[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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[November 19, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Boris Avrukh:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Harrwitz Attack – Main Line with 6… c5

[Line 256 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bf4 O-O 6. e3 c5]

White’s usual response in the initial position of this line is 7. dxc5 Bxc5, where 8. a3 is covered in our Line 257.

Black delays the capture dxc4 until White loses a tempo with Be2, like in the following lines: 8. Rc1 Nc6 9. Be2 dxc4 and 8. Be2 dxc4.

If White first develops his queenside with 8. Qc2 Nc6 9. Rd1  Black obtains good prospects with 9… Qa5 10. Be2 Nb4 11. Qb3 dxc4 12. Bxc4 Nbd5.

Move 8. cxd5 is quite a popular choice of the players of White. After 8… Nxd5 9. Nxd5 exd5 Black is able to equalize, e. g. 10. a3 Nc6 11. Bd3 Bb6, followed by either d5-d4 or Qf6. The alternative 8… exd5 leads to slightly better positions for White, since in this case Black’s d5-d4 is no longer as convenient, because White can meet it with strong Nc3-a4.

[Diagram: White to Move] White’s pawn majority on the kingside allows him to seize the initiative on that part of the board. What is the best plan for him in the diagrammed position?

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[November 18, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
English Opening, Anglo-Slav

[Line 022 : 1. Nf3 d5 2. c4 c6 without 3. d4]

Apart from the main 3. d4, transposing to the Line 071, there are also two other plans that players of White frequently employ: one is the kingside fianchetto with 3. g3, and the other is 3. e3, followed by Nc3, b2-b3 and Bb2.

The first plan allows Black to transpose to the Reti Opening with 3… Nf6, though he can also accept the offer and capture the pawn with 3… dxc4. After 3… dxc4 4. Bg2 Nd7 5. O-O White has sufficient compensation for the sacrificed pawn, which usually leads to its recapture. In the meantime, Black should develop his pieces, which should lead to approximately even chances.

Against the alternative 3. e3 Nf6 4. Nc3, depending on whether Black wants to play the Semi-Slav, Slav Defense or the Schlechter Variation, he typically opts for one of the following moves: 4… e6, 4… a6, 4… Bg4 or 4… g6. White most often responds with b2-b3 and Bb2, which often eventually transposes to the main lines with d2-d4.

[Diagram: White to Move] White’s dark-squared Bishop and Rook on d1 are prepared for active roles, so how can White cash in his chips?

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[November 17, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Aleksandar Kovačević:
Nimzo-Indian Defense, Classical Variation with 6… d5

[Line 182 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 O-O 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. Qxc3 d5]

Move 6… d5 is considered to give Black a simple game, as the plan is easy: dxc4, b7-b6, Ba6, Nbd7 and c7-c5.

If White opts for 7. Bg5, in addition to the initial plan, Black can sacrifice a pawn with 7… c5 8. dxc5 d4, obtaining sufficient compensation.

Move 7. cxd5 allows Black to obtain excellent prospects with 7… Ne4, followed by exd5 and either c7-c5 or Nc6.

The main move is 7. Nf3 where after 7… dxc4 8. Qxc4 b6 9. Bg5 Ba6 White retreats the Queen to a4, c2 or c3, and in any case, Black has a few paths to full equality.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black has a poorly protected King and undeveloped queenside. What is the best way for White to make use of it?

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