[January 31, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Semi-Slav Defense – Stoltz Variation with 6… Bd6 7. b3

[Line 282 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Qc2 Bd6 7. b3]

Topic of our Line 282 is a positional plan beginning with 7. b3, often leading to mostly symmetrical setups. After 7… O-O the most principal response from White is 8. Be2, since Black gets comfortable positions both after 8. Bb2 e5 and 8. Bd3 e5. Move e6-e5 is possible even against 8. Be2, but the position arising after 8. Be2 e5 9. cxd5 cxd5 10. Nb5 is easier to play with white pieces.

Black most often opts for a queenside fianchetto 8. Be2 b6 9. O-O Bb7 10. Bb2, where there are at least two paths that lead to balanced positions. One is 10… Rc8 with the idea c6-c5, and the other is 10… Qe7, connecting the Rooks and later deploying them on two of the following lines – c, d or e, for example 11. Rad1 Rad8 12. Rfe1 Rfe8.

[Diagram: Black to Move] M. Simantsev – I. Yagupov, Police 2014. Bishop sacrifice 16… Bxh2+ is an obvious idea, but can you see how can Black continue the attack after the forces 17. Kxh2?

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[January 30, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
Scotch Game, Classical Variation without 5. Nxc6

[Line 361 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Bc5 without 5. Nxc6]

Apart from move 5. Nxc6 covered in our Line 362, White also has another two highly popular options: 5. Nb3 and 5. Be3.

Move 5. Nb3 has become a frequent choice among the top players in recent years. Though sidelines 5… Bb4+ and 5… Be7 are perfectly viable, they lead to positions with a small edge for White. After the usual 5… Bb6 6. Nc3 Black has three possibilities of about the same strength: 6… Nf6, 6… d6 and 6… Nge7.

The alternative 5. Be3 was the main move back in Kasparov’s time, and it’s not so strange that Garry tried it last year in s couple of blitz games against Nakamura and Caruana. Games often continue with 5… Qf6 6. c3 Nge7 where 7. Bc4 and 7. g3 are the most common options, both leading to complicated strategic battles.

[Diagram: White to Move] F. Vallejo Pons – V. Tkachiev, Legnica 2013. White’s queenside is a bit shaky, but his Knights have dominating positions in the center of the board, while the black Queen went astray. That being said, how can White get a substantial advantage?

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[January 29, 2017] Pick of the Week by GM Boris Avrukh:
July 2015 Revisited: English Opening, Asymmetrical Variation
 (7. b4!?)

After the original key game D. Anton Guijarro – A. R. Salem Saleh, Martuni 2015, this variation remained dormant for quite a while. However, in the most recent top-level game in this line I. Nepomniachtchi – P. Harikrishna, Wijk aan Zee 2017 White tried something new, and it almost worked.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Given the difficulties that Black faced in the above mentioned encounter from Wijk, we have also examined a more direct approach for him. At first glance, White is a castling away from capitalizing on Black’s seriously compromised pawn structure, uncoordinated pieces and uncastled king. However, Black gets to play first, which he can use to generate sufficient counterplay. How should he react to reach a roughly equal position with mutual chances?

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[January 28, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
French Defense, King’s Indian Attack

[Line 321 : 1. e4 e6 without 2. d4]

For those who want to avoid critical lines of the French Defense that occur after 2. d4 (Lines 322-346), we recommend either the Chigorin Variation (2. Qe2)  or the King’s Indian Attack (2. d3).

The Chigorin Variation is in our opinion quite suitable for beginners. It is aimed against Black’s topical d7-d5, though he can get comfortable positions even with 2. Qe2 d5 3. exd5 Qxd5. More common replies include 2… e5 and 2… c5, in both cases with equal chances.

The King’s Indian Attack is an easy setup to learn as White, and as such it is appropriate for club level players. White almost always continues with Nd2, Ngf3, g2-g3, Bg2 and O-O. One of possible setups against it is 2… c5 3. g3 Nc6 4. Bg2 g6, followed by Bg7, Nge7 and O-O.

More frequently played choice is 2… d5 3. Nd2, where from notable setups we recommend 3… c5 4. Ngf3 Nc6 5. g3, where both 5… Bd6 6. Bg2 Nge7 7. O-O O-O and 5… g6 6. Bg2 Bg7 7. O-O Nge7 are perfectly fine. There is also nothing wrong with 2… Nf6 3. Ngf3, with 3… Nc6 4. c3 Bd6 being one of the interesting alternatives to the heavily explored 3… c5 4. g3 Nc6 5. Bg2 Be7 6. O-O O-O 7. Re1 b5.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black’s queenside is undeveloped, and it is the right time for White to carry out a decisive attack. How would you continue?

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[January 27, 2017] 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 b5 9. Qc2 Bb7 10. Bd2 Be4

[Line 238 : 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 b5 9. Qc2 Bb7 10. Bd2 Be4]

Line 238 deals with one of the main lines of the Catalan Defense. Black is attacking the white Queen, though after 11. Qc1 he usually returns the Bishop with 11… Bb7. The idea is to prevent White from making pressure along the c-file with Rc1, while preparing Qc8 with the following c7-c5. The most common choice against that setup is 12. Bf4, where 12… Bd6 is a reasonable alternative to 12… Nd5.

The game often continues 12… Nd5 13. Nc3 Nxf4 14. Qxf4, where after 14… Nd7 15. Rfd1 Nb6, followed by Bd6, the position is roughly balanced.

[Diagram: Black to Move] It looks like the white Knight can not be stopped from safely returning to his camp with Nc6. Nonetheless, there is a nice trick for Black, and the Knight gets caught!

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[January 24, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
Sicilian Defense, Paulsen Variation – Taimanov-Bastrikov Variation (Bastrikov Variation with 6. Be2)

[Line 454 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 Qc7 6. Be2]

After the most common 6… a6 7. O-O Nf6 occurs a big crossroad of this opening line. Move 8. Be3 is considered to be the critical choice. Apart from the transposition to the Classical Scheveningen with 8… Be7 9. f4 d6, Black has a viable alternative in 8… Bb4, where after 9. Na4 arises a sharp and well investigated line of the Bastrikov Variation. Black should be very careful, but he is generally able to obtain roughly equal chances with 9… Be7 10. Nxc6 bxc6 11. Nb6 Rb8 12. Nxc8 Qxc8.

The idea of 8. Kh1 is to continue with an early advance f2-f4. Black can again detour to the Scheveningen (8… Be7 9. f4 d6), or go for the more active 8… Nxd4 9. Qxd4 Bc5, with a balanced position.

There is also a sideline for Black on 7th move 6… a6 7. O-O b5, where he is able to equalize after 8. Nxc6 dxc6 9. f4 Bb7.

[Diagram: White to Move] If Black managed to play Be7 and O-O his position would be very solid. How can White stop his opponent’s plan, and gain a strong initiative?

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