[May 29, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Dragan Barlov:
Open Slav Defense, Czech Defense without 6. Ne5 (incl. Bled Attack)

[Line 106 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. a4 Bf5 without 6. Ne5]

The Czech Defense (5… Bf5) is considered to be the critical variation of the Open Slav. Apart from the Krause Attack (6. Ne5), which is covered in our Lines 109-111, White has another two major possibilities: the Dutch Variation (6. e3) and the Bled Attack (6. Nh4).

As reaction to the Bled Attack, Black has a few decent choices:

6… Bg4 7. h3 Bh5 8. g4 Bg6 is the most ambitious reply, often leading to dynamic positions, like in the main line: 9. Nxg6 hxg6 10. e4 e5 11. Bc4 exd4 12. e5 Bb4.

The most solid continuation is 6… e6 7. Nxf5 exf5 8. e3 Bd6 9. Bxc4 O-O. Though White has a bishop pair and better pawn structure, Black has full control of central squares.

Besides 6… Bg4 and 6… e6, Black has two more promising lines: 6… Bd7 and 6… Bc8.

The Dutch Variation is an old main line of the Open Slav. After 6. e3 e6 7. Bxc4 Bb4 8. O-O, the main line 8… Nbd7 is dealt with in our Lines 107-108, and in the focus of this line is a viable alternative 8… O-O. White usually continues with 9. Nh4 Bg4 10. f3 Bh5 11. g4 or 9. Qe2 Bg6 10. Ne5 Nbd7 11. Nxg6 hxg6, and in either case Black should equalize without big efforts.

[Diagram: White to Move] E. Bacrot – E. Bareev, Moscow 2010. If Black manages to trade the dark-squared bishops, he will get a satisfactory position. How can White refute his opponent’s plan?

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[May 28, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Alapin Variation (incl. Barmen Defense)

[Line 417 : 1. e4 c5 2. c3 without 2… Nf6]

Line 417 deals with different Black’s reactions to the Alapin Variation of the Sicilian Defense. Detailed coverage of move 2… Nf6 can be found in our Lines 419-420, and the main focus of this line is the so-called Barmen Defense – 2… d5 3. exd5 Qxd5. Since moves like 4. Nf3 and 4. Na3 hardly pose any problems for Black, White usually continues 4. d4, where the most frequently played 4… Nf6 can be found in our Line 418.

For club level players we recommend the plan starting with 4… g6, then typically followed by Bg7, cxd4, Nf6 and O-O.

4… Nc6 5. Nf3 Bf5 leads to more complicated position, which is the reason why it has recently become popular among grandmasters.

Another popular choice for Black is 2… e6. White can transpose to the Advance Variation of the French Defense with 3. d4 d5 4. e5, but more frequently White opts for positions resembling the Tarrasch Variation of the French Defense with 3. d4 d5 4. exd5 exd5 5. Nf3.

Other Black’s options are not as reputable as the mentioned ones. Line 2… d6 certainly deserves attention, though White should be able to secure some small opening advantage in this variation.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White has just played an intermediate move Bf1-c4, preparing to capture the d4-pawn on the next move. How can Black thwart his opponent’s plan?

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[May 27, 2018] Updated Opening Article by GM Boris Avrukh:
July 2014 Revisited: Catalan with 4… c5 & 6… Bc5

This is the second updating of this article, so we have added the most recent over-the-board and engine games. While our theoretical verdict remains the same as before (i. e. White has a number of interesting lines at his disposal, but in all cases Black has resources for obtaining full equality), there’s a number of interesting new attempts for both sides that you’ll certainly find interesting.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position is from A. Janković  – M. Cebalo, Bol 2013. Black has created a highly unpleasant pin. How should White deal with it?

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[May 26, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Neo-Gruenfeld Defense

[Line 123 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 without 3. Nc3, 3. Nf3, 3. g3]

Since moves 3. Nc3 (Lines 136-169), 3. Nf3 (Lines 125-135) and 3. g3 (Line 124) are examined elsewhere, the focus of our Line 123 is the highly popular Neo-Gruenfeld Defense with 3. f3. Depending on the taste, Black can choose one of the following possibilities:

The unorthodox 3… e6 is our recommendation for club level players. After 4. e4 d5 5. cxd5 exd5 6. Nc3 dxe4 7. fxe4 Bb4 the critical position of this variation occurs, where precise play is necessary, especially from players of Black.

For fans of the King’s Indian Defense, 3… Bg7 4. e4 O-O is probably the right course of action. Apart from the transposition to the Sämisch Variation of KID with 5. Nc3, white also has an independent deviation in 5. Ne2, with the idea Be3 and Nec3, followed by developing the knight from b1 either to a3 or d2.

An interesting sideline is 3… c5 4. d5 b5, offering White to transpose to the variations of the Benko Gambit.

The Grünfeld followers usually go for 3… d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nb6 6. Nc3 Bg7 7. Be3, where, apart from the heavily investigated 7… O-O, Black can also immediately press the d4 pawn with 7… Nc6, which typically gives him good practical chances.

[Diagram: Black to Move] B. Thorfinnsson – S. Gordon, Hinckley 2013. In this double-edged position, there is a way for Black to get the upper hand. How can he do it?

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[May 25, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Slaviša Brenjo:
Modern Bishop’s Opening

[Line 368 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. d3]

Black can transpose to the Italian Game with 4… Bc5, or he can opt for another popular variation by playing 4… Be7. White has a choice between several mostly interchangeable move orders, though his plan usually includes O-O, Re1 and either a2-a4 or c2-c3.

The main line goes 4… Be7 5. O-O O-O 6. Re1 d6 7. a4. Now the simplest way to handle the position with Black is 7… Be6 8. Nbd2 Qd7, while 7… Na5 8. Ba2 c5 9. c3 Nc6 presents a reasonable alternative.

The most aggressive choice for Black is 7… Kh8, with a rather straightforward plan: Ng8 and f7-f5. The exemplary line could be 8. a5 a6 9. c3 Ng8 10. d4 f5, with mutual chances.

[Diagram: Black to Move] L. Psakhis – V. Chekhov, Vilnius 1980. Black is exerting pressure on the kingside, but can he further improve upon it?

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[May 24, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Lasker-Pelikan Variation – Sveshnikov Variation without 11. Bd3

[Line 435 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Ndb5 d6 7. Bg5 a6 8. Na3 b5 9. Bxf6 gxf6 10. Nd5 f5 without 11. Bd3]

Besides the main line 11. Bd3 (Line 436), White has other playable options at his disposal.

11. g3 fxe4 12. Bg2 Be6 13. Bxe4 is our recommendation for club level players, leading to a very solid setup for White.

A rather risky try 11. Nxb5 axb5 12. Bxb5 demands precise play from both sides.

The main alternative to 11. Bd3 is 11. c3 Bg7 12. exf5 Bxf5 13. Nc2 with the idea Nce3 followed by Bd3. Black can either play the prophylactic 13… Be6, planning to respond to 14. Nce3 with 14… Ne7, or he can proceed with his own piece development: 13… O-O 14. Nce3 Be6 15. Bd3 f5; in both cases, complex positions with mutual chances arise.

[Diagram: Black to Move] V. Anand – P. Lékó, Wijk aan Zee 2005. Anand’s last move was the careless Bb5-a6, completely missing his opponent’s reply. How did Lékó gain an almost decisive advantage?

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