[May 13, 2018] Trusted: Updated Opening Article by GM Slaviša Brenjo
December 2014 Revisited: Paulsen Sicilian, Bastrikov Variation (6. Be3 a6 7. Qd2)

This is our first update of this article, which brings several theoretically relevant over-the-board and engine games. For instance, move 14… O-O is a fresh attempt to sort of resurrect the main line, but after careful examination we believe that players of White can still be quite optimistic about their chances. From what we’ve seen, players of Black need a very precise move order, and it seems that they haven’t found it yet.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position comes from V. Akopian – A. Giri, Doha 2014. Black had just played 20… f6, and this misstep could have proved very costly for Giri, had his opponent found a brilliant attacking resource. Can you see it?

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[May 12, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
King’s Indian Defence, Fianchetto without c4 (Przepiorka Variation)

[Line 079 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. g3]

This opening line mainly deals with various setups with mutual kingside fianchettoes, without variations where White plays c2-c4.

Black has three main setups here: with d7-d5 (recommended for the Grünfeld Indian Defense aficionados), d7-d6 (for the King’s Indian Defense players) or c7-c5 (for Benoni fans). That being said, the main lines go like this:

3… Bg7 4. Bg2 O-O 5. O-O d5 6. Bf4 c6 is a rather uneventful line without serious problems for Black.

3… Bg7 4. Bg2 O-O 5. O-O d6 6. Nc3 followed by e2-e4 is a position typical of those arising from the Pirc Defense move order. Though White has a bit more space, Black has a very flexible position and plenty of ways to achieve equality.

After 3… c5, the most promising continuation for White is transposition to Line 036 with 4. c4, since supporting the d4-pawn with 4. c3 b6 5. Bg2 Bb7 or trading his d- for the c-pawn with 4. Bg2 cxd4 5. Nxd4 or 4. dxc5 Qa5+ 5. Nc3 Bg7, would allow Black to proceed with an easy play.

[Diagram: White to Move] R. Vera Gonzalez – J. Becerra Rivero, Matanzas 1994. Black has just carelessly played Nf6-h5, expecting White Bishop’s retreat from f4. What has Black overlooked? 

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[May 11, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
King’s Indian Defense, Ukrainian Defense & Donner Variation

[Line 162 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 e5 7. O-O without 7… Nc6, 7… Na6, 7… Nbd7]

Line 162 deals with various sidelines of the Orthodox Variation of the King’s Indian Defense. The most frequent moves are covered in separate lines, i. e. 7… Nc6 in Lines 166-169, 7… Na6 in Lines 164-165 and 7… Nbd7 in Line 163.

Ukrainian Defense (7… a5) is rarely seen nowadays, since White has a few paths to reach a small but lasting edge.

Donner Variation (7… c6) is an unambitious, yet flexible, system. Black typically settles with a slightly passive position, but manages to avoids force lines that commonly occur in other variations.

Among the variations covered here, 7… exd4 8. Nxd4 Re8 9. f3 Nc6 has the best reputation for Black. Though White’s chances are generally slightly preferable, well-prepared players of Black should be able to reach positions that are practically equal.

[Diagram: Black to Move] It seems like Black can hardly avoid losing a pawn, but there is an attractive resource that leaves him with sufficient compensation. What should he do?

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[May 10, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Harrwitz Attack – Main Line with 8. a3

[Line 257 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bf4 O-O 6. e3 c5 7. dxc5 Bxc5 8. a3]

Line 257 deals with the main variation of the Harrwitz Attack with 6… c5. Black’s best reaction on 8th move is 8… Nc6, and here White has two interesting alternatives to the main 9. Qc2: one is 9. Rc1, often leading to sharp positions, and the other is, the not so ambitious, 9. Be2 dxc4 10. Bxc4.

Against 9. Qc2 Black has tried various moves. Carlsen tested 9… Re8 in his World Championship Match against Anand in 2014, where Anand showed an excellent preparation and made a pleasant opening advantage with 10. Bg5. From other possibilities, neither 9… Be7 nor 9… Bd7 seem to give Black adequate play.

The only Black’s 9th move that leads to balanced positions is 9… Qa5, and now White has a few moves of approximately same strength: 10. O-O-O, 10. Nd2 and 10. Rd1.

[Diagram: White to Move] After White moves the Bishop from c4, Black is counting on quick counterplay with b5-b4. How should White react and gain a decisive edge?

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[May 09, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
French Defense, Winawer Variation with 7. Qg4 (incl. Poisoned Pawn Variation)

[Line 346 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 c5 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 Ne7 7. Qg4]

The Winawer Variation with 7. Qg4 is probably the sharpest line in the entire French Defense. Black has plenty of possibilities on 7th move, but only two of them lead to more or less balanced positions – 7… O-O and the Poisoned Pawn Variation, which can occur via two different move orders: 7… Qc7 8. Qxg7 Rg8 9. Qxh7 cxd4 or 7… cxd4 8. Qxg7 Rg8 9. Qxh7 Qc7.

When Black castles, White usually continues with 8. Bd3 where Black, again, has two viable choices – the highly complicated 8… Nbc6, and the less common alternative 8… f5, which we recommend for club level players.

In the Poisoned Pawn Variation, beside the main move 10. Ne2, Black has to be well prepared for the Euwe Variation (10. Kd1), too.

As a reaction to 10. Ne2 Black can try 10… dxc3, which gives him an extra option against 11. f4 – apart from the transposition with 11… Nbc6 to the 10… Nbc6 11. f4 dxc3 line, he can also opt for 11… Bd7 12. Qd3 Nf5, with the idea to meet 13. Nxc3 with 13… Na6. For those following the main theoretical discussions, we recommend 10. Ne2 Nbc6 11. f4 dxc3 12. Qd3 Bd7 13. Nxc3 a6, with very complex double-edged positions.

[Diagram: White to Move] J. Myrene – T. Franzen, corr. 2005.  As a reaction to 22. Qf6, Black has prepared 22… Nxh6 as his response. Is there a flaw in Black’s calculation?

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[May 08, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Boris Avrukh:
Gruenfeld Defense, Accelerated Russian & Stockholm Variations

[Line 136 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 without 3… Bg7]

Line 136 covers various early sidelines of Gruenfeld Defense (3… d5), while the most frequent moves are examined in other opening lines: 4. cxd5 in Lines 139-145, 4. Nf3 in Lines 146-149 and 4. Bf4 in Line 138.

Stockholm Variation (4. Bg5) has gained considerable following in recent years. The most popular reply 4… Ne4 is covered in Line 137, and this line provides an answer what happens if Black sacrifices pawn with 4… Bg7 5. Bxf6 Bxf6 6. cxd5. The most solid continuation for Black is 6… c6, where Black gets decent prospects both after 7. e4 O-O 8. e5 Bg7 9. Bc4 b5 10. Bb3 b4 11. Ne2 cxd5 and 7. Rc1 O-O 8. dxc6 Qxd4 9. Qxd4 Bxd4. There is even a sharper approach for Black in this line: 6… c5 !?, which has recently been tested by several top level players, like Vachier-Lagrave, Topalov, Grischuk and Radjabov.

The Accelerated Russian (4. Qb3) is another important line covered here. After 4… dxc4 5. Qxc4 Bg7, apart from the transposition to the Russian Variation with 6. Nf3, White can immediately occupy the center with 6. e4 O-O 7. Be2, and again, just like in the Russian Variation, the most common responses are 7… a6, 7… Na6 and 7… Nc6.

From other possibilities for players of White, 4. Qa4+ Bd7 5. Qb3, leads to atypical positions for the Gruenfeld Defense.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White is threatening to take the Knight on f6, to be followed by check on c7. However, White’s kingside is undeveloped, and Black can make an immediate use of that fact. What is the best way for him to continue?

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