[March 03, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
Sicilian Defense, Paulsen Variation – Taimanov-Bastrikov Variation (Bastrikov Variation)

[Line 453 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 Qc7 without 6. Be3, 6. Be2]

In addition to the most frequently employed 6. Be3 (Lines 455-456) and 6. Be2 (Line 454), White has two interesting alternatives in 6. g3 and 6. f4.

Kingside fianchetto 6. g3 is a quiet and less forced option. After the usual 6… a6 7. Bg2 Nf6 8. O-O move 8… Be7 is considered to be the best choice, since White’s position is a bit more promising after 8… Bc5 9. Nxc6 dxc6 10. Na4, 8… d6 9. Nxc6 bxc6 10. b3 Be7 11. Bb2 and 8… Nxd4 9. Qxd4 Bc5 10. Bf4. The main line goes 8… Be7 9. Re1 O-O 10. Nxc6 dxc6 11. e5 Rd8 and Black gets even chances with accurate play.

Line 6. f4 can be recommended for club level players, where after 6… a6 White has two options of about the same strength: 7. Be3 and 7. Nxc6.

[Diagram: White to Move] J. De la Villa Garcia – A. Delchev, Andorra 2002. White has a stronger move than the simple recapture of the Knight on c3. How should he continue and get a big advantage?

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[March 02, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Slav Defense, Modern Line (incl. Breyer Variation)

[Line 086 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 without 4. Nc3, 4. e3]

Main lines of the Slav Defense are covered in other opening lines: 4. Nc3 in Lines 098-111, and 4. e3 in Lines 088-097.

Move 4. Qc2 is also a frequently seen continuation. Black has a couple of solid replies, among them 4… g6, with the idea Bf5, is our recommendation for club level players, while 4… e6 transposes to Line 072. The most common option is 4… dxc4, where after 5. Qxc4 move 5… Bf5 is dealt with separately in Line 087. The alternative 5… Bg4 is of about the same strength, and White’s usual reactions are 6. Nbd2 and 6. Nc3.

The idea of 4. Qb3 is similar to 4. Qc2 – defending the c4-pawn. Besides 4… dxc4 (which leads to the above described position after 5. Qxc4), players of Black often opt for 4… e6, where their opponents typically choose one of the following: 5. Bg5, 5. Nc3 (Line 265) or 5. g3.

Breyer Variation (4. Nbd2) is an unambitious option, where Black can equalize without difficulties with 4… Bf5.

[Diagram: Black to Move] I. Caspi – E. Postny, Aix-les-Bains 2011. White’s last move was 12. f4, attacking both black Knights at a time. However, Black has a nice countermeasure that leads to a position with mutual chances.

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[March 01, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Nimzo-Indian Defense, Three Knights Variation (incl. Romanishin Variation)

[Line 198 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Bb4+ 4. Nc3 without 4… b6, 4… d5]

Three Knights Variation of the Nimzo-Indian Defense is a classical approach by the players of White. It has been a battlefield of many Kasparov – Karpov encounters during their Moscow match in 1985.

Black can immediately transpose to either Ragozin Defense with 4… d5 or Queen’s Indian Defense with 4… b6. If Black goes for 4… O-O White can opt for some other lines of Nimzo with 5. Qc2 or 5. e3, or he can also choose the highly popular 5. Bg5.

Romanishin Variation 4… c5 5. g3 often leads to highly dynamical and generally forced positions. Apart from the main move 5… cxd4, covered in our Line 199, Black has a couple of options giving him sufficient resources to equalize. Among them 5… Nc6 6. Bg2 Ne4 is considered to be the most reliable, though 5… Ne4 and 5… d5 are also viable alternatives.

[Diagram: White to Move] Capturing the pawn with Rxf6 does not seem to give White what he wants – black Queen protects the Rook on f8, and his King then manages to run away. Can you find a better way to continue from the diagrammed position?

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[February 28, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Scotch Game, Classical Variation with 5. Nxc6

[Line 362 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Bc5 5. Nxc6]

The most frequent choice of players of Black is the intermediate move 5… Qf6. White’s reply 6. Qd2 has lost a lot in popularity since Black has found the way to get a comfortable position after 6… dxc6 7. Nc3 Bd4.

Because of that fact, players of White typically opt for 6. Qf3 nowadays. Continuations 6… dxc6 and 6… bxc6 are of about the same strength, both leading to roughly equal positions.

Move 5… bxc6 seams like a reasonable alternative for Black. After the usual 6. Bd3 Black gets good counterplay with the aggressive 6… Qh4 7. Qe2 Nf6 8. h3 d5.

[Diagram: White to Move] After 16. c4 Black gets sufficient compensation for the pawn with 16… Nxd5 17. cxd5 Qd4. However, there is another path for White, leading to his advantage…

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[February 27, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Nimzo-Indian Defense, Steiner, Spielmann, Saemisch & Leningrad Variations

[Line 173 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 without 4. e3, 4. Qc2, 4. Nf3, 4. f3]

The most frequent choices of White are dealt with in the separate opening lines: 4. e3 in Lines 186-194, 4. Qc2 in Lines 175-185, 4. f3 in Line 174, and 4. Nf3 in Lines 198-199.

Black has a couple of ways to get promising positions in the Leningrad Variation (4. Bg5) and 4… c5 is the most principal option.

Saemisch Variation (4. a3) forces Black to concede the pair of Bishops 4… Bxc3+ 5. bxc3, but White’s pawn structure gets weakened in return.

Spielmann Variation (4. Qb3) is rarely seen nowadays since Black equalizes comfortably, and 4… c5 seams like the easiest way to do it.

If White opts for Steiner System (4. g3), the game transposes to Line 170 after 4… O-O 5. Bg2 d5, where again Black should not have problems to get even chances.

[Diagram: White to Move] S. Mamedyarov – N. Grandelius, Rogaska Slatina 2011. Apart from the anticipated 8. c4xd5 White has a much stronger reply, leading to a big advantage. So, what is the best move for White in the diagrammed position?

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[February 26, 2017] Updated Opening Article by GM Borki Predojević:
February 2016 Revisited: Italian Game, Giuoco Pianissimo with 8. a4!?

The fourth update of this opening article after it was originally published in February 2016 does not boast some super-sexy names (though R. Mamedov – L. Dominguez Perez, Doha (rapid) 2016 is a serious affair by any standard), but it makes up for the lack of big faces by bringing some extremely promising tactical ideas that can give the players of Black some very dangerous counterplay.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White has seemingly unpinned himself quite neatly by attacking the bishop on c5, but his opponent has a hidden ace up his sleeve. Can you play the winning card for Black?

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