[April 06, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
Sicilian Defense, Najdorf Variation (incl. Zagreb Variation)

[Line 478 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 with 6. g3, 6. f3]

Two substantially different variations are the topic of our Line 478: sharp 6. f3 often leading to the English Attack, and the strategical Zagreb Variation (6. g3).

Black can continue after 6. f3 either with 6… e5 7. Nb3 Be6 8. Be3 (Line 497) or 6… e6 (Line 493), in both cases transposing to lines of the English Attack. There is also an independent line 6… Qb6, preventing White from playing Be3. White usually replies with either 7. g4 or 7. Nb3, and though this position is more sensitive to play with black pieces, Black is typically able to get a roughly equal game.

As a response to 6. g3 Black most frequently chooses one of the following options: 6… e5, 6… e6 and 6… g6. In the first case moves 7. Nb3 and 7. Nde2 are extensively investigated.

There is also nothing wrong with Black’s position after 6… e6 7. Bg2 Be7 8. O-O O-O 9. Be3 Qc7, where White’s plan typically involves a pawn advance on the kingside, while Black creates counterplay on the opposite side of the board.

[Diagram: Black to Move] V Anand – A. Grischuk, Mainz (rapid) 2005. Black has tactical means to get an advantage. How would you proceed?

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[April 05, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Slav Stonewall & Semi-Slav

[Line 067 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 without 3… Nf6]

The most frequently played move 3… Nf6 is covered in our Lines 069-070, and two common replies to 3… e6 (4. e4 and 4. Nf3) can be found in Line 068. From other options after 3… e6, move 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bf4 leads to some simplifications and we recommend it to beginners, while after 4. e3 move 4… Bd6 is most often connected with the Slav Stonewall, which occurs when Black plays f7-f5. A typical position for this variations arises after 5. Bd3 f5 6. Nf3 Nf6 7. O-O O-O, with a complex strategic battle.

The other popular line is 3… dxc4 where moves 4. e4 and 4. e3 are of about the same strength. This line is generally easier to play with White, but Black is able to equalize with accurate play.

[Diagram: White to Move] J. Timman – A. Balshan, Jerusalem 1967. White is a pawn down and his Knight is under attack. How should he continue and get an almost decisive advantage?

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[April 04, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
Ruy Lopez, Open Variation – Bernstein Variation (incl. Karpov Gambit)

[Line 390 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Nxe4 6. d4 b5 7. Bb3 d5 8. dxe5 Be6 9. Nbd2]

The Bernstein Variation, covered in our Line 390, was a battlefield of important games during three World Championship matches: two matches between Karpov and Korchnoi (Baguio City 1978 and Merano 1981), and Kasparov – Anand, New York 1995.

The main choice of Black is 9… Nc5, where the usual reply is 10. c3. Black has in 10… d4 an interesting alternative to the more common 10… Be7. One of the possible replies to 10… d4 is a quiet 11. Bxe6 Nxe6 12. cxd4, and the other is the sharp Karpov Gambit (11. Ng5).

Move 10… Be7 has became highly popular among top-level players in the recent years – W. So, F. Caruana and Ding Liren play it regularly with Black pieces. The critical position arises after 10… Be7 11. Bc2 d4 12. Nb3 d3, where White can decide between an endgame 13. Nxc5 dxc2 14. Qxd8+ Rxd8 15. Nxe6 fxe6 16. Be3 Rd5, and the complex 13. Bb1 Nxb3 14. axb3 Bf5. In both cases Black has resources to get equal positions.

In case of 9… Bc5, White gets a preferable endgame with 10. Nxe4 dxe4 11. Ng5 Qxd1 12. Rxd1.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position appeared in a couple of strong games, e.g. in P. Svidler – V. Anand, Dos Hermanas 1999, among others. How can White obtain a big advantage?

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[April 03, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Gruenfeld Defense, Exchange Variation (Classical Main Line incl. Sokolsky Variation)

[Line 145 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Bc4 c5 8. Ne2 Nc6 9. Be3 O-O 10. O-O with 10… Bg4, 10… Qc7]

The point of interest of our Line 145 are two highly investigated options for Black, on move ten.

After 10… Bg4, move 11. f3 is almost the exclusive response, where 11… Bd7 is an interesting sideline, and we recommend it to club level players. The main choice is 11… Na5, where, apart from 12. Bd3, White can also go for 12. Bxf7+ Rxf7 13. fxg4 Rxf1+ 14. Kxf1 or 12. Bd5. The main line goes 12. Bd3 cxd4 13. cxd4 Be6, where both the Sokolsky Variation (14. d5 Bxa1 15. Qxa1) and 14. Rc1 Bxa2 15. Qa4 lead to complications.

Positions arising after 10… Qc7 are a bit less forced. White usually replies 11. Rc1, and Black now has two moves that should be enough to obtain roughly equal chances – 11… Rd8 and 11… b6.

[Diagram: White to Move] This intriguing position comes from the analysis of the game D. Dvirnyy – T. Sanikidze, Rijeka 2010. Black has strong threats, yet it’s White’s move and, to win the game, he has to make the most out of his two pawns on the 7th rank.

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[April 2, 2017] Trusted: Opening Survey by GM Slaviša Brenjo
Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense with 4. d3 Bc5 (11… Bd4+)

The ongoing US Chess Championships boast such a strong field that winning each game is golden, and scoring a full point as Black is twice as important. Nakamura followed in Grischuk’s footsteps (who had previously equalized comfortably as Black against Caruana two years ago), and Robson’s attempts against this rock-solid variation simply backfired.

Opening-wise, less than two months ago this line was updated in our CHOPIN Encyclopedia, where GM Brenjo followed an end-of-the-year game that seemed to offer a clear-cut way to equality for the players of Black. However, in the meantime our editor has discovered a less than obvious refutation of that recommendation, so revisiting this line is his way of saying sorry for that oversight.

[Diagram: White to Move] White is a pawn down, but his passer on f6 more than compensates for that. However, creating a decisive breakthrough in this position is far from obvious, even for computer engines. Any ideas for White?

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[April 01, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Wade Defense

[Line 052 : 1. d4 d6 2. Nf3 without 2… Nf6]

Black can transpose to our Line 076 with 2… Nf6, while from the other options the most interesting are: the Kingside fianchetto 2… g6, Wade Defense (2… Bg4) and a transposition to some lines of the Dutch Defense (2… f5).

White can transfer after 2… g6 to the Modern Defense with 3. e4 (Line 292), or can also opt for some more positional lines: 3. g3 or 3. c4.

In the Wade Defense (2… Bg4) Black is ready to part with his dark-squared bishop with Bxf3, typically leading to solid positions with a small edge for White. For example, 3. c4 Bxf3 4. exf3 c6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 and White has a bishop pair and a bit more space for his pieces.

White has another interesting possibility against 2… f5 – by playing 3. Nc3 he should be able to get favorable positions. For instance, 3… Nf6 4. Bg5 Nbd7 5. Qd3 with the initiative.

[Diagram: White to Move] M. Buscher – R. Philipps, corr. 1994. The diagrammed position looks simple, yet White can make an almost decisive advantage. What would you propose?

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