[March 20, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Modern Benoni, Snake & Pawn Storm Variations (incl. Czech Benoni)

[Line 117 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 without 3… b5]

The main focus of our Line 117 is the Pawn Storm Variation: 3… e6 4. Nc3 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. e4 g6 7. f4. This line requires nerves of steel paired with very deep knowledge, and our evaluation is that Black should be able to get promising positions.

Apart from the above mentioned line, White can also choose the solid 7. Nge2 Bg7 8. Ng3 O-O 9. Be2, or a very similar one: 7. Bd3 Bg7 8. Nge2 O-O 9. O-O. We recommend both these lines to club level players.

Snake Variation 5… Bd6 of the Modern Benoni has probably been rightfully neglected in recent years, since White can fight for tangible advantage in a number of ways.

Czech Benoni 3… e5 leads to closed positions with long-term spatial advantage for White.

The early fianchetto, where e7-e6 is typically postponed, is an interesting try for Black, though after 3… g6 4. Nc3 Bg7 5. e4 d6 6. Nf3 O-O 7. Be2 e6 8. O-O exd5 9. exd5 White has a generally preferable position.

[Diagram: Black to Move] J. Gil Capape – R. Kuczynski, Sharjah 1985. White only needs to castle to get a dominant position, but Black can turn the tables and get a strong attack after several energetic moves.

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[March 19, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Dragan Barlov:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Semi-Slav Defense – Neo-Meran (incl. Lundin Variation)

[Line 276 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 8. Bd3 without 8… a6, 8… Bb7]

As viable alternatives to the more frequent 8… a6 (Line 277) and 8… Bb7 (Lines 278 & 279), two fully playable variations are covered in our Line 276: 8… b4 (Lundin Variation) and 8… Bd6.

The Lundin Variation is our recommendation for club level players. The game there usually continues with 8… b4 9. Ne4 Nxe4 10. Bxe4 Bb7, and now Black prepares c6-c5, while White tries to exploit his opponent’s slightly weakened queenside.

After 8… Bd6, players of White have tested many plans: 9. Bd2 (followed by Ne4 and Rc1) and 9. Ng5 (with Qf3, and later Nge4) are some of the possibilities, but the main move is 9. O-O, where after 9… O-O White again has a wide variety of choices; among them 10. b3, 10. Qc2, 10. Bd2 and 10. e4 deserve the most serious attention.

[Diagram: Black to Move] A. Moiseenko – A. Pashikian, Moscow 2009. Black here missed a truly remarkable combination, which could have secured him a big advantage. Can you find it? Hint: the c6-c5 breakthrough seems hardly possible here, but it turns out to be feasible anyway!

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[March 21, 2018] Trusted: Opening Survey by GM Aleksandar Kovačević
The Closed Catalan with 7… b6 (8. Ne5 Qxd4)

As usual, the Candidates Tournament offers an embarrassment of riches in terms  of high-quality games. The theoretical relevance of thesegames is great, and some of them will probably become trend setters for their variations. Our editor probably could have chosen a dozen other games, but we believe that Caruana’s ambitious plan against Ding Liren’s Catalan will not disappoint.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Black pawns and the knight on d4 are hanging, and he is also an exchange down. How can he create a very dangerous counterplay to keep the dynamic balance intact?

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[March 17, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Catalan Defense, Closed Variation with 4… Be7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O dxc4 7. Qc2 a6 8. Qxc4

[Line 237 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 Be7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O dxc4 7. Qc2 a6 8. Qxc4]

After 8… Bb7 players of White have tried various moves, and among them 9. Bg5 seems like an interesting choice, which is, in our opinion, suitable for club level players.

9. Bd2 is by far the most investigated move, and here Black has a few alternatives to 9… Be4 covered in Line 238.

One possibility is a seemingly strange looking 9… Ra7, but there is a very concrete plan behind it: Nbd7, Qa8, Rc8 and c7-c5. The line typically continues with 10. Rc1 Be4 11. Qb3 Nc6 12. e3 Qa8, and Black’s position should be fine.

Black also gets equal chances with 9… Bd6. The idea is to overprotect the c7-pawn, and since White gets nothing with 10. Ba5 in view of Nc6, he needs to make changes to his initial plan, so players of White here usually opt for 10. Bg5 followed by Nbd2, 10. Re1 with the idea e2-e4, or 10. a3 and b2-b4.

[Diagram: White to Move] Z. Ribli – J. Speelman, Moscow (ol) 1994. Black’s last move was Nd5-c3, with the idea to exchange minor pieces, but he missed an important subtlety. Ribli failed to see the winning plan, and game soon ended in a draw. How can White win the game in the diagrammed position?

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[March 16, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
King’s Indian Defense, Sämisch Variation (Steiner Attack & Normal Defense)

[Line 153 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. f3]

The so-called Normal Defense of the Sämisch Variation starts with 5… O-O.

Our major variation covered in Line 153 is the Steiner Attack (6. Bg5), as it is the most important alternative to the main 6. Be3, covered in our Lines 154 and 155.

In our opinion, Black has a few choices that lead to satisfactory positions.

The most frequently played line is 6… c5 7. d5 e6, which leads to sharp Benoni-like positions, where Black has enough tactical resources to compensate for White’s spatial advantage.

Black can also opt for a Benko Gambit-type of position with 6… a6 7. Qd2 c5 8. d5 b5 9. cxb5 Nbd7, where, in our opinion, he gets sufficient compensation for the sacrificed pawn.

From our recommendations for club level players we would like to draw your attention to the following promising line: 7… Nc6 8. Nge2 Rb8 9. Rd1 Bd7, followed by b7-b5.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Black has already sacrificed one Rook and the other one is hanging. Still, he has a way to get a nearly decisive advantage. How should he continue?

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[March 15, 2018] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
Richter-Veresov Opening & Trompowsky Attack without 2… e6 & 2… Ne4

[Line 073 : 1. d4 Nf6 without 2. Nf3, 2. c4]

The Richter-Veresov Opening, occurring after 2. Nc3 d5 3. Bg5 is our recommendation for beginners. This line is rarely seen in grandmaster practice, since it’s considered to give Black comfortable play in many ways, for example with 3… Nbd7 4. Nf3 g6.

One of the lines that have recently gained in popularity (especially in blitz games) is the London System 2. Bf4. Our Line 073 are covers its lines where White does not play Nf3: this setup is almost universal for the players of White – the fact that they can implement it regardless of Black’s plan makes it easily adoptable among beginner and club level players.

Major part of the Line 073 deals with the Trompovsky Attack 2. Bg5 without 2… e6 (Line 074) and 2… Ne4 (Line 075). There are two particularly important lines that we cover here: the dynamic 2… c5, and the more strategic choice – 2… d5.

[Diagram: White to Move] It’s “to be or not to be”! Black has just taken a knight on d4 and his opponent cannot recapture it. However, there is another promising option, which even leads to a substantial advantage for White.

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