[March 11, 2018] Updated Opening Article by GM Aleksandar Kovačević:
July 2015 Revisited: Sicilian Defense, Najdorf Variation (6. h3 e5)

This is the second updating of this article, and this time we have added the most recent theoretically relevant over-the-board, correspondence and engine games. The theoretical verdict (as well as the key game) remains the same as before, but there’s a number of improvements that you’ll certainly find interesting.

[Diagram: Black to Move] The diagrammed position is from F. Caruana  – W. So, Dortmund 2015, just like the encounter we saw in the opening round of this year’s Candidates Tournament. How can Black make use of his opponent’s poor piece coordination and create some serious winning chances?

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[March 10, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Catalan Defense, Open Defense with 5… Bb4+

[Line 240 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 dxc4 5. Bg2 Bb4+]

Line 240 deals with one of the critical variations of the Open Defense (4… dxc4) of the Catalan. By giving a check, Black wants to disturb White’s development. White’s usual choice is 6. Bd2, and now 6… a5 is considered to be the best option for Black.

If White continues with 7. O-O O-O 8. Bg5, Black could play 8… Nc6 and meet White’s a2-a3 with Bd6 and e6-e5.

If White decides to attack the c4-pawn immediately with 7. Qc2, Black should try to protect the pawn as long as possible, i.e. 7… Bxd2+ 8. Nbxd2 b5 9. a4 c6, or 8. Qxd2 c6 9. a4 Ne4 10. Qc2 Nd6. White has full compensation for the pawn, but probably not much more than that.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Black Rook on d3 is under attack and he can not move it because his Knight is hanging. However, White’s pieces lack coordination and Black has the means to launch a strong attack. What should he do?

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[March 09, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, French Variation (incl. Kramnik Variation)

[Line 440 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 without 3. d3, 3. d4]

As a reaction against the French Variation (2… e6) of the Sicilian Defense, apart from 3. d4 (Lines 442-456) and 3. d3 (Line 441), White has several other possibilities and 3. Nc3 and 3. b3 are some of the interesting sidelines.

Early King’s fianchetto (3. g3) is one of the most popular options. Black, on his behalf, has a number of setups to choose from. Move 3… Nf6 forces White to chose the way how to defend the attacked e4-pawn, and the common reactions are 4. Qe2, 4. e5 and 4. Nc3. After 3… Nc6 4. Bg2 Black again has a few choices, and both 4… Nf6 and 4… d5 can be frequently seen on the highest level.

In the Kramnik Variation (3. c4) White postpones the d2-d4 advance until he has developed his kingside pieces. The game often continues in the following mold: 3… Nc6 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. Be2, where moves 5… b6 and 5… d5 look most promising for the players of Black.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black is currently a Rook up, but White can get a strong attack with accurate play.

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[March 08, 2018] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
English Opening, Miscellaneous (incl. The Anglo-Dutch & Agincourt Defense)

[Line 002 : 1. c4 without 1… c5, 1… e5, 1… Nf6]

There are litterally a dozen of popular choices for Black against 1. c4, and the most popular ones are covered in the following opening lines: 1… Nf6 in Lines 009-017, 1… e5 in Lines 005-008 and 1… c5 in Lines 003-004.

For the Queen’s Gambit Declined fans, the most natural choice against the English Opening is the Agincourt Defense 1… e6. If White replies with 2. g3 or 2. Nf3, usually a type of Catalan or Neo-Catalan Defense occurs, while after 2. d4 d5 or 2. Nc3 d5 3. d4 the game transposes to the Queen’s Gambit Declined. Sometimes after 2. Nc3 Black opts for a sort of Queen’s Indian Defense with 2… b6, and here, apart from a transposition to a variation of the English Defense with 3. d4, White also has an interesting possibility in 3. e4 Bb7 4. Nge2, followed by d2-d4.

The Anglo-Dutch 1… f5 is a preference of the Dutch Defense aficionados. Besides shifting to Dutch with 2. d4, White can postpone, or even completely avoid playing d2-d4, like in the following line 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 g6 4. Nc3 Bg7 5. d3, with the idea e2-e4.

Apart from the mentioned lines, Black also has the following options: 1… c6 (usually the preference of the Slav Defense players), 1… g6 or 1… d6, often transposing to some of the Indian Defenses, or 1… b6 with similar position like in the 1… e6 2. Nc3 b6 variation.

[Diagram: White to Move] L. Van Wely – J. Piket, Tilburg 1997. Black’s last move was careless c7-c5. How can White exploit his opponent’s mistake?

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[March 07, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Aleksandar Kovačević:
French Defense, Normal Variation – Classical Variation (Boleslavsky Variation with 7… Be7)

[Line 337 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3 Be7]

Black has three main choices against the Boleslavsky Variation of the French Defense: 7… cxd4 (covered in Line 338), 7… a6 (covered in Line 339) and 7… Be7, which is examined in this particular Line.

Black’s idea is connected with short castling, while White either opts for short castling with a dynamic positional battle, or captures on c5 and castles long with double-edged positions. In first case, after 8. Qd2 O-O 9. Be2 Black has two interesting possibilities – 9… a6 and 9… b6, both seen recently in top grandmaster games.

If White opts for 8. Qd2 O-O 9. dxc5, Black again has a choice between 9… Bxc5 10. O-O-O Qa5, or  9… Nxc5, that has been heavily explored in recent years.

[Diagram: White to Move] In the diagrammed position a typical Greek gift sacrifice Bxh7+ practically screams to be played, but it’s important to calculate what happens against Black’s most stubborn defense.

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[March 06, 2018] Updated Opening Line from GM Borki Predojević:
Slav Defense, Schallopp Defense

[Line 094 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 Bf5]

For beginners, our recommendation is quite simple: 5. Bd3 Bxd3 6. Qxd3, followed by O-O, Nbd2, b3 and Bb2 – that plan can hardly go wrong!

The main focus of Line 094 is the 5. Nc3 variation of the Schallopp Defense, since all other White’s moves at that juncture are rather unambitious.

5… a6 is an interesting possibility for Black, especially for club level players. It should give the players of Black good prospects, and there is not as much theory as in the main 5… e6 line.

Variation 5… e6 6. Nh4 is covered in our Lines 095-097, and the remaining options for White on 6th move are covered here.

6. Bd3 Bxd3 7. Qxd3 hardly poses any problems to Black, since it simplifies the position, which is clearly in his favor.

[Diagram: Black to Move] This is an opening trick that could be seen even in a few grandmaster games: Black to play and get a substantial advantage!

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