[February 16, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Catalan Defense, Closed Variation with 4… Be7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O dxc4 7. Qc2

[Line 236 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 Be7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O dxc4 7. Qc2]

After the most frequently played 7… a6, White has a choice between 8. Qxc4 (Lines 237-238) and the move that is the main focus of this opening line – 8. a4, which has gained a lot of popularity in recent years.

The main response to 8. a4 is certainly 8… Bd7, often followed by Bc6. Black’s plan typically involves a6-a5, Bxf3 and c6, which leads to very solid position. After 9. Qxc4 Bc6 White proceeds either with 10. Bg5 or 10. Bf4, and both of these move have been tried many times among the top-tier players. Apart from capturing the c4-pawn immediately with his queen, White can postpone it with 9. Rd1 Bc6 10. Nc3 or 9. Ne5 Bc6 10. Nxc6 Nxc6 11. e3. In both cases, Black is able to get equal chances, though it usually requires several accurate moves.

On 8th move Black has tried various alternatives to 8… Bd7, but only 8… c5 seems to give him good chances for equality. After 8… c5 9. dxc5 Bxc5 10. Nbd2 an interesting pawn sacrifice 10… b5!? 11. axb5 Bb7 12. bxa6 Nxa6 13. Qxc4 Bd5 leads to sufficient compensation for Black.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White’s last move was Nb1-c3, allowing Black the possibility to seize the initiative. What is the best way to continue as Black?

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[February 15, 2018] Updated Opening Line by GM Dragan Šolak:
French Defense, Tarrasch Variation with 3… Nf6 (incl. Leningrad & Botvinnik Variations)

[Line 326 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 Nf6]

Line 326 covers the dynamic 3… Nf6, where White gets more space after 4. e5 Nfd7, while Black usually either exerts pressure on the d4-pawn, or undermines White’s center with f7-f6 (or both).

For club level players we recommend 5. c3 c5 6. f4, with mostly maneuvering play from both sides.

The Botvinnik Variation, occurring after 5. Bd3 c5 6. c3 b6 (with the idea Bc8-a6) should leave White with a small advantage, like in the 7. Nh3 Ba6 8. Bxa6 Nxa6 9. O-O line.

The Leningrad Variation 5. Bd3 c5 6. c3 Nc6 7. Ne2 cxd4 8. cxd4 Nb6 is another old line, which is not so popular nowadays, since it is mostly favorable for White.

The most promising line for Black is 5. Bd3 c5 6. c3 Nc6 7. Ne2 cxd4 8. cxd4 f6, where 9. Nf4 leads to very sharp positions, while after 9. exf6 Nxf6 10. O-O White can probably count on a slightly more pleasant position.

[Diagram: White to Move] White’s next move 18. Nxd5 first comes to mind, but how should he proceed after 18… Qd8?

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[February 14, 2018] Updated Opening Line by GM Slaviša Brenjo:
King’s Indian Defense, Gligorić-Taimanov Variation with 7… Ng4

[Line 161 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 e5 7. Be3 Ng4]

7… Ng4 is the main reaction to the Gligorić-Taimanov Variation of the King’s Indian Defense. After 8. Bg5 f6, White has a choice between 9. Bc1 and 9. Bh4.

Against the first option, Black has a couple of satisfying continuations: 9… Nc6 10. O-O f5 leads to a complex middlegame, while after 9… exd4 10. Nxd4 f5 11. h3 Nh6 position gets a bit simplified.

After the more frequently employed 9. Bh4 Black’s best response is 9… Nc6 10. d5 Ne7, where after 11. Nd211… f5 seems like an interesting alternative to the main 11… Nh6.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Black’s pieces are aiming at White’s King, and a small tactical resource can give Black a huge advantage!

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[February 13, 2018] Updated Opening Line by GM Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Modern Variation – Moscow Variation (Canal Attack) – Main Line with 5. c4

[Line 462 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+ Bd7 4. Bxd7+ Qxd7 5. c4]

The Moscow Variation (also known as the Canal Attack) is one of the most popular choices for the players of White that want to avoid heavily investigated positions in the Sicilian Defense, and 3… Bd7 is the simplest reaction from Black.

With 5. c4, followed by Nc3 and d2-d4, White wants to gain spatial advantage, and this is generally considered the most ambitious try for White. The game usually continues 5… Nf6 6. Nc3 g6 7. d4 cxd4 8. Nxd4 Bg7.

For advanced players we recommend 9. f3 O-O 10. Be3 Nc6 11. O-O, while for club level players an interesting sideline could be more suitable: 9. b3 Nc6 10. Bb2.

White can, at best, get a slight spatail advantage out of the opening, but Black can equalize comfortably if he plays correctly.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Black can get a serious advantage if he finds the best moves. How should he continue?

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[February 12, 2018] Updated Opening Line by GM Borki Predojević:
Slav Defense, Three Knights Variation (Suchting, Schlechter and Chebanenko Variations)

[Line 098 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 without 4… dxc4, 4… e6]

Suchting Variation (4… Qb6) is one of the Slav Defense sidelines that is rarely seen nowadays, since White can easily get a long-term advantage, though, in our opinion, 5. Qc2 is the most unpleasant reaction for Black.

Even against the Schlechter Variation (4… g6) White can claim advantage in a few different ways, for instance by playing 5. cxd5 cxd5 6. Bf4 g6 7. e3.

The main area of interest in our Line 098 is the Chebanenko Variation (4… a6), i. e. its numerous sidelines for White, since the main moves are covered in our Lines 099-103.

The Modern Gambit line 5. g3 dxc4 6. Bg2 usually makes things difficult for Black, while 5. Qb3 e6 6. Bg5 is a calm alternative, recommendable to club level players.

[Diagram: Black to Move] G. Haika – G. Bartsch, corr. 2007. White is threatening to take the Rook on h8, and also to give check on b8. Black probably didn’t have too many problems to find the best idea in a correspondence game, but it’s definitely not that easy to find it at the chess board!

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[February 11, 2018] Updated Opening Article by GM Dragan Paunović:
March 2015 Revisited: Neo-Gruenfeld Defense (14… Qd6!?)

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

This article was originally inspired by Wei Yi’s success in this sideline of the highly fashionable Neo-Gruenfeld Defense, especially given the fact that the young Chinese phenom mostly sticks to his guns – despite his tender age, he has become one the world’s leading specialists on the Gruenfeld.

However, upon closer examination, it turned out that he was mostly outplaying his opponents in the middlegame, and that his opening choices were not always the best ones. Enter Igor-Alexandre Nataf, a strong French over-the-board grandmaster with quite an experience in correspondence chess. Computer engines are completely oblivious to his stunning idea that saves Black’s hide in a rather precarious position, though we believe that this remarkable fruit of his dedicated labor in the home lab is most likely better suited for correspondence chess. Over-the-board players are typically incapable of finding all those finesse moves and deep plans that often feel counterintuitive, even to our silicon friends.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White’s bishop pair and their queenside pressure are too much to handle for Black, while his pieces seem poorly coordinated. Can Black create sufficient counterplay to secure the equality?

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