[July 24, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Aleksandar Kovačević:
Sicilian Defense, Maroczy Bind with 5… Bg7 (incl. Breyer Variation)

[Line 433 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 g6 5. c4 Bg7]

The Maroczy Bind is a flexible, yet passive, defense for Black. After the introductory moves, the game usually continues with 6. Be3 Nf6 7. Nc3 O-O 8. Be2, where Black has two possibilities: 8… d6 and 8… b6.

After 8… b6 9. O-O Bb7 9. f3 White’s spatial advantage is typically a long-term one.

The other choice 8… d6 9. O-O also does not promise Black full equality. If he goes for an early 9… Nxd4, White can react with 10. Bxd4 Bd7 11. Qd3, often followed by b2-b4 and f2-f4. Against the more frequent 9… Bd7 White has two reactions of about the same strength: one is 10. Nc2 avoiding the exchange of a pair of Knights, and the other is the old line 10. Qd2 Nxd4 11. Bxd4 Bc6 12. f3 a5 13. b3 Nd7 14. Be3.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White’s last move was b3-b4, attacking the Knight on c5. What is Black’s best reaction in the diagrammed position?

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[July 23, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Bogo-Indian Defense, Gruenfeld Variation with 4… b6

[Line 197 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Bb4+ 4. Nbd2 b6]

After 5. a3 Black is practically forced to give away the Bishop from b4 for the Knight on d2 with 5… Bxd2+, since the position after 5… Be7 6. e4 remains firmly in White’s favor.

If White takes on d2 with the Bishop (6. Bxd2), his plan is usually connected with Bg5 and e3. On the other hand Black, at some point, usually reacts with h6, g5 and Ne4, typically obtaining equal chances.

Capturing with the Queen (5. a3 Bxd2+ 6. Qxd2) leads to small but stable advantage for White – the most common plan is e2-e3, Be2, O-O and either b2-b3 or b2-b4, followed by Bb2. A model line could be: 6… Bb7 7. e3 O-O 8. Be2 d6 9. O-O Nbd7 10. b4 Ne4 11. Qc2 f5. Black here intends to create some activity on the kingside with a typical maneuver Rf6-h6(g6). Thematic reaction from White 12. d5! ought to gives him the initiative, while after 12. Bb2 Rf6 13. d5 Rh6 Black gets sufficient counterplay.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black Bishop on d5 is unprotected and by moving the Knight from d4 white Rook from d1 will immediately attack it; what is the best way for White to make use of that fact?

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[July 22, 2018] Dusted Off: Opening Survey by GM Vadim Zvjaginsev
April 2017 Revisited: The Leningrad Dutch with 7… Qe8 8. Re1 (10. Ng5!?)

After GM Daniele Vocaturo successfully followed our main line recommendation in F. Sonis – D. Vocaturo, Ortisei 2018, it seemed like a logical idea to revisit this article. While this opening line might not be the most fashionable one, some top-tier engine games have kept it theoretically relevant over the past few years. However, top level grandmaster clashes remain the most important games in this variation: B. Gelfand – P. Svidler, Jerusalem (rapid) 2014, S. Mamedyarov – A. Grischuk, Baku 2014 & E. Bacrot – V. Ivanchuk, Ashdod 2015.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White is a pawn down, but Black’s light-squared bishop is hanging, and his rook on a8 is doomed. Should Black capture on f3, or he would be better off trying something else?

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[July 21, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Rare & Irregular Openings

[Line 001 : without 1. e4, 1. d4, 1. Nf3, 1. c4]

The so-called Irregular Openings are all the openings not starting with 1.e4 (Lines 286-500), 1. d4 (Lines 046-285), 1. Nf3 (Lines 018-045) and 1. c4 (Lines 002-017), and they are all examined in this opening line.

Among these openings, the King’s Fianchetto Opening 1. g3 is the most sound, and it often transposes to some of the other openings, after d2-d4, Nf3 or c2-c4. White can also try an independent line 1. g3 d5 2. Bg2 e5, which is a sort of a reversed Pirc. White, having a tempo more compared to the regular Pirc Defense for Black, is generally not in any danger to get into worse positions, but he can hardly fight for an edge.

Larsen’s Opening (1. b3) is an unconventional choice, where Black is able to reach comfortable positions in a couple of ways. The most ambitious reaction is 1… e5 2. Bb2 Nc6, and after 3. e3, two common continuations are the more strategic 3… Nf6 and the sharp 3… d5.

Bird’s Opening (1. f4), Dunst Opening (1. Nc3), Anderssen’s Opening (1. a3) and Sokolsky Opening (1. b4) are rarely seen in the modern grandmaster practice, since Black’s chances in these openings are at least equal.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White is ready to castle kingside, and because of Qe4+ Black cannot take the e3-pawn with Nxe3. That being said, how should Black proceed from the diagrammed position to secure a longterm initiative?

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[July 20, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Open Slav Defense, Krause Attack (Sharp Line – Wiesbaden Variation)

[Line 109 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. a4 Bf5 6. Ne5 without 6… Nbd7]

Main move 6… Nbd7 is covered in our Lines 110-111, and this opening line deals with the Wiesbaden Variation (6… e6), as well as other sidelines, like 6… Na6, 6… Qc7, 6… g6 and 6… Nd5.

The Wiesbaden Variation, though a bit passive, is generally a solid choice from Black, and it was employed in a couple of games by Anand, in his World Championship match against Topalov in 2010. The only principled continuation for White is 7. f3, where Black should respond with 7… c5 8. e4 Bg6. Now, move 9. d5 doesn’t seem to pose any problems to Black, while after 9. Be3 cxd4 10. Qxd4 Qxd4 11. Bxd4 Nbd7 12. Nxd7 Nxd7 13. Bxc4 arises the critical position of this opening line. White’s position is, in view of Black’s passive Bishop on g6, a bit more pleasant, but after a few precise moves from Black, it’s hard for White to obtain a tangible edge.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black wants to take the c6 pawn with the Rook, and if White exchanges the pawns with cxb7, the c4-pawn will be protected, and Black would be doing fine. Still, White has other means to obtain the advantage. Can you see how?

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[July 19, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Classical Variation (incl. Fianchetto & Boleslavsky Variations)

[Line 469 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 without 6. Bg5, 6. Bc4]

Two main variations are covered separately: Richter-Rauzer Variation (6. Bg5) in Lines 472-476, and Sozin Attack (6. Bc4) in Line 471.

Against the Fianchetto Variation (6. g3) two most common continuations are 6… e6 and the transposition to the Dragon Variation with 6… g6 (Line 464). In either case Black has good prospects.

Move 6. f3 leads to dynamic positions resembling the English Attack of the Najdorf Sicilian. Black’s usual response is 6… e5 7. Nb3 Be7 8. Be3 O-O, and his plan is often connected with the a7-a5-a4 advance.

Boleslavsky Variation 6. Be2 e5 is a classical opening, which is not seen very often in modern grandmaster practice. Moves 7. Nf3 and 7. Nb3 lead to similar positions, with typical maneuvers for both sides.

Black has two viable alternatives against 6. Be2: one is the Classical Scheveningen 6… e6 (Line 470), and the other is 6… g6 – a quiet line of the Dragon Variation.

[Diagram: Black to Move] The diagram shows one of the critical positions of this opening line. How does Black create sufficient counterplay?

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