nf3 he is able to equalize with 8… Qc7, but also with 8… b6 and 8… Qa5. White sometimes develops the Knight to the other square: 8. Ne2. Black is again fine, for example 8… Qc7 9. Ba2 b6 10. O-O Ba6.

Move 5… c5 is a reasonable alternative to the main 5… d5. If White now plays 6. Nf3, Black gets even chances with 6… b6 7. O-O Bxc3 8. bxc3 Bb7. Also, after 6. a3 Bxc3+ 7. bxc3 Nc6 8. Ne2 Black gets sufficient counterplay with 8… b6, planning Ba6 and Na5, and pressing the weak c4-pawn.

[Diagram: Black to Move] L. Van Wely – P. Acs, Hoogoveen 2002. Black Knight on h2 is very active and his Bishops and Queen are also ready to join the attack on the poorly protected white King. How should Black continue to gain an almost decisive advantage?

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[January 18, 2019] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
Ruy Lopez, Open Variation – Bernstein Variation (incl. Karpov Gambit)

[Line 390 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Nxe4 6. d4 b5 7. Bb3 d5 8. dxe5 Be6 9. Nbd2]

The Bernstein Variation, covered in our Line 390, was a battlefield of important games during three World Championship matches: two matches between Karpov and Korchnoi (Baguio City 1978 and Merano 1981), and Kasparov – Anand, New York 1995.

The main choice of Black is 9… Nc5, where the usual reply is 10. c3. Black has in 10… d4 an interesting alternative to the more common 10… Be7. One of the possible replies to 10… d4 is a quiet 11. Bxe6 Nxe6 12. cxd4, and the other is the sharp Karpov Gambit (11. Ng5).

Move 10… Be7 has became highly popular among top-level players in the recent years – W. So, F. Caruana and Ding Liren play it regularly with Black pieces. The critical position arises after 10… Be7 11. Bc2 d4 12. Nb3 d3, where White can decide between an endgame 13. Nxc5 dxc2 14. Qxd8+ Rxd8 15. Nxe6 fxe6 16. Be3 Rd5, and the complex 13. Bb1 Nxb3 14. axb3 Bf5. In both cases Black has resources to get equal positions.

In case of 9… Bc5, White gets a preferable endgame with 10. Nxe4 dxe4 11. Ng5 Qxd1 12. Rxd1.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position appeared in a couple of strong games, e.g. in P. Svidler – V. Anand, Dos Hermanas 1999, among others. How can White obtain a big advantage?

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[January 17, 2019] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Queen’s Gambit Accepted, Old & Alekhine Variations

[Line 058 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 without 3. e4]

Apart from the most direct approach 3. e4, covered in our Lines 059 & 060, White has two fairly popular options: 3. Nf3 and 3. e3.

After the Knight development with 3. Nf3, Black can transpose to Line 080 with 3… Nf6, or choose between other viable possibilities – 3… e6 and the Alekhine Variation (3… a6).

In case of the solid Old Variation (3. e3) Black has, besides the calm 3… Nf6 and 3… e6, a more concrete option in 3… e5, leading to an isolated d-pawn for White after 4. Bxc4 exd4 5. exd4.

[Diagram: White to Move] S. Pujos – Y. Afek, France 2003. Black’s last move was the careless 10… Ra8-d8, missing the strong reply leading to a winning position for his opponent. How should White continue and get an overwhelming edge?

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[January 16, 2019] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Exchange Variation with 8. Bd3

[Line 268 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. Bg5 Nbd7 6. cxd5 exd5 7. e3 Be7 8. Bd3]

Line 268 deals with the main line of the Exchange Variation in the Queen’s Gambit Declined.

The most common Black’s choice is 8… O-O, followed by Re8 and Nf8. After the usual 9. Qc2 Re8 10. O-O Nf8 White has a couple of well-investigated continuations. Prophylactic 11. h3 prevents Black from placing a Knight or a Bishop to g4, and also in some cases provides a square h2 for the Bishop retreat. The idea of 11. Rae1 is often connected with the e3-e4 breakthrough, while 11. Rab1 prepares a minority attack on the queenside with b2-b4-b5.

Black has at his disposal two possible sidelines. By playing 8… Ne4, Black often trades a pair of minor pieces in the early stage of the game.

The maneuver 8… Nf8 is accompanied by either Ne6 or Ng6, and later short castling, with Black’s good chances to equalize.

[Diagram: White to Move] If White takes the Rook on e4 the material will be roughly balanced, but White stays without an important piece for his attack. On the other hand, Black would like to activate the Knight from b6 to d7 and later to f6, taking part in the defense of the black King. So, what do you think is the best way to proceed as White?

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