[July 29, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Aleksandar Kovačević:
Sicilian Defense, Classical Scheveningen – Maroczy Variation (Main Line)

[Line 487 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be2 e6 7. O-O Be7 8. f4 O-O 9. Kh1 Qc7 10. a4 Nc6 11. Be3 Re8 12. Bf3]

Line 487 deals with the main line of the Maroczy Variation of the Classical Scheveningen. White’s plan is usually connected with the g2-g4 advance and exerting pressure on the kingside, while Black seeks his counterplay on the queenside or in the center. The two most common continuations for Black from the initial position of this line are 12… Rb8 and 12… Bd7, while 12… Na5 and 12… Nxd4 are also viable.

In case of 12… Rb8 White has plenty of possibilities. One popular reaction is 13. Qd2 Bd7 14. Nb3 followed by g2-g4-g5, and the other is the immediate 13. g4 – either way with mutual play.

The other frequent choice is 12… Bd7 13. Nb3 preparing a4-a5, and after 13… b6 14. g4 Black retreats the Bishop with 14… Bc8, later followed by Nd7 and Bb7, with sufficient counterplay.

[Diagram: White to Move] S. Avdeev – P. De Reu, corr. 2009. Last Black’s move was taking the Bishop with 23… Nf5xe3, expecting the immediate recapture with 24. Qxe3. What reply did Black miss that gave White a decisive attack?

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[July 28, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Rare & Irregular Openings

[Line 001 : without 1. e4, 1. d4, 1. Nf3, 1. c4]

The so-called Irregular Openings are all the openings not starting with 1.e4 (Lines 286-500), 1. d4 (Lines 046-285), 1. Nf3 (Lines 018-045) and 1. c4 (Lines 002-017), and they are all examined in this opening line.

Among these openings, the King’s Fianchetto Opening 1. g3 is the most sound, and it often transposes to some of the other openings, after d2-d4, Nf3 or c2-c4. White can also try an independent line 1. g3 d5 2. Bg2 e5, which is a sort of a reversed Pirc. White, having a tempo more compared to the regular Pirc Defense for Black, is generally not in any danger to get into worse positions, but he can hardly fight for an edge.

Larsen’s Opening (1. b3) is an unconventional choice, where Black is able to reach comfortable positions in a couple of ways. The most ambitious reaction is 1… e5 2. Bb2 Nc6, and after 3. e3, two common continuations are the more strategic 3… Nf6 and the sharp 3… d5.

Bird’s Opening (1. f4), Dunst Opening (1. Nc3), Anderssen’s Opening (1. a3) and Sokolsky Opening (1. b4) are rarely seen in the modern grandmaster practice, since Black’s chances in these openings are at least equal.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White is ready to castle kingside, and because of Qe4+ Black cannot take the e3-pawn with Nxe3. That being said, how should Black proceed from the diagrammed position to secure a longterm initiative?

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[July 27, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Aleksandar Kovačević:
Queen’s Indian Defense, Quiet Line with 5… Bb7

[Line 224 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Ba6 5. b3 Bb7]

After the introductory moves of Line 224, the game usually proceeds with 6. Bg2 Bb4+ 7. Bd2 where, apart from the transposition to a variation of Line 226 with 7… Be7, Black has two equally popular options – 7… a5 and 7… c5.

In case of 7… a5 8. O-O O-O, the most common choice is 9. Qc2 d6 10. Nc3, where after 10… Nbd7 11. Rfe1 Bxc3 12. Bxc3 the position is roughly equal, but a bit more pleasant for White.

The similar stands for the position arising after 7… c5 8. O-O O-O 9. Bxb4 cxb4, where White also has slightly preferable prospects due to his somewhat better pawn structure.

[Diagram: White to Move] How can White seize the initiative by making use of his active b2-Bishop?

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[July 26, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Old Sicilian with 3. Nc3 e5

[Line 423 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 e5]

After the most common 4. Bc4 Be7 5. d3 the main move is 5… d6, where White has a choice among many options, but 6. O-O and 6. Nd2 are the only ways for White to fight for the initiative.

White has again a couple of possibilities after 6. O-O Nf6, and 7. Ng5 O-O 8. f4 is the most ambitious one. Black usually reacts with 8… Bg4 9. Qe1 exf4 10. Bxf4 Nd4, where position, though easier to handle with white pieces, typically offers mutual chances.

The idea of 6. Nd2 is the Nd2-f1-e3 maneuver, taking a firm control over the important d5-square. Both 6… Bg5 followed by a trade of the dark-squared Bishops, and 6… Nf6 followed by Bg4(e6) lead to roughly equal positions.

By opting for 5… Nf6 Black keeps the option of d7-d5 opened, which can be useful in case of 6. Ng5. For instance, after 6. Ng5 O-O 7. f4 exf4 8. Bxf4 Black gets good prospects with 8… d5 9. exd5 Nd4.

[Diagram: Black to Move] A. Grischuk – V. Kramnik, Cap d’Agde (rapid) 2003. Kramnik originally managed to find a nice resource to gain a material edge from the diagrammed position. Can you see that motif for Black?

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[July 25, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Aleksandar Kovačević:
Nimzo-Indian Defense, Classical Variation – Berlin Variation (Pirc Variation)

[Line 179 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 c5 5. dxc5 O-O without 6. Nf3]

The Pirc Variation, starting with 5… O-O, is the main point of interest of this opening line, where 6. Nf3 transposes to a variation of Line 180, which typically occurs more often after 4… O-O 5. Nf3 c5 6. dxc5.

The game typically proceeds 5… O-O 6. a3 Bxc5 7. Nf3, where moves 7… Nc6 and 7… Qb6 allow White to get the upper hand. The most promising option for Black is 7… b6, and the only way for White to fight for the initiative is with 8. Bf4. There are two notable options for White after 8… Bb7: 9. Rd1 and 9. e3. Though Black is generally able to equalize, he does need to play carefully to avoid difficulties in the early stage of the game.

[Diagram: White to Move] J. Boehm – P. Gamza, corr. 1993. Both the Knight on c3 and the Bishop on g5 are under attack, so White needs to react accurately to obtain an advantage. Can you find the best continuation?

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[July 24, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Petroff Defense, Modern Attack (incl. Trifunovic Variation)

[Line 351 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. d4 Nxe4 4. Bd3 d5 5. Nxe5]

Line 351 covers the main lines of the Modern Attack (3. d4) in the Petroff Defense.

The Trifunović Variation 5… Bd6 6. O-O O-O 7. c4 Bxe5, though playable, is easier to handle with white pieces, so it’s rarely employed by the players of Black.

Much more common is 5… Nd7, where 6. Nc3 and 6. O-O are reasonable alternatives to the main 6. Nxd7. In the 6. Nxd7 Bxd7 7. O-O line, Black has a possibility to enter the sharp line starting with 7… Qh4, but the quiet 7… Bd6 is more in the spirit of the Petroff. Against the latter, White’s usual responses are 8. Nc3, 8. c4 and 8. Qh5, though Black is typically able to equalize in all the lines with a few accuracies.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black’s idea f5-f4 appears to be very strong, yet it’s White’s turn to move, which gives him an opportunity to launch a decisive attack! Any ideas?

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