[August 03, 2016] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
English Opening, Symmetrical Variation

[Line 003 : 1. c4 c5 without 2. Nf3]

This update is a small tribute to our late colleague GM Dragan Paunović. In memory of our dear friend, our Editorial Board will continue updating his lines and articles.

Move 2. Nf3 often appears from another move order (1. Nf3 c5 2. c4) and can be found in our Line 019, while the other logical continuation 2. Nc3 often transposes to other opening lines.

Most of the Line 003 covers early kingside fianchettoes from both sides – 2. g3 g6 3. Bg2 Bg7 4. Nc3 Nc6, and since move 5. Nf3 is dealt with in our Line 004, other White’s fifth move reactions are examined here.

One popular setup is 5. e3, followed by Nge2, O-O and d2-d4. Black either makes symmetrical piece arrangement, or opposes White’s plan with e7-e5.

A modern approach from White is the early queenside advance 5. a3, followed by Rb1 and b2-b4. Again, Black has many choices. Among them, we recommend either the slightly committal 5… d6 6. Rb1 a5 7. e3 e5, or the flexible 5… b6 with Bb7, e7-e6 and Nge7.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White has just played the intermediate move Rf1-d1, but it turns out that Black has a better choice than to retreat his Queen to f5. So, what is the superior alternative here?

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[August 02, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Caro-Kann Defense, Classical Variation (incl. Flohr Variation)

[Line 310 : 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5]

After the main choice 5. Ng3 Bg6, move 6. h4 is covered in our Lines 311-314, while here you can find various sidelines, like the quiet 6. Nf3, more ambitious 6. Bc4 (with the idea Ng1-e2-f4), and, as our main line – the Flohr Variation (6. Nh3). The game usually continues 6. Nh3 Nf6 7. Nf4 and now, depending on one’s taste, Black plays either 7… Nbd7 (followed by Qc7, e6 and Bd6), or 7… e5, often leading to simplifications.

Besides 5. Ng3, White has another interesting possibility at his disposal- 5. Nc5, which we recommend to club level players. Black can react with 5… b6, slightly weakening his queenside, or with a temporary pawn sacrifice. There are basically two ways to sacrifice the pawn: either with 5… Nd7 6. Nxb7 Qc7 7. Nc5 Nxc5 8. dxc5 e5, or with 5… e5 6. Nxb7 Qb6 7. Nc5 exd4 – either way, the arising position are about equal.

[Diagram: White to Move] R. Mamedov – V. Anand, Baku (rapid) 2009. In the diagrammed position from a rapid game, Anand missed his opponent’s next move, which caused him great difficulties. How did Mamedov make use of his great opponent’s inaccurate opening play?

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[August 01, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Slav Defense, Chebanenko Variation with 5. e3

[Line 102 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 a6 5. e3 without 5… e6, 5… Bf5]

Among several popular choices in this modern tabiya, two of them are covered in other opening lines – 5… e6 in Line 274 and 5… Bf5 in Line 094.

Moves like 5… g6, 5… Nbd7 or 5… Bg4 give White plenty of space to operate, and that is enough to secure him a longterm advantage.

Move 5… b5 is heavily examined, and since the most promising 6. b3 is covered in detail in our Line 103, the quiet 6. cxd5 and the more ambitious 6. c5 are the main area of interest of this opening line.

After 6. c5 g6 move 7. Ne5 with the idea f2-f4 seems to leave Black with the most serious problems to solve. White seizes space and stops Black from playing a typical breakthrough counterthrust e7-e5. The game could then continue with 7… Bg7 8. f4 a5 9. Bd3 Bf5 and Black’s position is very solid and hard to crack.

[Diagram: White to Move] Z. Kožul – O. Jovanić, Rijeka 2010. Black only needs to transfer his Knight from a6 to d5 to reach a comfortable position. However, that’s too slow and White can seize the advantage with an aggressive play. Can you see it?

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[July 31, 2016] Updated Opening Article by GM Borki Predojević:
February 2016 Revisited: Italian Game, Giuoco Pianissimo with 8. a4!?

Well, this line is obviously so important for the modern opening theory that updating it after half a year felt very much like writing a completely new article all over again. Just take a look at the recent output of top-heavy games, and see it for yourself: V. Anand – W. So, Leuven (blitz) 2016, V. Kramnik – L. Aronian, Paris (rapid) 2016 and A. Giri – L. Aronian, Leuven (blitz) 2016. Moreover, our silicon friends prove that they are more than capable of creating a practically parallel universe of their own opening theory, and this survey has it all! 

[Diagram: Black to Move] Komodo 9.42 – Stockfish 310316, Internet (blitz) 2016. It is quite clear that the diagrammed position is about equal, but White is perfectly satisfied with the prospects of a slow long-term grind based on Black’s slight imperfections in his pawn structure. However, Black begs to differ 😉

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[July 30, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Four Knights Variation (incl. Lasker-Pelikan Variation)

[Line 434 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6]

Lasker-Pelikan/Sveshnikov Variation is not as popular as it used to be, but according to the latest opening theory, Black can achieve rather promising positions.

To begin with, Line 434 deals with early deviations in the Lasker Variation, starting with various choices for White on move six, i.e. after 5. Nc3 e5.

By far the main move is 6. Ndb5, and after 6… d6 we arrive at the first big crossroad. For club level players we recommend 7. Nd5, and for beginners 7. a4, since they are much less demanding than the main lines.

After the main 7. Bg5 a6 8. Na3 b5 White can decide between two types of position – he can either opt for the calm 9. Nd5, followed by Bxf6, or capture on f6 immediately, where Black is obliged to take the Bishop with his pawn. Move 9. Nd5 is covered in our Lines 437-439, and the position occurring after 9. Bxf6 gxf6 10. Nd5 f5 in our Lines 435-436.

The main focus of this line is 9. Bxf6 gxf6 10. Nd5 Bg7, which was Kramnik’s pet line at the time when he used to play the Sicilian Defense. Black’s idea is to quickly trade the strong white Knight on d5 with Nc6-e7, followed by the thematic f6-f5, which is often connected with a pawn sacrifice. The main tabiya in this line is the position occurring after 11. Bd3 Ne7 12. Nxe7 Qxe7 13. O-O O-O 14. c4 f5, where great complications typically arise.

[Diagram: White to Move] White is a few pawns up, but three of his pieces are under attack. How can he deal with that and gain substantial advantage?

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[July 29, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Aleksandar Kovačević:
French Defense, Normal Variation – Burn Variation with 6… Bxf6

[Line 342 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 dxe4 5. Nxe4 Be7 6. Bxf6 Bxf6]

White gets a bit better development in the early stage of the game, but Black’s position is without weaknesses, and if he succeeds in parrying White’s initial threats, he typically gets good prospects. After 7. Nf3 O-O there are many possibilities for White, and we’ll mention here just the most popular ones.

The main line goes 8. Qd2 Nd7 9. O-O-O Be7 and White plays either in the center – like in 10. Bc4 Nf6 11. Nxf6+ Bxf6 12. Rhe1, or (more frequently) exerts pressure on the kingside, for instance: 10. Bd3 b6 11. h4.

Quite similar, yet with subtle differences is the following line: 8. Qd3 Nd7 9. O-O-O b6 10. h4 Bb7 11. Kb1.

There is also an interesting option to deploy the light-squared bishop first with 8. Bc4, with the idea to play Qe2 and O-O-O. Black can react with 8… Nc6 9. c3 e5 10. d5 Ne7, again with sufficient counterplay.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position is somewhat typical of this opening line – Black has a bishop pair, and white Knights are aiming towards his opponent’s King. However, the position is not balanced, as White can immediately launch a very strong attack. How can he do it?

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