[October 27, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Pirc Defense, Byrne Variation

[Line 297 : 1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 without 4. Be3, 4. Nf3, 4. f4]

Other more popular variations of the Pirc Defense are covered in our Lines 298-300, and Line 297 deals primarily with 4. Bg5, 4. g3 and 4. Be2.

Byrne Variation (4. Bg5) is certainly one of the lines posing the most problems for Black. There are basically two plans connected with it. One starts with early Qd2 followed by long castling, and the other relies on the expansion in the center with f2-f4 and Nf3, where the Bishop on g5 is placed very actively. An illustrative lines could be 4… Bg7 5. Qd2 h6 6. Bh4 O-O 7. O-O-O c6 and 4… Bg7 5. f4 O-O 6. Nf3 c6 7. Bd3 Qb6, in both cases with mutual play.

Fianchetto System (4. g3) leads to calm maneuvering play, for example 4… Bg7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. Nge2 e5 7. h3 c6, and the position is balanced.

The idea of 4. Be2 is supporting of the h-pawn advance after 4… Bg7 5. h4. Here both 5… Nc6 and 5… c5 promises Black equal chances.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black’s extra pawn is hardly something to be proud of in the diagrammed position. How does White make a clear plus from his superior piece development and poor placement of the black Queen?

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[October 26, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Aleksandar Kovačević:
Sicilian Defense, Maroczy Bind with 5… Bg7 (incl. Breyer Variation)

[Line 433 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 g6 5. c4 Bg7]

The Maroczy Bind is a flexible, yet passive, defense for Black. After the introductory moves, the game usually continues with 6. Be3 Nf6 7. Nc3 O-O 8. Be2, where Black has two possibilities: 8… d6 and 8… b6.

After 8… b6 9. O-O Bb7 9. f3 White’s spatial advantage is typically a long-term one.

The other choice 8… d6 9. O-O also does not promise Black full equality. If he goes for an early 9… Nxd4, White can react with 10. Bxd4 Bd7 11. Qd3, often followed by b2-b4 and f2-f4. Against the more frequent 9… Bd7 White has two reactions of about the same strength: one is 10. Nc2 avoiding the exchange of a pair of Knights, and the other is the old line 10. Qd2 Nxd4 11. Bxd4 Bc6 12. f3 a5 13. b3 Nd7 14. Be3.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White’s last move was b3-b4, attacking the Knight on c5. What is Black’s best reaction in the diagrammed position?

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[October 25, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Vadim Zvjaginsev:
Queen’s Indian Defense, Kasparov Variation (incl. Botvinnik Variation)

[Line 203 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. Nc3 without 4… Bb4]

Initial position of the Line 203 is known as the Kasparov Variation of the Queen’s Indian Defense.

Apart from 4… Bb4, covered in our Lines 204-205, Black’s alternative way to stop e2-e4 is 4… Bb7. When White proceeds following the same idea with 5. Bg5 after 5… h6 6. Bh4 g5 7. Bg3 Nh5 occurs the Botvinnik Variation.

More popular continuation is 5… h6 6. Bh4 Be7. If White now opts for 7. Qc2, his opponent obtains equal chances with 7… c5, since White is unable to seize the space with d4-d5. On the other hand, after 7. e3 O-O 8. Be2 or 7. e3 O-O 8. Bd3 Black has no problems if he reacts either with c7-c5 or d7-d5.

Among other options on move five, White has at his disposal 5. a3 (transposing to Line 208), 5. e3 (Line 202) and 5. g3 Bb4 6. Bd2

[Diagram: White to Move] White pawn on c7 does look threatening, but how can he make something concrete out of it?

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[October 24, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
King’s Indian Defense, Aronin-Taimanov/Mar del Plata Defense – Normal Variation

[Line 167 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 e5 7. O-O Nc6 8. d5 Ne7 9. Ne1]

Mar del Plata Defense of the King’s Indian Defense could be characterized as an evergreen – it became popular quickly after Gligoric had introduced the idea, and has ever since remained one of the most beloved variation among the KID aficionados. Among the top-tier players Nakamura frequently employs this line, and his games, like the recent W. So – H. Nakamura, Saint Louis 2015 show that this variation is very much alive.

After 9… Nd7 White has a choice among the next three plans: 10. Be3 f5 11. f3 f4 12. Bf2 with later Rc1 or Nd3 and c4-c5 is very much straightforward; 10. Nd3 f5 11. Bd2 is aimed against an early f5-f4; 10. f3 f5 11. g4 secures extra space for white pieces on the kingside and makes Black’s topical plan harder to conduct.

Move 9… Ne8 is more passive than the aforementioned alternative, since it allows a much quicker c4-c5 advance, like in the following line: 10. Be3 f5 11. f3 f4 12. Bf2 h5 13. c5.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position is somewhat typical for the Mar Del Plata Defense: White exerts pressure on the queenside, while Black launches the attack on the opposite side, and even has a clear threat of a checkmate in one. White’s a bit unusual reaction secures his King, and gives him a clear edge!

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[October 23, 2016] Dusted Off: Opening Survey by GM Slaviša Brenjo
King’s Indian Defense, Semi-Averbakh System with 7… Na6 & 8… c6

The 20th Hoogeveen tournament brought this year two exceptionally interesting mini-matches, where Short and Sokolov eventually prevailed against their much younger opponents.

This article focuses on Ivan’s incredible performance with White pieces. His smart opening choices led to positions where his proactive positional style based on deep understanding of high-tension middlegame play was at full display. His great opening choices were actually a product of good old school thinking, as he served from a tricky move order a theory-resistant variation, which he spiced up with some very concrete preparation that computer engines couldn’t recognize at lower depths.
Such lines tend to be easily overlooked, so we will examine what Sokolov had prepared for his third game against Jorden van Foreest.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black has sacrificed a pawn counting on White’s undeveloped kingside. However, Black pieces are still uncoordinated and White can make use of that fact to secure a tangible advantage. What would you play?

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[October 22, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Bogo-Indian Defense, Gruenfeld Variation with 4… b6

[Line 197 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Bb4+ 4. Nbd2 b6]

After 5. a3 Black is practically forced to give away the Bishop from b4 for the Knight on d2 with 5… Bxd2+, since the position after 5… Be7 6. e4 remains firmly in White’s favor.

If White takes on d2 with the Bishop (6. Bxd2), his plan is usually connected with Bg5 and e3. On the other hand Black, at some point, usually reacts with h6, g5 and Ne4, typically obtaining equal chances.

Capturing with the Queen (5. a3 Bxd2+ 6. Qxd2) leads to small but stable advantage for White – the most common plan is e2-e3, Be2, O-O and either b2-b3 or b2-b4, followed by Bb2. A model line could be: 6… Bb7 7. e3 O-O 8. Be2 d6 9. O-O Nbd7 10. b4 Ne4 11. Qc2 f5. Black here intends to create some activity on the kingside with a typical maneuver Rf6-h6(g6). Thematic reaction from White 12. d5! ought to gives him the initiative, while after 12. Bb2 Rf6 13. d5 Rh6 Black gets sufficient counterplay.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black Bishop on d5 is unprotected and by moving the Knight from d4 white Rook from d1 will immediately attack it; what is the best way for White to make use of that fact?

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