[June 02, 2017] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
Slav Defense, Exchange Variation with 5… a6

[Line 066 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. cxd5 cxd5 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. Nf3 a6]

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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[June 01, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense (incl. Mortimer & Duras Variations and Nyholm Attack)

[Line 371 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 without 4. Nc3, 4. O-O]

Apart from allowing the main line of the Berlin Defense with 4. O-O (Lines 376-380), and entering the Four Knights Game with 4. Nc3 (Lines 374 & 375), players of White also often opt for the strategic line 4. d3.

Now, the most ambitious move 4… Bc5 is covered in our Lines 372 & 373, while 4… d6 is another popular option. White’s plan usually starts with 5. O-O, and includes c2-c3, Re1, Nbd2-f1-g3, h2-h3 followed by d3-d4 at a convenient moment. Black gets good prospects by responding with Be7, O-O, then a7-a6, b7-b5 and Re8. If Black chooses the kingside fianchetto with 5… g6, White gets slightly better prospects with the immediate 6. d4.

Duras Variation (5. c4) is more suitable for beginners, where White’s plan typically includes Nc3, O-O and d3-d4.

From other options for Black on the 4th move, he has the solid 4… Bd6 followed by O-O, Re8 and Bf8, and not as good Mortimer Variation (4… Ne7) where White should avoid the trap 5. Ne5? because Black wins a piece in view of the Qa5+ threat.

White also has a couple of sidelines at his disposal on the 4th move: 4. Qe2 (another way of defending the e4-pawn), Nyholm Attack (4. d4 exd4 5. O-O) and 4. Bxc6 dxc6 5. d3, hoping to exploit Black’s doubled pawns.

[Diagram: White to Move] E. Najer – A. Aleksandrov, Sochi (rapid) 2015. A middle-game climax has occurred in the diagrammed position, where central squares are occupied by pawns from both sides. White needs to decide what to do with the attacked Bishop, so what would you propose him?

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[May 31, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Slaviša Brenjo:
King’s Indian Defense, Aronin-Taimanov/Mar del Plata Defense – Bayonet Attack without 9… Nh5

[Line 168 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 e5 7. O-O Nc6 8. d5 Ne7 9. b4 without 9… Nh5]

The main line of the Bayonet Attack – 9… Nh5 is covered in Line 169, while this opening line deals with other possibilities of Black on the 9th move.

Move 9… a5 gives Black a sufficient counterplay, where Black fights the opponent’s topical c4-c5 advance. Two illustrative variations are 10. bxa5 Rxa5 11. a4 c5 12. Bd2 Ra6 and 10. Ba3 b6 11. bxa5 Rxa5 12. Bb4 Ra8 13. a4 Nh5, in both cases with mutual play.

Though after 9… Ne8 White’s position should generally be preferable after 10. a4 f5 11. Nd2 Nf6 12. c5, Black still has good practical chances in the attack on the white King.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Black has a hidden motive in the diagrammed position, leading to a strong attack. Any ideas?

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[May 30, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Queen’s Indian Defense, Petrosian Variation without 4… Bb7

[Line 206 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. a3 without 4… Bb7]

The most frequently played 4… Bb7 is covered in our Lines 208-212, while 4… Ba6 is a worthy alternative. White can defend the c4-pawn in several ways: 5. Qc2 (Line 207), 5. Qb3 (the main line here) and 5. e3 are the most natural choices.

From viable options against 5. Qb3, we recommend either solid 5… Be7 6. Nc3 d5, or the Benoni-type positions that occur after 5… c5 6. d5 exd5 7. cxd5 d6 8. Nc3 g6. In both cases Black should equalize without difficulties.

Move 5. e3 is a less ambitious option, where Black gets good prospects after 5… d5 6. Nbd2 Be7 7. b4 O-O.

From other interesting possibilities for Black on the 4th move, we will mention the sharp 4… c5, though Black needs to be careful here after 5. d5 Ba6 6. Qc2. There is also the less ordinary 4… Ne4, where after 5. g3 Bb7 6. Bg2 g6 7. O-O Bg7, Black can to equalize with a few accuracies.

[Diagram: White to Move] A. Gupta – A. Fier, Reykjavik 2015. Gupta carried out an original, and as it turned out, a very strong attack in the diagrammed position. What continuation would you propose for White?

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[May 29, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Aleksandar Kovačević:
Caro-Kann Defense, Panov-Botvinnik Attack – Main Line with 8. Qc2

[Line 306 : 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. c4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e6 6. Nf3 Bb4 7. cxd5 Nxd5 8. Qc2]

Black’s most common choice on the 8th move is 8… Nc6 where, apart from 9. Bd3, White frequently employs 9. Be2, 9. Bc4 and 9. a3.

Black has a couple of options against 9. Bd3, and 9… Be7 appears to be inferior to 9… Ba5. Thus, after 9. Bd3 Ba5 10. a3, Black can accept the pawn sacrifice with 10… Nxc3 11. bxc3 Nxd4 11. Nxd4 Qxd4, but needs to be very cautious there. The alternative 10… h6 11. O-O O-O seems easier to handle, and Black should equalize without difficulties.

An interesting sideline for Black is 8… Bd7, with the idea of playing Bc6 and Nd7. The position arising after 9. a3 Bd6 10. Nxd5 exd5 11. Bd3 h6 12. O-O is a bit easier to play with White, but it is hard for him to make something concrete out of it.

[Diagram: White to Move] L. Salas Morera – R. Sherwood, corr. 2004. It looks like White fell into an unpleasant pin along the a2-g8 diagonal, since Black threatens to play Be6. Can you find the best continuation for White, which even gives him a huge advantage?

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[May 28, 2017] Updated Opening Article by GM Aleksandar Kovačević:
September 2016 Revisited: Sicilian Defense, Paulsen Variation: Bastrikov Variation

Our original main line of this variation still follows A. Morozevich – I. Bukavshin, Moscow (rapid) 2015, a marvelous tactical masterpiece by the former World No. 2. New theoretically important developments have appeared since our last update, so it seemed logical to revisit this double-edged line.

[Diagram: Black to Move] The diagrammed position is from the analysis that follows our improvement on M. Admiraal – K. Leenhouts, Belgium 2017. White is a pawn up and his advanced central pawns are getting ready to storm Black’s king that got stuck in the center. However, Black has a hidden resource that saves the day – can you find it?

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