[April 19, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
Sicilian Defense, Richter-Rauzer Variation – Main Line with 7… a6 8. O-O-O Bd7

[Line 476 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Bg5 e6 7. Qd2 a6 8. O-O-O Bd7]

From the initial position of this opening line there are two substantially different continuations for White – 9. f4 and 9. f3.

The first of the two is more direct, where after 9. f4 b5 10. Bxf6 gxf6 11. Kb1 Qb6 12. Nxc6 Bxc6 occurs the critical position. Here, White usually opts for either 13. f5 or 13. Qe1, while 13. Bd3 is also quite possible. The general evaluation is that these positions are easier to play with White, though Black is able to get sufficient counterplay with a few accuracies.

The other option 9. f3 is a more strategical approach, and in this line Black also needs to be careful not to get into inferior positions. The two most popular replies after 9… Be7 are prophylactic 10. Kb1, and the Bishop retreat 10. Be3, followed by g2-g4 and later g4-g5.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black Bishop on h6 is active and it seems like Black has a sufficient compensation for the pawn. Yet, there is a way for White to gain an advantage with an unexpected blow! Can you find it?

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[April 18, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Semi-Slav Defense – Stoltz Variation (Shabalov Attack)

[Line 281 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Qc2 Bd6 7. g4]

In the Shabalov Attack, which arises after 7. g4, White reveals his intentions of exerting a kingside pressure early. There are several Black’s replies of about the same strength.

Line 7… h6 is currently the most popular one, where after the usual 8. Rg1, move 8… b5 is an interesting alternative to the classical central strike with  8… e5.

The other logical plan for Black is 7… dxc4 8. Bxc4 e5 with a double-edged game.

Accepting the gambit with 7… Nxg4 can be recommended to those with strong nerves. White gets sufficient compensation after 8. Rg1, but Black’s chances should not be worse.

Variations 7… Bb4 8. Bd2 Qe7 and 7… O-O are a bit easier to handle, so they are our recommendations for club level players and beginners.

[Diagram: White to Move] In this intriguing position both white Knights are active, but also under attack. What is the best way for White to redeploy the Knights, and gain a big advantage?

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[April 17, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Dutch Defense, Fianchetto Variation (Stonewall & Classical)

[Line 049 : 1. d4 f5 2. g3]

After the usual 2… Nf6 3. Bg2, the main line of the Dutch Defense – 3… g6 is covered in our Line 050. Move 3… e6 is another popular choice for Black, where his plan often includes d7-d5 and c7-c6, leading to the Stonewall Variation. There are several of options for Black against the most common 3… e6 4. c4, among them 4… c64… d5 and 4… Be7.

The idea of 4… c6 is to postpone the d7-d5 advance until the Knight from g1 develops to f3, while keeping an extra option after 5. Nh3: 5… d6 followed by e6-e5.  Black can also opt for 5. Nh3 d5, where White’s position is slightly preferable, though its closed nature gives Black good practical chances.

If Black immediately decides to play the Stonewall setup with 4… d5, he gets another interesting possibility in 5. Nh3 Bd6, postponing the c7-c6. There is also 5. Nf3 Bd6 6. O-O O-O 7. b3 b6, followed by Bb7 and Ne4, with good prospects for Black.

In case of 4… Be7, move 5. Nh3 appears to be the most precise reply, often leading to positions arising in either 4… c6 or 4… d5 lines.

[Diagram: White to Move] A well known “trick” that allows White to seize a longterm initiative. What would you play for White?

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[April 16, 2017] Pick of the Week by GM Boris Avrukh:
March 2015 Revisited: Open Slav Defense, Krause Attack (9. h4!)

After the original key game A. Korobov – D. Šolak, Jerusalem 2015, a flurry of theoretically important games followed, so this update is highly relevant for modern chess opening theory. While everything is quite interesting, make sure not to miss the following games: L. Aronian – V. Anand, Leuven (blitz) 2016, Ding Liren – Bu Xiangzhi, Shenzhen 2015 and Li Shilong – Yu Ruiyuan, China 2015.

[Diagram: Black to Move] M. Parligras – D. Šolak, Kragujevac 2016. This is probably an exercise for advanced players: White has no visible weaknesses, and is a healthy pawn up. However, Black can still seize the initiative, but it’s far from obvious. Can you find an improvement for Black in the diagrammed position on Šolak’s otherwise really impressive play?

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[April 15, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Queen’s Pawn Game (Chigorin Variation, etc.)

[Line 056 : 1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 without 2… Nf6]

Apart from 2… Nf6, transfering to our Line 080, there are also other perfectly fine alternatives: 2… e6, 2… c6, 2… Bf5 and 2… c5.

By playing 2… e6 Black offers a transposition to the Queen’s Gambit Declined, occurring after 3. c4 (Line 063). In case of 3. g3, Black can opt for 3… c5 where after 4. Bg2 cxd4 5. O-O Nf6 6. Nxd4 e5 7. Nb3 Be6 arises a position resembling the reversed Gruenfeld Defense.

Move 2… c6 is suitable for the players of Slav Defense. White can continue in the spirit of London System with 3. Bf4, where after 3… Bf5 Black should equalize without difficulties.

For beginners we recommend 2… Bf5, and after 3. c4 e6 4. Nc3 Nc6 the ensuing position is roughly equal.

The immediate 2… c5 can be seen even in grandmaster practice. White usually replies with either 3. c4 or 3. dxc5, and though this line is easier to play with White, players of Black are typically able to get satisfying positions.

Against the Chigorin Variation (2… Nc6) White can get a small edge both with 3. c4 (Line 057), and 3. Bf4 Bf5 4. c4.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black pieces are passive but no concrete threats against him are visible at first sight. However, White has a hidden resource that leads to an almost decisive advantage…

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[April 14, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
Gruenfeld Defense, Exchange Variation (Sidelines)

[Line 140 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4]

After the usual 5… Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 a big branching arises in the Exchange Variation of the Gruenfeld Defense. The two main moves – 7. Bc4 (Lines 144-145) and 7. Nf3 (Lines 141-143) are covered separately. From other options 7. Be3 is also quite common, while 7. Qa4+, 7. Bb5+ and 7. Bg5 are interesting sidelines.

By playing 7. Be3 White wants to develop his queenside first and then defend the c3-pawn with either Qd2 or Rc1. A typical continuation would be 7… c5 8. Qd2 Qa5, where both 9. Rc1 and 9. Rb1 deserve serious attention.

Move 7. Qa4+ was introduced on the highest level by Kramnik. The idea of this check is to disrupt harmonious development of black pieces. Replies 7… Nd7 and 7… Qd7 are a bit more accurate than 7… c6 and 7… Bd7.

In case of 7. Bb5+ the easiest way for Black to get a satisfactory position is by playing 7… c6 8. Ba4 O-O 9. Ne2 c5.

The idea of 7. Bg5 is similar to 7. Be3. The Bishop from g5 aims at e7, but the d4-pawn is less protected than when the Bishop is on e3. An exemplary line may follow 7. Bg5 c5 8. Rc1 O-O 9. Nf3 Bg4, with mutual play.

[Diagram: Black to Move] In the game A. Karpov – G. Kasparov, Lyon/New York (m/17) 1990 Karpov avoided his opponent’s trap and instead of 14. Rb1xb7 (shown in the diagram), he played a stronger move 14. Nf3. How should have Black reacted in the diagrammed position to gain a decisive advantage?

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