[February 05, 2019] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Gruenfeld Defense, Exchange Variation (Classical Main Line)

[Line 144 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Bc4]

After the introductory moves of our Line 144, the game usually continues with 7… c5 8. Ne2 Nc6 9. Be3. Now, Black has at his disposal a sideline 9… cxd4 10. cxd4 b5!? that should give him a satisfying position. By far the main option is 9… O-O, where after 10. O-O Black has several viable choices. Line 145 is dedicated to 10… Bg4 and 10… Qc7, while 10… Na5, 10… Bd7 and 10… b6 are also frequently seen in top level games.

The position arising after 10… Na5 11. Bd3 b6 is highly complicated and well-investigated, so it demands a considerable knowledge of many nuances.

Variations 10… Bd7 11. Rb1 Qc7 and 10… b6 are a bit less forced, though equally complex.

[Diagram: Black to Move] A. Timofeev – I. Kurnosov, Khanty Mansiysk (m/1) 2012. Black has tactical means to make something concrete out of the pressure on the d4-pawn. Can you see how he can win some material?

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[February 04, 2019] Updated Opening Line from GM Dragan Paunović:
English Opening, Neo-Catalan Declined & The Romanishin Variation

[Line 040 : 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 e6 without 3. Nc3, 3. d4]

Line 040 covers the Neo-Catalan lines in the English Opening, starting with 3. g3. The Romanishin Variation 3… a6!? is an interesting way to react, and is our recommendation for club level players. The main line goes 3… d5 4. Bg2 and deals with various Black’s responses, excluding 4… dxc4, which is covered in Line 041. This line is very fashionable among top level players, mostly thanks to Kramnik’s new ideas for White.

Among many highly instructive games we particularly recommend L. Aronian – R. Ponomariov, Tsaghkadzor 2015, A. Giri – V. Anand, Stavanger 2015 and V. Kramnik – D. Fridman, Dortmund 2013.

[Diagram: White to Move] Important question in the diagrammed position is what happens after White’s deliberate self-pinning with Ne5-d7. What’s your opinion?

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[February 03, 2019] Pick of the Week by GM Boris Avrukh:
August 2018 Revisited: The Paulsen Sicilian, Bastrikov Variation with 7. Qf3 Ne5

After a series of games played by Anish Giri in 2014 and 2015, this variation became highly fashionable and many theoretically important encounters ensued. It still appears that Black can’t fully equalize after 8… h5 9. O-O-O, though fighting for advantage as White is far from simple – check for instance Z. Abdumalik – G. Antal, Budapest 2018. In our last update of this article we promoted our analysis of 8… b5 to the variation’s main line, and it probably remains the best option for the players of Black.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position is from our main line. This is, by all means, one of the critical positions in this variation.  What is the best continuation for White, and how would you evaluate this position?

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[February 02, 2019] 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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[February 01, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
Gruenfeld Defense, Exchange Variation (Modern Main Line with 8. Rb1)

[Line 143 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Nf3 c5 8. Rb1]

Positions covered in this opening line are generally highly complicated and demand a very accurate approach and knowledge. After the most common 8… O-O 9. Be2 there are two sidelines, 9… b6 10. O-O Bb7 and 9… Nc6 10. d5 Ne5, that are viable for Black.

The main choice of the players of Black is 9… cxd4 10. cxd4 Qa5+ 11. Bd2 Qxa2 12. O-O, where they have tried numerous options; objectively, three of them stand out: 12… Bg4, 12… b6 and 12… Qe6. Move 12… Bg4 is seen the most frequent one, where replies 13. Bg5, 13. Be3 and 13. Rxb7 are well investigated.

[Diagram: White to Move] In this complicated position it is very hard for a human to estimate all the consequences of the unexpected introductory move. What would you propose for White?

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[January 31, 2019] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Modern Variation with 3. d4 (incl. Chekhover & Prins Variations)

[Line 463 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4]

After the most common 3… cxd4 White can avoid the main lines of the Sicilian Defense by opting for the Chekhover Variation (4. Qxd4). Black’s usual replies are 4… Nc6, 4… a6 and 4… Nf6.

In case of 4… Nc6 5. Bb5 Bd7, White has a choice: the first option is the classical 6. Bxc6 Bxc6 7. Nc3 Nf6 8. Bg5 e6, with a dynamic game, where White typically castles queenside, while Black goes with his King to the opposite side of the board. Modern 6. Qd3 is often followed by c2-c4, O-O and Nc3, and after a7-a6 White trades his light-squared Bishop with Bxc6.

The idea of 4… a6 is clear – preparing the Nc6, while preventing the white Bishop from going to the b5-square. White can make use of the tempo Black spent on a7-a6 to gain some space advantage with 5. c4, and after 5… Nc6 his most frequent choice is 6. Qe3.

By playing 4… Nf6 Black generally intends to meet 5. Bb5+ with 5… Bd7, while after 5. Nc3 both 5… a6 and 5… Nc6 are just fine.

In the main variation of the Sicilian Defense – 4. Nxd4 Nf6, as an alternative to 5. Nc3 (Lines 464-500), White has the Prins Variation (5. f3), where Black’s most popular replies are 5… e5 and 5… Nc6.

Another option for Black is to start with 3… Nf6, where after 4. Nc3 cxd4 White has a choice between 5. Nxd4 (transposing to Line 464) and 5. Qxd4 (covered in the move order 3… cxd4 4. Qxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3). White has two other responses on the 4th move – 4. Bb5+ and 4. dxc5, but Black should not have difficulties to obtain equal chances.

[Diagram: Black to Move] D. Mastrovasilis – K. Sakaev, Budva 2009. Poor placement of the white Bishop allows Black to seize a longterm initiative. How would you proceed?

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