[August 27, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Aleksandar Kovačević:
French Defense, Normal Variation – Classical Variation (Boleslavsky Variation with 7… cxd4)

[Line 338 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3 cxd4]

The Boleslavsky Variation with 7… cxd4 often leads to sharp and demanding positions. After 8. Nxd4 Black has the choice between 8… Qb6 and 8… Bc5.

Against the first of the two, White is practically obliged to sacrifice the b2-pawn and play for the compensation. 8… Qb6 9. Qd2 Qxb2 10. Rb1 Qa3 11. Bb5 is one of the critical positions in this opening line. Black should be able to neutralize White’s strong initiative, but only at the cost of returning the extra pawn: 11… Nxd4 12. Bxd4 a6 13. Bxd7 Bxd7 14. Rb3 Qe7 15. Rb7. Black’s position is sensitive, but not without counterplay.

The other important line is 8… Bc5 9. Qd2 O-O, where for club level players we recommend 10. g3 followed by Bg2 and O-O.

More complicated is 10. O-O-O, and after 10… a6 our suggestion for White is 11. Qf2, 11. Nb3 or 11. Kb1, in either case with double-edged positions.

[Diagram: White to Move] White only needs to activate his Queen, and when it’s finally coupled with his menacing rooks Black will be in big trouble. What is the best way for him to exploit the poor placement of black King?

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[August 26, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Vadim Zvjaginsev:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Semi-Slav Defense – Stoltz Variation with 6… Bd6 7. Bd3

[Line 283 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Qc2 Bd6 7. Bd3]

On the seventh move Black can try 7… e5, a sideline aiming to simplify the position at an early stage. After 7. cxd5 cxd5 White has a choice between 8. Nb5 and 8. e4, but either way Black should have sufficient resources to obtain equality.

Both sides usually castle first: 7… O-O 8. O-O, and here recently, on the highest level, the following direct approach has become quite popular: 8… e5 9. cxd5 cxd5 10. e4 exd4 11. Nxd5 Nxd5 12. exd5 h6. Though precise play is required from Black, the best that White can get is a slightly more pleasant endgame.

By far the most popular continuation is 8… dxc4 9. Bxc4, and apart from 9… a6 (Line 284) and 9… b5 (Line 285) Black has 9… e5 at his disposal. Since, in some lines, Black has the idea to play e5-e4, which usually results in exerting pressure on the h2-pawn, White’s frequent choice is to neutralize by playing 10. h3. After that, Black can slowly improve the position of his pieces with 10… Qe7, Bb8 (thinking about Nf3-h4-f5), h7-h6 and Rd8, preparing to meet e3-e4 by capturing on d4, followed by Ne5. As an illustration, take a look at the following line: 11. a3 Bb8 12. Ba2 h6 13. Nh4 Rd8 14. Nf5 Qe8, with mutual play.

[Diagram: White to Move] It appears that Black’s position should be fine, but White has a nice maneuver, which leads to his big advantage!

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[August 25, 2016] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
Sicilian Defense, French Variation with 3. d3

[Line 441 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d3]

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.

Line 441 covers the seemingly unambitious 3. d3, which is one of the most popular ways for White to avoid the Paulsen Sicilian. White is prepared to react on 3… d5 with 4. Nbd2, which transposes to the French Defense, or with 4. Qe2, which is typically followed by king’s fianchetto. Apart from the early d7-d5, Black also has other promising setups at his disposal.

Queen’s fianchetto 3… b6 is our recommendation for club level players. After 4. g3 Bb7 5. Bg2 d6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 Nf6, the arising position is about equal.

Similar to the above mentioned plan is 3… b5 4. g3 Bb7 5. Bg2 d6 6. O-O Nf6, and again, Black is doing fine.

The main line goes 3… Nc6 4. g3, and here Black has various promising possibilities: 4… d5 with Nf6, Be7 and O-O; 4… g6 5. Bg2 Bg7 6. O-O d6 often accompanied with Nf6; 4… Nf6 5. Bg2 d6 6. O-O Be7, which is quite flexbile; and 4… Nge7 5. Bg2 g6 6. O-O Bg7, which is a frequent choice of advanced players.

[Diagram: White to Move] G. Kamsky – M. Bartel, Istanbul (ol) 2012. What happens if White captures the Knight on d3, and is there anything better for him in the diagrammed position?

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[August 22, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Dragan Barlov:
Slav Defense, Modern Line

[Line 072 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 e6 with 4. Qc2, 4. e3]

Line 072 deals with two popular choices for White in the Modern Line of the Slav Defense – 4. Qc2 and 4. e3.

The idea of 4. Qc2 is to keep the options open. If Black chooses 4… f5, which is one of the main ideas of c6-d5-e6 setup, White has a promising 5. Bf4 at his disposal. Black’s main preference is 4… Nf6, and only after 5. e3 Ne4, he can proceed with f7-f5, Bd6 and Nd7. If White goes for 5. Bg5, Black usually continues with 5… h6 6. Bh4 dxc4 7. Qxc4 b5 8. Qc2 Bb7, with mutually rich play. Advanced players often opt for 5. g3, where again 5… dxc4 6. Qxc4 b5 7. Qc2 Bb7 should be good for Black.

Against the other major line 4. e3, Black can make the aforementioned setup 4… Bd6, with f7-f5 and Nf6. The logical sequence of moves that may follow could be 5. Bd3 f5 6. O-O Nf6 7. b3 with the idea Ba3. Anyway, Black should be fine after 7… Qe7 8. Bb2 O-O 9. Qc1 b6 10. Ba3 c5.

[Diagram: White to Move] A. Stella – M. Kravtsiv, Livigno 2012. After trading the queens 19. Qxa8 Rxa8, White can equalize by playing 20. Bd2. Is there something better that White can do in the diagrammed position?

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[August 21, 2016] Updated Opening Article by GM Boris Avrukh:
May 2013/September 2015 Revisited: Slav Defense with 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e3 Bf5

This is the second updating of this line, which seems to offer the players of Black nice practical chances, in spite of the theoretical verdict, which is quite clear: White has the upper hand, but proving it requires extremely accurate play deep into the middlegame.

[Diagram: Black to Move] A. Kveynis  – D. Šolak, Reykjavik 2015. Black’s compensation for the sacrificed pawn is obvious, but can he push for more?

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[August 19, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Boris Avrukh:
Gruenfeld Defense, Accelerated Russian & Stockholm Variations

[Line 136 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 without 3… Bg7]

Line 136 covers various early sidelines of Gruenfeld Defense (3… d5), while the most frequent moves are examined in other opening lines: 4. cxd5 in Lines 139-145, 4. Nf3 in Lines 146-149 and 4. Bf4 in Line 138.

Stockholm Variation (4. Bg5) has gained considerable following in recent years. The most popular reply 4… Ne4 is covered in Line 137, and this line provides an answer what happens if Black sacrifices pawn with 4… Bg7 5. Bxf6 Bxf6 6. cxd5. The most solid continuation for Black is 6… c6, where Black gets decent prospects both after 7. e4 O-O 8. e5 Bg7 9. Bc4 b5 10. Bb3 b4 11. Ne2 cxd5 and 7. Rc1 O-O 8. dxc6 Qxd4 9. Qxd4 Bxd4. There is even a sharper approach for Black in this line: 6… c5 !?, which has recently been tested by several top level players, like Vachier-Lagrave, Topalov, Grischuk and Radjabov.

The Accelerated Russian (4. Qb3) is another important line covered here. After 4… dxc4 5. Qxc4 Bg7, apart from the transposition to the Russian Variation with 6. Nf3, White can immediately occupy the center with 6. e4 O-O 7. Be2, and again, just like in the Russian Variation, the most common responses are 7… a6, 7… Na6 and 7… Nc6.

From other possibilities for players of White, 4. Qa4+ Bd7 5. Qb3, leads to atypical positions for the Gruenfeld Defense.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White is threatening to take the Knight on f6, to be followed by check on c7. However, White’s kingside is undeveloped, and Black can make an immediate use of that fact. What is the best way for him to continue?

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