[March 24, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
London System

[Line 077 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 without 3. Bg5, 3. c4, 3. g3]

Apart from 3. c4 (Lines 125-135), 3. Bg5 (Line 078) and 3. g3 (Line 079), White has another popular option at his disposal in the London System (3. Bf4), which is the main topic of this opening line. White’s setup is very solid, and it usually includes e2-e3, h2-h3, Be2 and O-O. White’s unambitious approach leaves Black with a choice among many possible arrangements.

After 3. Bf4 Bg7 4. e3 Black can get even chances with 4… O-O 5. h3 d5, often followed by c7-c5. The other common plan includes 4… d6 5. h3 O-O, and later either b6-b7 with Bb7 and c7-c5, or Nc6 (Nbd7), preparing the e7-e5 advance.

[Diagram: White to Move] A. Nosenko – A. Baryshpolets, Alushta 2007. White has a nice chance to obtain a big advantage. Can you see how?

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[March 23, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
Gruenfeld Defense, Exchange Variation (Modern Main Line with 8. Rb1)

[Line 143 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Nf3 c5 8. Rb1]

Positions covered in this opening line are generally highly complicated and demand a very accurate approach and knowledge. After the most common 8… O-O 9. Be2 there are two sidelines, 9… b6 10. O-O Bb7 and 9… Nc6 10. d5 Ne5, that are viable for Black.

The main choice of the players of Black is 9… cxd4 10. cxd4 Qa5+ 11. Bd2 Qxa2 12. O-O, where they have tried numerous options; objectively, three of them stand out: 12… Bg4, 12… b6 and 12… Qe6. Move 12… Bg4 is seen the most frequent one, where replies 13. Bg5, 13. Be3 and 13. Rxb7 are well investigated.

[Diagram: White to Move] In this complicated position it is very hard for a human to estimate all the consequences of the unexpected introductory move. What would you propose for White?

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[March 22, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Ruy Lopez, Morphy Defense – Normal Variation (Arkhangelsk Variation)

[Line 387 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O b5 6. Bb3 Bc5]

The most principal choice for White is 7. a4, where 7… Rb8 is covered in Line 388. An option of about the same strength is 7… Bb7. White often continues with 8. d3, followed by Nc3. After 8… O-O 9. Nc3 Black has two ways to get even positions: 9… Na5 and 9… b4, though this one is a bit easier to play with White.

Move 7. d3 is a solid but not very ambitious option, and we recommend it mostly for beginners.

An alternative 7. Nxe5 leads to complex positions, where after 7… Nxe5 8. d4 Bxd4 9. Qxd4 d6, planning c7-c5,  Black has good chances of reaching the equality.

[Diagram: White to Move] A. Ivanov – G. Garcia, USA 2000. Last Black’s move 15… Rf8-e8 was a mistake. How can White punish his opponent, and get a big edge?

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[March 21, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Catalan Defense, Open Defense with 5… a6

[Line 242 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 dxc4 5. Bg2 a6]

Open Defense with 5… a6 is one of the sharpest lines in the Catalan Defense.

Move 6. O-O is the main choice of the players of White where 6… b5, although interesting, is generally considered preferable for White. For example, 7. Ne5 Nd5 8. a4 Bb7 9. axb5 axb5 10. Rxa8 Bxa8 11. e4 Nf6 12. Nc3, with the initiative. Somewhat better option for Black is 6… Nc6, where players of White have tried numerous replies. Among them 7. e3 poses the most problems to Black. After 7… Bd7 as an alternative to the main 8. Nc3 White sometimes opts for 8. Qe2 b5 9. b3 cxb3 10. axb3, with sufficient compensation for the sacrificed pawn.

There is another popular option for White – 6. Ne5, where Black has two possibilities that should be enough to equalize: 6… c5 and 6… Bb4+.

[Diagram: White to Move] D. Refalo – R. Sanchez Ortega, corr. 2010. Black is a pawn up but his King is poorly protected. What is the best way for White to launch an attack and get a big advantage?

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[March 20, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Open Slav Defense, Carlsbad Variation

[Line 111 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. a4 Bf5 6. Ne5 Nbd7 7. Nxc4 Qc7]

Line 111 covers one of the main variations of the Slav Defense. After almost the exclusive 8. g3 Black usually replies with the Carlsbad Variation (8… e5). The next couple of moves are fairly forced: 9. dxe5 Nxe5 10. Bf4, where the best option for Black is 10… Nfd7. In the position arising after 11. Bg2 there are two well-investigated continuations for Black: 11… g5 and 11… f6.

If Black opts for 11… g5, we recommend 12. Ne3 gxf4 13. Nxf5 O-O-O 14. Qc2 for advanced players, while 12. Bxe5 Nxe5 13. Qd4 and 12. Nxe5 gxf4 13. Nxd7 are somewhat less complicated lines, thus more suitable for club level players.

Move 11… f6 is considered to lead to positions that are more pleasant for White, for example: 12. O-O Nc5 13. Ne3 Bg6 14. b4 with the initiative.

[Diagram: White to Move] D. Fillon – T. Hagen, corr. 2010. There are many pieces aligned on the c-file, and it’s far from obvious how White can make use of the position of his Rook on c1 to make concrete threats to black King. How can White launch a very strong attack?

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[March 19, 2017] Pick of the Week by GM Boris Avrukh:
August & December 2016 Revisited: Closed Catalan Defense with 7. Ne5, 9. Na3 & 11. Qd2 

After the original key game W. So – H. Nakamura, Saint Louis 2016 many good players had followed suit, so we have decided to update the article with recent developments in this line. Some computer engine games are also not to be missed, and currently the most important one for the modern opening theory is Brainfish 091016 – Raubfisch ME 262, Internet (blitz) 2016.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White’s key threat in the diagrammed position from Y. Kuzmin – H. Langrock, Marianske Lazne 2017 is quite obvious: Ba3, followed by Bc5 if Black moves one of his two major pieces from the a3-f8 diagonal. Is there any way to properly defend against that maneuver?