[August 19, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Pirc Defense, Byrne Variation

[Line 297 : 1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 without 4. Be3, 4. Nf3, 4. f4]

Other more popular variations of the Pirc Defense are covered in our Lines 298-300, and Line 297 deals primarily with 4. Bg5, 4. g3 and 4. Be2.

Byrne Variation (4. Bg5) is certainly one of the lines posing the most problems for Black. There are basically two plans connected with it. One starts with early Qd2 followed by long castling, and the other relies on the expansion in the center with f2-f4 and Nf3, where the Bishop on g5 is placed very actively. An illustrative lines could be 4… Bg7 5. Qd2 h6 6. Bh4 O-O 7. O-O-O c6 and 4… Bg7 5. f4 O-O 6. Nf3 c6 7. Bd3 Qb6, in both cases with mutual play.

Fianchetto System (4. g3) leads to calm maneuvering play, for example 4… Bg7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. Nge2 e5 7. h3 c6, and the position is balanced.

The idea of 4. Be2 is supporting of the h-pawn advance after 4… Bg7 5. h4. Here both 5… Nc6 and 5… c5 promises Black equal chances.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black’s extra pawn is hardly something to be proud of in the diagrammed position. How does White make a clear plus from his superior piece development and poor placement of the black Queen?

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[August 18, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Slaviša Brenjo:
Ruy Lopez, Marshall Attack with 12. d4

[Line 401 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. c3 d5 9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Nxe5 Nxe5 11. Rxe5 c6 12. d4]

The Marshall Attack is considered promising for Black to such extent that it is frequently avoided even on the grandmaster level by the players of White.

After the most common 12… Bd6 13. Re1 Qh4 14. g3 Qh3 occurs the main tabiya of the Marshall Attack. One of the possible responses from White is 15. Be3, where after 15… Bg4 16. Qd3 Rae8 17. Nd2 Black has two viable continuations – 17… Re6 and 17… Qh5, while after 17… f5 18. Qf1 Qh5 19. f4 Black probably doesn’t have sufficient compensation.

In addition to 15. Be3, White also has two other moves of approximately the same strength: 15. Qe2 and 15. Re4. In both cases, Black has several ways of obtaining equal chances.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Material is balanced in the diagrammed position, but Black is the one who has the initiative. However, he cannot play either Qh3 or Qxh4, because White can counter both moves with Qxf3. So, what is the best way for Black to continue and launch a decisive attack?

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[August 17, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Queen’s Indian Defense, Kasparov-Petrosian Variation with 5… d5 6. cxd5

[Line 210 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. a3 Bb7 5. Nc3 d5 6. cxd5]

After the usual introductory moves Black has two moves of approximately the same strength – 6… Nxd5 and 6… exd5.

The first option usually occurs when Black is willing to trade off a pair of the Knights in the early stage of the game. Two of the most frequently played moves are 7. e3 (Line 211) and 7. Qc2 (Line 212), while other viable alternatives are 7. Bd2 and 7. Qa4+. In case of the following pawn sacrifice 7. e4 Nxc3 8. bxc3 Bxe4 9. Ne5 Black gets promising position with 9… Qh4, preventing White’s main idea Qg4.

Against 6… exd5, White usually continues with 7. g3 Be7 followed by either 8. Bg2 or the intermediate check 8. Qa4+, when after 8… c6 with 9. Bg2.

The overall evaluation of this opening line is that Black has several ways of obtaining pleasant positions.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Z. Azmaiparashvili – B. Macieja, Ermioni 2006. Black Knight is under attack and, if protected, White will attack it once more with Bb5. How should Black react?

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[August 16, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Italian Game, Giouco Pianissimo without 5… a6

[Line 364 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d3 without 5… a6]

Giouco Pianissimo in the Italian Game has become a mainstream opening in the past few years. Besides the prophylactic 5… a6 (Lines 365-366) Black often opts for 5… O-O or 5… d6.

After 5… O-O 6. O-O move 6… d5 is an ambitions option for Black, but it demands precise knowledge of the consequences. There were a significant number of theoretical discussions on the highest level in the line 6… d5 7. exd5 Nxd5 8. a4, like in the game V. Anand – W. So, Saint Louis 2016.

Move 6… d6 is more solid than 6… d5, and now line 7. a4 deserves serious attention. Since White threatens b2-b4 and a4-a5, Black usually replies with 7… a6 where two continuations were recently severely examined – a typical 8. Re1 and a funny-looking 8. Bg5 h6 9. Bh4 g5 10. Bg3, often connected with double-edged play.

[Diagram: White to Move] If White gives check Qa4+ Black will go back with the Knight to c6 and his position will be just fine, but there is another way for White to make use of the awkward position of the Knight!

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[August 15, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Boris Avrukh:
Gruenfeld Defense, Stockholm Variation with 4… Ne4

[Line 137 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Bg5 Ne4]

The Stockholm Variation (4. Bg5), though relatively fashionable, is not a mainstream reaction to the Gruenfeld Defense. Move 4… Ne4 is the most frequent reaction, where White usually continues with 5. Bh4, 5. h4 or 5. Bf4, though even 5. Nxe4 and 5. cxd5 are also possible.

In case of 5. Bh4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Black’s best option is 5… dxc4, intending to protect the c4-pawn with Be6, and not allowing White an early recapture with Bxc4.

After 5. h4 a common follow-up is 5… Bg7 6. cxd5 Nxc3 7. bxc3 Qxd5, with mutual chances.

Move 5. Bf4 is of about the same strength as the two previously mentioned moves, where after 5… Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. e3 both 7… c5 and 7… O-O are good enough for Black to obtain equal chances.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black has the strong passed c3-pawn and would be very happy to trade off the Queens. How can White fight his opponent’s plan, and gain a strong attack?

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[August 14, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense – Main Line with 9… Bd7

[Line 379 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. d4 Nd6 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. dxe5 Nf5 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8 9. Nc3 Bd7]

The idea of 9… Bd7 is generaly connected with the plan involving Kc8, b6-b7 and Kb7, with or without h7-h6. White can try to prevent it with 10. Rd1, where besides the calm 10… Ke8 Black can stick to his original plan with 10… Kc8 11. Ng5 Be8 – in both cases with balanced positions.

White has tried many other possibilities, and the two most common are 10. h3 and 10. b3. A typical follow-up could be 10. h3 h6 11. b3 Kc8 12. Bb2 b6 13. Rad1 Ne7 with c6-c5 and, depending on White’s intentions, Black transfers his light-squared Bishop to c6, e6 or f5.

[Diagram: White to Move] G. Kasparov – V. Kramnik, Astana 2001. One year before this game, in the World Champoionship Match, Kasparov wasn’t able get a single promising position in the Berlin Defense, but this time he won a nice game. How can White a make big advantage in the diagrammed position?

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