[December 13, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Slaviša Brenjo:
Pirc Defense, Austrian Attack

[Line 299 : 1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. f4]

The Austrian Attack is the most aggressive approach against the Pirc Defense. After 4… Bg7 5. Nf3 there are two viable choices for Black: one is the immediate reaction in the center with 5… c5, and the other is 5… O-O.

After 5… c5, White can go for the less forced 6. dxc5 Qa5 7. Bd3 Qxc5 8. Qe2, or for the main 6. Bb5+, where after 6… Bd7, both 7. e5 and 7. Bxd7+ deserve serious attention.

Positions occurring after 5… O-O 6. Bd3 are substantially different, but equally demanding like the previously mentioned ones. Moves 6… Nc6 and 6… Na6 are the most promising continuations for Black, and they should provide him sufficient counterplay.

[Diagram: Black to Move] A. Shomoev – S. Mamedyarov, Jurmala (rapid) 2015. Shomoev missed his opponent’s strong reply, leading to a long-term advantage for Black. What did White fail to see?

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[December 11, 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 games, but our verdict basically remains the same: Black has reasonable counterplay, yet it typically requires very accurate responses to various opponent’s plans.  

[Diagram: Black to Move] The diagrammed position comes from an analysis of a recent game S. Manush – P. Vishnu, Abu Dhabi 2016. White is only a castling away from securing his material advantage, so Black has to act quickly. Any thoughts?

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[December 09, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Slav Defense, Exchange Variation

[Line 064 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 without 3. Nc3, 3. Nf3, 3. e3]

The main point of interest of Line 064 is the Exchange Variation (3. cxd5) of the Slav Defense. Many positions of this variation are considered to be rather drawish, though some lines studied here are not without venom.

The fact that White Knight from g1 is still undeveloped makes Black’s task to equalize much harder. The most ambitious plan for White is to continue with 3. cxd5 cxd5 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. Bf4.

If Black opts for 5… Qb6, White has an interesting pawn sacrifice 6. e3 Qxb2 7. Bb5+ Nc6 8. Nge2 at his disposal.

Black’s more common reaction is 5… Nc6, where after 6. e3 he has the following possibilities: 6… Bf5, 6… a6, 6… Bg4 and 6… e6. In any of the cases Black should be able to get, with precise play, positions that are roughly equal.

[Diagram: White to Move] White’s better development and his opponent’s misplaced Queen are more than sufficient compensation for the sacrificed pawn, but he can even secure a decisive advantage with the right continuation!

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[December 08, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense – Rio Gambit Accepted (incl. Rio de Janeiro & L’Hermet Variations)

[Line 377 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. d4]

Rio de Janeiro Variation 5… Be7 is an old variation, and a pet line of Russian grandmaster Malakhov. The best reaction from White is 6. Qe2, where after 6… Nd6 7. Bxc6 bxc6 8. dxe5 Nb7 White is able to get a small edge with 9. Nc3 O-O 10. Re1.

After 5… Nd6, White has two viable alternatives to the main 6. Bxc6, i. e. L’Hermet Variation (6. dxe5) and 6. Bg5. In both cases Black has a couple of paths to equality.

The extremely popular Berlin Defense occurs after 5… Nd6 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. dxe5 Nf5 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8. White’s options include 9. h3 and 9. Rd1+. In case of the most frequently played 9. Nc3 Black’s common reactions are 9… Ke8 (Line 380), 9… Bd7 (Line 379), 9… Ne7 (Line 378), 9… Be6, 9… h6 and 9… Be7.

[Diagram: White to Move] If White recaptures the piece with exd6, Black will capture the pawn on d6 with his Bishop and vacate the f8-square for the King. What is the best way for White to continue from the diagrammed position, and gain a decisive advantage?

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[December 07, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Neo-Gruenfeld Defense, Delayed Exchange Variation

[Line 132 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nf3 Bg7 4. g3 c6 5. Bg2 d5 6. cxd5]

Exchange Variation of the Neo-Gruenfeld Defense is considered to be good for Black, but to reach equality he does need to play a few precise moves.

After 6… cxd5 White’s options are 7. Nc3, 7. O-O and 7. Ne5. In all the cases Black usually decides between castling and the immediate Ne4, with the idea to exchange a pair of Knights in the early stage of the game.

The main line goes 7. Nc3 O-O 8. Ne5, where there are several moves of about the same strength: 8… e6 followed by Nfd7, 8… Bf5 with the idea Ne4, and 8… b6 with Bb7 and Nc6, should all be fine for Black.

[Diagram: White to Move] S. Ernst – M. Darban, Rasht 2014. Black has just given a check and plans to capture on e5, with a good position. What is White’s best reaction in the diagrammed position?

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[December 06, 2016] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
Pillsbury Defense

[Line 051 : 1. d4 d6 without 2. Nf3, 2. e4]

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.

Move 2. e4 transposes to Line 292, 2. Nf3 is covered separately in our Line 052, while 2. c4 is the main point of interest of this opening line.

After 2. c4 e5 two moves are considered to be of about the same strength: 3. Nf3 and 3. Nc3.

In the first case, the usual continuation is 3… e4 4. Ng5 f5 5. Nc3 Be7 6. Nh3 Nf6, where White has lost a few tempi with his Knight, but has gained some squares for his pieces in return. On the other hand, after 3. Nc3 exd4 4. Qxd4 Nc6 5. Qd2 Nf6, White’s plan is to make fianchettoes on both flanks and than try to control some extra space. In either case, Black can get equal chances with accurate play.

Other options for White, like 2. g3 and 2. Bg5, don’t seem to pose real problems to Black.

[Diagram: Black to Move] M. Simantsev – A. Vaulin, Bydgoszcz 1999. Black Rook on a4 and Knight on c6 are hanging. How can Black overcome the threats and obtain a longterm advantage?

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