[April 25, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Semi-Slav Defense – Neo-Meran, Wade Variation (Larsen Variation)

[Line 278 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 8. Bd3 Bb7 without 9. O-O]

The initial position of Line 278 is called the Wade Variation (also known as the Larsen Variation), and is currently the most popular treatment of the Neo-Meran. The main continuation for White (9. O-O) is covered in our Line 279, and the other two options are examined in this opening line: 9. a3 and 9. e4.

By playing 9. a3 White plans to proceed with e3-e4, where he can meet b5-b4 with axb4. Black usually chooses 9… Bd6, and is ready to counter 10. e4 with 10… e5. White can slowly develop pieces by playing 10. O-O O-O 11. Bd2 a5, with a roughly equal position. Black also has other means to equalize, for example 9… a6 10. b4 a5 11. Rb1 Nd5 12. Nxd5 exd5, and he should be fine.

Against 9. e4 Black typically immediately reacts in the center by playing 9… b4 10. Na4 c5 11. e5 Nd5, again with equal chances.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black is a pawn up, but it is rather inconsequential since White exerts strong pressure along the e-file. That being said, how can White gain a substantial advantage in the diagrammed position?

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[April 24, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Nimzo-Indian Defense, Rubinstein Variation – Normal Variation with 5. Bd3

[Line 190 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. Bd3]

From the initial position of our Line 190 5… d5 is considered to be the main move, where 6. Nf3 is covered in our Lines 191-194.

If White opts for 6. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 the principal choice for Black is 6… dxc4 7. Bxc4 c5, and after 8. Nf3 he is able to equalize with 8… Qc7, but also with 8… b6 and 8… Qa5. White sometimes develops the Knight to the other square: 8. Ne2. Black is again fine, for example 8… Qc7 9. Ba2 b6 10. O-O Ba6.

Move 5… c5 is a reasonable alternative to the main 5… d5. If White now plays 6. Nf3, Black gets even chances with 6… b6 7. O-O Bxc3 8. bxc3 Bb7. Also, after 6. a3 Bxc3+ 7. bxc3 Nc6 8. Ne2 Black gets sufficient counterplay with 8… b6, planning Ba6 and Na5, and pressing the weak c4-pawn.

[Diagram: Black to Move] L. Van Wely – P. Acs, Hoogoveen 2002. Black Knight on h2 is very active and his Bishops and Queen are also ready to join the attack on the poorly protected white King. How should Black continue to gain an almost decisive advantage?

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[April 23, 2017] Updated Opening Article by Boris Avrukh:
March 2015 Revisited: Sicilian Defense, Taimanov-Bastrikov Variation with 7… Bd6

In one of our previous installments of this article V. Kramnik – F. Caruana, Dortmund 2016 was this line’s key game, where Black had problems reaching the full equality. It didn’t take long and Caruana got the opportunity to try the same line as White: his choice proved successful and he scored an important win against Movsesian. However, more developments followed, and our new best mutual play now follows A. Motylev – M. Bosiočić, Moscow 2017. This is a very topical and fashionable line, and we believe there is still plenty of room for improvement for both sides.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position comes from an analysis from the above mentioned game from the Moscow Open. Can you find the way to untangle White’s pieces that ends in a perpetual check?

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[April 22, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Neo-Gruenfeld Defense, Original Defense

[Line 131 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nf3 Bg7 4. g3 c6]

After the usual 5. O-O d5, apart from the Delayed Exchange Variation (6. cxd5), covered in our Line 132, there are other options that are popular among the top level players.

Defending the c-pawn with 6. Qb3 is often followed by pressing on d5, with Nc3 and Ne5. The game frequently continues 6… O-O 7. O-O, and now both 7… dxc4 and 7… Qb6 lead to balanced positions, while 7… a5 is an interesting alternative.

White can leave the c-pawn unprotected by playing 6. O-O, where 6… dxc4 is a viable alternative to the more common 6… O-O. White regains the pawn after 6… dxc4 7. a4 O-O 8. Na3, but Black gets an active piece play.

Modern line 6. O-O O-O 7. Nbd2 leads to a quiet game, where White’s plan is the queenside fianchetto, while Black generally counters it with Bf5, a7-a5-a4 and Ne4.

[Diagram: Black to Move] L. Polugaevsky – B. Gelfand, Reggio Emilia 1992. White’s last move was careless 16. Nd2-e4, underestimating his opponent’s reply. How should Black proceed from the diagrammed position to gain a big advantage?

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[April 21, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Queen’s Indian Defense, Kasparov Variation with 4… Bb4 5. Bg5

[Line 205 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. Nc3 Bb4 5. Bg5]

Though Black can opt for 5… h6 or even 5… Bxc3+, the most common choice is definitely 5… Bb7. Now, there are three recommendable options for White: 6. e3, 6. Nd2 and 6. Qc2.

In case of 6. e3, Black usually replies with 6… h6 7. Bh4 g5 8. Bg3 Ne4. Black’s kingside gets a bit weakened, but White remains with doubled c-pawns when Black plays Bxc3. For example, 9. Qc2 Bxc3+ 10. bxc3 d6 11. Bd3 f5, with mutual play.

Also, after 6. Nd2 h6 7. Bh4 Black gets a comfortable position in a couple of ways. One of the options is 7… Be7 8. e4 O-O 9. Bg3 d5, and this position is roughly balanced.

Black may play a similar plan even after 6. Qc2. For example 6… h6 7. Bh4 g5 8. Bg3 Ne4 9. Nd2 Bxc3 10. bxc3 Nxg3 11. hxg3 Qe7, often followed by d7-d6, Nd7 and O-O-O.

[Diagram: White to Move] If Black manages to castle long, he would get a satisfactory position. How should White continue to seize the initiative?

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[April 20, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
French Defense, Normal Variation – Rubinstein Variation (incl. Fort Knox Variation)

[Line 331 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 without 3… Bb4, 3… Nf6]

The two most common moves are dealt with in other opening lines: 3… Bb4 in Lines 343-364, and 3… Nf6 in Lines 336-342.

Rubinstein Variation (3… dxe4) is another popular option, where after 4. Nxe4 the main move 4… Nd7 is covered in depth in Lines 332-335. The Fort Knox Variation (4… Bd7) is suitable for begginers and club level players. Black’s plan is Bc6 and, at a right moment, capturing one of the white Knights, followed by c7-c6. White stays with a bishop pair and small space advantage, but Black has a solid position without weaknesses.

Various sidelines can also be found in this line, including 3… Nc6 and 3… Be7. In these sidelines, White generally gets more promising positions without difficulties.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black is ready to recapture the piece with fxe6. How can White thwart his opponent’s plan, and claim a big edge?

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