[May 01, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Aleksandar Kovačević:
French Defense, Normal Variation – Burn Variation with 6… Bxf6

[Line 342 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 dxe4 5. Nxe4 Be7 6. Bxf6 Bxf6]

White gets a bit better development in the early stage of the game, but Black’s position is without weaknesses, and if he succeeds in parrying White’s initial threats, he typically gets good prospects. After 7. Nf3 O-O there are many possibilities for White, and we’ll mention here just the most popular ones.

The main line goes 8. Qd2 Nd7 9. O-O-O Be7 and White plays either in the center – like in 10. Bc4 Nf6 11. Nxf6+ Bxf6 12. Rhe1, or (more frequently) exerts pressure on the kingside, for instance: 10. Bd3 b6 11. h4.

Quite similar, yet with subtle differences is the following line: 8. Qd3 Nd7 9. O-O-O b6 10. h4 Bb7 11. Kb1.

There is also an interesting option to deploy the light-squared bishop first with 8. Bc4, with the idea to play Qe2 and O-O-O. Black can react with 8… Nc6 9. c3 e5 10. d5 Ne7, again with sufficient counterplay.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position is somewhat typical of this opening line – Black has a bishop pair, and white Knights are aiming towards his opponent’s King. However, the position is not balanced, as White can immediately launch a very strong attack. How can he do it?

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[April 30, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Closed Sicilian (incl. Traditional, Chameleon, Fianchetto & Vinken Systems)

[Line 416 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 without 3. Nf3]

Line 416 covers the Traditional Variation (2… Nc6) of the Closed Sicilian. White has an opportunity to transpose to the Open Sicilian with 3. Nf3, but usually opts for some of the available alternatives:

The Vinken System (3. f4) is an aggressive option, where Black reacts either with 3… g6 4. Nf3 Bg7 or 3… e6 4. Nf3 d5 5. Bb5 Nge7, in both cases with mutual play.

The idea of the Chameleon System (3. Nge2) is to prepare the d2-d4 advance, while in case of 3… e5 White has some benefits of the placement of his knight on e2 – he can transfer it later to c3.

The most modern approach is 3. Bb5, with the idea to capture on c6, followed by f2-f4 and Nf3. After 3… Nd4 White generally responds with 4. Bc4 or, less often, with 4. Nf3.

The Fianchetto System (3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. d3 d6) is the most classical treatment of the Closed Sicilian, and here White has a choice between 6. f4 with Nf3 and O-O, or 6. Be3 with Qd2.

[Diagram: White to Move] White has sacrificed a pawn to weaken Black’s kingside and launch the attack. What is the best way to continue?

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[April 29, 2018] Updated Opening Article by GM Boris Avrukh:
August 2016 Revisited: Open Catalan with 5… c5, 6. O-O Nc6 7. Qa4

This is the second updating of this article, so we have added the most recent over-the-board and engine games. However, our theoretical verdict remains the same as before (i. e. Black has difficulties obtaining full equality), but there’s a number of interesting new attempts on both sides that you’ll certainly find interesting.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position is from Hiarcs 11.2  – List 5.12, Internet 2007. Black is a pawn up and the pawn on f2 is very vulnerable. However, it’s White’s turn to move and he can make use of the fact that his opponent’s king is still stuck in the center. What would you suggest?

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[April 28, 2018] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
English Opening, Symmetrical Variation – Main Line

[Line 004 : 1. c4 c5 2. g3 g6 3. Bg2 Bg7 4. Nc3 Nc6 5. Nf3 without 5… Nf6]

Symmetrical Variation of the English Opening is considered to be a very flexible option for both sides. Black can decide among several essentially different setups that give him equal chances.

One of them is taking control over the d4-square with 5… e5, which in return creates a glaring weakness on d5. The game typically continues with 5… e5 6. O-O d6 7. a3 Nge7 8. d3 O-O 9. Rb1 a5 10. Ne1, followed by a topical Ne1-c2-e3 maneuver.

The simplest setup for Black is 5… e6 6. O-O Nge7 7. d3 O-O, with either d7-d5, or d7-d6 with b7-b6 and Bb7.

The more unconventional, but equally promising plan for Black is 5… d6 6. O-O Bf5, followed by Qd7 and Bh3.

[Diagram: White to Move] H. Nakamura – M. Carlsen, Moscow (blitz) 2012. Carlsen just played f7-f5, with the idea Nf6, followed by b7-b6 and Bb7. Since it was a blitz game, both players missed White’s strongest response. Can you find it?

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[April 27, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Catalan Defense, Closed Variation – Main Line with 8. Bf4

[Line 232 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 Bb4+ 5. Bd2 Be7 6. Bg2 O-O 7. O-O c6 8. Bf4]

In this line Black has two reasonable alternatives to main move 8… Nbd7 – 8… b6 and 8… dxc4.

With 8… b6, typically followed by Ba6, Black wants to exert pressure on the c4-pawn. The game could continue 8… b6 9. Nc3 Ba6 10. cxd5 cxd5 11. Rc1 Bb7 12. Ne5 Nbd7, when Black has good chances to equalize. After 8… dxc4 9. Ne5 Nd5 10. Nxc4 c5 he should also be able to get sufficient counterplay.

8… Nbd7 keeps the tension, leaving both sides with several decent options. While 9. Qc2 is covered in our Lines 233 and 234, Line 232 covers two remaining notable lines: the solid 9. Qb3, and the more ambitious 9. Nc3. Either way, Black should not encounter major problems in these variations.

[Diagram: White to Move] R. Ponomariov – V. Topalov, Sofia 2005. Black’s last move was Nb8-c6, which allows his opponent a small tactical blow. How can White secure a long-term advantage?

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[April 26, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Slaviša Brenjo:
Ruy Lopez, Closed Defense without 6. Re1 (Miscellaneous)

[Line 391 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 without 6. Re1]

Line 391 mainly deals with the highly popular 6. d3, as well as other alternatives to 6. Re1 (Lines 393-413).

Apart from 6. d3 b5, covered in Line 392, Black has in 6. d3 d6 another popular choice of defending from the threat of Bxc6 followed by Nxe5. Here, White has an interesting sideline in 7. c4, which is often followed by Nc3 and Bxc6 – by giving away his bishop pair, White gains a better pawn structure in return.

After 7. c3 O-O 8. Nbd2 occurs a typical Ruy Lopez position with lots of maneuvering. Black has a few ways of obtaining even chances with 8… b58… Re8 or 8… Nd7 being some of the usual introduction moves.

The Double Deferred Exchange Variation (6. Bxc6) can sometimes be seen in strong grandmasters’ practice. After 6… dxc6 7. d3 Bishop on e7 feels less comfortable than on c5 or d6, but Black still has just enough time to transfer the pieces to good squares, before White gains some activity. Black’s common plan is Nd7 and f7-f6, followed by transferring the Knight from d7 either to c6 or e6.

[Diagram: White to Move] V. Ivanchuk – V. Kramnik, Monte Carlo (blindfold) 2002. By moving his Knight from e3 White can attack the pinned e4-pawn. Therefore, the question is: what is the best place to move the Knight to?

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