[April 29, 2018] Updated Opening Article by GM Boris Avrukh:
August 2016 Revisited: Open Catalan with 5… c5, 6. O-O Nc6 7. Qa4

This is the second updating of this article, so we have added the most recent over-the-board and engine games. However, our theoretical verdict remains the same as before (i. e. Black has difficulties obtaining full equality), but there’s a number of interesting new attempts on both sides that you’ll certainly find interesting.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position is from Hiarcs 11.2  – List 5.12, Internet 2007. Black is a pawn up and the pawn on f2 is very vulnerable. However, it’s White’s turn to move and he can make use of the fact that his opponent’s king is still stuck in the center. What would you suggest?

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[April 28, 2018] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
English Opening, Symmetrical Variation – Main Line

[Line 004 : 1. c4 c5 2. g3 g6 3. Bg2 Bg7 4. Nc3 Nc6 5. Nf3 without 5… Nf6]

Symmetrical Variation of the English Opening is considered to be a very flexible option for both sides. Black can decide among several essentially different setups that give him equal chances.

One of them is taking control over the d4-square with 5… e5, which in return creates a glaring weakness on d5. The game typically continues with 5… e5 6. O-O d6 7. a3 Nge7 8. d3 O-O 9. Rb1 a5 10. Ne1, followed by a topical Ne1-c2-e3 maneuver.

The simplest setup for Black is 5… e6 6. O-O Nge7 7. d3 O-O, with either d7-d5, or d7-d6 with b7-b6 and Bb7.

The more unconventional, but equally promising plan for Black is 5… d6 6. O-O Bf5, followed by Qd7 and Bh3.

[Diagram: White to Move] H. Nakamura – M. Carlsen, Moscow (blitz) 2012. Carlsen just played f7-f5, with the idea Nf6, followed by b7-b6 and Bb7. Since it was a blitz game, both players missed White’s strongest response. Can you find it?

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[April 27, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Catalan Defense, Closed Variation – Main Line with 8. Bf4

[Line 232 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 Bb4+ 5. Bd2 Be7 6. Bg2 O-O 7. O-O c6 8. Bf4]

In this line Black has two reasonable alternatives to main move 8… Nbd7 – 8… b6 and 8… dxc4.

With 8… b6, typically followed by Ba6, Black wants to exert pressure on the c4-pawn. The game could continue 8… b6 9. Nc3 Ba6 10. cxd5 cxd5 11. Rc1 Bb7 12. Ne5 Nbd7, when Black has good chances to equalize. After 8… dxc4 9. Ne5 Nd5 10. Nxc4 c5 he should also be able to get sufficient counterplay.

8… Nbd7 keeps the tension, leaving both sides with several decent options. While 9. Qc2 is covered in our Lines 233 and 234, Line 232 covers two remaining notable lines: the solid 9. Qb3, and the more ambitious 9. Nc3. Either way, Black should not encounter major problems in these variations.

[Diagram: White to Move] R. Ponomariov – V. Topalov, Sofia 2005. Black’s last move was Nb8-c6, which allows his opponent a small tactical blow. How can White secure a long-term advantage?

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[April 26, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Slaviša Brenjo:
Ruy Lopez, Closed Defense without 6. Re1 (Miscellaneous)

[Line 391 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 without 6. Re1]

Line 391 mainly deals with the highly popular 6. d3, as well as other alternatives to 6. Re1 (Lines 393-413).

Apart from 6. d3 b5, covered in Line 392, Black has in 6. d3 d6 another popular choice of defending from the threat of Bxc6 followed by Nxe5. Here, White has an interesting sideline in 7. c4, which is often followed by Nc3 and Bxc6 – by giving away his bishop pair, White gains a better pawn structure in return.

After 7. c3 O-O 8. Nbd2 occurs a typical Ruy Lopez position with lots of maneuvering. Black has a few ways of obtaining even chances with 8… b58… Re8 or 8… Nd7 being some of the usual introduction moves.

The Double Deferred Exchange Variation (6. Bxc6) can sometimes be seen in strong grandmasters’ practice. After 6… dxc6 7. d3 Bishop on e7 feels less comfortable than on c5 or d6, but Black still has just enough time to transfer the pieces to good squares, before White gains some activity. Black’s common plan is Nd7 and f7-f6, followed by transferring the Knight from d7 either to c6 or e6.

[Diagram: White to Move] V. Ivanchuk – V. Kramnik, Monte Carlo (blindfold) 2002. By moving his Knight from e3 White can attack the pinned e4-pawn. Therefore, the question is: what is the best place to move the Knight to?

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[April 25, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
King’s Indian Defense, Sämisch Variation – Normal Defense with 6… c5

[Line 155 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. f3 O-O 6. Be3 c5]

Line 155 deals with what’s currently considered the most promising reaction from Black against the Sämisch Variation of KID. There are many double-edged positions occurring in this line, whatever White chooses to play: 7. dxc5, 7. d5 or 7. Nge2.

If White accepts the pawn sacrifice with 7. dxc5 dxc5 8. Qxd8 Rxd8 9. Bxc5, Black generally gets a nice compensation, for example 9… Nc6 10. Nge2 b6 11. Ba3 Ba6, with good development advantage.

In case when White decides to block the center with 7. d5 e6 8. Qd2 exd5 9. cxd5, a Benoni-type positions occur, and again Black is able to get sufficient counterplay, like in the following line: 9… a6 10. a4 Re8 11. Nge2 Nbd7 12. Ng3 h5.

The most demanding line for both sides is the flexible 7. Nge2. Black can decide between an interesting sideline 7… Qa5 8. Nc1 cxd4, that has been seen in a few recent games, and the critical 7… Nc6 8. d5 Ne5 9. Ng3 h5 10. Be2 h4 11. Nf1 e6 with very sharp play.

[Diagram: Black to Move] A. Istratescu – E. Berg, Eritrea 2011. White’s last move was the careless g2-g4, allowing his opponent a strong blow that immediately turns things into his favor.

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[April 24, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Four Knights Variation (incl. Lasker-Pelikan Variation)

[Line 434 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6]

Lasker-Pelikan/Sveshnikov Variation is not as popular as it used to be, but according to the latest opening theory, Black can achieve rather promising positions.

To begin with, Line 434 deals with early deviations in the Lasker Variation, starting with various choices for White on move six, i.e. after 5. Nc3 e5.

By far the main move is 6. Ndb5, and after 6… d6 we arrive at the first big crossroad. For club level players we recommend 7. Nd5, and for beginners 7. a4, since they are much less demanding than the main lines.

After the main 7. Bg5 a6 8. Na3 b5 White can decide between two types of position – he can either opt for the calm 9. Nd5, followed by Bxf6, or capture on f6 immediately, where Black is obliged to take the Bishop with his pawn. Move 9. Nd5 is covered in our Lines 437-439, and the position occurring after 9. Bxf6 gxf6 10. Nd5 f5 in our Lines 435-436.

The main focus of this line is 9. Bxf6 gxf6 10. Nd5 Bg7, which was Kramnik’s pet line at the time when he used to play the Sicilian Defense. Black’s idea is to quickly trade the strong white Knight on d5 with Nc6-e7, followed by the thematic f6-f5, which is often connected with a pawn sacrifice. The main tabiya in this line is the position occurring after 11. Bd3 Ne7 12. Nxe7 Qxe7 13. O-O O-O 14. c4 f5, where great complications typically arise.

[Diagram: White to Move] White is a few pawns up, but three of his pieces are under attack. How can he deal with that and gain substantial advantage?

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