[September 4, 2016] Updated Opening Article by GM Slaviša Brenjo:
September 2015 Revisited: Bishop’s Opening with 7. Qxd2

After Chinese prodigy Wei Yi mesmerized the world with a stunning queen sacrifice against his super-GM compatriot Ding Liren, this offbeat line suddenly gained in popularity. This update brings several new successful outings for the players of White, including a top-level one: N. Short – D. Anton Guijarro, Madrid (rapid) 2016.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Raubfisch ME 262  – Komodo 9.02, Internet (blitz) 2016. What seemed like another uneventful balanced game among the top engines could have turned into a barely defendable position for White had Komodo had more time to calculate more deeply… Can you find the hidden attacking plan for Black?

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[September 03, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Vadim Zvjaginsev:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Exchange Variation

[Line 172 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bg5 Be7 without 6. Nf3]

Unlike the other variations of the Queen’s Gambit Declined, in the Exchange Variation white knight can be deployed to e2 after Bd3, which seems to create certain problems for Black, though Kramnik’s probably begs to differ, as this line has recently been his weapon of choice.

A very common follow-up is 6. e3 O-O 7. Bd3 Nbd7 8. Nge2 Re8 9. O-O, when 9… Nf8 seems inaccurate as it allows White a nice trick: 10. b4!, and the following line obviously favors White: 10… Bxb4 11. Bxf6 gxf6 12. Nxd5! Qxd5 13. Qa4. That’s why the players of Black should opt for 9… c6 first, and only after 10. Qc2 should they choose 10… Nf8. The classical plan for White begins with 11. f3 (preparing e3-e4), where Black has to be careful, though basically still has quite decent chances.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Rook on e8 is under attack, but Black has better ways to proceed than to cover it with Bd7. How can Black create big problems to his opponent?

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[September 02, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Slaviša Brenjo:
Ruy Lopez, Morphy Defense (incl. Wormald & Mackenzie Variations and Exchange Variation Deferred)

[Line 384 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 without 5. O-O, 5. d3]

Besides the two most popular choices: 5. O-O covered in Lines 386-413 and 5. d3, Black needs to be prepared for several rare lines of Ruy Lopez.

With the Wormald Variation (5. Qe2) White avoids the Open Variation and plans, after castling short, to put the Rook on d1 and prepare the d2-d4 advance. Black usually continues with 5… b5 6. Bb3, and now has a choice between 6… Be7 and 6… Bc5.

Mackenzie Variation (5. d4) aims to initiate a very concrete play at an early stage of the game. Nevertheless, Black is able to obtain quite good prospects with 5… exd4 6. O-O Be7 7. Re1 b5 8. Bb3 d6.

Exchange Variation Deferred (5. Bxc6) is a slightly odd option for White, since the only drawback of knight’s placement on f6 is the inability to play f7-f6. Anyway, the game tends to become closed, e.g. like after 5… dxc6 6. d3 Bd6 7. Nbd2 Be6 8. O-O O-O.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White has just taken the Bishop on b4, expecting his opponent to do the same, but there is something better. How can Black make use of the e-file and seize the initiative?

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[August 31, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Alatortsev Variation

[Line 062 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Be7 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bf4 c6]

The Alatortsev Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined can be frequently seen on the highest level, which speaks enough of its reputation. As an alternative to the main 6. e3, White has 6. Qc2, aiming to delay development of the black Bishop to f5. Black’s best way to react is either 6… Nf6 or 6… Bd6, since moves like 6… g6 or 6… Bg4 seem insufficient for full equality.

On the other hand, after 6. e3 Black should proceed with 6… Bf5, where the most challenging attempt for White is 7. g4. Since after 7… Bg6 8. h4 Black gets into trouble, he should probably reply with 7… Be6. Here, White has a wide range of options, but 8. h4 is the biggest challenge to his opponent.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black is a pawn up, but also seriously behind in development. What is the best way for White to seize the initiative?

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[August 30, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Alapin Variation (incl. Barmen Defense)

[Line 417 : 1. e4 c5 2. c3 without 2… Nf6]

Line 417 deals with different Black’s reactions to the Alapin Variation of the Sicilian Defense. Detailed coverage of move 2… Nf6 can be found in our Lines 419-420, and the main focus of this line is the so-called Barmen Defense – 2… d5 3. exd5 Qxd5. Since moves like 4. Nf3 and 4. Na3 hardly pose any problems for Black, White usually continues 4. d4, where the most frequently played 4… Nf6 can be found in our Line 418.

For club level players we recommend the plan starting with 4… g6, then typically followed by Bg7, cxd4, Nf6 and O-O.

4… Nc6 5. Nf3 Bf5 leads to more complicated position, which is the reason why it has recently become popular among grandmasters.

Another popular choice for Black is 2… e6. White can transpose to the Advance Variation of the French Defense with 3. d4 d5 4. e5, but more frequently White opts for positions resembling the Tarrasch Variation of the French Defense with 3. d4 d5 4. exd5 exd5 5. Nf3.

Other Black’s options are not as reputable as the mentioned ones. Line 2… d6 certainly deserves attention, though White should be able to secure some small opening advantage in this variation.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White has just played an intermediate move Bf1-c4, preparing to capture the d4-pawn on the next move. How can Black thwart his opponent’s plan?

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[August 29, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Dragan Barlov:
Open Slav Defense, Czech Defense – Dutch Variation without 9. Qe2

[Line 107 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. a4 Bf5 6. e3 e6 7. Bxc4 Bb4 8. O-O Nbd7 without 9. Qe2]

The main line of the Dutch Variation of the Slav Defense is 9. Qe2 and it’s covered in our Line 108. Various options for White on 9th move can be found here.

The idea of 9. Nh4 is clear – to destroy Black’s light-squared Bishop. Black has the choice between leaving the Bishop on f5 with 9… O-O, offering the exchange on g6 with 9… Bg6, or trying to escape from the Knight with 9… Bg4. The last one typically leads to preferable positions for White, but the other two moves are regarded as equally good and solid.

After 9… O-O, apart from 10. Nxf5 exf5, White has other interesting options, such as 10. h3 and 10. f3.

Against 9… Bg6 White has tried 10. Nxg6, as well as postponing the capture on g6 with 10. g3, 10. Be2 or 10. Qb3, but in any case Black’s position is a tough nut to crack.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Black has sacrificed a piece and has a promising attack, though there’s only one path to a clear edge. What is the best continuation for him?

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