[April 01, 2018] Updated Opening Article by GM Aleksandar Kovačević:
November 2017 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 (including 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.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position is from A. Gajwa – A. David, Bhopal 2017. Black’s pin seems to have temporarily neutralized White’s activity. Can you reignite White’s attack?

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[March 31, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Reti Opening – King’s Indian Attack with 2… d5

[Line 026 : 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 d5]

Black has tried many possible moves against 3. Bg2, and among them 3… c6 is the most common choice. Other options, such as 3… g6, 3… e6 and 3… c5, are also reasonably popular, often transposing to positions covered in other opening lines. Apart from the variation 3… c6 4. O-O, covered in our Lines 027-028, move 4. c4 is also frequently played on the highest level, where we recommend one of the following replies: 4… dxc4, 4… g6, 4… Bg4 and 4… Bf5.

If Black accepts the pawn sacrifice with 4… dxc4, after 5. O-O Nbd7 6. Qc2 Nb6, White gets sufficient compensation both with 7. Na3 and 7. a4.

In case of 4… g6, Black can transpose to Line 131 with 5. d4 Bg7, or he can choose from an assortment of the independent variations, such as 5. b3 and 5. Qa4.

Common follow-ups against the other two above mentioned variations are 4… Bg4 5. Ne5 Bf5 6. cxd5 cxd5 7. Nc3 Nc6 and 4… Bf5 5. cxd5 cxd5 6. Qb3 Nc6 7. Qxb7 Bd7, in both cases with roughly equal chances.

[Diagram: White to Move] P. Aguirre – A. Wosch, corr. 2008White has sacrificed two pawns and has a strong initiative as a compensation. How should he proceed to gain a considerable edge?

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[March 30, 2018] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
Queen’s Indian Defense, Fianchetto Traditional

[Line 214 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Bb7]

Traditional Fianchetto in the Queen’s Indian Defense is still very popular, although 4… Ba6 is a more frequent choice among top-level players.

After 5. Bg2, Black has an interesting sideline 5… Bb4+, which offers quite decent prospects.

Against the main 5… Be7, White usually plays 6. O-O, which is covered in our Lines 216-218, or 6. Nc3, where Black’s various reactions, apart from 6… Ne4 (Line 215) are in the focus of this opening line.

After 5. Bg2 Be7 6. Nc3 O-O our recommendation for club level players is 7. Bf4, while 7. Qc2 leads to more complex positions. Against the latter option Black can choose between the sharp 7… c5 8. d5 exd5 9. Nh4, and a bit more quiet 7… Na6 8. e4 d5 9. cxd5 exd5 10. e5 Ne4.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position is from a famous game: V. Korchnoi – A. Karpov, Moscow (m/21) 1974. Karpov’s last move was Ra8-b8, missing his opponents threat. Korchnoi immediately pounced and converted his advantage to a full point in just a couple of moves!

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[March 29, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Slaviša Brenjo:
Ruy Lopez, Miscellaneous

[Line 369 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 without 3… a6, 3… Nf6, 3… f5]

Miscellaneous offbeat variations of Ruy Lopez are examined in our Line 369, while other more popular variations can be found elsewhere: 3… a6 in Lines 381-413, 3… Nf6 in Lines 371-380, and 3… f5 in our Line 370.

Smyslov Defense (3… g6) is certainly one of the best alternatives to the above mentioned lines. If White plays critical lines, he can count on a slight opening advantage, like in 4. d4 exd4 5. Bg5 Be7 6. Bxe7 Qxe7 7. Bxc6 dxc6 8. Qxd4, where his better pawn structure typically gives him the edge.

Cozio Defense (3… Nge7) can occasionally be seen even on the highest level, mostly thanks to Aronian’s treatment of these lines, but players of White have recently found promising ways to get preferable positions, e.g. with 4. Nc3 g6 5. d4 exd4 6. Nd5 Bg7 7. Bg5.

Bird’s Defense (3… Nd4) is employed at times by the ever creative Rapport though, in our opinion, White has several paths to securing long-term advantage.

From the other variations that can be found in Line 369, also worth mentioning are the Classical Defense (3… Bc5) and the Steinitz Defense (3… d6).

[Diagram: White to Move] S. Dvoirys – J. Meister, Podolsk 1992. Black was counting on disturbing White Queen ad infinitum with 14. Qh4(6) Rg4(6), but he missed his opponent’s powerful response! How did Dvoirys gain a decisive advantage?

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[March 28, 2018] Updated Opening Line by GM Bojan Vučković:
English Opening, Symmetrical Variation (Anti-Benoni Variation & Spielmann Defense)

[Line 116 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 without 3. d5]

For the players of White who want to avoid both Benoni and the Benko Gambit, 3. Nf3 is a very solid choice. Besides 3… e6 and 3… g6, which both transpose to other lines, Black can also continue with 3… cxd4, and after 4. Nxd4 he has a few good possibilities, depending on the taste.

An interesting way to simplify the position is 4… g6 5. Nc3 d5, which was tried in several games by Nepomniachtchi, Zvjagincev and Bok.

Moves like 4… Nc6, 4… a6 or 4… Qc7 lead to transpositions to different lines, and the so-called Kasparov Gambit 4… e5 5. Nb5 d5 6. cxd5 leads to White’s lasting advantage in the critical lines.

The main focus of the Line 116 is Spielmann Defense 4… e6, often connected with White’s pawn sacrifice, like in the main 5. g3 Qc7 6. Nc3 a6 7. Bg2 Qxc4. This position is quite sharp and White gets better development for the sacrificed pawn, but Black has sufficient resources to reach positions with equal chances.

[Diagram: White to Move] R. Dzindzichashvili – E. Lobron, New York 1988. White knight is under attack, but black pieces are uncoordinated, and White has an opportunity to launch a decisive attack.

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[March 27, 2018] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
Modern Defense – Averbakh Variation

[Line 047 : 1. d4 g6 2. c4 Bg7 3. Nc3 without 3… Nf6]

In the focus of Line 047 is the Averbakh Variation of the Modern Defense (3… d6). After the most logical 4. e4, along with the transposition to the King’s Indian Defense with 4… Nf6, Black has several plans at his disposal.

One possibility is 4… e5 5. Nf3 exd4 6. Nxd4, and now Black usually continues with 6… Nc6 7. Be3 Nge7, where White can make advantage both with the aggressive 8. h4, and with the more solid 8. Be2.

Black’s viable fourth move alternative is 4… Nc6, with the idea to exert pressure on the d4-square, but then both 5. Be3 and 5. d5 should lead to slight opening advantage for White.

Apart from the above mentioned lines, Black could also try the rare 3… c5, and after 4. d5 he could opt for 4… d6, 4… Bxc3+ or 4…. f5, but in all the cases White has means of securing opening advantage.

[Diagram: White to Move] D. Lintchevski – I. Kurnosov, Tyumen 2012. Black is behind in development and White has a chance to make use of that fact to gain a long-term initiative!

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