[July 04, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Neo-Grünfeld Defense, Exchange & Counterthrust Variations

[Line 124 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. g3]

Early fianchetto is one of the popular choices for White that is mostly aimed against the Grünfeld Defense. Depending on a player’s taste, Grünfeld fans either support the d-pawn with c7-c6 or allow White to form a pawn center.

In the first case Black plays 3… c6 4. Bg2 d5, and White has many possibilities, but two of them stand out: the quiet 5. Qa4 with the idea cxd5, or an interesting pawn sacrifice 5. e3, introduced by Kramnik.

Black second choice is the Counterthrust Variation – 3… g6 4. Bg2 d5. Unlike other fianchetto systems, White deploys his Knight from g1 to e2: 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. e4 Nb6 7. Ne2. Black’s best reaction is 7… c5 8. d5, and here he usually plays O-O, e6, Na6 and exd5. Appropriate handling of these positions requires great accuracy from the players of Black, but with accurate treatment they can count on sufficient counterplay.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black pieces are terribly uncoordinated and White certainly has ample compensation, but he can achieve even more if he plays the right moves!

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[July 3, 2016] Updated Opening Article by GM Boris Avrukh:
September 2015 Revisited: Grünfeld Defense, Russian Variation with 7… Be6 8. Qd3

In the original article our game of the week was a clash between two Grünfeld Defense titans of the modern era: P. Svidler – Wei Yi, Baku (m/3) 2015, where we suggested an interesting improvement for Black. We have now updated the survey with several theoretically important over-the-board and correspondence games, and the most important addition is another game played by Wei Yi – this time against his compatriot Wang Yue.

[Diagram: White to Move] C. Sandipan – M. Sanchez Ibern, Caleta 2013. The diagrammed position shows the critical moment in the above mentioned game: white pawn on e5 is hanging, but Black pieces seem uncoordinated, and his king is somewhat exposed. What is the best course of action for White?

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[July 02, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Catalan Defense, Closed Variation with 4… Be7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O dxc4 7. Qc2 a6 8. Qxc4

[Line 237 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 Be7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O dxc4 7. Qc2 a6 8. Qxc4]

After 8… Bb7 players of White have tried various moves, and among them 9. Bg5 seems like an interesting choice, which is, in our opinion, suitable for club level players.

9. Bd2 is by far the most investigated move, and here Black has a few alternatives to 9… Be4 covered in Line 238.

One possibility is a seemingly strange looking 9… Ra7, but there is a very concrete plan behind it: Nbd7, Qa8, Rc8 and c7-c5. The line typically continues with 10. Rc1 Be4 11. Qb3 Nc6 12. e3 Qa8, and Black’s position should be fine.

Black also gets equal chances with 9… Bd6. The idea is to overprotect the c7-pawn, and since White gets nothing with 10. Ba5 in view of Nc6, he needs to make changes to his initial plan, so players of White here usually opt for 10. Bg5 followed by Nbd2, 10. Re1 with the idea e2-e4, or 10. a3 and b2-b4.

[Diagram: White to Move] Z. Ribli – J. Speelman, Moscow (ol) 1994. Black’s last move was Nd5-c3, with the idea to exchange minor pieces, but he missed an important subtlety. Ribli failed to see the winning plan, and game soon ended in a draw. How can White win the game in the diagrammed position?

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[July 01, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Slaviša Brenjo:
Ruy Lopez, Miscellaneous

[Line 369 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 without 3… a6, 3… Nf6, 3… f5]

Miscellaneous offbeat variations of Ruy Lopez are examined in our Line 369, while other more popular variations can be found elsewhere: 3… a6 in Lines 381-413, 3… Nf6 in Lines 371-380, and 3… f5 in our Line 370.

Smyslov Defense (3… g6) is certainly one of the best alternatives to the above mentioned lines. If White plays critical lines, he can count on a slight opening advantage, like in 4. d4 exd4 5. Bg5 Be7 6. Bxe7 Qxe7 7. Bxc6 dxc6 8. Qxd4, where his better pawn structure typically gives him the edge.

Cozio Defense (3… Nge7) can occasionally be seen even on the highest level, mostly thanks to Aronian’s treatment of these lines, but players of White have recently found promising ways to get preferable positions, e.g. with 4. Nc3 g6 5. d4 exd4 6. Nd5 Bg7 7. Bg5.

Bird’s Defense (3… Nd4) is employed at times by the ever creative Rapport though, in our opinion, White has several paths to securing long-term advantage.

From the other variations that can be found in Line 369, also worth mentioning are the Classical Defense (3… Bc5) and the Steinitz Defense (3… d6).

[Diagram: White to Move] S. Dvoirys – J. Meister, Podolsk 1992. Black was counting on disturbing White Queen ad infinitum with 14. Qh4(6) Rg4(6), but he missed his opponent’s powerful response! How did Dvoirys gain a decisive advantage?

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[June 30, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
King’s Indian Defense, Sidelines & Smyslov Variation

[Line 150 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 without 4. e4]

Line 150 deals with White’s various sidelines in the Classical King’s Indian Defense.

The Smyslov Variation (4. Nf3 O-O 5. Bg5) is a solid choice for White, which is easy to adopt and hence quite suitable for beginners. After 5… d6 6. e3, Black often chooses one of the following two plans: 6… c5, followed by chasing the dark-squared Bishop with h7-h6, g6-g5 and Nh5, and the other option is 6… Nbd7, with e7-e5 and Re8.

The other popular White’s setup that is covered in this Line is 4. Nf3 O-O 5. e3, and again Black has two plans, quite similar to the above mentioned ones: 5… c5 6. d5 d6 7. Be2 e6, or 5… d6 6. Be2 Nbd7 7. O-O e5; both plans lead to approximately equal positions.

[Diagram: White to Move] E. Tomashevsky – D. Kokarev, Krasnoyarsk 2007. Tomashevsky missed a great opportunity to deal a strong blow – can you find it?

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[June 29, 2016] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
English Opening, Hedgehog Variation

[Line 044 : 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c5 4. g3 b6]

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.

The Hedgehog Variation of the English Opening, though a bit passive, is very a flexible opening for the players of Black.

Line 044 deals mostly with various choices for Black after 5. Bg2 Bb7 6. O-O, and also covers the main 6… Be7 lines without 7. d4, which is covered in our Line 045.

In recent years 7. Re1 with the idea e2-e4 gained in popularity. For club level players we recommend 7… d5 8. cxd5 Nxd5, where Black has good chances to equalize. The alternative is 7… d6, which leads to more complex positions, but also demands accuracy from both sides, though perhaps a bit more from Black.

From several setups that are easy to adopt for the players of White, we recommend 7. b3 O-O 8. Bb2, followed by e2-e3, Qe2, Rfd1 and d2-d4.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black King is temporarily exposed, so it’s the right time for White to start the action!

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