[January 31, 2018] Updated Opening Line by GM Borki Predojević:
Slav Defense, Alapin Variation – Soultanbeieff Variation with 6. e3

[Line 103 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. a4 e6 6. e3]

Soultanbeieff Variation is a solid choice for the players of Black when they want to avoid well-examined lines of the Slav Defense, which is often met with 6. e3 as the most common continuation for White.

White often gets an isolated pawn on d4, like in the main 6… c5 7. Bc4 Nc6 8. O-O cxd4 9. exd4, though 9. Nxd4 is definitely an interesting alternative for White.

Both of these lines require accurate play from Black, but if he reacts properly his position should be fine.

[Diagram: White to Move] A. Grischuk – S. Karjakin, Nice (rapid) 2010. When attacking, every tempo is priceless. Grischuk missed the right moment to get a strong attack with a piece sacrifice. What is the best way to continue as White?

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[January 30, 2018] Updated Opening Line by GM Bojan Vučković:
Caro-Kann Defense, Accelerated Panov

[Line 302 : 1. e4 c6 2. c4]

The Accelerated Panov arises from the Caro-Kann Defense about as often as from the English Opening, i. e. after 1. c4 c6 2. e4.

Black’s best response is 2…d5 and after 3. exd5 cxd5 4. cxd5 Nf6 White gets a position with an isolated d-pawn. White has two fundamentally different plans – he can either try to keep the d5-pawn with 5. Bb5+ or 5. Qa4+, or opt to simply develop his pieces with 5. Nc3 Nxd5 6. Nf3. However, regardless of White’s choice, in our opinion Black has enough resources to equalize.

[Diagram: Black to Move] If Black captures on b1, White can respond with 18. Bh6 and the position is more or less balanced. However, Black has a tactical shot 17… Nxd4!! but the ensuing complications are still very hard to sort out. Try to determine what happens after the powerful blow.

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[January 29, 2018] Updated Opening Line by GM Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Modern Variation – Moscow Variation with 3… Nc6

[Line 459 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+ Nc6]

Covering with the Knight (3… Nc6) is a popular reaction to the Moscow Variation  (3. Bb5+), and this position is also often achieved via a slightly different move order – 2… Nc6 3. Bb5 d6.

There are two main plans for White – either to immediately take the knight 4. Bxc6+ bxc6, with a rather static position, better pawn structure for White and a bishop pair for Black, or to play like in Ruy Lopez, i. e. to castle followed by Re1. After 4. O-O Bd7 5. Re1 Nf6 move 6. c3 is covered in our Line 460, so Line 459 deals with other reactions from White, but mostly with the flexible 6. h3. After 6… e6 7. c3 Black has a few good ways to continue, but 7… Ne5 seems to be the easiest path to equalization.

[Diagram: White to Move] S. Rublevsky – E. Sveshnikov, Herceg Novi 1999. Black is behind in development and White can get a strong initiative with energetic play. Rublevsky found the best way to do it, so can you do it, too?

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[January 28, 2017] Pick of the Week by GM Boris Avrukh:
July 2014 Revisited: Closed Catalan Defense with 7. Ne5  c5

After Gelfand’s reinvention of an old Catalan line during the London Classic Rapid 2013, many strong grandmasters followed suit. Among the recent contributions to the opening theory of this variation one name stands out – it almost seems as if the Israeli great passed the baton to Wang Yue, who had quite a number of notable wins in this line.

[Diagram: White to Move] This is another exercise for advanced players, which is quite understandable given the complex nature of this variation. White has probably misplayed the opening at some point, which puts him in a position where he should look for a way to equalize. What should he do?

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[January 27, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Caro-Kann Defense, incl. Maroczy & Exchange Variations

[Line 303 : 1. e4 c6 2. d4]

After 2… d5, the two most popular variations of the Caro-Kann are covered in separate opening lines – 3. Nc3 in our Lines 307-314, and 3. e5 in Lines 315-320.

The main topic of Line 303 are two very different lines: Maroczy Variation (3. f3) and Exchange Variation (3. exd5).

The Maroczy Variation leads to dynamic positions. There are four viable choices for Black on 3rd move: the highly solid 3… e6, unconventional 3… Qb6, typical kings fianchetto 3… g6 4. Nc3 Bg7 5. Be3 Qb6!, and sharp 3… dxe4 4. fxe4 e5.

In the Exchange Variation 3. exd5 cxd5, Panov Attack (4. c4) is dealt with in Lines 304-306. The ideal variation for beginners is 4. Bd3. After 4… Nc6 5. c3 Nf6 White has a few possibilities of similar strength at his disposal: 6. h3, followed by Nf3 and O-O, 6. Bf4 and 6. Nf3. In any case Black has no problems reaching the equality.

[Diagram: White to Move] Hou Yifan – R. Ruck, Bastia (rapid) 2014. Black has just taken the poisoned pawn on b2, which gives White a chance to finish the game in just a couple of moves. White to play and win!

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[January 26, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
Sicilian Defense, Najdorf Variation (Miscellaneous)

[Line 477 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 without 6. Be3, 6. Bg5, 6. Be2, 6. Bc4, 6. f3, 6. f4, 6. g3]

Various choices of White on 6th move can be found pretty much everywhere in our CHOPIN Encyclopedia: 6. Be3 in Lines 491-500, 6. Be2 in Lines 484-490, 6. Bg5 in Lines 481-483, 6. Bc4 in Line 480, 6. f4 in Line 479, and 6. f3 and 6. g3 in Line 478.

The main topic of Line 477 is 6. h3, a move that has become exceedingly popular among the top players in the recent years. White’s plan includes g2-g4, Bg2 and Be3, hoping to exert pressure on the kingside. Black has tried numerous options in response, but only 6… e6 and 6… e5 seem to be sufficient for getting equal chances. There are many possibilities for both sides, and we will mention here the two currently most popular lines: 6… e6 7. g4 Be7 8. Bg2 Nfd7 9. Be3 Nc6 and 6… e5 7. Nde2 h5. In both cases the ensuing positions are highly complex and, though Black should be the more cautious side, he should typically be able to equalize.

From the other options for White, the following stand out: the classical 6. a4, somewhat unusual 6. Qf3 and 6. Rg1, the hypermodern 6. Nb3 and even 6. h4.

[Diagram: White to Move] K. Sasikiran – Lu Shanglei, Abu Dhabi 2016. Black is threatening to take the b2-pawn, though he would also be quite happy to play Ne3, eliminating the opponent’s important dark-squared Bishop. Sasikiran played a very strong move that allowed him to gain a substantial advantage. Can you find the best continuation for White?

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