[February 27, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Nimzo-Indian Defense, Steiner, Spielmann, Saemisch & Leningrad Variations

[Line 173 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 without 4. e3, 4. Qc2, 4. Nf3, 4. f3]

The most frequent choices of White are dealt with in the separate opening lines: 4. e3 in Lines 186-194, 4. Qc2 in Lines 175-185, 4. f3 in Line 174, and 4. Nf3 in Lines 198-199.

Black has a couple of ways to get promising positions in the Leningrad Variation (4. Bg5) and 4… c5 is the most principal option.

Saemisch Variation (4. a3) forces Black to concede the pair of Bishops 4… Bxc3+ 5. bxc3, but White’s pawn structure gets weakened in return.

Spielmann Variation (4. Qb3) is rarely seen nowadays since Black equalizes comfortably, and 4… c5 seams like the easiest way to do it.

If White opts for Steiner System (4. g3), the game transposes to Line 170 after 4… O-O 5. Bg2 d5, where again Black should not have problems to get even chances.

[Diagram: White to Move] S. Mamedyarov – N. Grandelius, Rogaska Slatina 2011. Apart from the anticipated 8. c4xd5 White has a much stronger reply, leading to a big advantage. So, what is the best move for White in the diagrammed position?

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[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 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 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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[February 20, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Queen’s Gambit Accepted, Classical Defense (Steinitz Variation)

[Line 081 : 1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. c4 dxc4 4. e3]

The common choice of players of Black in QGA is the Steinitz Variation 4… e6 5. Bxc4 c5. In the positions occurring in this variation White often gets an isolated d4-pawn, while having a bit more space for his pieces.

Apart from the main 6. O-O (covered in Lines 082-085), White frequently employs 6. Qe2, which is the main point of interest of this opening line. If Black opts for 6… cxd4 or 6… Nc6, White is able to get somewhat better prospects; for example, after 6… cxd4 7. exd4 Be7 8. O-O Nc6 9. Rd1 O-O 10. Nc3 and 6… Nc6 7. O-O a6 8. Rd1 b5 9. dxc5 Qc7 10. Bd3 Bxc5 11. a4 White has a slight initiative.

For that reason the game usually continues with 6. Qe2 a6 7. dxc5 Bxc5 8. O-O, where the most reliable move is 8… Nc6, with roughly equal prospects.

There are two sidelines for Black that could be interesting for club level players – 4… b5 5. a4 b4 6. Bxc4 e6 and 4… a6 5. Bxc4 b5 6. Bd3 Bb7. The additional alternative 4… Bg4 does not seem to be too promising, since after 5. Bxc4 e6 6. Nc3 Nbd7 7. O-O, White gets a slight but stable advantage.

[Diagram: White to Move] H. Hopfgartner – P. Soldini, corr. 2004. White has a strong initiative for the sacrificed pawn. Indeed, he can even get an overwhelming edge with energetic play. Can you find the best way to proceed as White?

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