[March 18, 2018] Trusted: Opening Survey by GM Aleksandar Kovačević
The Closed Catalan with 7… b6 (8. Ne5 Qxd4)

As usual, the Candidates Tournament offers an embarrassment of riches in terms  of high-quality games. The theoretical relevance of thesegames is great, and some of them will probably become trend setters for their variations. Our editor probably could have chosen a dozen other games, but we believe that Caruana’s ambitious plan against Ding Liren’s Catalan will not disappoint.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Black pawns and the knight on d4 are hanging, and he is also an exchange down. How can he create a very dangerous counterplay to keep the dynamic balance intact?

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[March 17, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Catalan Defense, Closed Variation with 4… Be7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O dxc4 7. Qc2 a6 8. Qxc4

[Line 237 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 Be7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O dxc4 7. Qc2 a6 8. Qxc4]

After 8… Bb7 players of White have tried various moves, and among them 9. Bg5 seems like an interesting choice, which is, in our opinion, suitable for club level players.

9. Bd2 is by far the most investigated move, and here Black has a few alternatives to 9… Be4 covered in Line 238.

One possibility is a seemingly strange looking 9… Ra7, but there is a very concrete plan behind it: Nbd7, Qa8, Rc8 and c7-c5. The line typically continues with 10. Rc1 Be4 11. Qb3 Nc6 12. e3 Qa8, and Black’s position should be fine.

Black also gets equal chances with 9… Bd6. The idea is to overprotect the c7-pawn, and since White gets nothing with 10. Ba5 in view of Nc6, he needs to make changes to his initial plan, so players of White here usually opt for 10. Bg5 followed by Nbd2, 10. Re1 with the idea e2-e4, or 10. a3 and b2-b4.

[Diagram: White to Move] Z. Ribli – J. Speelman, Moscow (ol) 1994. Black’s last move was Nd5-c3, with the idea to exchange minor pieces, but he missed an important subtlety. Ribli failed to see the winning plan, and game soon ended in a draw. How can White win the game in the diagrammed position?

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[March 16, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
King’s Indian Defense, Sämisch Variation (Steiner Attack & Normal Defense)

[Line 153 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. f3]

The so-called Normal Defense of the Sämisch Variation starts with 5… O-O.

Our major variation covered in Line 153 is the Steiner Attack (6. Bg5), as it is the most important alternative to the main 6. Be3, covered in our Lines 154 and 155.

In our opinion, Black has a few choices that lead to satisfactory positions.

The most frequently played line is 6… c5 7. d5 e6, which leads to sharp Benoni-like positions, where Black has enough tactical resources to compensate for White’s spatial advantage.

Black can also opt for a Benko Gambit-type of position with 6… a6 7. Qd2 c5 8. d5 b5 9. cxb5 Nbd7, where, in our opinion, he gets sufficient compensation for the sacrificed pawn.

From our recommendations for club level players we would like to draw your attention to the following promising line: 7… Nc6 8. Nge2 Rb8 9. Rd1 Bd7, followed by b7-b5.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Black has already sacrificed one Rook and the other one is hanging. Still, he has a way to get a nearly decisive advantage. How should he continue?

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[March 15, 2018] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
Richter-Veresov Opening & Trompowsky Attack without 2… e6 & 2… Ne4

[Line 073 : 1. d4 Nf6 without 2. Nf3, 2. c4]

The Richter-Veresov Opening, occurring after 2. Nc3 d5 3. Bg5 is our recommendation for beginners. This line is rarely seen in grandmaster practice, since it’s considered to give Black comfortable play in many ways, for example with 3… Nbd7 4. Nf3 g6.

One of the lines that have recently gained in popularity (especially in blitz games) is the London System 2. Bf4. Our Line 073 are covers its lines where White does not play Nf3: this setup is almost universal for the players of White – the fact that they can implement it regardless of Black’s plan makes it easily adoptable among beginner and club level players.

Major part of the Line 073 deals with the Trompovsky Attack 2. Bg5 without 2… e6 (Line 074) and 2… Ne4 (Line 075). There are two particularly important lines that we cover here: the dynamic 2… c5, and the more strategic choice – 2… d5.

[Diagram: White to Move] It’s “to be or not to be”! Black has just taken a knight on d4 and his opponent cannot recapture it. However, there is another promising option, which even leads to a substantial advantage for White.

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[March 14, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Alapin Variation – Barmen Defense (Main Line)

[Line 418 : 1. e4 c5 2. c3 d5 3. exd5 Qxd5 4. d4 Nf6]

Line 418 covers the main line (4. d4 Nf6) of the Barmen Defense of the Alapin Variation. After 5. Nf3, Black usually plays one of two moves of equivalent strength: 5… e6 or 5… Bg4.

The first of the two (5… e6) is the more solid one, where Black’s goal is to develop his kingside as fast as possible. Players of White have tried several moves against that setup, and 6. Na3 seems like the most ambitious one. The game can continue with 6… Nc6 7. Be3 cxd4 8. Nb5 Qd7 9. Nbd4 Nd5, and Black’s position should be fine.

With 5… Bg4 Black wants to develop his light-squared Bishop before completing his development on the kingside with e7-e6, Be7 and O-O. White’s reaction 6. Be2 doesn’t seem to pose real problems for his opponent, but 6. dxc5 does requires precise play from Black. After 6. dxc5 Qxc5 7. Na3 a6 8. Be3 Qc7 9. h3 Bh5 10. Qa4+ Nbd7 Black should not be worse.

[Diagram: Black to Move] This is a well-known trick that has appeared even in a few grandmaster games. White has just played Qd1-a4, and the Black Queen is under attack. How should Black react?

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[March 13, 2018] Updated Opening Line by GM Borki Predojević:
Slav Defense, Chebanenko Variation with 5. c5

[Line 100 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 a6 5. c5 without 5… Nbd7]

Line 100 deals with 5. c5, which is one of the most critical lines in the Chebanenko Variation of the Slav Defense; it covers all the responses that Black’s has at his disposal at this important theoretical juncture, apart from the main 5… Nbd7, which is covered in our Line 101.

Since 5… g6 and 5… Bg4 allow White to gain opening advantage in a rather simplistic manner, 5… Bf5 is the main focus of this line. The best plan for the players of White is to deploy the dark-squared bishop on the h2-b8 diagonal by playing 6. Bf4, and after 6… Nbd7 they should proceed with 7. e3, since 7… Nh5 8. h3 Nxf4 9. exf4 e6 10. Bd3 Bxd3 11. Qxd3 leaves White with a slight pull.

Black can also try either 7… g6 or 7… e6 but, in our opinion, in both cases White can successfully fight for opening advantage, primarily thanks to controlling more space.

[Diagram: White to Move] I. Cheparinov – E. Bacrot, Elista 2008. In the diagrammed position Cheparinov played energetically and gained substantial advantage. How did he proceed?

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