[October 14, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Vadim Zvjaginsev:
Nimzo-Indian Defense, Kmoch Variation (incl. Romanovsky Variation)

[Line 174 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. f3]

The Kmoch Variation is one of the sharpest reactions to the Nimzo-Indian Defense and is frequently employed by many of the world’s top players. Black has a couple of ways to obtain equal chances and most of them require accurate play from both sides.

Move 4… c5 leads to positions resembling the Modern Benoni. After 5. d5 O-O 6. e4 Black has two moves of about the same strength: 6… Re8 and 6… b5, in either case with considerable complications.

The idea behind 4… O-O is to meet 5. e4 with 5… d5 6. e5 Nfd7 and further undermine White’s pawn center with c7-c5. If White opts for 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3, Black’s common choice is 6… Ne8, followed by b7-b6, Nc6-a5 and Ba6, with counterplay against the weak c4-pawn.

Line 4… d5 is probably the most popular among the players of Black. After 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 c5 7. cxd5 Nxd5 8. dxc5 Black has in Romanovsky Variation (8… f5) a viable alternative to the main 8… Qa5.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black’s last move was capturing the sacrificed e-pawn with Nf6xe4. How does White make use of the opponent’s poorly protected King to get more than sufficient compensation?

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[October 13, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Slaviša Brenjo:
Ruy Lopez, Closed Defense without 6. Re1 (Miscellaneous)

[Line 391 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 without 6. Re1]

Line 391 mainly deals with the highly popular 6. d3, as well as other alternatives to 6. Re1 (Lines 393-413).

Apart from 6. d3 b5, covered in Line 392, Black has in 6. d3 d6 another popular choice of defending from the threat of Bxc6 followed by Nxe5. Here, White has an interesting sideline in 7. c4, which is often followed by Nc3 and Bxc6 – by giving away his bishop pair, White gains a better pawn structure in return.

After 7. c3 O-O 8. Nbd2 occurs a typical Ruy Lopez position with lots of maneuvering. Black has a few ways of obtaining even chances with 8… b58… Re8 or 8… Nd7 being some of the usual introduction moves.

The Double Deferred Exchange Variation (6. Bxc6) can sometimes be seen in strong grandmasters’ practice. After 6… dxc6 7. d3 Bishop on e7 feels less comfortable than on c5 or d6, but Black still has just enough time to transfer the pieces to good squares, before White gains some activity. Black’s common plan is Nd7 and f7-f6, followed by transferring the Knight from d7 either to c6 or e6.

[Diagram: White to Move] V. Ivanchuk – V. Kramnik, Monte Carlo (blindfold) 2002. By moving his Knight from e3 White can attack the pinned e4-pawn. Therefore, the question is: what is the best place to move the Knight to?

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[October 12, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Classical Variation (incl. Fianchetto & Boleslavsky Variations)

[Line 469 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 without 6. Bg5, 6. Bc4]

Two main variations are covered separately: Richter-Rauzer Variation (6. Bg5) in Lines 472-476, and Sozin Attack (6. Bc4) in Line 471.

Against the Fianchetto Variation (6. g3) two most common continuations are 6… e6 and the transposition to the Dragon Variation with 6… g6 (Line 464). In either case Black has good prospects.

Move 6. f3 leads to dynamic positions resembling the English Attack of the Najdorf Sicilian. Black’s usual response is 6… e5 7. Nb3 Be7 8. Be3 O-O, and his plan is often connected with the a7-a5-a4 advance.

Boleslavsky Variation 6. Be2 e5 is a classical opening, which is not seen very often in modern grandmaster practice. Moves 7. Nf3 and 7. Nb3 lead to similar positions, with typical maneuvers for both sides.

Black has two viable alternatives against 6. Be2: one is the Classical Scheveningen 6… e6 (Line 470), and the other is 6… g6 – a quiet line of the Dragon Variation.

[Diagram: Black to Move] The diagram shows one of the critical positions of this opening line. How does Black create sufficient counterplay?

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[October 11, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Dragan Barlov:
Slav Defense – Sidelines

[Line 071 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 with 3. e3, 3. Nf3]

Move 3. e3 is a rather unambitious one, since it gives Black free hands. One of the ways for Black to obtain a comfortable position is 3… Bf5 4. Nc3 e6, since after 5. Nf3 he has 5… Nd7, depriving White of a topical Nh4.

White’s most frequent choice is 3. Nf3. Apart from the main line of the Slav Defense (3… Nf6), which is covered in our Lines 086-110, Black can also try 3… dxc4, where after the usual 4. e3 he has an interesting sideline that begins with 4… Be6.

Move 3… e6 introduces the so-called triangle setup, with white Knight on f3. Variations 4. Qc2 and 4. e3 are discussed in our Line 072, whiled 4. Nc3 transposes to Line 068. Move 4. g3 is often connected with a pawn sacrifice – Black can take the pawn on c4 and protect it with b7-b5.

For positional players 4. Nbd2 seems like a reasonable option. Apart from the natural 4… Nf6 Black has an interesting alternative in 4… f5, which makes use of the fact that the Bishop from c1 can not be easily deployed to f4. After 4… f5 5. g3 Nf6 6. Bg2 Bd6 7. O-O O-O a complicated strategical battle typically occurs with chances for both sides.

[Diagram: White to Move] Moving the Knight from c3 gives Black just enough time to consolidate, so White has to play more aggressively to secure a longterm initiative…

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[October 10, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Harrwitz Attack – Main Line with 6… Nbd7

[Line 254 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bf4 O-O 6. e3 Nbd7 without 7. c5]

Besides the most common 7. c5 that is covered in our Line 255, White has other possibilities of about the same strength.

Move 7. Qc2 is one of the popular alternatives, where the easiest way for Black to obtain comfortable positions is 7… c5 8. dxc5 Nxc5.

Another frequently played move is 7. a3 which is generally a useful prophylactic move that also threatens Nb5. Again, the best response from Black is 7… c5, and after 8. cxd5 Nxd5 9. Nxd5 exd5 10. dxc5 Nxc5 occurs the critical position of this opening line. Black wants to put the Bishop on f6, so White typically continues with 11. Be5 Bf6 12. Be2, where Black has two paths leading to roughly equal chances: 12… Bxe5 13. Nxe5 Be6 and 12… Bf5 13. O-O Be4.

[Diagram: White to Move] V. Malakhov – A. Riazantsev, Novokuznetsk 2008. Black treatens to play Nc2 or take the Bishop on e2, so White needs to act fast to make use of his better piece development. How can he seize the initiative?

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[October 9, 2016] Updated Opening Article by Boris Avrukh:
August 2014 Revisited: Queen’s Gambit Declined, Sämisch Variation

Our original key game in this line was R. Kasimdzhanov – V. Kramnik, Tromsø (ol) 2014, but many important theoretical developments have happened since, as this line has become quite a fashionable one at the top level.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position comes from a rapid game K. Piorun – I. Ivanišević, Belgrade 2016 played at a special event during the World Chess Problem Solving Championships. Black knight on d5 has created a double threat, so White has to solve it without slowing down his development. Any ideas?

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