[June 22, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Catalan Defense, Open Defense (incl. Classical Line)

[Line 239 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 dxc4]

From the initial position of this opening line White has two not particularly promising sidelines: 5. Qa4+ and 5. Nc3 (transposing to Line 245).

After the main 5. Bg2, the most common options for Black are covered in separate opening lines: 5… a6 in Line 242, 5… Nc6 in Line 241 and 5… Bb4 in Line 240.

The idea of 5… c6 is defending the c4-pawn with b7-b5. White can oppose it with 6. Ne5, where 6… c5 gives Black good chances for equality.

Move 5… c5 is a frequently seen alternative. The game usually continues 6. O-O Nc6, where 7. dxc5 seems to give White a small edge.

On other possibilities, like 5… Bd7, 5… Nbd7 and 5… Be7, White typically gets an upper hand.

[Diagram: White to Move] R. Grossi – F. Senzacqua, corr. 2013. White has sacrificed three pawns to get this very promising position. How should he continue to secure himself a big advantage?

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[June 21, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Keres Indian (Pseudo-Nimzo)

[Line 053 : 1. d4 e6 without 2. e4]

Move 2. e4 leads to the French Defense (Lines 321-346), and after the other popular choice (2. Nf3) the game can turn to many different openings: 2… c5 3. e4 transposes to the Paulsen Sicilian; 2… c5 3. c4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 is the English Opening; after both 2… Nf6 and 2… d5 occur variations of the Queen’s Pawn Game.

Keres Indian 2. c4 Bb4+ is in the focus of this opening line (also known as the Pseudo-Nimzo Defense). Covering from the check with 3. Nc3 usually leads to the Nimzo-Indian after 3… Nf6. The other two sensible moves (3. Nd2 and 3. Bd2) both lead to promising positions for White.

After 3. Nd2 Black can not equalize with 3… Nf6 4. a3 Be7 5. e4 d5, since White seizes the initiative with 6. e5 Nfd7 7. Qg4. In other lines, Black often trades his dark-squared Bishop for the Knight on d2, thus leaving White with a small edge due to his bishop pair, just like in e. g. 3… c5 4. a3 Bxd2+ 5. Qxd2 cxd4 6. Qxd4.

Against 3. Bd2 Black can trade off the dark-squared Bishops with 3… Bxd2+ 4. Qxd2, but White remains slightly better after 4… Nf6 5. Nc3 d5 6. e3 O-O 7. cxd5 exd5 8. Bd3, like in the game R. Wojtaszek – D. Vocaturo, Doha 2015. Black’s best option is 3… a5 and transposition to the Bogo-Indian Defense after 4. Nf3 Nf6, since after 4. Nf3 d6 5. Nc3, with later a2-a3 typically gives White a small plus.

[Diagram: White to Move] F. Peralta – R. Reinaldo Castineria, Barcelona 2008. How can White make use of his pawn center to gain a big advantage?

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[June 20, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
French Defense, Winawer Variation (incl. Bogoljubow & Moscow Variation and Armenian Line)

[Line 344 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 c5]

The idea of the Bogoljubow Variation (5. Bd2) is to not permit doubling of White’s pawns on the c-file, and is, in our opinion, more suited for beginners.

Moscow Variation (5. Qg4) is not considered to be a very promising one for White, as Black typically gets good prospects after 5… Ne7 6. dxc5 Nbc6.

White’s main move is 5. a3, where besides 5… Bxc3+ Black has a tricky, though still playable, Armenian Line (5… Ba5).

After 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3, apart from 6… Ne7 (Lines 345-346), Black has a viable alternative in 6… Qa5 7. Bd2 Qa4. The idea of the Queen maneuver is to stop White from gaining space on the queenside with a3-a4, and is often followed by b7-b6 and Ba6. If White prevents his opponent’s plan with either 8. Qb1 or 8. Rb1, Black usually immediately closes the center with c5-c4.

[Diagram: White to Move] White exerts serious pressure on the kingside, but is there a way to make something concrete out of it?

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[June 19, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Vadim Zvjaginsev:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Exchange Variation

[Line 172 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bg5 Be7 without 6. Nf3]

Unlike the other variations of the Queen’s Gambit Declined, in the Exchange Variation white knight can be deployed to e2 after Bd3, which seems to create certain problems for Black, though Kramnik’s probably begs to differ, as this line has recently been his weapon of choice.

A very common follow-up is 6. e3 O-O 7. Bd3 Nbd7 8. Nge2 Re8 9. O-O, when 9… Nf8 seems inaccurate as it allows White a nice trick: 10. b4!, and the following line obviously favors White: 10… Bxb4 11. Bxf6 gxf6 12. Nxd5! Qxd5 13. Qa4. That’s why the players of Black should opt for 9… c6 first, and only after 10. Qc2 should they choose 10… Nf8. The classical plan for White begins with 11. f3 (preparing e3-e4), where Black has to be careful, though basically still has quite decent chances.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Rook on e8 is under attack, but Black has better ways to proceed than to cover it with Bd7. How can Black create big problems to his opponent?

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[June 18, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Dragon Variation without 6. Be3 (incl. Classical, Fianchetto & Levenfish Variations)

[Line 464 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 without 6… a6, 6… Nc6, 6… e6]

Line 464 covers mostly introductory and quiet lines of the Dragon Variation (5… g6) of the Sicilian Defense.

Levenfish Variation (6. f4) is rarely seen in modern grandmaster practice, since it allows Black to obtain satisfactory positions rather easily.

Fianchetto Variation (6. g3) leads to strategical battles, and it is hence a preference of positionally-minded players.

Classical Variation (6. Be2 Bg7 7. O-O O-O) is the simplest way for White to face the Dragon. There are a couple popular setups: one is 8. Be3 Nc6 9. Nb3 Be6 10. f4; another is 8. Bg5 Nc6 9. Nb3 Be6 10. Kh1, followed by f2-f4; and 8. Re1 Nc6 9. Nb3 Be6 10. Bf1. Black also has a few good plans to respond with: d6-d5 is a straightforward plan; a7-a6 with b7-b5 is also quite simple; move a7-a5 is also frequently seen in this type of positions.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Black Queen and the dark-squared Bishop are aiming towards white King, but other pieces are needed join the attack to create problems for White.

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[June 17, 2018] Updated Opening Article by GM Aleksandar Kovačević:
April 15, 2018 Revisited: Sicilian Defense, Paulsen Variation: Bastrikov Variation

Our original main line of this variation still follows A. Morozevich – I. Bukavshin, Moscow (rapid) 2015, a marvelous tactical masterpiece by the former World No. 2. New theoretically important developments have appeared since our last update that included an incredibly important game M. Vachier Lagrave – V. Anand, Karlsruhe/Baden Baden 2018, so it seemed logical to revisit this double-edged line just two months after the previous installment.

[Diagram: Black to Move] The diagrammed position is from a recent game Nguyen Thai Dai Van – V. Babula, Prague 2018. This is a theoretically important position, where players of Black have mostly tried 19… h4. However, it appears that Babula has most likely found a clear-cut way to equalizing with Black in this line. Can you find it, too?

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