[February 28, 2018] Updated Opening Line from GM Dragan Paunović:
English Opening, Hedgehog Variation & The Double Fianchetto Defense

[Line 031 : 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. g3 b6 without 4. Nc3]

Line 031 mostly deals with Black’s double fianchetto, which occurs after 3… b6 4. Bg2 Bb7 5. O-O g6 6. Nc3 Bg7.  This very flexible variation is a pet line of the new World Title Challenger – Sergey Karjakin. White usually continues with 7. d4 cxd4 8. Qxd4 followed by Qh4 (usually after Black short castling), thus exerting pressure on the kingside.

In a couple of games from Shamkir 2014, Karjakin with Black managed to neutralize White’s tries in the following line: 8… d6 9. Rd1 Nbd7 10. Be3 Rc8 11. Rac1 O-O 12. Qh4 a6 13. b3 Re8, so we suggest that you check out his games against S. Mamedyarov and H. Nakamura.

The other popular try for Black is 13… Rc7, with the idea Qb8 followed by b6-b5, though after 14. Bh3 Qb8 15. g4 e6 16. g5 Ne8 17. Nd4 the final position still seems more pleasant for White.

[Diagram: White to Move] P. Eljanov – S. Karjakin, Tromso (m/5) 2013. Eljanov didn’t miss his chance, and won the game in just a few moves. Can you find the winning sequence?

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[February 27, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Aleksandar Kovačević:
French Defense, Normal Variation – Classical Variation (Boleslavsky Variation with 7… a6)

[Line 339 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3 a6]

The idea behind 7… a6 in the Boleslavsky Variation is to launch an early pawn advance on the queenside. White usually opts for short castling and tries to make use of his spatial advantage.

After 8. Qd2 b5 White has a few possibilities. For club level players we recommend 9. dxc5 Bxc5 10. Bd3 Qb6 11. Bf2, where with precise play Black can reach satisfactory positions.

White’s main response is 9. a3, with the idea to postpone the b5-b4 advance. Black has two interesting choices: 9… Bb7 10. Bd3 Be7 11. O-O O-O or 9… Qa5 10. Ra2!? Qc7 11. Bd3 Be7, which both offer him reasonable counterplay.

[Diagram: White to Move] W. So – S. Volkov, Kocaeli 2015. Black’s last move was g7-g6, with the idea to stop the thematic f4-f5. However, Black’s plan is seriously flawed, and White can exploit the weaknesses in his opponent’s position. How did So continue in the diagrammed position?

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[February 26, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Najdorf Variation – Opočenský Variation; Classical Scheveningen – Maróczy Variation

[Line 484 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be2 without 6… e5]

The Opočenský Variation (6. Be2) against the Najdorf Variation is the preference of positionally-minded players. Black has two significantly different main plans – to play 6… e5 (which is covered in our Lines 488-490), or opt for the Classical Scheveningen with 6… e6, which is partially covered here. Variation with 7. O-O can be found in our Lines 485-487, and the main point of interest of Line 484 is the plan which includes long castling: 7. Be3 followed by Qd2 and O-O-O.

After 7… Qc7 8. Qd2 b5 9. a3 Bb7 10. f3 one of the critical positions in this line occurs. Black has several possibilities, most importantly 10… Be7, 10… Nbd7 and 10… Nc6, which all lead to double-edged positions with mutual chances.

[Diagram: White to Move] White’s attack looks devastating, and indeed it is – he needs to find several accurate moves and it’s curtains for Black!

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[February 25, 2018] Updated Opening Article by GM Boris Avrukh:
May 2013/August 2016 Revisited: Slav Defense with 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e3 Bf5

This is the fifth (sic!) updating of this line, which seems to offer the players of Black nice practical chances, in spite of the theoretical verdict, which is quite clear: White has the upper hand, but proving it requires extremely accurate play deep into the middlegame.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position is from the analysis following our improvement on M. Krasenkow  – H. Tikkanen, Stockholm 2018Black still has some compensation for the sacrificed pawn, so White has to neutralize his opponent’s piece activity to claim clear advantage. What is his best course of action?

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[February 24, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Caro-Kann Defense, Advance Variation – Short Variation

[Line 318 : 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nf3]

The Short Variation is currently the most popular variation of the Caro-Kann Defense. White typically plays for a long-term space advantage, slowly improving the position of his pieces.

After 4…e6 5. Be2 move 5… Ne7 is covered in our Line 319 and 5… c5 in Line 320.

From other possible options where Black is able to reach roughly equal positions, we recommend 5… Nd7 6. O-O Bg6. The idea is to proceed with Be7, Nh6 and O-O. White has many ways to continue, and generally Black should reach more or less balanced positions with a few accuracies.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black’s last move was f7-f6, undermining White’s pawn center. However, there is a reaction from White that can pose serious problems for his opponent – can you see it?

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[February 23, 2018] Updated Opening Line by GM Slaviša Brenjo:
Ruy Lopez, Closed Defense (incl. Yates & Suetin Variations)

[Line 402 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6]

The Suetin Variation 8. c3 O-O 9. a3 is one of the sidelines of the Closed Defense of Ruy Lopez. It leads to less explored positions, and is probably an interesting choice for club level players.

The Yates Variation, which occurs after 8. c3 O-O 9. d4, has been extensively explored in recent years. After the principled 9… Bg4, Line 402 deals with all ensuing variations, except for 10. d5, which is covered in our Line 403.

After 10. Be3, Black has 10… Bh5 as an interesting alternative to the main 10… exd4 11. cxd4 Na5 12. Bc2 Nc4 13. Bc1 c5.

Though Black’s position is equal, it requires quite precise treatment.

[Diagram: White to Move] Finish of the game A. Sznapik – P. Van der Sterren, Copenhagen. White to play and win!

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