[May 21, 2017] Trusted: Opening Survey by GM Aleksandar Kovačević
Sicilian Defense, Accelerated Dragon with 8… d5!? (10. Qd2)

The Moscow FIDE Grand Prix is under way, and so is the battle for precious points. The stakes are high, and so is the quality of the games played, but it also comes at a price as many games tend to end up in draws. When safety is at a premium, not losing as Black becomes of paramount importance, and this article deals with Gelfand’s recipe against 1. e4 that he tried both versus Giri and Vachier-Lagrave.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Black is a pawn down, and it seems that he is also going to lose an exchange. How can he make an improbable escape from this precarious position?

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[May 19, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
Sicilian Defense, Fischer-Sozin Attack (incl. Velimirović Attack)

[Line 471 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Bc4]

The two most principal reactions to the Fischer-Sozin Attack are 6… e6 and 6… Qb6, while 6… Bd7 is a sideline that also deserves attention.

In the first case, the game usually proceeds 6… e6 7. Be3 Be7, where as an alternative to the very sharp Velimirovic Attack (8. Qe2) followed by long castling and the kingside pawn advance, White also has a less demanding 8. Bb3 often followed by f2-f4 and O-O.

Move 6… Qb6 is of about the same strength, where White can choose among the following four options: 7. Nb3, 7. Ndb57. Nxc6 and 7. Nde2. In any case the ensuing positions are dynamically balanced.

[Diagram: White to Move] J. Kelbl – C. Moreira, corr. 2009. White has just sacrificed his Knight on d5, which is highly topical for the Velimirović Attack, with the idea to gain the f5-square for another Knight. How should White continue his attack to obtain a winning position?

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[May 17, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Slaviša Brenjo:
Ruy Lopez, Closed Defense with 8. h3 Bb7 9. d3 d6 (without 10.a3 Na5)

[Line 398 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. h3 Bb7 9. d3 d6]

The most frequent choice of the players of White in the stem position of this line is 10. a3, where apart from 10… Na5, covered in our Line 399, Black has two options of about the same strength: one is 10… Qd7 with the idea Nd8-e6, Re8 and Bf8, and the other is 10… Nb8, followed by Nbd7 and later Nc5-e6. In any case, Black should have no difficulties reaching the equality.

Move 10. c3 is more suitable for beginners, and it is often connected with the Nb1-d2-f1-g3 maneuver, followed by the d3-d4 advance.

Another interesting possibility for White is 10. a4, with a quiet strategic battle. For example 10… Na5 11. Ba2 b4 12. Nbd2 c5 13. c3 Rc8, with a roughly equal game.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black intends to transfer the Knight from b8 to d4, while if White takes twice on f4, Black gets sufficient compensation in his bishop pair. What is the best continuation for White in the diagrammed position, which secures him a long-term advantage?

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[May 16, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
French Defense, Normal Variation – Rubinstein Variation (Blackburne Defense with 6. Nxf6+)

[Line 333 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nd7 5. Nf3 Ngf6 6. Nxf6+]

Line 333 covers one of the most principled lines of the Rubinstein Variation in the French Defense, where after 6… Nxf6 White has several interesting possibilities .

Prophylactic move 7. c3 overprotects the d4-pawn, and prepares to answer the topical 7… c5 with 8. Ne5, often followed by a Queen or Bishop check along the a4-e8 diagonal. The main line typically follows 8… a6 9. Be3 Qc7 10. Qa4+ Nd7, and Black needs to be well-prepared and cautious not to fall into problems.

The idea of 7. Be3 is to make Black’s c7-c5 advance more difficult. Black has a few paths to obtain roughly equal chances, for example 7… Nd5 8. Bd2 c5, and also 7… Bd6 8. Bd3 O-O 9. Qe2 b6.

From other notable options for White we shall mention 7. Bd3 c5 8. Be3, and 7. g3 b6 8. Bb5+!? Bd7 9. Be2. In both cases Black gets good prospects with a few accuracies.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Black wins with a nice trick – can you find it?

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[May 15, 2017] Dusted Off: Opening Survey by GM Dragan Paunović:
January 2015 Revisited: Symmetrical English, Three Knights Variation (8. e4!)

This update is a small tribute to our late colleague GM Dragan Paunović. In memory of our dear friend, our Editorial Board will keep updating his lines and articles.

Aronian is still the main proponent of this variation among the players of White and his ability to squeeze water from a stone is absolutely incredible: after a rather uneventful draw in Ashdod against Vachier-Lagrave Levon managed to find new resources and score an important win at the Grenke Chess Classic 2017. While his grinding prowess remains impressive, from a purely theoretical point of view this line hardly offers much to the players of White, as most recent top level games seem to suggest.

[Diagram: White to Move] White king feels uncomfortable, so there’s no time to waste. What is the best course of action for him?

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[May 14, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Alapin Variation with 2… Nf6 (Miscellaneous)

[Line 419 : 1. e4 c5 2. c3 Nf6]

After the (almost) exclusively played 3. e5 Nd5, White usually proceeds with 4. Nf3, where 4… Nc6 is covered in Line 420.

Another fashionable option is 4… e6, where we think that 5. d4 cxd4 6. cxd4 is suitable for club level players, while 5. g3 Nc6 6. Bg2 should be more appropriate for beginners. The main line goes 5. Bc4 d6 6. d4 cxd4 7. cxd4, and here 7… Be7, followed by O-O, b7-b6 and Bb7 is a good alternative to the more common 7… Nc6. White has, after 7… Nc6 8. O-O Be7, a few options of about the same strength: 9. Qe2, 9. Bd2 (with the idea Nc3), and 9. exd6 Qxd6 10. Nc3. Black’s position is generally fine, though he needs to play a couple of accuracies to equalize.

[Diagram: White to Move] S. Dolmatov – V. Tukmakov, Elenite 1995. Black intends to play a7-a6 and Bb7, which would lead to a perfectly fine position. However, it is White’s move and he can seize the initiative with enterprising play. How would you continue?

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