[August 05, 2018] Pick of the Week by GM Boris Avrukh:
March 2014 Revisited: Slav Defense, Alapin Variation: Soultanbeieff with 6. e4

After the original key game B. Adhiban – F. El Debs, Caleta 2014 (voted “The Best Novelty Game” of the Gibraltar Open 2014 by the ACP) many theoretically important games followed. Among the most recent additions we recommend M. Matlakov – A. Motylev, Poikovsky 2016, D. Yuffa – S. Rublevsky, Moscow 2017 and Wang Hao – L. Fressinet, Sharjah 2017 as the most interesting encounters in terms of their relevance for modern opening theory.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position comes from our analysis of A. Leniart – C. Balogh, Achaea 2016. Black is quite passive, but seems to have everything covered. Well, does he?

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[August 04, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense with 4. d3 Bc5 5.c3 (Main Line)

[Line 373 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. c3]

Black’s most common choice in this line is 5… O-O, though 5… d5 has recently been tried by some very strong players, including Kramnik and Aronian.

White has tried many options in response to 5… O-O, and some of them are 6. Bxc6 bxc6 7. Nxe5 and 6. Bg5. Move 6. O-O probably deserves to be seen more often, where 6… Re8 and 6… d5 are decent alternatives to 6… d6. There are many possibilities for both sides almost on every move. Among them 6. O-O d6 7. Nbd2 is the most natural, where Black has a couple of options of about the same strength. Moves 7… a6, 7… Ne7 and 7… Bb6 are probably all good enough for equalizing without difficulties.

[Diagram: White to Move] White can obtain a lasting edge with 17. Nf6+ Nxf6 18. Qxf5, but there is an even better continuation for him, leading to an almost winning position. Any thoughts?

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[July 03, 2018] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
English Opening, Four Knights Variation – Romanishin & Stean Variations

[Line 013 : 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e5 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. e3]

By choosing 4. e3 against the Four Knights Variation of the English Opening, White supports the d4-square with his e-pawn and later indends to play d2-d4.

Depending on the taste, Black usually opts for one of the following: 4… Bb4, 4… Be7, 4… d6 or 4… d5.

Variation 4… Bb4 is aimed against White’s d2-d4 advance, and after 5. Qc2 the two most frequent continuations from Black are the Romanishin Variation (5… Bxc3) and 5… O-O 6. Nd5 Re8, where 7. Qf5 is the initial position of the Stean Variation.

Move 4… Be7 leads to less demanding positions, and two common follow-ups are 5. a3 O-O 6. Qc2 d5 7. cxd5 Nxd5 and 5. d4 exd4 6. Nxd4 O-O.

Line 4… d6 5. d4 g6 offers White an immediate opportunity to enter the endgame with 6. dxe5 Nxe5 7. Nxe5 dxe5 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8, where Black ought to get equal chances without much effort.

Reversed Paulsen Variation of the Sicilian Defense, occuring after 4… d5 5. cxd5 Nxd5, is typically very sensitive for Black since it requires his full attention.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White’s last move was a defensive one: Rd1-d4 brings the Rook to an active role in protection against Black’s strong attack. Still, Black has a powerful response, which should secure him a big advantage!

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[August 02, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Dragan Barlov:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Semi-Slav Defense – Neo-Meran (Wade Variation with 9. O-O)

[Line 279 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 8. Bd3 Bb7 9. O-O]

The topic of our Line 279 is the Wade Variation of the Neo-Meran with 9. O-O, which is nowadays the main choice of the players of White.

After 9… a6 10. e4 c5 11. d5 occurs a very complicated position, demanding exceptional knowledge from both sides.

The main line is 11… Qc7 12. dxe6 fxe6 13. Bc2. If Black goes for 13… c4 White gets a promising position with 14. Ne2, followed by Ng3 and b2-b3. Therefore, the best option for Black is 13… Bd6 14. Ng5 Nf8 15. f4 where both 15… O-O-O and 15… h6 should lead to dynamically balanced positions.

Black has an interesting sideline in 11… Be7, planing to sacrifice a Knight for two pawns with 12. Bc2 exd5 13. e5 Nxe5 14. Nxe5 d4.

Black also has an alternative on the ninth move (9… b4), but White is there able to obtain a small edge with 10. Na4.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Black has a possibility to obtain a significant advantage in the diagrammed position. How should he continue?

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[August 01, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Paulsen Variation – Taimanov-Bastrikov Variation without 6. Nxc6 (incl. Taimanov Variation)

[Line 451 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 a6 without 6. Nxc6]

Apart from the 6. Nxc6 (Line 452) players of White have tried numerous possibilities, most notably 6. Be3, 6. g3, 6. Be2 and 6. Bf4.

After 6. Be3 move 6… Qc7 transposes to our Line 455, and against the alternative 6… Nf6 White usually choses one of the following: 7. f4, 7. Qd2 or 7. Bd3.

King’s fianchetto 6. g3 is an option popular among positionally-minded players, where the game often continues 6… d6 7. Bg2 Bd7 8. O-O Nf6 9. a4 Be7.

In case of the 6. Be2 Black’s best reaction is to transpose either to the Scheveningen Variation with 6… d6 7. O-O Nf6, or to one of the main variations of our Line 454 with 6… Qc7.

The idea of the 6. Bf4 is trying to exploit the weakness of the d6 square. After 6… d6 (threatening Nxd4 and e6-e5) 7. Nxc6 bxc6 8. Qd2 occurs an interesting, and not too examined position, which might be suitable for the beginners.

[Diagram: White to Move] A. Karpov – M. Taimanov, Moscow 1983. Black’s last move was Nc6-b4, disturbing the white Queen. What is the best place to move the Queen to?

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[July 31, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Vadim Zvjaginsev:
Queen’s Indian Defense, Kasparov Variation (incl. Botvinnik Variation)

[Line 203 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. Nc3 without 4… Bb4]

Initial position of the Line 203 is known as the Kasparov Variation of the Queen’s Indian Defense.

Apart from 4… Bb4, covered in our Lines 204-205, Black’s alternative way to stop e2-e4 is 4… Bb7. When White proceeds following the same idea with 5. Bg5 after 5… h6 6. Bh4 g5 7. Bg3 Nh5 occurs the Botvinnik Variation.

More popular continuation is 5… h6 6. Bh4 Be7. If White now opts for 7. Qc2, his opponent obtains equal chances with 7… c5, since White is unable to seize the space with d4-d5. On the other hand, after 7. e3 O-O 8. Be2 or 7. e3 O-O 8. Bd3 Black has no problems if he reacts either with c7-c5 or d7-d5.

Among other options on move five, White has at his disposal 5. a3 (transposing to Line 208), 5. e3 (Line 202) and 5. g3 Bb4 6. Bd2

[Diagram: White to Move] White pawn on c7 does look threatening, but how can he make something concrete out of it?

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