[October 21, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
French Defense, Winawer Variation

[Line 343 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4]

Line 343 is an introductory line of the Winawer Variation of the French Defense and, as can be expected, White has many, substantially different, possibilities at his disposal.

Exchange variation (4. exd5) typically leads to quiet positions. After 4… exd5 5. Bd3 a common continuation could be 5… Nc6 6. a3 Bxc3+ 7. bxc3 Nge7 with White having a pair of Bishops and his opponent relying on a better pawn structure.

Old move 4. Nge2 doesn’t seem to pose real problems to Black. After 4… dxe4 5. a3 Be7 6. Nxe4 Nf6 occurs a position similar to the Rubinshtein Variation (3… dxe4 4. Nxe4), but the Knight on e2 is here a bit passive.

By choosing 4. a3 White is heading for sharp lines 4… Bxc3+ 5. bxc3 dxe4 6. Qg4 Nf6 7. Qg7 Rg8 8. Qh6, where Black has a few ways to get sufficient counterplay.

By far the main move is 4. e5 and the main option 4… c5 is covered in our Lines 344-346. Other popular variations for Black are 4… b6 and 4… Qd7, while 4… Ne7 usually transposes to positions from 4… c5, for example 4… Ne7 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 c5 is the initial position of Line 345.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black has a Bishop+Queen battery aiming towards the White King, and the g2-pawn is under attack. How can White protect his King and activate the pieces to gain a clear advantage?

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[October 20, 2016] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
English Opening, Four Knights Variation – Romanishin & Stean Variations

[Line 013 : 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e5 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. e3]

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.

By choosing 4. e3 against the Four Knights Variation of the English Opening, White supports the d4-square with his e-pawn and later indends to play d2-d4.

Depending on the taste, Black usually opts for one of the following: 4… Bb4, 4… Be7, 4… d6 or 4… d5.

Variation 4… Bb4 is aimed against White’s d2-d4 advance, and after 5. Qc2 the two most frequent continuations from Black are the Romanishin Variation (5… Bxc3) and 5… O-O 6. Nd5 Re8, where 7. Qf5 is the initial position of the Stean Variation.

Move 4… Be7 leads to less demanding positions, and two common follow-ups are 5. a3 O-O 6. Qc2 d5 7. cxd5 Nxd5 and 5. d4 exd4 6. Nxd4 O-O.

Line 4… d6 5. d4 g6 offers White an immediate opportunity to enter the endgame with 6. dxe5 Nxe5 7. Nxe5 dxe5 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8, where Black ought to get equal chances without much effort.

Reversed Paulsen Variation of the Sicilian Defense, occuring after 4… d5 5. cxd5 Nxd5, is typically very sensitive for Black since it requires his full attention.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White’s last move was a defensive one: Rd1-d4 brings the Rook to an active role in protection against Black’s strong attack. Still, Black has a powerful response, which should secure him a big advantage!

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[October 18, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Boris Avrukh:
Catalan Defense, Closed Variation – Main Line with 8. Bf4 Nbd7 9. Qc2 b6 10. Rd1 Ba6

[Line 234 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 Bb4+ 5. Bd2 Be7 6. Bg2 O-O 7. O-O c6 8. Bf4 Nbd7 9. Qc2 b6 10. Rd1 Ba6]

Line 234 covers one of the main lines of the Catalan Defense. As a response to Black’s attack on the c4 pawn, White usually opts for one of the following moves 11. b3, 11. Ne5 or 11. cxd5.

By choosing 11. cxd5 cxd5 12. Ne5 White narows the possibilities for both sides, but makes things a bit easier for Black. After 12… Nxe5 13. dxe5 Ng4 some complications typically arise, as seen in the recent B. Gelfand – S. Karjakin, Jurmala (rapid) 2015 game.

After 11. Ne5 Rc8 White can go either for the calm 12. cxd5 cxd5 13. Nc6 with later Nxe7+, or he can sacrifice a pawn with 12. Nc3 Bxc4 13. Nxc4 dxc4 14. e4.

Move 11. b3 keeps the tension, and is the most frequently seen move in this position. Most often the game continues 11… Rc8 12. Nc3, where Black has a few ways to achieve good prospects, such as 12… Nh5 13. Bc1 Nhf6, 12… Qe8 13. e4 dxc4 and 12… h6 13. e4 dxc4 14. Nd2 b5.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White is a pawn up and holds a pair of strong Bishops. Yet, it’s Black’s move and with a nice Knight’s ‘dance’ Black is able to obtain a substantial edge!

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[October 17, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Queen’s Pawn Game; Modern Defense – Pterodactyl Variation

[Line 046 : 1. d4 without 1… d6, 1… d5, 1… e6, 1… f5, 1… Nf6]

Line 046 is the introductury line that comprises Black’s various replies to the Queen’s Pawn Game (1. d4). Some of the variations covered here are 1… c5, 1… Nc6 and 1… b6, but they are rarely seen in contemporary practice since none of them offer Black equal prospects.

Modern Defense (1… g6), on the other hand, has its share of followers. White can transpose to King’s pawn systems with 2. e4 or stay true to closed systems with 2. c4 or 2. Nf3, while Black can either switch to the King’s Indian/Grunfeld Defense with 2. c4 Nf6, or stick to his initial choice with 2. c4 Bg7.

The main focus of our Line 046 is 3. Nf3; move 3. Nc3 belongs to Line 047, while 3. e4 d6 4. Ne2 represents an interensting extra option that possible due to Black’s late development of his Knight on g8.

After 1. d4 g6 2. c4 Bg7 3. Nf3 d6 4. Nc3 c5 5. e4 Black usually opts for either 5… Nc6 or 5… Qa5. The first option allows White to obtain preferable positions with 6. d5 Nd4 7. Nxd4 cxd4 8. Nb5, while the second one can be successfully met with 6. d5 Bxc3+ 7. bxc3.

[Diagram: White to Move] One of the critical positions of this opening line: how can White seize the initiative from the diagrammed position?

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[October 16, 2016] Trusted: Opening Survey by GM Aleksandar Kovačević
Sicilian Defense, Rossolimo Variation with 8… c4!?

While Gelfand’s recent plight during the Tal Memorial 2016 still remains fresh in memory of all true chess fans, it has nothing to do with his uniformly great opening preparation. He has always been a golden standard for the Sicilian fans, so this article examines his latest weapon against the ever tricky
Rossolimo Variation that he recently tested on several occasions against Anand, Svidler and Inarkiev (twice).

[Diagram: White to Move] Black has a menacing bishop pair along with some semi-open files that he could use for his rooks. However, White can completely stifle his opponent’s counterplay with a series of accurate moves – can you find them?

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[October 15, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Pirc Defense with 4. Be3, incl. Sveshnikov-Jansa & 150 Attack

[Line 298 : 1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. Be3]

The so-called 150 Attack starts with 4. Be3 where White has a pretty straightforward plan in Qd2, f2-f3 and O-O-O. After Black plays Bg7, trading the dark-coloured bishops with Bh6 and launching  a kingside attack is White’s next logical step. Black usually opposes his opponent’s plan by postponing Bg7 and advancing on the queenside instead, where c7-c6 and b7-b5 are his typical moves.

After the most common 4… c6 5. Qd2 b5 White either sticks to the above mentioned aggressive plan, like in 6. f3 Bg7 7. g4, or shifts to a more positional option, such as 6. Bd3 Nbd7 7. Nf3 Bg7 8. h3 O-O 9. O-O. It is generally easier to play the arising positions as White, but Black nevertheless has sufficient resources to get even chances.

Sveshnikov-Jansa Attack (4… c6 5. h3) is another popular setup for White. Move 5… b5 is a dubious one against this plan, since after 6. e5 White gets a very strong initiative. Black usually opts for 5… Bg7 instead, where White has a choice between 6. Qd2 (which is similar to the 5. Qd2 line), and some more sharp alternatives, such as 6. f4 and 6. g4.

[Diagram: Black to Move] F. Caruana – V. Ivanchuk, Biel 2009. Ivanchuk missed the chance to get a decisive advantage. Can you see how Black could have exploited the fact that bishop on b5 was horribly misplaced?

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