[June 04, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Lasker-Pelikan Variation – Chelyabinsk Variation (Main Line with 11. c3)

[Line 438 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Ndb5 d6 7. Bg5 a6 8. Na3 b5 9. Nd5 Be7 10. Bxf6 Bxf6 11. c3]

The Lasker Variation of the Sicilian Defense is not as popular as it used to be, but one should not be misled – it still is very hard for White to obtain some advantage. Carlsen and Grischuk tried it recently in a few games, and got comfortable positions. Black has several promising setups to decide from:

After 11… Ne7 12. Nxf6 gxf6 13. Bd3 White does make certain problems to his opponent.

Old main line 11… Bg5 12. Nc2 O-O is covered separately in Line 439, and here Black has experienced difficulties in the last few years.

The new main line is 11… Bg5 12. Nc2 Ne7, and though White has a number of interesting plans, Black has numerous resources at his disposal and should equalize without difficulties.

Another possibility for Black is 11… Bg5 12. Nc2 Rb8. The most ambitious continuation for White is 13. a4 bxa4 14. Ncb4 Nxb4, where both against 15. cxb4, and 15. Nxb4, Black should be fine.

[Diagram: White to Move] S. Karjakin – T. Radjabov, Warsaw 2005. White has a powerful knight on d5 and it gives him a strong motive for positional sacrifice, that Karjakin successfully carried out in the featured game. How does White obtain longterm initiative in the diagrammed position?

Click here to see the line in our viewer…


[June 03, 2018] Dusted Off: Opening Survey by GM Aleksandar Kovačević
Queen’s Indian Defense, Petrosian Variation (9. h4!?)

With 6th Altibox Norway Chess 2018 underway in Stavanger, our editor was rather ambivalent whether to choose a game from that event and quite possibly overlap with a number of analysts, or opt for a game that he found interesting for entirely different reasons. Well, the option two prevailed, and the article delves into 81st game of the final showdown between Stockfish and Houdini.

The game was played during the 100-game superfinal event of 11th Edition of TCEC  (12th Edition is currently underway), and it immediately piqued our editor’s curiosity. As a former Benoni player, he always considered playing g6 in the Petrosian Variation of the Queen’s Indian Defense a logical repertoire choice, so he wanted to know whether there might be a problem for Black in that line. This survey presents his findings on the matter.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black’s defense is hanging on a thread – can you execute the final breakthrough?

Click here to see the article in our viewer…


[June 02, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Semi-Tarrasch (incl. Pillsbury Variation)

[Line 243 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 without 4… Nbd7, 4… dxc4, 4… Bb4, 4… Be7, 4… c6]

The most common choices of Black are spread over various opening lines: 4… c6 can be found in Lines 265-285,  4… Be7 in Lines 253-264, 4… Bb4 in Lines 248-252, 4… dxc4 in Lines 245-247, and 4… Nbd7 in our Line 244.

The main topic of this opening line is the so-called Semi-Tarrasch (4… c5), where after 5. cxd5 Black replies 5… Nxd5. The Semi-Tarrasch gained a lot of popularity in the recent couple of years, mainly due to Kramnik’s efforts to revive this classical opening with black pieces. The usual follow-up is 6. e4 Nxc3 7. bxc3 cxd4 8. cxd4 Bb4+ 9. Bd2 Bxd2 10. Qxd2 O-O, where White obtains a pawn center, but Black has already exchanged two pairs of minor pieces, which gives him good chances to equalize.

Another viable option for Black is 5… cxd4, where after 6. Qxd4 exd5 the principal continuation is 7. e4 Nc6 8. Bb5. Even here Black is able to equalize with accurate play, as seen in the recent W. So – Wei Yi, Wijk aan Zee 2017 game.

The Pillsbury Variation 4… c5 5. Bg5 is a possible sideline for White, where after 5… cxd4 6. Qxd4 Be7 7. cxd5 exd5 the position is roughly balanced.

[Diagram: White to Move] L. Polugaevsky – M Tal, Moscow 1969. White has carried out a topical pawn sacrifice d4-d5 and intends to exert pressure on the kingside. White Bishop and Rook on d1 are currently under attack by the black Knight. How should White proceed and obtain an almost decisive advantage?

Click here to see the line in our viewer…


[June 01, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Alatortsev Variation & Schara-Hennig

[Line 061 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 without 3. Nf3]

After the introductory two moves shown above, two most natural third moves for White are 3. Nf3, covered in Line 063 and 3. Nc3, which is the topic of this opening line.

After 3. Nc3 Black usually choses between Alatortsev Variation (3… Be7), classical Queen’s Gambit Declined with 3… Nf6 (Line 171), the so-called Triangle Setup 3… c6 (Line 067) or even 3… Bb4. There are also a few sidelines that are occasionally seen on grandmaster level: the solid 3… a6, risky Schara-Hennig Gambit (3… c5 4. cxd5 cxd4) or, a not very promising line for Black with 3… dxc4.

Against the Alatortsev Variation, apart from a transposition to Line 253 with 4. Nf3 Nf6, and the common 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bf4, White can also opt for immediate 4. Bf4, followed by 4… Nf6 5. e3 O-O 6. a3, with the idea Nb5.

The most frequent choice after 3… Be7 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bf4 is 5… c6, covered in our Line 062, but Black has another option – 5… Nf6. After 6. e3 Black again has two notable possibilities: 6… Bf5 and 6… O-O

[Diagram: White to Move] White pieces are aiming at Black King. What is the best way for White to proceed with the attack?

Click here to see the line in our viewer…


[May 31, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Slaviša Brenjo:
Ruy Lopez, Morphy Defense (incl. Wormald & Mackenzie Variations and Exchange Variation Deferred)

[Line 384 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 without 5. O-O, 5. d3]

Besides the two most popular choices: 5. O-O covered in Lines 386-413 and 5. d3, Black needs to be prepared for several rare lines of Ruy Lopez.

With the Wormald Variation (5. Qe2) White avoids the Open Variation and plans, after castling short, to put the Rook on d1 and prepare the d2-d4 advance. Black usually continues with 5… b5 6. Bb3, and now has a choice between 6… Be7 and 6… Bc5.

Mackenzie Variation (5. d4) aims to initiate a very concrete play at an early stage of the game. Nevertheless, Black is able to obtain quite good prospects with 5… exd4 6. O-O Be7 7. Re1 b5 8. Bb3 d6.

Exchange Variation Deferred (5. Bxc6) is a slightly odd option for White, since the only drawback of knight’s placement on f6 is the inability to play f7-f6. Anyway, the game tends to become closed, e.g. like after 5… dxc6 6. d3 Bd6 7. Nbd2 Be6 8. O-O O-O.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White has just taken the Bishop on b4, expecting his opponent to do the same, but there is something better. How can Black make use of the e-file and seize the initiative?

Click here to see the line in our viewer…


[May 30, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Modern Defense with 4. Be3

[Line 293 : 1. e4 d6 2. d4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. Be3]

Modern Defense is very similar to the Pirc Defense, though here Black opts to postpone the development of his Knight on g8.

The plan with 4. Be3 against the Modern Defense is the most flexible one, leaving White with multiple options: he can continue with f2-f4, f2-f3 or Nf3, depending on his opponent’s reaction.

Black’s common reply is 4… a6, followed by b7-b5 and Bb7. There are a few promising possibilities for White: one is a straightforward plan with 5. h4 Nf6 6. f3, exerting pressure on the kingside with g2-g4; the other is 5. f4 b5 6. Bd3 Bb7 7. Nf3 where White builds a strong pawn center; and the third – 5. Qd2 b5 6. h4 h6 7. O-O-O, which leads to double-edged position. Among the recent notable games in this opening line is Wei Yi – M. Carlsen, Bilbao 2016.

The other popular option for Black is 4… c6, again followed by b7-b5. White, here as well, has a pleasant choice, this time between 5. Qd2 b5 6. Bd3 Nd7 7. Nf3 and 5. f4 Nd7 6. Nf3.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black King is stuck in the center and the weaknesses of dark squares around him leave White with some mean ideas. How can White reinforce the attack? Hint: If white Queen comes to d6, Black can hardly save the game!

Click here to see the line in our viewer…