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 a7-a6 can be frequently seen in many lines of the Slav Defense, and it is particularly useful in the Exchange Variation, which makes 5… a6 one of the main options for Black. Though White has some alternatives, 6. Bf4 is definitely the most popular response. After the usual 6… Nc6, moves 7. e3 and 7. Ne5 do not seem to pose serious problems to Black, the former in view of 7. e3 Bg4 8. h3 Bxf3 9. Qxf3 e6, while in the latter case Black gets good prospects both after 7. Ne5 Qb6, and 7. Ne5 e6.
7. Rc1 thus seems like the trickiest move to handle as Black: though his position is generally very solid after 7… e6 8. e3 Be7, his light-squared Bishop remains a bit passive. Consequently, 7… Bf5 8. e3 Rc8 is generally considered to be Black’s best option, but even here he needs to play accurately to fully equalize.
[Diagram: White to Move] R. Ponomariov – Wang Hao, Khanty-Mansiysk 2007. In this pretty symmetrical position, White is a couple of tempi ahead in development. How can he make the best use of that?
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