[June 17, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
Scotch Game, Mieses Variation with 8… Ba6

[Line 360 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nxc6 bxc6 6. e5 Qe7 7. Qe2 Nd5 8. c4 Ba6]

Move 9. Nd2 has gained a lot of attention in the recent couple of years. The best way for Black to respond is either 9… O-O-O 10. b3 f6 or 9… g6 10. Nf3 Qb4. In both of these cases Black should obtain even chances without difficulties, while alternatives 9… Nb6 and 9… Nb4 lead to positions that are generally more promising for White.

The old move 9. b3 is not very popular nowadays since Black has a couple of ways to get pleasant positions. The most natural reply is 9… g6, where White usually continues with 10. f4, 10. g3 or 10. Ba3. Moves 9… g5 and 9… O-O-O are equally fine for Black, while 9… Qh4 and 9… f6, although playable, are easier to handle with white pieces.

[Diagram: White to Move] P. Hultquist – J. Staal, corr 1972. Black’s extra pawn is a poor consolation for a very bad piece development. How should White proceed to get a decisive advantage?

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[June 16, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Benko Gambit Accepted, Fianchetto & King Walk Variations

[Line 122 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cxb5 a6 5. bxa6]

After the usual 5… g6 6. Nc3 White typically plans to execute the e2-e4 advance. For that reason, until few years ago move 6… Ba6 was considered practically obligatory. The critical position of the King Walk Variation arises after 6… Ba6 7. e4 Bxf1 8. Kxf1 d6 9. Nf3 Nbd7 10. g3 Bg7 11. Kg2 O-O. A major blow to the Benko Gambit was 12. a4, a move suggested by computers that poses serious challenge to the players of Black. White’s plan is pretty straightforward and it includes Qe2 (Qc2), Nb5 and Bd2-c3, which typically secures him better prospects.

Players of Black have recently introduced an option of delaying Bxa6 and developing the kingside first. However, even after 6… Bg7 7. e4 O-O 8. Nf3 Qa5 9. Bd2 White has a preferable position.

Another popular setup for White is the Fianchetto Variation: 6… Ba6 7. Nf3 d6 8. g3 Bg7 9. Bg2 Nbd7 10. Rb1. Though it is easier to play with White, Black has enough counterplay in this variation.

[Diagram: Black to Move] B. Gelfand – M. Carlsen, Zuerich (rapid) 2014. White’s last move was the careless 9. Bf1-d3 allowing Black a small tactical trick. How can Black secure a longterm advantage?

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[June 15, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
French Defense, Tarrasch Variation – Open System without 4. exd5

[Line 327 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 c5 without 4. exd5]

As an alternative to the main 4. exd5 (Lines 328-329) players of White often opt for 4. Ngf3, where moves 4… cxd4 and 4… Nf6 are of about the same strength.

In case of 4… cxd4 5. Nxd4, Black is generally able to equalize with 5… Nf6 6. exd5 Nxd5, but 5… Nc6 can be seen more frequently. After 5… Nc6 6. Bb5 Bd7 7. Nxc6, both 7… Bxc6 and 7… bxc6 lead to balanced positions.

The position arising after 4… Nf6 5. e5 Nfd7 6. c3 Nc6 7. Bd3 is highly complex, where the d4-pawn is poorly protected, but in return White gets more space and a better piece development.

[Diagram: White to Move] Both sides are aiming at the opponent’s King, but the black King is more vulnerable. How should White organize the attack to gain a decisive advantage?

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[June 14, 2017] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
Slav Defense, Exchange Variation – Trifunovic Variation & Symmetrical Line

[Line 065 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. cxd5 cxd5 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. Nf3 without 5… a6, 5… e6, 5… g6]

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.

Line 065 deals with Black’s possible choices on 5th move, excluding 5… a6 covered in Line 066, a bit passive 5… e6 (transposing to a sideline of Line 265) and the not too promising 5… g6 (Line 098). The main alternative is the Symmetrical Line (5… Nc6), while 5… Qb6 also deserves attention.

After 5… Nc6 White almost exclusively proceeds with 6. Bf4, where besides 6… a6 (transposing to Line 066) and the usual 6… Bf5, Black can also obtain good prospects with 6… e6, 6… Qb6, and even 6… Nh5.

Trifunovic Variation (6. Bf4 Bf5 7. e3 e6 8. Qb3 Bb4) is considered to be one of the main lines of the Exchange Variation in the Slav Defense, where Black typically equalizes with a few accuracies.

[Diagram: White to Move] Move 17. Nc5 leaves White with a longterm advantage, but there is an even more powerful continuation for him. What would you propose?

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[June 13, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Najdorf Variation – Lipnitzky Variation (incl. Flank Variation)

[Line 480 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bc4]

Move 6… e6 is  the most common reply to the Lipnitzky Variation, where White typically chooses between the two following options: 7. Bb3 usually followed by short castling, and the immediate 7. O-O. In the second case White has a possibility of playing a2-a3, thus securing a place for retreat for his light-squared Bishop.

There are three frequent reactions to 7. Bb3. Move 7… Nbd7 is connected with Nc5, where Black later has an option of trading this Knight for the Bishop on b3. The Flank Variation with 7… b5 often leads to highly complicated positions, for instance: 8. O-O Be7 9. Qf3 Qc7 10. Qg3 O-O 11. Bh6 Ne8 and 8. Bg5 Be7 9. Qf3 Qc7, in both cases with mutual play. Another viable continuation for Black is 7… Nc6 with a standard setup for the Classical Variation: Be7, Qc7 and O-O, followed by Nxd4 and b7-b5.

[Diagram: White to Move] J. Tomczak – G. Gajewsky, Poznan 2015. Even a grandmaster may fall in the trap that’s hidden in the diagrammed position. How can White gain a substantial advantage?

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[June 12, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Ruy Lopez, Morphy Defense – Normal Variation (Arkhangelsk Variation – Main Line with 7. a4 Rb8)

[Line 388 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O b5 6. Bb3 Bc5 7. a4 Rb8]

In the line of the Arkhangelsk Variation that is covered here (i. e. with 7. a4 Rb8), players of White have recently found a way to create some problems to their opponents. The critical position of this arises after 8. c3 d6 9. d4 Bb6 10. axb5 axb5 11. Na3 O-O 12. Nxb5: Black has sacrificed a pawn to exert pressure on the central white pawn, and now gets to choose between two possibilities – 12… exd4 13. cxd4 Bg4, and the immediate 12… Bg4, but in both cases White typically gets somewhat better prospects with accurate play.

From other notable options for White we should probably mention 8. Nxe5 Nxe5 9. d4 Bxd4 10. Qxd4 and 8. axb5 axb5 9. Nxe5 Nxe5 10. d4 Bxd4 11. Qxd4, though Black gets satisfactory positions in both cases.

[Diagram: White to Move] V. Kotronias – P. Kalaitzoglou, Chania 1999. The pinned Knight on e5 allows White to make a neat tactical blow and finish the game in a couple of moves. Any ideas?

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