[November 01, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Bogo-Indian Defense (incl. Gruenfeld Variation)

[Line 196 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Bb4+ without 4. Nc3, 4. Bd2]

Move 4. Bd2 is covered in our Lines 200-201, and 4. Nc3 in Lines 198-199. Hence, the Gruenfeld Variation (4. Nbd2) is the matter of interest of this opening line. Black has tried numerous replies against 4. Nbd2, and we believe that 4… b6 (Line 197), 4… d54… c5 and 4… a5 are insufficient for full equalization.

The main line goes 4. Nbd2 O-O 5. a3, where after 5… Bxd2+ 6. Qxd2 White gets a small but lasting edge in view of his bishop pair. A bit more ambitious is 5… Be7, when after the principled 6. e4 Black can get enough counterplay with 6… d5 7. e5 Nfd7, with the idea c7-c5.

[Diagram: White to Move] A. Riazantsev – D. Vocaturo, Jerusalem 2015. A theoretically important game where Riazantsev’s preparation was impressive. Can you find how White can boost his attack, and get a decisive advantage?

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[October 31, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
Sicilian Defense, Paulsen Variation – Taimanov-Bastrikov Variation (Bastrikov Variation with 6. Be3 a6 7. Qd2)

[Line 456 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 Qc7 6. Be3 a6 7. Qd2]

The positions covered in this opening line are among the most demanding ones in the Paulsen Variation. White’s intentions after Be3 and Qe2 are clear, that is, he intends to castle queenside, followed by the flank attack with f2-f3 and g2-g4.

The most examined move is 7… Nf6, where 8. f4 has recently received a lot of attention. Black has found a way to get balanced positions there with 8. f4 Bb4 9. Bd3 Na5 10. a3 Bxc3 11. Qxc3 Qxc3+ 12. bxc3 d5. In case of 8. O-O-O, positions arising after 8… Bb4 9. f3 Ne5 and 8… Be7 9. f3 b5 10. g4 are highly complex, but Black should not be inferior there.

For those players of Black pieces who want to avoid main lines, move 7… b5 seems like a reasonable alternative. After 8. O-O-O b4 9. Na4 Nf6 10. f3 Ne5 Black should get a decent counterplay.

[Diagram: White to Move] White has already sacrificed a Knight to get a strong attack, while black pieces lack coordination. What is the best way to continue as White and create serious difficulties to the opposing side?

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[October 30, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
English Opening, Symmetrical Variation

[Line 019 : 1. Nf3 c5 2. c4 without 2… Nf6]

Apart from 2… Nf6 (Lines 030-035), Black can delay the development of his Knight from g8, with either 2… Nc6, or 2… g6. In the second case the game usually transposes to the Maroczy Bind with 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. e4 (Lines 431-433).

The main variation of this opening line is 2… Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4. Black can here decide between the two moves of about the same strength – 4… e6 and 4… Nf6. After 4… e6 5. g3 Qb6 6. Nb5 Ne5, the ensuing position often gets a forced character, but Black should still be fine.

The other critical position is 4… Nf6 5. g3, where Black gains playable positions both after 5… e5 6. Nb5 Bb4+ 7. N1c3 d6 8. a3 Bxc3+ 9. Nxc3 Be6 and 5… Qb6 6. Nc2 e6 7. Bg2 d5.

[Diagram: Black to Move] V. Topalov – V. Ivanchuk, Linares 1999. Ivanchuk did not miss the most aggressive continuation, which gave him a strong initiative. How would you continue with the black pieces?

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[October 29, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Catalan Defense, Closed Variation with 4… Be7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O dxc4 7. Qc2 a6 8. Qxc4 b5 9. Qc2 Bb7 10. Bd2 Be4

[Line 238 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 Be7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O dxc4 7. Qc2 a6 8. Qxc4 b5 9. Qc2 Bb7 10. Bd2 Be4]

Line 238 deals with one of the main lines of the Catalan Defense. Black is attacking the white Queen, though after 11. Qc1 he usually returns the Bishop with 11… Bb7. The idea is to prevent White from making pressure along the c-file with Rc1, while preparing Qc8 with the following c7-c5. The most common choice against that setup is 12. Bf4, where 12… Bd6 is a reasonable alternative to 12… Nd5.

The game often continues 12… Nd5 13. Nc3 Nxf4 14. Qxf4, where after 14… Nd7 15. Rfd1 Nb6, followed by Bd6, the position is roughly balanced.

[Diagram: Black to Move] It looks like the white Knight can not be stopped from safely returning to his camp with Nc6. Nonetheless, there is a nice trick for Black, and the Knight gets caught!

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[October 28, 2018] Trusted: Opening Survey by GM Slaviša Brenjo
January 2017 Revisited: Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense with 6… d5!? (9. Nbd2)

Playing an early d5 in the Open Games has become something of a trend at the highest level: that central response against the Italian Game is now a dominant choice of the players of Black, and it’s also gaining traction in the Berlin Defense, where it has to be followed by the recapture on d5 with the queen instead of the knight.

In addition to two high-profile games (A. Grischuk – P. Eljanov, Novi Sad 2016 and F. Caruana – W. So, London 2016) from the originally published article, this update includes new top-level over-the-board games (P. Leko – P. Harikrishna, Berlin 2018, Wang Hao – E. L’ami, Douglas 2018 and W. So – V. Anand, Leuven (rapid) 2017), as well as high quality engine games played in the past 2-3 years, which will surely broaden our understanding of this fashionable line.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Black’s lack of piece coordination and his awkwardly placed Knight on h3 require immediate attention, or White will play Nc5 with devastating consequences. Any ideas?

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[October 27, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Slaviša Brenjo:
Ponziani Opening; Three Knights Opening; Four Knights Opening

[Line 358 :1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 without 3. Bc4, 3. Bb5, 3. d4]

Besides the Three/Four Knights Opening and the Ponziani Opening, Line 358 covers various rare lines for White. Though none of these lines pose real problems for Black, they became popular even at the highest level, as a way to avoid the “Berlin Wall”.

Among the above mentioned lines, our recommendations for beginners and club level players are either 3. g3 or 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Be2. Both lines are quiet and modest, but very easy to treat for the players of White.

Ponziani Opening (3. c3) often leads to original dynamic positions and demands more knowledge from both sides. In our opinion, Black has two promising choices: 3… d5 and 3… Nf6.

Three/Four Knights Opening (3. Nc3) is more frequently seen in grandmaster practice, especially the following position occurring after 3… Nf6 4. d4 exd4 5. Nxd4 Bb4 6. Nxc6 bxc6 7. Bd3 d5 8. exd5 cxd5. White will generally be trying to exploit Black’s slightly inferior pawn structure, while Black can count on his good piece play to compensate for it.

[Diagram: White to Move] F. Tunega – A. Kyhos, corr. 2006. Black only needs to move his Bishop to c7 and play d7-d5, which would even give him a preferable position. However, White’s next move spoils his opponent’s plans, and creates him serious problems.

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