[April 19, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Dragan Barlov:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Semi-Slav Defense – Stoltz Variation (incl. Center Variation & Mikhalchishin Line)

[Line 280 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Qc2]

The Stoltz Variation (6. Qc2) is the most popular line in the Semi-Slav Defense. Among the interesting sidelines for Black, we can recommend 6… b6 7. Bd3 Bb7 8. O-O Be7, recently employed in a few games by A. Dreev. The critical game of that system is B. Adhiban – A. Dreev, Wijk aan Zee 2016, where Adhiban prepared an attractive novelty, and his opponent, after a poor reaction, quickly found himself in a difficult position.

By far the main line is 6… Bd6, and here, besides 7. Bd3 that is covered in our Lines 283-285, quiet 7. b3 (Line 282) and sharp 7. g4 (Line 281), White has several remaining options that are covered here.

After 7. Bd2 O-O 8. O-O-O Black has promising a pawn sacrifice: 8… b5 9. cxb5 Bb7.

Center Variation 7. e4 doesn’t pose real problems for Black, as after 7… dxe4 8. Nxe4 Nxe4 9. Qxe4 he has quite a few ways to equalize, e. g. the Mikhalchishin Line 9… e5.

7. Be2 O-O 8. O-O could transpose to Line 283 after 8… dxc4 9. Bxc4, though Black can also get satisfactory positions after 8… Re8 9. Rd1 Qe7.

[Diagram: White to Move] O. Sande – K. Haug, corr. 2013. White has a very good compensation for a sacrificed pawn – Black has poor coordination and weak dark squares. How can White launch a dangerous attack?

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[April 18, 2018] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
English Opening, Anglo-Indian Defense

[Line 029 : 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 without 2… e6, 2… g6, 2… c5]

Line 029 deals with Black’s various second move choices, excluding 2… e6 (Lines 040-045), 2… g6 (Lines 036-039) and 2… c5 (Lines 030-035).

The main focus of this line is when Black makes a Classical Queen’s Indian setup, while White persistently avoids playing d2-d4 as long as possible.

After 2… b6 3. g3 Bb7 4. Bg2 e6 5. O-O Be7 White has several possibilities. Among them three setups deserve serious attention: 6. b3 O-O 7. Bb2 d5 8. e3 and 6. Nc3 O-O 7. b3 d5 8. Bb2 are both suitable for club level players, while 6. Nc3 O-O 7. Re1 is our recommendation for advanced players.

[Diagram: White to Move] Z. Ribli – R. Vaganian, London 1984. Black’s flank strategy left the center of the board to his opponent. What is the best way for White to make use of that fact?

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[April 17, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Vadim Zvjaginsev:
Sicilian Defense, Alapin Variation with 2… Nf6 (incl. Stoltz Attack)

[Line 420 : 1. e4 c5 2. c3 Nf6 3. e5 Nd5 4. Nf3 Nc6]

There are two major choices for White on the fifth move – one is the immediate reaction in the center with 5. d4 cxd4 6. cxd4, and the other is the Stoltz Attack (5. Bc4 Nb6 Bb3).

Against the first of the two Black shouldn’t have problems to obtain equality with 6… d6 7. Bc4 Nb6, and after 8. Bb5 the simplest continuation is 8… dxe5 9. Nxe5 Bd7.

In the Stoltz Attack, White keeps the tension for a while, postponing the d2-d4 advance. Black usually opts for 6… c4 7. Bc2 d6 8. exd6 Qxd6, followed by g6, Bg7 and O-O, or looks for simplifications with 6… d5 7. exd6 Qxd6 8. O-O Be6, in either case with good prospects.

[Diagram: White to Move] H. Nakamura – M. Vachier-Lagrave, Caleta (rapid) 2016. Vachier-Lagrave was unaware of the nice opening trick, which was not forgiven by Nakamura, who obtained a substantial advantage. What is the best way for White to proceed from the diagrammed position?

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[April 16, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
King’s Indian Defense, Sämisch Variation – Normal Defense without 6… c5

[Line 154 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. f3 O-O 6. Be3 without 6… c5]

Against 6. Be3 in the Sämisch Variation of KID, Black has a choice among various popular setups that are covered in this opening line, apart from 6… c5, which is covered in our Line 155.

In our opinion, the most promising alternative to 6… c5 is 6… Nc6, followed by a7-a6, Rb8 and b7-b5. White could fight it with 7. Qd2 a6 8. Nge2, with the idea to meet 8… Rb8 with 9. Rc1. However, Black has an interesting option in 8… Na5 9. Nc1 Nd7 10. Nb3 c5, with decent play.

The other heavily explored variation is 6… e5, where White can choose between 7. Nge2 and 7. d5. Though Black has a few ways to fight for counterplay, White should be able to gain a slight edge if he plays accurately.

For those who want to avoid lengthy theoretical discussions we recommend 6… a6, with the intention to proceed with c7-c6 and b7-b5.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Zhang Zhiyang – Li Shilong, Xinghua Jiangsu 2011. Black’s Queen is trapped, but he has a hidden possibility to even secure a big advantage. How should he continue?

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[April 15, 2018] Updated Opening Article by GM Aleksandar Kovačević:
April 01, 2018 Revisited: Sicilian Defense, Paulsen Variation: Bastrikov Variation

Our original main line of this variation still follows A. Morozevich – I. Bukavshin, Moscow (rapid) 2015, a marvelous tactical masterpiece by the former World No. 2. New theoretically important developments have appeared since our last update that included a game between the former and the current challenger to the throne (S. Karjakin – F. Caruana, London 2017), so it seemed logical to revisit this double-edged line just two weeks after the previous installment.

[Diagram: Black to Move] The diagrammed position is from M. Vachier Lagrave – V. Anand, Karlsruhe/Baden Baden 2018, the most recent key game in this variation. The French superstar’s sneaky-great preparation streamlined the game to a line where engines constanly claim Black’s full equality. However, it turned out that there was a catch – Black did have the opportunity to equalize, but it was an extremely tricky one that proved too difficult to find over the board; Anand faltered, and MVL showed no mercy. Can you, by any chance, improve upon the former World Champion’s passive response (21… Rfe8)?

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[April 14, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Neo-Grünfeld Defense, Exchange & Counterthrust Variations

[Line 124 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. g3]

Early fianchetto is one of the popular choices for White that is mostly aimed against the Grünfeld Defense. Depending on a player’s taste, Grünfeld fans either support the d-pawn with c7-c6 or allow White to form a pawn center.

In the first case Black plays 3… c6 4. Bg2 d5, and White has many possibilities, but two of them stand out: the quiet 5. Qa4 with the idea cxd5, or an interesting pawn sacrifice 5. e3, introduced by Kramnik.

Black second choice is the Counterthrust Variation – 3… g6 4. Bg2 d5. Unlike other fianchetto systems, White deploys his Knight from g1 to e2: 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. e4 Nb6 7. Ne2. Black’s best reaction is 7… c5 8. d5, and here he usually plays O-O, e6, Na6 and exd5. Appropriate handling of these positions requires great accuracy from the players of Black, but with accurate treatment they can count on sufficient counterplay.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black pieces are terribly uncoordinated and White certainly has ample compensation, but he can achieve even more if he plays the right moves!

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