[July 22, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Queen’s Gambit Accepted, Rubinstein Variation with 7. a4

[Line 083 : 1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. c4 dxc4 4. e3 e6 5. Bxc4 c5 6. O-O a6 7. a4]

By playing 7. a4, White prevents his opponent from playing b7-b5, but it comes at a cost of permanently weakening the b4-square. Though 7… b6 is a viable alternative, the most frequently played move is the natural 7… Nc6.

After the most common 7… Nc6 8. Nc3 Black has a choice between 8… Be7 and 8… Qc7. If Black opts for the bishop move, White’s usual replies are 9. dxc5 and 9. Qe2 cxd4 10. Rd1. In case of 8… Qc7 9. Qe2 Black has two options of about the same strength – 9… Bd6 and 9… Be7.

The overall evaluation of this opening line is that Black generally has no difficulties reaching the equality.

[Diagram: White to Move] White has a chance to make a material gain, thanks to the shaky black Bishop on c5. What would you play?

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[July 21, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense (Miscellaneous)

[Line 414 : 1. e4 c5]

Apart from the Open Sicilian (2. Nf3) covered in Lines 421-500, the Alapin Variation (2. c3, Lines 417-419) and the Closed Sicilian (2. Nc3, Lines 415-416), White has also a choice among many, though admittedly not as popular,  sidelines.

Modern 2. Ne2 is mostly aimed against the Najdorf Variation, as against 2… d6 White usually opts for 3. g3, followed by Bg2, O-O, c2-c3 and d2-d4. Black also has other possibilities, such as 2… Nf6, and after 3. Nbc3 both 3… d6 and 3… d5 lead to roughly equal positions.

Move 2. d3 is a safe but unambitious option, and is commonly followed by g2-g3, Bg2, f2-f4, Nf3 and O-O.

A mixture of the Sicilian Defense and the English Opening arises after 2. c4, with a strategic battle in a rather closed position.

[Diagram: Black to Move] S. Movsesian – G. Kamsky, Moscow (blitz) 2008. White has made serious weaknesses in a very early stage of the game, so Black is now able to obtain a decisive advantage in the diagrammed position. Can you find the winning move sequence for Black?

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[July 20, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Aleksandar Kovačević:
Torre Attack & Petrosian Gambit

[Line 113 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. Bg5]

The idea of the Torre Attack (3. Bg5) is to activate the Bishop and then arrange pawns on the dark squares by playing e2-e3 and c2-c3, followed by Nbd2, Bd3 and O-O. Against this system Black has many possible setups at his disposal.

A frequently played variation 3… c5, is usually accompanied with Be7, b7-b6, Bb7 and O-O.

A popular alternative is 3… d5, where White can transpose to Line 229 with 4. c4, or go for an independent line 4. Nbd2.

Black can also immediately chase the Bishop with 3… h6, where apart from transposing to the Trompowsky Attack with 4. Bxf6 Qxf6 5. e4, White can also opt for 4. Bh4. Black now has a choice between 4… d6, planning g7-g5, Nh5 and Bg7, and the more flexible 4… b6, often followed by Bb7, Be7, d7-d6 and Nbd7.

[Diagram: White to Move] T. V. Petrosian – J. Kozma, Munich (ol) 1958. Long time ago Petrosian had shown, in what was later called the Petrosian Gambit, why the Black’s last move 4… b6 is a mistake. In the years to come, even many strong grandmasters, including Karpov against Jussupow in 1989, fell into the same difficulties as Kozma. What is the right way to proceed as White?

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[July 19, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Modern Variation with 3. d4 (incl. Chekhover & Prins Variations)

[Line 463 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4]

After the most common 3… cxd4 White can avoid the main lines of the Sicilian Defense by opting for the Chekhover Variation (4. Qxd4). Black’s usual replies are 4… Nc6, 4… a6 and 4… Nf6.

In case of 4… Nc6 5. Bb5 Bd7, White has a choice: the first option is the classical 6. Bxc6 Bxc6 7. Nc3 Nf6 8. Bg5 e6, with a dynamic game, where White typically castles queenside, while Black goes with his King to the opposite side of the board. Modern 6. Qd3 is often followed by c2-c4, O-O and Nc3, and after a7-a6 White trades his light-squared Bishop with Bxc6.

The idea of 4… a6 is clear – preparing the Nc6, while preventing the white Bishop from going to the b5-square. White can make use of the tempo Black spent on a7-a6 to gain some space advantage with 5. c4, and after 5… Nc6 his most frequent choice is 6. Qe3.

By playing 4… Nf6 Black generally intends to meet 5. Bb5+ with 5… Bd7, while after 5. Nc3 both 5… a6 and 5… Nc6 are just fine.

In the main variation of the Sicilian Defense – 4. Nxd4 Nf6, as an alternative to 5. Nc3 (Lines 464-500), White has the Prins Variation (5. f3), where Black’s most popular replies are 5… e5 and 5… Nc6.

Another option for Black is to start with 3… Nf6, where after 4. Nc3 cxd4 White has a choice between 5. Nxd4 (transposing to Line 464) and 5. Qxd4 (covered in the move order 3… cxd4 4. Qxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3). White has two other responses on the 4th move – 4. Bb5+ and 4. dxc5, but Black should not have difficulties to obtain equal chances.

[Diagram: Black to Move] D. Mastrovasilis – K. Sakaev, Budva 2009. Poor placement of the white Bishop allows Black to seize a longterm initiative. How would you proceed?

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[July 18, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Tartakower Variation

[Line 262 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bh4 O-O 7. e3 b6 without 8. Be2, 8. Bd3]

Apart from more frequently played 8. Be2 (Line 263) and 8. Bd3 (Line 264), White has also tried other fully playable options. Among them 8. Rc1, 8. Qb3 and 8. cxd5 deserve serious attention.

In case of 8. Rc1 Black should proceed with 8… Bb7, and after 9. Be2 dxc4 10. Bxc4 Nbd7 11. O-O both 11… c5  12. Qe2 a6 and 11… a6 12. a4 Ne4 give him roughly even chances.

When White opts for 8. Qb3, he is willing to part with the bishop pair: 8… Bb7 9. Bxf6 Bxf6 10. cxd5 exd5 11. Rd1 Re8 12. Bd3. Now, Black cannot immediately develop his Knight to d7, but there is a topical motif that gives him good prospects – 12… c5 13. dxc5 Nd7.

After 8. cxd5 Black should reply with 8… Nxd5 9. Bxe7 Qxe7, where in the ensuing simplifications he generally has no difficulties equalizing.

[Diagram: White to Move] Can you find a sequence of moves that leads to White’s material gain?

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[July 17, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Caro-Kann Defense, Classical Variation with 6. h4

[Line 311 : 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. h4]

The most ambitious choice for White on the sixth move of the Classical Variation of Caro-Kan is certainly 6. h4. After the most common 6… h6 7. Nf3, our Lines 312-314 are fully dedicated to analyzing 7… Nd7, while the two other notable options, 7… e6 and 7… Nf6, are the main point of interest of this opening line. In both cases White should respond with 8. Ne5, making use of the fact that the black Knight has not reached the d7-square yet.

One of the critical positions occurs after 7… e6 8. Ne5 Bh7 9. Bd3 Bxd3 10. Qxd3 Nd7 11. f4, where 11… Bb4+ provoking  12. c3, allows Black to obtain good prospects after 12… Be7 13. Bd2 Ngf6 14. O-O-O O-O.

Similar development takes place in the 7… Nf6 8. Ne5 Bh7 9. Bd3 line. Here, aside from 9… Bxd3 10. Qxd3 e6 11. Bd2 Nbd7, Black has also tried the unconventional 9… Nbd7 10. Bxh7 Nxe5, where White has easier play but Black should be fine after a few accuracies.

[Diagram: White to Move] White has only a couple of options at his disposal, since his Knight on f7 is hanging. What would be your choice?

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