[April 20, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Semi-Slav, Pseudo-Meran & Quiet Variation

[Line 093 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 e6 without 5. Nc3]

Pseudo-Meran is a popular setup against Semi-Slav, with the general idea to avoid well-examined and forced lines of the Meran. The difference is that knight from b1 can be transferred to d2, instead of its more common destination – c3. White usually suports the c4-pawn with b2-b3, and either plays Bd3 or Be2, followed by O-O, Bb2 and Nbd2.

Black can respond with an almost symmetrical setup: Nbd7, Bd6, O-O, b7-b6 and Bb7.

Here is an illustration of how the game could proceed: 5. Bd3 Nbd7 6. b3 Bd6 7. Bb2 O-O 8. O-O b6 9. Nbd2 Bb7. White can try to seize more space with Ne5 and f2-f4, while Black’s idea is to prepare a thematic counter-attack with c6-c5.

There aren’t many forced lines in this variation, but the presence of all pieces on the board means that tough strategic battles are to be expected!

[Diagram: Black to Move] C. Voiculescu – Y. Gudzovati, corr. 2015. It looks like Black’s kingside attack got stuck, leaving him with many weaknesses. How can he continue, and secure a half point?

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[April 19, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Dragan Barlov:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Semi-Slav Defense – Stoltz Variation (incl. Center Variation & Mikhalchishin Line)

[Line 280 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Qc2]

The Stoltz Variation (6. Qc2) is the most popular line in the Semi-Slav Defense. Among the interesting sidelines for Black, we can recommend 6… b6 7. Bd3 Bb7 8. O-O Be7, recently employed in a few games by A. Dreev. The critical game of that system is B. Adhiban – A. Dreev, Wijk aan Zee 2016, where Adhiban prepared an attractive novelty, and his opponent, after a poor reaction, quickly found himself in a difficult position.

By far the main line is 6… Bd6, and here, besides 7. Bd3 that is covered in our Lines 283-285, quiet 7. b3 (Line 282) and sharp 7. g4 (Line 281), White has several remaining options that are covered here.

After 7. Bd2 O-O 8. O-O-O Black has promising a pawn sacrifice: 8… b5 9. cxb5 Bb7.

Center Variation 7. e4 doesn’t pose real problems for Black, as after 7… dxe4 8. Nxe4 Nxe4 9. Qxe4 he has quite a few ways to equalize, e. g. the Mikhalchishin Line 9… e5.

7. Be2 O-O 8. O-O could transpose to Line 283 after 8… dxc4 9. Bxc4, though Black can also get satisfactory positions after 8… Re8 9. Rd1 Qe7.

[Diagram: White to Move] O. Sande – K. Haug, corr. 2013. White has a very good compensation for a sacrificed pawn – Black has poor coordination and weak dark squares. How can White launch a dangerous attack?

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[April 18, 2018] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
English Opening, Anglo-Indian Defense

[Line 029 : 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 without 2… e6, 2… g6, 2… c5]

Line 029 deals with Black’s various second move choices, excluding 2… e6 (Lines 040-045), 2… g6 (Lines 036-039) and 2… c5 (Lines 030-035).

The main focus of this line is when Black makes a Classical Queen’s Indian setup, while White persistently avoids playing d2-d4 as long as possible.

After 2… b6 3. g3 Bb7 4. Bg2 e6 5. O-O Be7 White has several possibilities. Among them three setups deserve serious attention: 6. b3 O-O 7. Bb2 d5 8. e3 and 6. Nc3 O-O 7. b3 d5 8. Bb2 are both suitable for club level players, while 6. Nc3 O-O 7. Re1 is our recommendation for advanced players.

[Diagram: White to Move] Z. Ribli – R. Vaganian, London 1984. Black’s flank strategy left the center of the board to his opponent. What is the best way for White to make use of that fact?

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[April 17, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Vadim Zvjaginsev:
Sicilian Defense, Alapin Variation with 2… Nf6 (incl. Stoltz Attack)

[Line 420 : 1. e4 c5 2. c3 Nf6 3. e5 Nd5 4. Nf3 Nc6]

There are two major choices for White on the fifth move – one is the immediate reaction in the center with 5. d4 cxd4 6. cxd4, and the other is the Stoltz Attack (5. Bc4 Nb6 Bb3).

Against the first of the two Black shouldn’t have problems to obtain equality with 6… d6 7. Bc4 Nb6, and after 8. Bb5 the simplest continuation is 8… dxe5 9. Nxe5 Bd7.

In the Stoltz Attack, White keeps the tension for a while, postponing the d2-d4 advance. Black usually opts for 6… c4 7. Bc2 d6 8. exd6 Qxd6, followed by g6, Bg7 and O-O, or looks for simplifications with 6… d5 7. exd6 Qxd6 8. O-O Be6, in either case with good prospects.

[Diagram: White to Move] H. Nakamura – M. Vachier-Lagrave, Caleta (rapid) 2016. Vachier-Lagrave was unaware of the nice opening trick, which was not forgiven by Nakamura, who obtained a substantial advantage. What is the best way for White to proceed from the diagrammed position?

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[April 16, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
King’s Indian Defense, Sämisch Variation – Normal Defense without 6… c5

[Line 154 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. f3 O-O 6. Be3 without 6… c5]

Against 6. Be3 in the Sämisch Variation of KID, Black has a choice among various popular setups that are covered in this opening line, apart from 6… c5, which is covered in our Line 155.

In our opinion, the most promising alternative to 6… c5 is 6… Nc6, followed by a7-a6, Rb8 and b7-b5. White could fight it with 7. Qd2 a6 8. Nge2, with the idea to meet 8… Rb8 with 9. Rc1. However, Black has an interesting option in 8… Na5 9. Nc1 Nd7 10. Nb3 c5, with decent play.

The other heavily explored variation is 6… e5, where White can choose between 7. Nge2 and 7. d5. Though Black has a few ways to fight for counterplay, White should be able to gain a slight edge if he plays accurately.

For those who want to avoid lengthy theoretical discussions we recommend 6… a6, with the intention to proceed with c7-c6 and b7-b5.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Zhang Zhiyang – Li Shilong, Xinghua Jiangsu 2011. Black’s Queen is trapped, but he has a hidden possibility to even secure a big advantage. How should he continue?

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[April 15, 2018] Updated Opening Article by GM Aleksandar Kovačević:
April 01, 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 a game between the former and the current challenger to the throne (S. Karjakin – F. Caruana, London 2017), so it seemed logical to revisit this double-edged line just two weeks after the previous installment.

[Diagram: Black to Move] The diagrammed position is from M. Vachier Lagrave – V. Anand, Karlsruhe/Baden Baden 2018, the most recent key game in this variation. The French superstar’s sneaky-great preparation streamlined the game to a line where engines constanly claim Black’s full equality. However, it turned out that there was a catch – Black did have the opportunity to equalize, but it was an extremely tricky one that proved too difficult to find over the board; Anand faltered, and MVL showed no mercy. Can you, by any chance, improve upon the former World Champion’s passive response (21… Rfe8)?

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