[May 18, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Dragan Barlov:
Slav Defense, Modern Line

[Line 072 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 e6 with 4. Qc2, 4. e3]

Line 072 deals with two popular choices for White in the Modern Line of the Slav Defense – 4. Qc2 and 4. e3.

The idea of 4. Qc2 is to keep the options open. If Black chooses 4… f5, which is one of the main ideas of c6-d5-e6 setup, White has a promising 5. Bf4 at his disposal. Black’s main preference is 4… Nf6, and only after 5. e3 Ne4, he can proceed with f7-f5, Bd6 and Nd7. If White goes for 5. Bg5, Black usually continues with 5… h6 6. Bh4 dxc4 7. Qxc4 b5 8. Qc2 Bb7, with mutually rich play. Advanced players often opt for 5. g3, where again 5… dxc4 6. Qxc4 b5 7. Qc2 Bb7 should be good for Black.

Against the other major line 4. e3, Black can make the aforementioned setup 4… Bd6, with f7-f5 and Nf6. The logical sequence of moves that may follow could be 5. Bd3 f5 6. O-O Nf6 7. b3 with the idea Ba3. Anyway, Black should be fine after 7… Qe7 8. Bb2 O-O 9. Qc1 b6 10. Ba3 c5.

[Diagram: White to Move] A. Stella – M. Kravtsiv, Livigno 2012. After trading the queens 19. Qxa8 Rxa8, White can equalize by playing 20. Bd2. Is there something better that White can do in the diagrammed position?

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[May 17, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Caro-Kann Defense, Breyer Variation & Two Knights Attack

[Line 301 : 1. e4 c6 without 2. c4, 2. d4]

Apart from the main line of the Caro-Kann Defense 2. d4 (covered in Lines 303-320), and the Accelerated Panov 2. c4 (Line 302), White has at east two more playable options – Two Knights Attack (2. Nc3 d5 3. Nf3) and the Breyer Variation (2. d3).

In case of 2. Nc3 d5 3. Nf3, the most promising replies are 3… Bg4 4. h3 Bxf3 5. Qxf3 e6, 3… Nf6 4. e5 Ne4 and 3… dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nf6. In any of these lines Black is able to obtain good prospects without difficulties.

The Breyer Variation is not very ambitious, and often leads to positions resembling the Reti Opening. The game often proceeds with 2. d3 d5 3. Nd2 e5 4. Ngf3 Bd6, where White usually chooses between the concrete 5. d4 and a more modest 5. g3. Again, Black should equalize rather easily.

[Diagram: Black to Move] A. Cosentino – M. Brzoza, corr. 2011. Black needs to act quickly if he wants to make the most of his initiative on the kingside. What would you propose?

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[May 16, 2018] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Ragozin Variation (incl. Alekhine Variation)

[Line 248 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Bb4 without 5. Bg5, 5. cxd5]

In addition to 5. cxd5 (Lines 250-252) and 5. Bg5 (Line 249), White has another two frequently played options in the Ragozin Variation – Alekhine Variation (5. Qa4+) and 5. Qb3.

In response to 5. Qa4+ Black is obliged to play 5… Nc6. The idea behind the Queen check is to prevent Black from playing typical c7-c5, but that comes at the cost of losing a tempo. Black’s plan is usually connected with dxc4, Bd6 and e6-e5. Two common follow-ups are 6. Bg5 h6 7. Bxf6 Qxf6 8. e3 O-O and 6. e3 O-O 7. Bd2 dxc4 8. Bxc4 Bd6, in both cases with even chances.

After 5. Qb3 c5 6. dxc5 both 6… Nc6 and 6… Na6 give Black rather comfortable play.

[Diagram: Black to Move] V. Neverov – A. Moiseenko, Warsaw 2005. White moved almost all of his pieces to the queenside, thus leaving the King unprotected. What is the best way for Black to organize the attack on his opponent’s King?

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[May 15, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Aleksandar Kovačević:
French Defense, Normal Variation – Classical Variation (Boleslavsky Variation with 7… cxd4)

[Line 338 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3 cxd4]

The Boleslavsky Variation with 7… cxd4 often leads to sharp and demanding positions. After 8. Nxd4 Black has the choice between 8… Qb6 and 8… Bc5.

Against the first of the two, White is practically obliged to sacrifice the b2-pawn and play for the compensation. 8… Qb6 9. Qd2 Qxb2 10. Rb1 Qa3 11. Bb5 is one of the critical positions in this opening line. Black should be able to neutralize White’s strong initiative, but only at the cost of returning the extra pawn: 11… Nxd4 12. Bxd4 a6 13. Bxd7 Bxd7 14. Rb3 Qe7 15. Rb7. Black’s position is sensitive, but not without counterplay.

The other important line is 8… Bc5 9. Qd2 O-O, where for club level players we recommend 10. g3 followed by Bg2 and O-O.

More complicated is 10. O-O-O, and after 10… a6 our suggestion for White is 11. Qf2, 11. Nb3 or 11. Kb1, in either case with double-edged positions.

[Diagram: White to Move] White only needs to activate his Queen, and when it’s finally coupled with his menacing rooks Black will be in big trouble. What is the best way for him to exploit the poor placement of black King?

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[May 14, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Slav Defense, Chebanenko Variation with 5. e3

[Line 102 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 a6 5. e3 without 5… e6, 5… Bf5]

Among several popular choices in this modern tabiya, two of them are covered in other opening lines – 5… e6 in Line 274 and 5… Bf5 in Line 094.

Moves like 5… g6, 5… Nbd7 or 5… Bg4 give White plenty of space to operate, and that is enough to secure him a longterm advantage.

Move 5… b5 is heavily examined, and since the most promising 6. b3 is covered in detail in our Line 103, the quiet 6. cxd5 and the more ambitious 6. c5 are the main area of interest of this opening line.

After 6. c5 g6 move 7. Ne5 with the idea f2-f4 seems to leave Black with the most serious problems to solve. White seizes space and stops Black from playing a typical breakthrough counterthrust e7-e5. The game could then continue with 7… Bg7 8. f4 a5 9. Bd3 Bf5 and Black’s position is very solid and hard to crack.

[Diagram: White to Move] Z. Kožul – O. Jovanić, Rijeka 2010. Black only needs to transfer his Knight from a6 to d5 to reach a comfortable position. However, that’s too slow and White can seize the advantage with an aggressive play. Can you see it?

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[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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