[June 24, 2018] Updated Opening Article by GM Boris Avrukh:
May 2016 Revisited: Sicilian Defense, Najdorf Variation – Verbeterde List

In the original article our featured games were D. Frolyanov – L. Dominguez Perez, Sochi 2015 and M. Cornette – P. Idani, Reykjavik 2015. We have now updated the survey with several theoretically important over-the-board, engine and correspondence games, and it seems that the verdict remains the same: Black usually gets rich piece play after the pawn sacrifice, but he can hardly reach complete equality if White plays all the accurate moves.

[Diagram: Black to Move] The diagrammed position belongs to the line that represents our improvement on the abovementioned key game D. Frolyanov – L. Dominguez Perez, Sochi 2015. At first glance, the dangerous pin puts Black in a precarious position, but there is a way out of trouble for him. Can you find it?

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[June 23, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Modern Defense, Miscellaneous (incl. Pseudo-Austrian Attack)

[Line 292 : 1. e4 d6]

After 2. d4, apart from the Pirc Defense (2… Nf6), covered in our Lines 297-300, some players of Black choose Modern Defense (2… g6), delaying development of the Knight from g8. After 2. d4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 White has various setups at his disposal, and the most popular 4. Be3 is covered in our Line 293.

Pseudo-Austrican Attack (4. f4) is an aggressive approach from White. In the spirit of the variation is 4… a6 5. Nf3 b5 6. Bd3 Nd7, where both 7. e5 and 7. a4 should lead to small advantage for White.

White can also opt for a more positional continuation 4. Nf3 with a simple plan of development. A typical follow-up could be 4… a6 5. Be2 b5 6. O-O Bb7 7. Re1 Nd7 8. a4 b4 9. Na2, with a preferable position for White.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black’s position seems solid, but White has a way to make use of the fact that Black’s king has not castled yet.

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[June 22, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Catalan Defense, Open Defense (incl. Classical Line)

[Line 239 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 dxc4]

From the initial position of this opening line White has two not particularly promising sidelines: 5. Qa4+ and 5. Nc3 (transposing to Line 245).

After the main 5. Bg2, the most common options for Black are covered in separate opening lines: 5… a6 in Line 242, 5… Nc6 in Line 241 and 5… Bb4 in Line 240.

The idea of 5… c6 is defending the c4-pawn with b7-b5. White can oppose it with 6. Ne5, where 6… c5 gives Black good chances for equality.

Move 5… c5 is a frequently seen alternative. The game usually continues 6. O-O Nc6, where 7. dxc5 seems to give White a small edge.

On other possibilities, like 5… Bd7, 5… Nbd7 and 5… Be7, White typically gets an upper hand.

[Diagram: White to Move] R. Grossi – F. Senzacqua, corr. 2013. White has sacrificed three pawns to get this very promising position. How should he continue to secure himself a big advantage?

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[June 21, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Keres Indian (Pseudo-Nimzo)

[Line 053 : 1. d4 e6 without 2. e4]

Move 2. e4 leads to the French Defense (Lines 321-346), and after the other popular choice (2. Nf3) the game can turn to many different openings: 2… c5 3. e4 transposes to the Paulsen Sicilian; 2… c5 3. c4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 is the English Opening; after both 2… Nf6 and 2… d5 occur variations of the Queen’s Pawn Game.

Keres Indian 2. c4 Bb4+ is in the focus of this opening line (also known as the Pseudo-Nimzo Defense). Covering from the check with 3. Nc3 usually leads to the Nimzo-Indian after 3… Nf6. The other two sensible moves (3. Nd2 and 3. Bd2) both lead to promising positions for White.

After 3. Nd2 Black can not equalize with 3… Nf6 4. a3 Be7 5. e4 d5, since White seizes the initiative with 6. e5 Nfd7 7. Qg4. In other lines, Black often trades his dark-squared Bishop for the Knight on d2, thus leaving White with a small edge due to his bishop pair, just like in e. g. 3… c5 4. a3 Bxd2+ 5. Qxd2 cxd4 6. Qxd4.

Against 3. Bd2 Black can trade off the dark-squared Bishops with 3… Bxd2+ 4. Qxd2, but White remains slightly better after 4… Nf6 5. Nc3 d5 6. e3 O-O 7. cxd5 exd5 8. Bd3, like in the game R. Wojtaszek – D. Vocaturo, Doha 2015. Black’s best option is 3… a5 and transposition to the Bogo-Indian Defense after 4. Nf3 Nf6, since after 4. Nf3 d6 5. Nc3, with later a2-a3 typically gives White a small plus.

[Diagram: White to Move] F. Peralta – R. Reinaldo Castineria, Barcelona 2008. How can White make use of his pawn center to gain a big advantage?

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[June 20, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
French Defense, Winawer Variation (incl. Bogoljubow & Moscow Variation and Armenian Line)

[Line 344 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 c5]

The idea of the Bogoljubow Variation (5. Bd2) is to not permit doubling of White’s pawns on the c-file, and is, in our opinion, more suited for beginners.

Moscow Variation (5. Qg4) is not considered to be a very promising one for White, as Black typically gets good prospects after 5… Ne7 6. dxc5 Nbc6.

White’s main move is 5. a3, where besides 5… Bxc3+ Black has a tricky, though still playable, Armenian Line (5… Ba5).

After 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3, apart from 6… Ne7 (Lines 345-346), Black has a viable alternative in 6… Qa5 7. Bd2 Qa4. The idea of the Queen maneuver is to stop White from gaining space on the queenside with a3-a4, and is often followed by b7-b6 and Ba6. If White prevents his opponent’s plan with either 8. Qb1 or 8. Rb1, Black usually immediately closes the center with c5-c4.

[Diagram: White to Move] White exerts serious pressure on the kingside, but is there a way to make something concrete out of it?

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[June 19, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Vadim Zvjaginsev:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Exchange Variation

[Line 172 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bg5 Be7 without 6. Nf3]

Unlike the other variations of the Queen’s Gambit Declined, in the Exchange Variation white knight can be deployed to e2 after Bd3, which seems to create certain problems for Black, though Kramnik’s probably begs to differ, as this line has recently been his weapon of choice.

A very common follow-up is 6. e3 O-O 7. Bd3 Nbd7 8. Nge2 Re8 9. O-O, when 9… Nf8 seems inaccurate as it allows White a nice trick: 10. b4!, and the following line obviously favors White: 10… Bxb4 11. Bxf6 gxf6 12. Nxd5! Qxd5 13. Qa4. That’s why the players of Black should opt for 9… c6 first, and only after 10. Qc2 should they choose 10… Nf8. The classical plan for White begins with 11. f3 (preparing e3-e4), where Black has to be careful, though basically still has quite decent chances.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Rook on e8 is under attack, but Black has better ways to proceed than to cover it with Bd7. How can Black create big problems to his opponent?

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