[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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[February 25, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
Sicilian Defense, Paulsen Variation – Polugaevsky Variation with 6. Nb3 Be7

[Line 448 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Bd3 Bc5 6. Nb3 Be7]

White has a couple of ways to obtain a small edge in this opening line.

The most direct approach is 7. Qg4, aiming at the g7-pawn. If Black responds with 7… Nf6, White gets the initiative after 8. Qxg7 Rg8 9. Qh6 Nc6 10. Nc3 Rxg2 11. Qh3 Rg8 12. Bd2, followed by O-O-O. Defending the pawn with 7… Bf6 disturbs the coordination of Black pieces, and the position arising after 8. Qg3 Nc6 9. Nc3 Nge7 10. Bf4 is in White’s favor. The most common reply is 7… g6, where after the Queen retreat (8. Qe2), White is ready to meet Ng8-f6 with Bc1-h6, preventing Black from castling.

The other promising option for White is 7. O-O d6 8. c4 Nf6 9. Nc3, with longterm space advantage.

[Diagram: White to Move] P.H. Nielsen – L. Van Wely, Wolvega 2010. In this double-edged position Nielsen managed to find an unconventional way to launch the attack. How would you continue?

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[February 24, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Reti Opening without 1… d5, 1… Nf6 (incl. Lisitsin Gambit)

[Line 018 : 1. Nf3 without 1… d5, 1… Nf6]

Black’s decision what to reply against 1. Nf3 is closely connected with the preferred openings against 1. d4 and 1. e4.

The two most usual choices here are 1… Nf6 (Lines 025-045) and 1… d5 (Lines 021-024), while other options are the main point of interest of this opening line.

By playing 1… c5 Black offers a transposition to the Sicilian Defense (2. e4), and the English Opening (2. c4). White can also opt for the kingside fianchetto 2. g3, where again the game often transposes to some other opening.

Dutch Defense fans typically prefer 1… f5, where the Lisitsin Gambit 2. e4 is an amusing alternative to the more quiet 2. d3.

From other popular choices we mention 1… e6, 1… d6 an 1… g6 with both sides still having ample possibilities of transferring to various openings.

[Diagram: Black to Move] S. Movsesian – K. Lagno,  Khanty-Mansiysk (rapid) 2013. Black had a magnificent possibility that is hard to notice, that would have given her a very strong initiative. How should have Black continued?

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[February 23, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Dragan Šolak:
Scandinavian Defense with 3… Qd6 (Schiller-Pytel Variations)

[Line 289 : 1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qd6]

The Schiller-Pytel Variation 3… Qd6 has become the main line of the Scandinavian Defense in the recent decades. After the common 4. d4 Nf6 White has tried a dozen of moves, though natural 5. Nf3 is still considered most promising. There are four options for Black on 5th move: the kingside fianchetto with 5… g6, rather prophylactic 5… c6, logical Bishop development 5… Bg4, and 5… a6  preparing the active response with Nc6.

Kingside fianchetto 5… g6 leads to quiet positions with a small edge for White. Apart from 6. Be2, White has an interesting possibility 6. Nb5 followed by either c2-c4 and subsequent Nb5-c3 retreat, or c2-c3 with the plan including Na3-c4.

After 5… c6 there are two replies standing out – 6. g3 and 6. Ne5. The game often gets forced character and generally tends to be in White’s favor.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black is terribly underdeveloped and White can make a decisive attack with an aggressive play. What is the best way for him to continue?

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[February 22, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Caro-Kann Defense – Panov-Botvinnik Attack

[Line 305 : 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. c4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e6]

White’s most common choice on 6th move is 6. Nf3, usually followed by Black’s frequent reply with 6… Bb4, though 6… Be7 is also a reasonable alternative.

After 6. Nf3 Bb4 White can try 7. Bd3, though Black gets a promising position with 7… dxc4 8. Bxc4 Qc7.

For that reason, the main debate in the Panov-Botvinnik Attack occurs after 6. Nf3 Bb4 7. cxd5 Nxd5, where White has two moves of about the same strength: 8. Qc2 (covered in Line 306) and 8. Bd2. After the usual 8. Bd2 Nc6 9. Bd3 O-O 10. O-O Be7 appears a position typical for this variation. White has more space, but d4-pawn could become vulnerable. The most popular options for White are 11. Re1, 11. a3 and 11. Qe2, and in any case Black is able to obtain equal chances.

There is also a sideline 6. a3 which we recommend for beginners. White prevents Be7-b4, and plans to continue with Nf3, Bd3 and O-O.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black’s last move was a mistake 15…h6, allowing White to launch a decisive attack on the weakened position of black King. How can White punish his opponent?

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[February 21, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Aleksandar Kovačević:
Modern Benoni, Fianchetto Variation (Hastings Defense)

[Line 119 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 e6 4. Nc3 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. Nf3 g6 7. g3]

For the players of White the Fianchetto Variation remains a reliable positional approach to handling the Modern Benoni Defense. After the common follow-up 7… Bg7 8. Bg2 O-O 9. O-O Black has a couple of setups at his disposal.

The most frequent reaction is 9… Re8. White also has a few possible plans, where 10. Nd2 is an alternative to 10. Bf4. Against the latter, Black gets a satisfying position both with 10… a6 11. a4 Nh5 12. Bg5 Qc7 and 10… Ne4 11. Nxe4 Rxe4 12. Nd2 Rxf4 13. gxf4 Bxb2 14. Rb1 Bg7.

The Hastings Defense 9… Nbd7 is equally fine for Black. After 10. Bf4 Qe7, often followed by Ng4 or Nh5, Black has a decent counterplay.

Black can also include 9… a6 10. a4 before proceeding with 10… Nbd7, again with balanced positions.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White pieces are entangled, which gives Black tactical motives leading to his longterm advantage. How should Black continue?

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