[August 17, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Queen’s Indian Defense, Kasparov-Petrosian Variation with 5… d5 6. cxd5

[Line 210 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. a3 Bb7 5. Nc3 d5 6. cxd5]

After the usual introductory moves Black has two moves of approximately the same strength – 6… Nxd5 and 6… exd5.

The first option usually occurs when Black is willing to trade off a pair of the Knights in the early stage of the game. Two of the most frequently played moves are 7. e3 (Line 211) and 7. Qc2 (Line 212), while other viable alternatives are 7. Bd2 and 7. Qa4+. In case of the following pawn sacrifice 7. e4 Nxc3 8. bxc3 Bxe4 9. Ne5 Black gets promising position with 9… Qh4, preventing White’s main idea Qg4.

Against 6… exd5, White usually continues with 7. g3 Be7 followed by either 8. Bg2 or the intermediate check 8. Qa4+, when after 8… c6 with 9. Bg2.

The overall evaluation of this opening line is that Black has several ways of obtaining pleasant positions.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Z. Azmaiparashvili – B. Macieja, Ermioni 2006. Black Knight is under attack and, if protected, White will attack it once more with Bb5. How should Black react?

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[August 16, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Italian Game, Giouco Pianissimo without 5… a6

[Line 364 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d3 without 5… a6]

Giouco Pianissimo in the Italian Game has become a mainstream opening in the past few years. Besides the prophylactic 5… a6 (Lines 365-366) Black often opts for 5… O-O or 5… d6.

After 5… O-O 6. O-O move 6… d5 is an ambitions option for Black, but it demands precise knowledge of the consequences. There were a significant number of theoretical discussions on the highest level in the line 6… d5 7. exd5 Nxd5 8. a4, like in the game V. Anand – W. So, Saint Louis 2016.

Move 6… d6 is more solid than 6… d5, and now line 7. a4 deserves serious attention. Since White threatens b2-b4 and a4-a5, Black usually replies with 7… a6 where two continuations were recently severely examined – a typical 8. Re1 and a funny-looking 8. Bg5 h6 9. Bh4 g5 10. Bg3, often connected with double-edged play.

[Diagram: White to Move] If White gives check Qa4+ Black will go back with the Knight to c6 and his position will be just fine, but there is another way for White to make use of the awkward position of the Knight!

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[August 15, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Boris Avrukh:
Gruenfeld Defense, Stockholm Variation with 4… Ne4

[Line 137 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Bg5 Ne4]

The Stockholm Variation (4. Bg5), though relatively fashionable, is not a mainstream reaction to the Gruenfeld Defense. Move 4… Ne4 is the most frequent reaction, where White usually continues with 5. Bh4, 5. h4 or 5. Bf4, though even 5. Nxe4 and 5. cxd5 are also possible.

In case of 5. Bh4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Black’s best option is 5… dxc4, intending to protect the c4-pawn with Be6, and not allowing White an early recapture with Bxc4.

After 5. h4 a common follow-up is 5… Bg7 6. cxd5 Nxc3 7. bxc3 Qxd5, with mutual chances.

Move 5. Bf4 is of about the same strength as the two previously mentioned moves, where after 5… Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. e3 both 7… c5 and 7… O-O are good enough for Black to obtain equal chances.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black has the strong passed c3-pawn and would be very happy to trade off the Queens. How can White fight his opponent’s plan, and gain a strong attack?

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[August 14, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense – Main Line with 9… Bd7

[Line 379 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. d4 Nd6 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. dxe5 Nf5 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8 9. Nc3 Bd7]

The idea of 9… Bd7 is generaly connected with the plan involving Kc8, b6-b7 and Kb7, with or without h7-h6. White can try to prevent it with 10. Rd1, where besides the calm 10… Ke8 Black can stick to his original plan with 10… Kc8 11. Ng5 Be8 – in both cases with balanced positions.

White has tried many other possibilities, and the two most common are 10. h3 and 10. b3. A typical follow-up could be 10. h3 h6 11. b3 Kc8 12. Bb2 b6 13. Rad1 Ne7 with c6-c5 and, depending on White’s intentions, Black transfers his light-squared Bishop to c6, e6 or f5.

[Diagram: White to Move] G. Kasparov – V. Kramnik, Astana 2001. One year before this game, in the World Champoionship Match, Kasparov wasn’t able get a single promising position in the Berlin Defense, but this time he won a nice game. How can White a make big advantage in the diagrammed position?

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[August 13, 2018] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
Semi-Slav, Noteboom Variation & Marshall Gambit

[Line 068 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 e6 with 4. Nf3, 4. e4]

Line 068 deals with the two most critical variations of the Semi-Slav: 4. Nf3 and 4. e4.

In the Noteboom Variation (4. Nf3 dxc4) the game usually continues with 5. a4 Bb4 6. e3 b5 7. Bd2 a5, and after the forced 8. axb5 Bxc3 9. Bxc3 cxb5 10. b3 Bb7 11. bxc4 b4 12. Bb2 occurs the main tabiya of this opening line. White has a strong pawn center while his opponent has connected passed pawns on the queenside. This position requires precise play from both sides, but Black’s task is a bit more sensitive.

The other principled choice for White is 4. e4 where 4… Bb4 leads to less demanding positions, but at the same time leaves White with somewhat better prospects. More ambitious line for Black is 4… dxe4 5. Nxe4 Bb4+. Here 6. Nc3, which typically leads to quiet positions, was successfully used by Carlsen in the third game of the World Championship match against Anand, in Chennai in 2013.

Move 6. Bd2 is the introductory move of the Marshall Gambit in the Semi-Slav. After 6… Qxd4 7. Bxb4 Qxe4+ White has a choice between two moves of about the same strength: 8. Be2 and 8. Ne2. In both cases White has sufficient compensation for the pawn, though Black, if he plays correctly, should eventually get equal chances.

[Diagram: White to Move] Coordination of Black pieces is very poor and White can launch a decisive attack with the right continuation. Can you see how?

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[August 12, 2018] Pick of the Week by GM Boris Avrukh
August 2016 Revisited: Sicilian Najdorf, Adams Attack

We have updated this article after two years, and we recommend the following three theoretically important games that stand out:

V. Anand – M. Vachier Lagrave, London 2016, H. Bellman – G. Mueller, corr. 2015 and M. Ruefenacht – N. Janzen, corr. 2015.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White’s bishop pair and his advanced pawns will soon become unstoppable if Black does not act quickly. Any ideas?

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