[November 28, 2016] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
English Opening, Four Knights Variation

[Line 012 : 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e5 3. Nf3]

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 3… Nc6 is by far the most popular choice from the initial position of this opening line, since moves like 3… d6 and 3… e4 lead to positions that are generally in White’s favor.

White has various replies to 3… Nc6: 4. g3 (covered in Lines 014-017), 4. e3 (topic of our Line 013), 4. d34. a3 and 4. e4 are the most common among them.

In most of the above mentioned variations, players of Black frequently choose one of the following setups: the most ambitious is the Reversed Open Sicilian, where Black plays an early d7-d5; fianchetto lines with g7-g6 and Bg7 are similar to the Reversed Closed Sicilian; some prefer developing the dark-squared Bishop to either b4 or c5. The choice depends on the taste of players and, in any case, Black is typically able to obtain equal chances.

[Diagram: Black to Move] B. Jobava – S. Rublevsky, Khanty-Mansiysk 2005. White’s last move was accepting the challenge with Qb3xb7. How can Black make use of the misplaced white Queen to seize the initiative?

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[November 27, 2016] Busted: Opening Survey by GM Slaviša Brenjo
Ruy Lopez, Keres Variation with 15… Rb8

The World Chess Championship Match certainly casts a big shadow, but that doesn’t mean that interesting games are not played elsewhere. German Bundesliga usually brings highly combative encounters, and Inarkiev’s revenge for his loss against Svidler at the Russian Individual Superfinal has brought the game line to our editor’s attention.

While it’s generally surprising to see a super-GM of Svidler’s caliber forget his preparation and misplay the post-opening phase so badly, the truth is that the entire variation is extremely dangerous for Black.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Y. Solodovnichenko – A. Delchev, Mulhouse 2011. Black has to act quickly, or White will storm his kingside after g5. Any ideas?

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[November 25, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Aleksandar Kovačević:
Sicilian Defense, Maroczy Bind – Gurgenidze Variation (Main Line with 9. Be3)

[Line 432 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 g6 5. c4 Nf6 6. Nc3 d6 7. Be2 Nxd4 8. Qxd4 Bg7 9. Be3]

The Maroczy Bind is, in our opinion, an advisable opening choice for club level players, since it allows Black to get solid positions, with a rather straightforward plan.

The idea of the Gurgenidze Variation is to force white Queen to capture on d4 by playing Nc6xd4 before white Bishop is developed on e3. The Queen soon needs to take flight from d4, which means that White has hardly gained a tempo, while exchanging a pair of Knights generally favors the side with less space – in this case it’s Black.

After the usual 9… O-O 10. Qd2 Be6 11. Rc1 Black has two viable setups – one is to advance his a-pawn to a4, then develop the Queen to a5 and Rook from f8 to c8, and the other is the immediate abovementioned deployment of the Queen and the Rook. Exemplary continuations are 11… a5 12. f3 a4 13. Rc2 Qa5 14. Nd5 Nxd5 15. cxd5 Rfc8! and 11… Qa5 12. f3 Rfc8 13. b3 a6 14. Na4 Qxd2+ 15. Kxd2 Nd7, where White has difficulties getting something concrete out of the opening.

[Diagram: Black to Move] One of the critical positions of the Maroczy Bind is displayed on the diagram above: White has just played Be3-b6, attacking the Rook on d8, while planning to proceed with Ke3 and Rhd1. How can Black transform the position to an easily defendable endgame?

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[November 22, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Slaviša Brenjo:
English Opening – Symmetrical Defense (Mecking Variation)

[Line 126 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nf3 Bg7 4. g3 O-O]

Mecking Variation (5. Bg2 c5 6. O-O cxd4 7. Nxd4 Nc6 8. Nc3 Qa5) has become highly popular in the recent years. Black’s plan typically includes Qc5 (attacking the Knight on d4 and the c4-pawn) or Qa5, followed by either Ng4 or d7-d6, Bh3 and Ng4. If White fights the Black Queen’s maneuver with 9. e3, Black gets a comfortable position after 9… Ne5 10. Qe2 d6. The usual continuation for White is 9. Nb3, where after 9… Qh5 the players of White have tried to create problems to his opponent with 10. e4, 10. Nd5, 10. c5 and 10. h3, but Black has sufficient resources to obtain balanced positions in either case.

Black also has some other possibilities on the 8th move: 8… Nxd4 9. Qxd4 d6, 8… Ng4 9. e3 d6 and 8… d6 9. Nxc6 bxc6 10. Bxc6 Rb8, but only the first of them offers promise of positions that are roughly equal.

[Diagram: Black to Move] In this highly complicated position Black has a hidden means to get a draw, but it demands a very accurate play!

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[November 21, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Vadim Zvjaginsev:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, incl. Exchange Variation

[Line 267 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. Bg5 Nbd7 without 6. e3]

Most frequently played move 6. e3 is the topic of our Line 269, and the Exchange Variation (6. cxd5 exd5) is another popular choice. After 7. e3 Be7, in addition to 8. Bd3 (Line 268), White has another alternative of approximately the same strength – 8. Qc2. A common plan for Black is exchanging the dark-squared Bishops with  8. Qc2 Nh5 9. Bxe7 Qxe7, and the other is typical 8. Qc2 Nf8, followed by Ne6, g7-g6, Ng7 and Bf5.

For those players of White wanting to avoid the main lines we propose 6. Qb3, often in connection with the following typical plan: e2-e3, Bd3(e2) and O-O.

[Diagram: White to Move] V. Aleshnya – O. Sogaard, corr. 2003. Black King is ready to take flight over e6 and f6, and then simply convert his material advantage. If White attacks the c6 pawn with Rb6, Black is then able to protect it with Bd7. So, what is the best way for White to continue?

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[November 20, 2016] Updated Opening Article by Boris Avrukh:
April 2015 Revisited: Queen’s Gambit Declined/Catalan Crossover with 10… O-O

Our previous installment of this article mainly focused on over-the-board and correspondence games, but this time computer engines have all the fun – not unlike comparing the rather uneventful World Chess Championship Match between Carlsen and Karjakin with the concurrent TCEC Stockfish 8 – Houdini 5 slugfest with 9 decisive games so far.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position comes from an analysis of recent engine game between two Stockfish clones. At first glance, it seems that White’s initiative is long gone and that his position is falling apart. However, White has one last trick up his sleeve…

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