[June 10, 2018] Updated Opening Article by GM Aleksandar Kovačević:
February 2017 Revisited: Sicilian Najdorf, Grischuk’s Verbeterde List

With more than twenty game fragments added to the previous version of this article, this update is a must-see for all aficionados of the Najdorf Variation.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position is from M. Haubro – H. Ziska, Kollafjord 2017. Several pieces are hanging on both sides, and black king is stranded in the center. What is the best course of action for White?

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[June 09, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Old Indian, Budapest Gambit & Accelerated Queen’s Indian Defence

[Line 115 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 without 2… e6, 2… g6, 2… c5]

There are a few offbeat openings that Black can choose apart from 2… e6 (Lines 170-285), 2… g6 (Lines 123-169) and 2… c5 (Lines 116-122), and they are examined in this opening line. Move 2… c6 most frequently transposes to the Slav Defense, after 3. Nc3 d5 or 3. Nf3 d5, so the main focus of this line are the Old Indian Defense (2… d6) and the Budapest Gambit (2… e5).

The Old Indian resembles the King’s Indian, but the fact that the Knight on d7 and the Bishop on e7 are not as active as in the King’s Indian, gives White freedom to seize the center. After 2… d6 3. Nf3 Nbd7 4. Nc3 e5 5. e4 Be7 6. Be2 c6 7. O-O O-O White holds a stable advantage both with 8. Qc2 and 8. Be3.

The Budapest Gambit, though interesting and unconventional, doesn’t give Black equal play. After 2… e5 3. dxe5 Ng4, the most promising move is 4. Bf4. Black should avoid 4… g5 in view of 5. Bg3 Nc6 6. Nf3 Bg7 7. h4 and he gets in serious trouble. He should play 4… Nc6 5. Nf3 Bb4+ instead, though here White also obtains an edge both after 6. Nc3 and 6. Nbd2.

Accelerated Queen’s Indian Defence (2.. b6) is another opening covered here. Two promising options for White are 3. Nc3 Bb7 4. Qc2 and 3. f3 Nc6 4. Nc3

[Diagram: Black to Move] White would be glad to trade off the Queens, but Black has other plans; Qh3 is not possible because the Rook on e8 is hanging, so how can Black launch an almost decisive attack?

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[June 08, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Catalan Defense, Closed Variation with 4… Be7

[Line 235 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 Be7]

After 5. Bg2 O-O, besides 6. O-O, White has other viable alternatives as well.

The idea of 6. Qc2 is to prepare for 6… dxc4, where after 7. Qxc4 a6 White seizes the initiative with 8. Bf4. Because of that, Black usually opts for 6… c5 7. O-O cxd4 8. Nxd4 e5 with active play.

Gambit move 6. Nc3 is covered in our Line 253, albeit from a from different move order, while 6. Nbd2 leads to solid maneuvering play.

Black has a few popular options against 6. O-O. Line 6… c6 7. Nbd2 b6 8. Qc2 Bb7, followed by Na6 or Nbd7 is not too demanding, yet good enough for Black to get roughly equal positions, while moves like 6… Nc6 and 6… c5 are not as promising.

6… dxc4 is by far the most popular choice for Black on 6th move, where 7. Qc2 is covered in depth in our Lines 236-238. Move 7. Ne5 can frequently be seen on the highest level, too. Black usually reacts with 7… Nc6 and after 8. Bxc6 bxc6 9. Nxc6 Qe8 10. Nxe7+ Qxe7 11. Qc2 the most critical position of this opening line occurs. White often recaptures the c4-pawn, but Black gets sufficient compensation.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black’s queenside is undeveloped, and being two pawns up is not enough to maintain the balance. How does White make the best of his active pieces to obtain a strong initiative?

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[June 07, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Czech Pirc Defense, Anti-Philidor & Lion’s Jaw

[Line 294 : 1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6]

Lion’s Jaw (3. f3) is one of the decent ways to avoid the Philidor Defense as White. The main reaction from Black is 3… e5 followed by 4. d5 Be7. The ensuing positions resemble the Saemisch Variation of the King’s Indian Defense, with the important difference that the dark-squared Bishop is placed here on e7, and not on g7. White has, in view of his spatial advantage, a generally more pleasant position, but Black is not without counterplay.

After 3. Nc3 two most common choices for the players of Black are Philidor Defense (3… e5) and Pirc Defense (3… g6), covered in or Lines 295-300.

Czech Pirc Defense (3. Nc3 c6) allows White to gain a strong pawn center with 4. f4, where Black’s main plan is 4… Qa5, followed by e7-e5. White has two paths to obtain a small, but pleasant advantage: 5. Bd3 and 5. e5.

If Black wants to enter the Philidor Defense via another move order, i. e. 3. Nc3 Nbd7 with the idea e7-e5, White has at his disposal a promising alternative to 4. Nf3 in 4. f4.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black is ready to play Nc4, and White has to find how to stop his opponent’s plan. What is the best solution for him?

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[June 06, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Alatortsev Variation

[Line 062 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Be7 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bf4 c6]

The Alatortsev Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined can be frequently seen on the highest level, which speaks enough of its reputation. As an alternative to the main 6. e3, White has 6. Qc2, aiming to delay development of the black Bishop to f5. Black’s best way to react is either 6… Nf6 or 6… Bd6, since moves like 6… g6 or 6… Bg4 seem insufficient for full equality.

On the other hand, after 6. e3 Black should proceed with 6… Bf5, where the most challenging attempt for White is 7. g4. Since after 7… Bg6 8. h4 Black gets into trouble, he should probably reply with 7… Be6. Here, White has a wide range of options, but 8. h4 is the biggest challenge to his opponent.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black is a pawn up, but also seriously behind in development. What is the best way for White to seize the initiative?

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[June 05, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
French Defense, Tarrasch Variation (incl. Morozevich & Guimard Variations)

[Line 325 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 without 3… c5, 3… Nf6]

Apart from the most popular systems: Open System (3… c5) covered in Lines 327-330, 3… Nf6 (Line 326) and Rubinstein Variation (3… dxe4 4. Nxe4, Lines 331-335) Black has at his disposal various alternatives.

Among the variations that are presented here, Morozevich Variation (3… Be7) apears to be the most promising. There are three major choices for White on the fourth move:

Move 4. Ngf3 leads to dynamic battles. After 4… Nf6 5. e5 Nfd7 6. Bd3 c5 7. c3 Nc6 occurs a critical position. White is later often obliged to sacrifice the d4-pawn, or to cede his strong pawn center with dxc5, but in return he gets half-opened e- and d-files for his rooks.

More quiet alternative for White is 4. Bd3. The game then usually continues with 4… c5 5. dxc5 Nf6 6. Qe2 Nc6 7. Ngf3, and here Black is able to get even chances with 7… Nb4.

With 4. e5 c5 5. Qg4 White wants to make use of the fact that black Bishop isn’t defending the g7-pawn. Yet, Black is willing to defend the pawn with the King 5… Kf8, and after 6. dxc5 Nc6 he gets sufficient counterplay.

Guimard Variation (3… Nc6) has its share of followers, but White should be able to get a preferable position after 4. Ngf3 Nf6 5. e5 Nd7 6. Bd3.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black is a pawn up and attacking on f2, but White has a path to longterm initiative with enterprising play!

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