2016-05-09 - Update Line 033[January 23, 2018] Updated Opening Line by GM Bojan Vučković:
English Opening – Keres Defence; QGD Tarrasch – Symmetrical Variation

[Line 033 : 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. Nc3 e6 without 4. d4]

Apart from 4. d4, which is covered in our Line 034, White has a choice between the symmetrical 4. e3 and standard 4. g3.

In the first case the Symmetrical Variation of the Tarrasch Defense usually occurs, often with Black’s isolated pawn on d5, e. g. like after 4. e3 Nc6 5. d4 d5 6. cxd5 exd5 7. Bb5 Bd6 8. O-O O-O 9. dxc5 Bxc5. Though the position is slightly preferable for White, Black can typically count on sufficient counterplay.

After 4. g3 Black can opt for a queenside fianchetto with 4… b6, thus transposing to our Line 044. The second most popular continuation for Black is 4… Nc6 5. Bg2 d5 6. cxd5 Nxd5, where White can go for 7. d4. These variations often lead to endgames after 7… cxd4 8. Nxd4 Nxc3 9. bxc3 Nxd4 10. Qxd4 Qxd4 11. cxd4, or White can castle first (7. O-O Be7 8. d4), thus choosing the line known as the Keres Defense, where in our opinion White can count on a slight edge.

[Diagram: White to Move] V. Utemov – V. Titenko, Moscow 1990. Black bishop on b6 is in danger and his queen is overloaded. How can White exploit that fact?

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[January 22, 2018] Updated Opening Line by GM Trajko Nedev:
Neo-Grünfeld Defense, Fianchetto/Exchange Variation, Main Line

[Line 135 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nf3 Bg7 4. g3 d5 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. Bg2 Nb6 7. Nc3 Nc6 8. e3 O-O 9. O-O Re8]

The main line of the Fianchetto Variation of the Grünfeld Defense is the place where many theoretical battles take place. Very good players of have tried no less than ten (!?) different ideas on 10th move, leading to rather similar, yet slightly different set-ups.

After the main 10. Re1 a5 White has, again, tried about a dozen continuations, where some of them require Black’s surgical precision. That being said, it is probably the biggest drawback of this line for Black – too many lines to remember; apart from that, from a purely theoretical standpoint, Black’s position should be considered quite satisfactory.

[Diagram: Black to Move] R. Leitao – F. Caruana, Khanty-Mansiysk 2010. The diagrammed position should be dynamically balanced, but it requires accurate play from both sides. Caruana showed better preparation in the ensuing complications, so he managed to score a full point. How did Black continue?

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[January 21, 2018] Dusted Off: Opening Survey by GM Aleksandar Kovačević
English Opening, Accelerated Nimzo

Our decision to pick a game for this week’s article from the ongoing Wijk aan Zee supertournament was obviously a no-brainer. While P. Svidler – M. Carlsen, Wijk aan Zee 2018 already looks like a strong candidate for “the draw of the year” (that is – if such a category exists at all), we believe that the game opening line also has considerable theoretical significance.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White is exerting a very strong pressure, but Black has a hidden resource. What should he do to create a strong counterplay?

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2016-04-30 - Update Line 076[January 20, 2018] Updated Opening Line by GM Bojan Vučković:
Old Benoni, Kingside Move Order

[Line 076 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 without 2… d5, 2… e6, 2… g6]

Old Benoni Defense is reached after 2… c5 3. d5, and Black has two popular plans in this line. One is to proceed with a kingside fianchetto (3… g6), where apart from a transposition to Modern Benoni with 4. c4, White can also choose 4. Nc3. In the ensuing positions, White typically has more space and long term advantage, but on the other hand, Black’s position is quite flexible.

The other frequently played line is 3… b5, where Black can seize some space on the queenside, but it comes at a price – it leaves some weaknesses in his camp that White can poke and prod. Though Black’s position is sensitive, with accurate play, he can still get reasonable chances in the arising middlegames.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black has inadequate control of dark squares. How can White make use of it and launch a strong attack?

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[January 19, 2018] Updated Opening Line by GM Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Old Sicilian – Accelerated Dragon

[Line 430 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 g6 without 5. c4]

The Maroczy Bind is covered in Lines 431-433, while Line 430 mostly deals with another important alternative for White – the Accelerated Dragon (5. Nc3).

The play here usually continues 5… Bg7 6. Be3 Nf6 7. Bc4 O-O 8. Bb3, where Black has several interesting possibilities at his disposal.

One of them is a modern gambit (8… d5!? 9. exd5 Na5) that was recently tried in S. Karjakin – D. Dubov, Doha 2015. It leads to some forced lines with positions that are good enough for Black, so it deserves serious consideration as an opening surprise.

The main line for Black is the quiet 8… d6 9. h3 Bd7 10. O-O Qa5, where White’s spatial advantage typically gives him a slight pull.

For advanced players we thus recommend the ambitious 8… a5, where the game can become quite unbalanced after 9. O-O a4 10. Nxa4 Nxe4 11. Nb5 Ra6, with mutual chances.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position is somewhat typical for the Sicilian Dragon: both sides are rushing with their flank attacks, but White is visibly quicker. What is the best way to proceed here?

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[January 18, 2018] Updated Opening Line from GM Dragan Paunović:
Queen’s Indian Defense, Classical Variation (incl. Tiviakov Defense)

[Line 217 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Bb7 5. Bg2 Be7 6. O-O O-O 7. Nc3]

Line 217 deals with Black’s various 7th move reactions, including the Tiviakov Defense (7… Na6), where White typically gets slightly preferable positions.

The other reaction (7… d5) usually (i. e. after 8. cxd5 exd5) transposes to a variation covered in Line 216 (though reached via a different move order).

By far the most popular and also the main line is 7… Ne4, with the idea to trade a pair of knights. Apart from 8. Bd2 (covered in our Line 218), White has two more choices that seem quite playable: to simplify the position with 8. Nxe4, or to play the more ambitious 8. Qc2. In either case, Black has reasonable chances to equalize.

[Diagram: White to Move] In the pre-computer days it was possible to win quite a few games using the same well-disguised opening trick, which can hardly happen today. About forty years ago, IM L. Neckár tricked (at least) three good players in the diagrammed position, playing as White. What did he play?

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