[July 22, 2018] Dusted Off: Opening Survey by GM Vadim Zvjaginsev
April 2017 Revisited: The Leningrad Dutch with 7… Qe8 8. Re1 (10. Ng5!?)

After GM Daniele Vocaturo successfully followed our main line recommendation in F. Sonis – D. Vocaturo, Ortisei 2018, it seemed like a logical idea to revisit this article. While this opening line might not be the most fashionable one, some top-tier engine games have kept it theoretically relevant over the past few years. However, top level grandmaster clashes remain the most important games in this variation: B. Gelfand – P. Svidler, Jerusalem (rapid) 2014, S. Mamedyarov – A. Grischuk, Baku 2014 & E. Bacrot – V. Ivanchuk, Ashdod 2015.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White is a pawn down, but Black’s light-squared bishop is hanging, and his rook on a8 is doomed. Should Black capture on f3, or he would be better off trying something else?

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[July 21, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Rare & Irregular Openings

[Line 001 : without 1. e4, 1. d4, 1. Nf3, 1. c4]

The so-called Irregular Openings are all the openings not starting with 1.e4 (Lines 286-500), 1. d4 (Lines 046-285), 1. Nf3 (Lines 018-045) and 1. c4 (Lines 002-017), and they are all examined in this opening line.

Among these openings, the King’s Fianchetto Opening 1. g3 is the most sound, and it often transposes to some of the other openings, after d2-d4, Nf3 or c2-c4. White can also try an independent line 1. g3 d5 2. Bg2 e5, which is a sort of a reversed Pirc. White, having a tempo more compared to the regular Pirc Defense for Black, is generally not in any danger to get into worse positions, but he can hardly fight for an edge.

Larsen’s Opening (1. b3) is an unconventional choice, where Black is able to reach comfortable positions in a couple of ways. The most ambitious reaction is 1… e5 2. Bb2 Nc6, and after 3. e3, two common continuations are the more strategic 3… Nf6 and the sharp 3… d5.

Bird’s Opening (1. f4), Dunst Opening (1. Nc3), Anderssen’s Opening (1. a3) and Sokolsky Opening (1. b4) are rarely seen in the modern grandmaster practice, since Black’s chances in these openings are at least equal.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White is ready to castle kingside, and because of Qe4+ Black cannot take the e3-pawn with Nxe3. That being said, how should Black proceed from the diagrammed position to secure a longterm initiative?

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[July 20, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Open Slav Defense, Krause Attack (Sharp Line – Wiesbaden Variation)

[Line 109 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. a4 Bf5 6. Ne5 without 6… Nbd7]

Main move 6… Nbd7 is covered in our Lines 110-111, and this opening line deals with the Wiesbaden Variation (6… e6), as well as other sidelines, like 6… Na6, 6… Qc7, 6… g6 and 6… Nd5.

The Wiesbaden Variation, though a bit passive, is generally a solid choice from Black, and it was employed in a couple of games by Anand, in his World Championship match against Topalov in 2010. The only principled continuation for White is 7. f3, where Black should respond with 7… c5 8. e4 Bg6. Now, move 9. d5 doesn’t seem to pose any problems to Black, while after 9. Be3 cxd4 10. Qxd4 Qxd4 11. Bxd4 Nbd7 12. Nxd7 Nxd7 13. Bxc4 arises the critical position of this opening line. White’s position is, in view of Black’s passive Bishop on g6, a bit more pleasant, but after a few precise moves from Black, it’s hard for White to obtain a tangible edge.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black wants to take the c6 pawn with the Rook, and if White exchanges the pawns with cxb7, the c4-pawn will be protected, and Black would be doing fine. Still, White has other means to obtain the advantage. Can you see how?

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[July 19, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Classical Variation (incl. Fianchetto & Boleslavsky Variations)

[Line 469 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 without 6. Bg5, 6. Bc4]

Two main variations are covered separately: Richter-Rauzer Variation (6. Bg5) in Lines 472-476, and Sozin Attack (6. Bc4) in Line 471.

Against the Fianchetto Variation (6. g3) two most common continuations are 6… e6 and the transposition to the Dragon Variation with 6… g6 (Line 464). In either case Black has good prospects.

Move 6. f3 leads to dynamic positions resembling the English Attack of the Najdorf Sicilian. Black’s usual response is 6… e5 7. Nb3 Be7 8. Be3 O-O, and his plan is often connected with the a7-a5-a4 advance.

Boleslavsky Variation 6. Be2 e5 is a classical opening, which is not seen very often in modern grandmaster practice. Moves 7. Nf3 and 7. Nb3 lead to similar positions, with typical maneuvers for both sides.

Black has two viable alternatives against 6. Be2: one is the Classical Scheveningen 6… e6 (Line 470), and the other is 6… g6 – a quiet line of the Dragon Variation.

[Diagram: Black to Move] The diagram shows one of the critical positions of this opening line. How does Black create sufficient counterplay?

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[July 18, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Slaviša Brenjo:
Ruy Lopez, Closed Defense with 6. Re1 (Miscellaneous)

[Line 393 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1]

White is threatening to play Bxc6 and Nxe5, so Black needs to protect the e-pawn.

Move 6… d6 is rather passive and it allows White to obtain an advantage, both with 7. Bxc6+ bxc6 8. d4 and 7. c3 Bg4 8. d3 Nd7 9. Be3.

The main line of Ruy Lopez goes 6… b5 7. Bb3 where 7… d6 is covered in our Lines 402-413.

The idea of 7… O-O is keeping the option of the Marshall Attack (7… O-O 8. c3 d5), while White has a couple of ways to avoid it: 8. h3 (Lines 397-399), 8. a4 (Lines 395-396) and 8. d3 (Line 394).

From other possibilities for White, moves 8. a3 and 8. Nc3 give Black an easy game, while 8. d4 is more demanding for both sides. If Black continues with 8… d6 White usually plays 9. c3, transposing to Line 402. Capturing on d4 with the pawn 8… exd4 is dangerous for Black, since White gets more than sufficient compensation after 9. e5 Ne8 10. c3 dxc3 11. Nc3. The most common choice of Black is 8… Nxd4, and after both 9. Bxf7+ Rxf7 10. Nxe5 Rf8 11. Qxd4 Bb7 and 9. Nxd4 exd4 10. e5 Ne8 the position is balanced.

[Diagram: White to Move] If White retreats with his Bishop to g3, Black will exchange a pair of Bishops and Queens and defuse White’s initiative. Having that in mind, what is the best reaction for White in the diagrammed position?

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[July 17, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Queen’s Pawn Game; Modern Defense – Pterodactyl Variation

[Line 046 : 1. d4 without 1… d6, 1… d5, 1… e6, 1… f5, 1… Nf6]

Line 046 is the introductury line that comprises Black’s various replies to the Queen’s Pawn Game (1. d4). Some of the variations covered here are 1… c5, 1… Nc6 and 1… b6, but they are rarely seen in contemporary practice since none of them offer Black equal prospects.

Modern Defense (1… g6), on the other hand, has its share of followers. White can transpose to King’s pawn systems with 2. e4 or stay true to closed systems with 2. c4 or 2. Nf3, while Black can either switch to the King’s Indian/Grunfeld Defense with 2. c4 Nf6, or stick to his initial choice with 2. c4 Bg7.

The main focus of our Line 046 is 3. Nf3; move 3. Nc3 belongs to Line 047, while 3. e4 d6 4. Ne2 represents an interensting extra option that possible due to Black’s late development of his Knight on g8.

After 1. d4 g6 2. c4 Bg7 3. Nf3 d6 4. Nc3 c5 5. e4 Black usually opts for either 5… Nc6 or 5… Qa5. The first option allows White to obtain preferable positions with 6. d5 Nd4 7. Nxd4 cxd4 8. Nb5, while the second one can be successfully met with 6. d5 Bxc3+ 7. bxc3.

[Diagram: White to Move] One of the critical positions of this opening line: how can White seize the initiative from the diagrammed position?

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