[April 07, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense with 2. Nf3, incl. O’Kelly & Nimzowitsch Variations and Hyperaccelerated Dragon

[Line 421 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 without 2… d6, 2… e6, 2… Nc6]

Line 421 covers Black’s fourth move sidelines, while main systems can be found in the following lines: 2… d6 is available in our Lines 457-500, 2… e6 in Lines 440-456 and 2… Nc6 in Lines 422-439.

Hyperaccelerated Dragon (2… g6) is often employed as a way to avoid the Rossolimo Variation of the Sicilian Defense. Apart from transposing to the Marozy Bind with 3. c4 Bg7 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 Nc6, White can also choose among several setups:

Against 3. c3 Black can respond actively with 3… d5 4. exd5 Qxd5, and the arising position is typical of the Alapin Variation setups.

The most ambitious system for White is 3. d4, where 3… Bg7 is not advisable in view of 4. dxc5 Qa5+ 5. c3 Qxc5 6. Na3; since Black Queen is exposed, white pieces quickly become active, i. e. Be3, and Nb5 is coming. Black’s best choice is 3… cxd4 4. Qxd4 Nf6 5. e5 Nc6 6. Qa4 Nd5, and after several accurate moves he should be able to equalize.

From other sidelines that could be found in this opening line, particularly worth mentioning are O’Kelly (2… a6) and Nimzowitsch Variations (2… Nf6). Though interesting as opening surprise weapons, White can typically get an upper hand with precise play.

[Diagram: White to Move] Coordination of black pieces is evidently poor, but the Knight on c7 and the b2-pawn are under attack. How should White proceed?

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[April 06, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
Ruy Lopez, Morphy Defense – Miscellaneous (incl. Modern Steinitz Defense, Caro Variation & Schliemann Defence Deferred)

[Line 383 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 without 4… Nf6]

Apart from the main variation of Ruy Lopez (4… Nf6) covered in our Lines 384-413, there are also a couple of notable alternatives for Black.

Modern Steinitz Defense (4… d6) is solid, yet somewhat passive option. The most promising reply is 5. O-O, where the main line goes 5… Bd7 6. d4 exd4 7. Nxd4 b5 8. Nxc6 Bxc6 9. Bb3, followed by c2-c4, Nc3 and Re1, with a small space advantage for White. There are also other possibilities, such as: 5. c3, 5. Bxc6 and 5. c4, but, with accurate play, Black is generally able to get good prospects there.

An interesting sideline 4… Nge7 is appropriate for club level players, since it does not include too much opening theory. White is generally slightly better after 5. c3 g6 6. d4 exd4 7. cxd4 b5 8. Bc2, though Black is not without his chances.

The idea of the Caro Variation (4… b5) is to trade the Knight for the light-squared Bishop after 5. Bb3 Na5, followed by Nxb3. White gets better piece development and, consequently – more promising positions.

Schliemann Defense Defered (4… f5) leads to a dubious position for Black after 5. d4 exd4 6. e5 Bc5 7. O-O, with more than sufficient compensation for White.

[Diagram: White to Move] Z. Hracek – R. Biolek, Czech Republic 2010. Black’s kingside is weakened, which allows White to gain a big edge with a nice tactical trick. Can you find it?

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[April 05, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
King’s Indian Defense, Sidelines & Smyslov Variation

[Line 150 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 without 4. e4]

Line 150 deals with White’s various sidelines in the Classical King’s Indian Defense.

The Smyslov Variation (4. Nf3 O-O 5. Bg5) is a solid choice for White, which is easy to adopt and hence quite suitable for beginners. After 5… d6 6. e3, Black often chooses one of the following two plans: 6… c5, followed by chasing the dark-squared Bishop with h7-h6, g6-g5 and Nh5, and the other option is 6… Nbd7, with e7-e5 and Re8.

The other popular White’s setup that is covered in this Line is 4. Nf3 O-O 5. e3, and again Black has two plans, quite similar to the above mentioned ones: 5… c5 6. d5 d6 7. Be2 e6, or 5… d6 6. Be2 Nbd7 7. O-O e5; both plans lead to approximately equal positions.

[Diagram: White to Move] E. Tomashevsky – D. Kokarev, Krasnoyarsk 2007. Tomashevsky missed a great opportunity to deal a strong blow – can you find it?

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[April 04, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
French Defense, McCutcheon & Classical Variations, incl. Chatard-Alekhine Attack

[Line 340 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 without 4… dxe4]

After 4. Bg5, Black can basically choose among three popular lines: the Burn Variation (4… dxe4), covered in our Lines 341-342, Classical (4… Be7) and McCutcheon Variation (4… Bb4).

After 4… Be7 5. e5 Nfd7 Black needs to be well-prepared for a very complicated Chatard-Alekhine Attack 6. h4, as well as for calmer 6. Bxe7 Qxe7 7. f4. White has easier play, though Black has sufficient resources to get satisfactory positions.

In the McCutcheon Variation double-edged positions occur quite often, especially in the modern line after 4… Bb4 5. e5 h6 6. Be3 Ne4 7. Qg4. White often sacrifices a pawn, but in return either black King has to stay in the center if he defends the g7-pawn with 7… Kf8, or his kingside becomes weak after 7… g6 or 7… g5. In our opinion, the best choice is probably 7… g6, though after 8. a3 Bxc3+ 9. bxc3 Nxc3 10. Bd3 White has at least sufficient compensation.

[Diagram: White to Move] This position has appeared even in a few grandmasters games: last Black’s move was careless h6-h5, and White’s accurate reaction, based on a sequence of precise moves, can guarantee him a longterm advantage.

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[April 03, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Slav Defense, Chebanenko Variation with 5. a4

[Line 099 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 a6 5. a4]

White’s idea with 5. a4 is to prevent his opponent from playing dxc4 and supporting that pawn with b7-b5. However, playing a4 weakens the b4-square, and Black often makes use of it by deploying his Bishop or Knight on that place. Black’s typical reaction is 5… e6, and now White has a wide range of choices.

If White opts for a kingside fianchetto with 6. g3, he loses just enough time to allow his opponent’s counteraction in the center with 6… dxc4 7. Bg2 c5, which gives Black a quite satisfactory position.

Against more solid 6. e3, Black has a strong response in 6… c5 7. Bd3 Nc6, and the weakness on b4 gives him sufficient compensation for White’s slight developmental advantage.

In our opinion White’s best try is 6. Bg5, where Black has several possibilities of more or less equal strength: 6… a5, 6… h6 and 6… Nbd7.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Black sacrificed an exchange in the early stage of the game, and now needs to play a few accurate moves to secure a draw. How should he continue?

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[April 02, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Ragozin Variation with 5. cxd5 exd5 6. Bg5 Nbd7

[Line 251 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Bb4 5. cxd5 exd5 6. Bg5 Nbd7 without 7. e3]

Since 7. e3 is covered in our Line 252, Line 251 deals with sidelines, as well as some other popular 7th move choices for White in the Ragozin Variation.

For instance, for club level players we recommend two interesting plans:

Out first recommendation is 7. Rc1 with e2-e3, Bd3 and O-O, since 7… c5 is not a particularly good answer, as it would be against 7. e3; i. e. after 7. Rc1 c5 8. dxc5 White gets the upper hand. However, Black can react by opting for 7. Rc1 c6 8. e3 Qa5, with good counterplay.

The other suggestion for White is the not too common 7. Qa4. In our opinion, Black should respond with 7… c5 8. dxc5 Bxc3+ 9. bxc3, with sufficient compensation for the sacrificed pawn.

The main variation of this opening line is 7. Qc2 h6 8. Bh4 g5 9. Bg3 Ne4. Black creates weaknesses on the kingside, but gets bishop pair as a compensation. The game could continue e.g. with 10. Nd2 Nxg3 11. hxg3 Nb6 12. a3 Bf8, like in a recent top-level game: M. Vachier Lagrave – A. Giri, Shamkir 2015.

[Diagram: White to Move] P. Eljanov – Y. Kryvoruchko, Rogaška Slatina 2011. Black’s last move was careless Rf8-e8, overlooking Eljanov’s strong response. How did White capitalize on his opponent’s mistake?

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