[July 30, 2016] Updated Opening Line from Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Four Knights Variation (incl. Lasker-Pelikan Variation)

[Line 434 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6]

Lasker-Pelikan/Sveshnikov Variation is not as popular as it used to be, but according to the latest opening theory, Black can achieve rather promising positions.

To begin with, Line 434 deals with early deviations in the Lasker Variation, starting with various choices for White on move six, i.e. after 5. Nc3 e5.

By far the main move is 6. Ndb5, and after 6… d6 we arrive at the first big crossroad. For club level players we recommend 7. Nd5, and for beginners 7. a4, since they are much less demanding than the main lines.

After the main 7. Bg5 a6 8. Na3 b5 White can decide between two types of position – he can either opt for the calm 9. Nd5, followed by Bxf6, or capture on f6 immediately, where Black is obliged to take the Bishop with his pawn. Move 9. Nd5 is covered in our Lines 437-439, and the position occurring after 9. Bxf6 gxf6 10. Nd5 f5 in our Lines 435-436.

The main focus of this line is 9. Bxf6 gxf6 10. Nd5 Bg7, which was Kramnik’s pet line at the time when he used to play the Sicilian Defense. Black’s idea is to quickly trade the strong white Knight on d5 with Nc6-e7, followed by the thematic f6-f5, which is often connected with a pawn sacrifice. The main tabiya in this line is the position occurring after 11. Bd3 Ne7 12. Nxe7 Qxe7 13. O-O O-O 14. c4 f5, where great complications typically arise.

[Diagram: White to Move] White is a few pawns up, but three of his pieces are under attack. How can he deal with that and gain substantial advantage?

Click here to see the line in our viewer…


[July 29, 2016] Updated Opening Line from Aleksandar Kovačević:
French Defense, Normal Variation – Burn Variation with 6… Bxf6

[Line 342 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 dxe4 5. Nxe4 Be7 6. Bxf6 Bxf6]

White gets a bit better development in the early stage of the game, but Black’s position is without weaknesses, and if he succeeds in parrying White’s initial threats, he typically gets good prospects. After 7. Nf3 O-O there are many possibilities for White, and we’ll mention here just the most popular ones.

The main line goes 8. Qd2 Nd7 9. O-O-O Be7 and White plays either in the center – like in 10. Bc4 Nf6 11. Nxf6+ Bxf6 12. Rhe1, or (more frequently) exerts pressure on the kingside, for instance: 10. Bd3 b6 11. h4.

Quite similar, yet with subtle differences is the following line: 8. Qd3 Nd7 9. O-O-O b6 10. h4 Bb7 11. Kb1.

There is also an interesting option to deploy the light-squared bishop first with 8. Bc4, with the idea to play Qe2 and O-O-O. Black can react with 8… Nc6 9. c3 e5 10. d5 Ne7, again with sufficient counterplay.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position is somewhat typical of this opening line – Black has a bishop pair, and white Knights are aiming towards his opponent’s King. However, the position is not balanced, as White can immediately launch a very strong attack. How can he do it?

Click here to see the line in our viewer…


[July 28, 2016] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
English Opening, Symmetrical Variation – Main Line

[Line 004 : 1. c4 c5 2. g3 g6 3. Bg2 Bg7 4. Nc3 Nc6 5. Nf3 without 5… Nf6]

This update is a small tribute to our late colleague GM Dragan Paunović. In memory of our dear friend, our Editorial Board will continue updating his lines and articles.

Symmetrical Variation of the English Opening is considered to be a very flexible option for both sides. Black can decide among several essentially different setups that give him equal chances.

One of them is taking control over the d4-square with 5… e5, which in return creates a glaring weakness on d5. The game typically continues with 5… e5 6. O-O d6 7. a3 Nge7 8. d3 O-O 9. Rb1 a5 10. Ne1, followed by a topical Ne1-c2-e3 maneuver.

The simplest setup for Black is 5… e6 6. O-O Nge7 7. d3 O-O, with either d7-d5, or d7-d6 with b7-b6 and Bb7.

The more unconventional, but equally promising plan for Black is 5… d6 6. O-O Bf5, followed by Qd7 and Bh3.

[Diagram: White to Move] H. Nakamura – M. Carlsen, Moscow (blitz) 2012. Carlsen just played f7-f5, with the idea Nf6, followed by b7-b6 and Bb7. Since it was a blitz game, both players missed White’s strongest response. Can you find it?

Click here to see the line in our viewer…


[July 27, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
Caro-Kann Defense, Advance Variation (incl. Tal Variation)

[Line 316 : 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 with 4. Nd2, 4. h4]

Line 316 covers two tricky lines of the Advance Variation in the Caro-Kann Defense – the aggressive Tal Variation (4. h4), and the more positional, but equally demanding 4. Nd2.

The idea behind the Tal Variation is to disturb black light-squared Bishop with g2-g4, which delays Black’s thematic e7-e6. Black has many possibilities, like 4… Qb6, 4… a6, 4… Qc8 or 4… c5, but only 4… h6 and 4… h5 allow him to gain equal chances. After 4. h4 h5 White has to decide between two essentially different treatments of the position: to exploit the g5 weakness with 5. Bd3 Bxd3 6. Qxd3 (followed by Bg5), or to go for the more complicated 5. c4 e6 6. Nc3 Ne7 7. Bg5 Qb6 8. Qd2.

By playing 4. Nd2, immediately followed by Nb3, White wants to hamper Black’s typical breakthrough c6-c5. After 4… e6 5. Nb3 Nd7 6. Nf3 Ne7 7. Be2 Bg6 Black needs to be careful with the topical Nf5 and Be7 idea, because White can often react with g2-g4, which results in a pressure on the kingside. Anyway, with precise play, Black usually gets good prospects.

[Diagram: White to Move] E. Andreev – V. Iordachescu, Al-Ain 2013. White has somewhat better development and he needs to act fast to obtain tangible advantage. How should he continue?

Click here to see the line in our viewer…


[July 26, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Slav Defense, Chebanenko Variation with 5. e3 b5 6. b3

[Line 103 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 a6 5. e3 b5 6. b3]

Chebanenko Variation of the Slav Defense has lost a lot of popularity in recent years, mainly because of the line covered here.

The most frequently played continuation is  6… Bg4, with the idea Nbd7, e7-e6 and Bd6. White typically counters it with 7. Be2 Nbd7 8. h3. If Black trades his bishop for a knight with 8… Bxf3 9. Bxf3 e6 10. O-O, White gets a stable advantage due to his bishop pair. On the other hand, after 8… Bf5 9. g4! Bg6 10. Ne5 White has the initiative.

Black’s alternatives on 6th move are 6… Bf5 and 6… g6, but in either case, White can secure an opening edge.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position is from the key game R. Wojtaszek – V. Malakhov, Jurmala (rapid) 2013. Black needs only one tempo to fully equalize, but it’s White’s turn and it makes all the difference…

Click here to see the line in our viewer…


[July 25, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
King’s Indian Defense, Orthodox Variation with 6… e5 7. O-O Nbd7

[Line 163 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 e5 7. O-O Nbd7]

The old line of the Orthodox Variation of KID (7… Nbd7) is not frequently seen in modern grandmaster games, but its flexibility makes it a good weapon for players who want to avoid heavily explored lines.

There are three dominant replies – 8. Re1, 8. Qc2 and 8. Be3, where the last one probably promises the best chances if White wants to ambitiously fight for opening advantage.

Against 8. Be3 we recommend either 8… Qe7 or 8… c6 to club level players, whereas the advanced ones will probably feel more comfortable with 8… Re8. White generally has better chances, but Black also has his trumps in practical play.

[Diagram: Black to Move] In double-edged positions attacking the opponent’s King is typically more important than the material count. Having that in mind, how can Black get a dangerous attack in the diagrammed position?

Click here to see the line in our viewer…