[June 16, 2018] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
Queen’s Gambit Accepted, Central Variation, Alekhine System & Modern Defense

[Line 059 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 3. e4 without 3… e5]

The Central Variation (3. e4) is the most direct approach against the Queen’s Gambit Accepted, as well as the most challenging for Black.

MacDonnell Defense (3… e5) is covered separately in our Line 060, and Line 059 deals with the remaining Black’s third moves.

Greco Variation (3… b5) doesn’t seem to give Black equal chances. He has an interesting exchange sacrifice at his disposal: 4. a4 c6 5. axb5 cxb5 6. Nc3 a6 7. Nxb5 axb5 8. Ra8 Bb7, but White should, after a few precise moves, claim advantage straight out of the opening.

Rubinstein Variation (3… c5) is another possibility, but again White should get the upper hand, this time with 4. d5 Nf6 5. Nc3 b5 6. Bf4.

Modern Defense (3… Nc6) resembles the Chigorin Defense, with Black knights pressing against White’s central pawns. After 4. Nf3 Bg4 5. d5 Ne5 6. Bf4 Ng6 both 7. Bg3 and 7. Be3 lead to positions preferable for White.

Alekhine System (3… Nf6) is the most critical line of the Central Variation. After 4. e5 Nd5 5. Bxc4 Nb6 there are two major options for White: 6. Bd3 and 6. Bb3. Though accurate play is required from the players of Black, there are enough resources to get equal chances.

[Diagram: White to Move] Material is fairly balanced, but strong Bishop on e4 gives White reasons to hope for more. How can he get a big advantage in the diagrammed position?

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[June 15, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Early Fianchetto & Catalan Opening

[Line 170 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 without 3. Nc3, 3. Nf3]

The two most common continuations are covered in details in other opening lines: 3. Nc3 in Lines 171-194, and 3. Nf3 in Lines 195-285.

Early Fianchetto 3. g3 often transposes to the Catalan Defense, for example after 3… d5 4. Nf3. It avoids the Queen’s Indian Defense, occurring after 3. Nf3 b6. Some players of Black opt for a type of the Bogo-Indian Defense 3. g3 Bb4+. Like in the line 3. Nf3 Bb4+, White has two equally popular replies 4. Nd2 and 4. Bd2, in both cases with a bit more pleasant position.

Some players go for 3. g3 c5 4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5, where Black can transpose to the Fianchetto Variation of Modern Benoni with 5… d6 6. Nc6 g6 7. Nf3 (Line 119), or try a playable, although risky, 5… b5.

[Diagram: White to Move] What is the best way for White to continue and launch a decisive attack on the black King.

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[June 14, 2018] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
Semi-Slav, Vienna Variation with 5. e4 Bb4 6. Bg5 c5 7. Bxc4

[Line 247 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. e4 Bb4 6. Bg5 c5 7. Bxc4]

The Vienna Variation is generally regarded as a reliable choice for the players of Black, and Line 247 deals with the most critical lines in this variation.

After 7… cxd4 8. Nxd4 Black usually plays Qa5, with or without exchanging the Bishop for the Knight on c3.

After the immediate 8… Qa5 White can return the dark-squared Bishop to d2: 9. Bd2, where the game typically continues with 9… Qc5 10. Bb5+ Bd7 11. Nb3 Qe7 12. Bd3 Nc6, and Black’s position remains solid.

On the other hand, after 8… Bxc3+ 9. bxc3 Qa5 White has the following options: 10. Nb5 Nxe4 11. Bf4, 10. Bxf6 Qxc3+ 11. Kf1 gxf6 12. Rc1 and 10. Bb5+ Bd7 11. Bxf6 gxf6 12. Bxd7+ Nxd7 13. O-O. In any case, both sides have their trumps – Black King is slightly exposed and White is either a pawn down or stays with the weak c-pawn.

[Diagram: White to Move] G. Blask – A. Grube, corr. 2009. White is obviously trying to exploit the poor placement of Black King. How can he create direct threats, and launch a strong attack?

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[June 13, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Petroff Defense, Nimzowitsch Attack

[Line 353 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. Nc3]

The Nimzowitsch Attack (5. Nc3) is the most popular choice against the Petroff Defense in the modern practice of world’s top players.

White’s main idea after 5… Nxc3 6. dxc3 is to first develop his queenside with Bf4(e3), Qd2 and O-O-O, and create some pressure along the d-file. After Black’s short castling, White starts preparing the attack on the kingside. If Black wants to avoid double-edged positions, long castling is the safer option, like in the following line: 6… Be7 7. Be3 Nc6 8. Qd2 Be6 9. O-O-O Qd7. However, Black usually has to play a7-a6 first, prevent the unpleasant Bb5, and with a couple of precise moves should be able to fully equalize.

Move 5… Nf6 is a reasonable alternative to the main 5… Nxc3. Black loses a tempo or two, but White has no direct means to make use of it. After 6. d4 Be7 7. Bd3 O-O 8. h3 Re8 9. O-O Black usually transfers the Knight from b8 to f8, and White has difficulties getting something concrete out of his better development.

[Diagram: White to Move] R. Ponomariov – B. Gelfand, Odessa (rapid) 2008. Black’s last move was capturing the Bishop on e2: Bg4xe2, which gives his opponent an opportunity to play an intermediate move, giving him big advantage. How should White continue from the diagrammed position?

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[June 12, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Dragan Barlov:
Open Slav Defense, Czech Defense – Dutch Variation without 9. Qe2

[Line 107 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. a4 Bf5 6. e3 e6 7. Bxc4 Bb4 8. O-O Nbd7 without 9. Qe2]

The main line of the Dutch Variation of the Slav Defense is 9. Qe2 and it’s covered in our Line 108. Various options for White on 9th move can be found here.

The idea of 9. Nh4 is clear – to destroy Black’s light-squared Bishop. Black has the choice between leaving the Bishop on f5 with 9… O-O, offering the exchange on g6 with 9… Bg6, or trying to escape from the Knight with 9… Bg4. The last one typically leads to preferable positions for White, but the other two moves are regarded as equally good and solid.

After 9… O-O, apart from 10. Nxf5 exf5, White has other interesting options, such as 10. h3 and 10. f3.

Against 9… Bg6 White has tried 10. Nxg6, as well as postponing the capture on g6 with 10. g3, 10. Be2 or 10. Qb3, but in any case Black’s position is a tough nut to crack.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Black has sacrificed a piece and has a promising attack, though there’s only one path to a clear edge. What is the best continuation for him?

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[June 11, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Lasker-Pelikan Variation – Chelyabinsk Variation (Main Line with 12… O-O)

[Line 439 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Ndb5 d6 7. Bg5 a6 8. Na3 b5 9. Nd5 Be7 10. Bxf6 Bxf6 11. c3 Bg5 12. Nc2 O-O]

It turns out that the old main move 12… O-O is actually an inaccuracy, since White has a nice way to obtain the initiative, even though moves like 13. Be2, 13. g3 or 13. h4 don’t seem to pose Black any problems.

The most promising choice for White is 13. a4 bxa4 14. Rxa4 a5 and here after 15. Bb5 Ne7 16. Ncb4 Bh3! black gets excellent counterplay. That’s why White should proceed with 15. Bc4 and after 15… Rb8 move 16. b3 is more precise than the similar-looking 16. Ra2.

After 16. b3 Kh8 17. Nce3 the most critical position of this opening line occurs. After 17… Nce7 White gets a small but stable advantage with 18. Nxe7 Qxe7 19. Nd5 Qd8 20. O-O. Other options are even less promising for Black: after 17… g6 18. h4 Bxh4 19. g3 Bg5 20. f4 Black is in serious problems, while after 17… Be6 18. h4 Bf4 19. Nf5 g6 20. Nfe3 White again threatens to launch the attack along the h-file.

[Diagram: White to Move] V. Kramnik – L. Van Wely, Monte Carlo (rapid) 2005. Black took the poisoned pawn on h4, which gave White a very important resource. What is the best way to proceed?

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