[June 20, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
French Defense, Winawer Variation (incl. Bogoljubow & Moscow Variation and Armenian Line)

[Line 344 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 c5]

The idea of the Bogoljubow Variation (5. Bd2) is to not permit doubling of White’s pawns on the c-file, and is, in our opinion, more suited for beginners.

Moscow Variation (5. Qg4) is not considered to be a very promising one for White, as Black typically gets good prospects after 5… Ne7 6. dxc5 Nbc6.

White’s main move is 5. a3, where besides 5… Bxc3+ Black has a tricky, though still playable, Armenian Line (5… Ba5).

After 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3, apart from 6… Ne7 (Lines 345-346), Black has a viable alternative in 6… Qa5 7. Bd2 Qa4. The idea of the Queen maneuver is to stop White from gaining space on the queenside with a3-a4, and is often followed by b7-b6 and Ba6. If White prevents his opponent’s plan with either 8. Qb1 or 8. Rb1, Black usually immediately closes the center with c5-c4.

[Diagram: White to Move] White exerts serious pressure on the kingside, but is there a way to make something concrete out of it?

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[June 19, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Vadim Zvjaginsev:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Exchange Variation

[Line 172 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bg5 Be7 without 6. Nf3]

Unlike the other variations of the Queen’s Gambit Declined, in the Exchange Variation white knight can be deployed to e2 after Bd3, which seems to create certain problems for Black, though Kramnik’s probably begs to differ, as this line has recently been his weapon of choice.

A very common follow-up is 6. e3 O-O 7. Bd3 Nbd7 8. Nge2 Re8 9. O-O, when 9… Nf8 seems inaccurate as it allows White a nice trick: 10. b4!, and the following line obviously favors White: 10… Bxb4 11. Bxf6 gxf6 12. Nxd5! Qxd5 13. Qa4. That’s why the players of Black should opt for 9… c6 first, and only after 10. Qc2 should they choose 10… Nf8. The classical plan for White begins with 11. f3 (preparing e3-e4), where Black has to be careful, though basically still has quite decent chances.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Rook on e8 is under attack, but Black has better ways to proceed than to cover it with Bd7. How can Black create big problems to his opponent?

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[June 18, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Dragon Variation without 6. Be3 (incl. Classical, Fianchetto & Levenfish Variations)

[Line 464 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 without 6… a6, 6… Nc6, 6… e6]

Line 464 covers mostly introductory and quiet lines of the Dragon Variation (5… g6) of the Sicilian Defense.

Levenfish Variation (6. f4) is rarely seen in modern grandmaster practice, since it allows Black to obtain satisfactory positions rather easily.

Fianchetto Variation (6. g3) leads to strategical battles, and it is hence a preference of positionally-minded players.

Classical Variation (6. Be2 Bg7 7. O-O O-O) is the simplest way for White to face the Dragon. There are a couple popular setups: one is 8. Be3 Nc6 9. Nb3 Be6 10. f4; another is 8. Bg5 Nc6 9. Nb3 Be6 10. Kh1, followed by f2-f4; and 8. Re1 Nc6 9. Nb3 Be6 10. Bf1. Black also has a few good plans to respond with: d6-d5 is a straightforward plan; a7-a6 with b7-b5 is also quite simple; move a7-a5 is also frequently seen in this type of positions.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Black Queen and the dark-squared Bishop are aiming towards white King, but other pieces are needed join the attack to create problems for White.

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[June 17, 2018] Updated Opening Article by GM Aleksandar Kovačević:
April 15, 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 our last update that included an incredibly important game M. Vachier Lagrave – V. Anand, Karlsruhe/Baden Baden 2018, so it seemed logical to revisit this double-edged line just two months after the previous installment.

[Diagram: Black to Move] The diagrammed position is from a recent game Nguyen Thai Dai Van – V. Babula, Prague 2018. This is a theoretically important position, where players of Black have mostly tried 19… h4. However, it appears that Babula has most likely found a clear-cut way to equalizing with Black in this line. Can you find it, too?

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[June 16, 2018] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
Queen’s Gambit Accepted, Central Variation, Alekhine System & Modern Defense

[Line 059 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 3. e4 without 3… e5]

The Central Variation (3. e4) is the most direct approach against the Queen’s Gambit Accepted, as well as the most challenging for Black.

MacDonnell Defense (3… e5) is covered separately in our Line 060, and Line 059 deals with the remaining Black’s third moves.

Greco Variation (3… b5) doesn’t seem to give Black equal chances. He has an interesting exchange sacrifice at his disposal: 4. a4 c6 5. axb5 cxb5 6. Nc3 a6 7. Nxb5 axb5 8. Ra8 Bb7, but White should, after a few precise moves, claim advantage straight out of the opening.

Rubinstein Variation (3… c5) is another possibility, but again White should get the upper hand, this time with 4. d5 Nf6 5. Nc3 b5 6. Bf4.

Modern Defense (3… Nc6) resembles the Chigorin Defense, with Black knights pressing against White’s central pawns. After 4. Nf3 Bg4 5. d5 Ne5 6. Bf4 Ng6 both 7. Bg3 and 7. Be3 lead to positions preferable for White.

Alekhine System (3… Nf6) is the most critical line of the Central Variation. After 4. e5 Nd5 5. Bxc4 Nb6 there are two major options for White: 6. Bd3 and 6. Bb3. Though accurate play is required from the players of Black, there are enough resources to get equal chances.

[Diagram: White to Move] Material is fairly balanced, but strong Bishop on e4 gives White reasons to hope for more. How can he get a big advantage in the diagrammed position?

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[June 15, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Early Fianchetto & Catalan Opening

[Line 170 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 without 3. Nc3, 3. Nf3]

The two most common continuations are covered in details in other opening lines: 3. Nc3 in Lines 171-194, and 3. Nf3 in Lines 195-285.

Early Fianchetto 3. g3 often transposes to the Catalan Defense, for example after 3… d5 4. Nf3. It avoids the Queen’s Indian Defense, occurring after 3. Nf3 b6. Some players of Black opt for a type of the Bogo-Indian Defense 3. g3 Bb4+. Like in the line 3. Nf3 Bb4+, White has two equally popular replies 4. Nd2 and 4. Bd2, in both cases with a bit more pleasant position.

Some players go for 3. g3 c5 4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5, where Black can transpose to the Fianchetto Variation of Modern Benoni with 5… d6 6. Nc6 g6 7. Nf3 (Line 119), or try a playable, although risky, 5… b5.

[Diagram: White to Move] What is the best way for White to continue and launch a decisive attack on the black King.

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