[February 16, 2019] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Caro-Kann Defense, Panov-Botvinnik Attack (incl. Carlsbad & Czerniak Lines)

[Line 304 : 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. c4]

After the usual 4… Nf6 5. Nc3, the most frequently played move is 5… e6 (Lines 305-306), while 5… Nc6 is the other reputable option for Black.

The old move 6. Nf3 has lost in popularity in recent years since the endgame arising after 4… Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Nf3 Bg4 7. cxd5 Nxd5 8. Qb3 Bxf3 9. gxf3 e6 10. Qxb7 Nxd4 11. Bxb5+ Nxb5 12. Qc6+ Ke7 13. Qxb5 Qd7 14. Nxd5+ Qxd5 15. Qxd5 exd5 is generally considered to be harmless for Black.

Black has also a couple of ways to reach a promising position after 6. Bg5. Both the Carlsbad Line (6… e6) and the Czerniak Lines (6… Qa5) lead to satisfactory positions for Black, but moves 6… dxc4 and 6… Be6 have even higher reputation. The following two variations are critical in this opening line: 6… dxc4 7. Bxc4 h6 8. Bh4 Qxd4 9. Qxd4 Nxd4 10. O-O-O e5 and 6… Be6 7. Nf3 g6 8. Bxf6 exf6, in both cases with roughly equal chances.

[Diagram: Black to Move] A. Naiditsch – P. Eljanov, Sibenik 2010. Eljanov made a bad move and even lost the game in a couple of moves, though he could have obtained a decisive advantage. How can Black win the game in the diagrammed position?

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[February 15, 2019] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
English Opening, Bremen System

[Line 011 : 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e5 without 3. Nf3]

The main variation of the English Opening is 3. Nf3, which is covered in our Lines 012-017.

Bremen System (3. g3) is quite a popular alternative, delaying the development of the Knight from g1. On the other hand, Black has three options of roughly the same strength. Smyslov System (3… Bb4) is a solid choice for the players of Black, typically followed by O-O and Re8. White has a few setups at his disposal, but generally Black should be able to equalize without difficulties. The other popular continuation is 3… d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. Bg2 Nb6, where White can transpose to Line 015 with 6. Nf3 Nc6, or go for the independent 6. e3 or 6. d3Keres Variation (3… c6) is our recommendation for club level players, where after 4. Nf3 e4 5. Nd4 the best option for Black is 5… Qb6, with decent prospects.

From other possibilities for White on the 3rd move, 3. e3 deserves attention, leading to a sort of a reversed Paulsen Variation. Again, Black has more then one setup giving him equal chances.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Black Queen is under attack and White is ready to continue with b4-b5, develop his light-squared Bishop and castle short. How should Black react to gain a longterm initiative?

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[February 14, 2019] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Nimzo-Indian Defense, Rubinstein Variation (incl. Taimanov & Keres Variations)

[Line 186 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 without 4… c5, 4… O-O]

The most frequent choice of the players of Black against this classical setup is 4… O-O, and it is covered in our Lines 189-194, while the other popular option 4… c5 can be found in Lines 187-188.

Move 4… b6 is also seen quite often in grandmaster practice. If White opts for 5. Nge2 Black has Fischer (5… Ba6), Romanishin-Psakhis (5… c5) and American Variations (5… Ne4) at his disposal. In case of 5. Nf3 the game usually continues with 5… Bb7 6. Bd3 O-O 7. O-O, where apart from the transposition to our Line 191 with 7… d5, Black also has a perfectly fine alternative in the Keres Variation (7… c5).

Taimanov Variation (4… Nc6) is a less investigated possibility since White is here typically able to obtain a small advantage. For example 5. Bd3 e5 6. Nge2 d5 7. cxd5 Nxd5 8. e4 Nb6 9. d5, and White has more space for his pieces.

[Diagram: White to Move] M. Drobka – K. Shoup, corr. 1997. Black’s position is without weaknesses, yet his King is vulnerable at the moment, allowing White to gain a big edge. How would you proceed as White?

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[February 13, 2019] Updated Opening Line by Aleksandar Kovačević:
Sicilian Defense, Najdorf Variation – Opocensky Variation with 6… e5

[Line 488 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be2 e5]

As a response to 6… e5 in the Opocensky Variation of the Najdorf Sicilian, White most often retreats the Knight to b3 – 7. Nb3.

After 7… Be7, White has a couple of interesting options: 8. Bg5, 8. Be3, 8. Qd3, while the most popular choice is 8. O-O. Variation 8. O-O O-O is covered in depth in our Lines 489-490, while 8… Be6 is an alternative of about the same strength. Position arising after 8. O-O Be6 9. f4 Qc7 10. a4 Nbd7 11. Kh1 O-O is complex, with roughly equal chances for both sides.

[Diagram: White to Move] D. Dubov – A. Grischuk, Moscow (blitz) 2014. Black needs only a tempo to consolidate and defend his weak dark squares, while keeping the bishop pair. How should White continue to gain a substantial edge?

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[February 12, 2019] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Bogo-Indian/Catalan Hybrid with 5. Bd2 Be7

[Line 231 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 Bb4+ 5. Bd2 Be7]

After the usual 6. Bg2, opting for 6… c6, followed by Nbd7 and either b7-b6 or d5xc4, is our recommendation for club level players. More common is 6… O-O 7. O-O c6, where the main 8. Bf4 is covered in our Lines 232-234. White has many alternatives on the 8th move and among them 8. Qc2 and 8. Qb3 are the most frequently played.

If White plays 8. Qc2 Black has a choice between 8… b6 and 8… Nbd7, in both cases with roughly even chances.

Black has the same possibilities after 8. Qb3, for example 8… b6 7. Nc3 Nbd7 8. Rac1 Bb7, with equality.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black’s pieces are entangled, which allows White to gain an edge with a nice blow. How should he proceed?

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[February 11, 2019] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Gruenfeld Defense, Exchange Variation (Classical Main Line incl. Sokolsky Variation)

[Line 145 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Bc4 c5 8. Ne2 Nc6 9. Be3 O-O 10. O-O with 10… Bg4, 10… Qc7]

The point of interest of our Line 145 are two highly investigated options for Black, on move ten.

After 10… Bg4, move 11. f3 is almost the exclusive response, where 11… Bd7 is an interesting sideline, and we recommend it to club level players. The main choice is 11… Na5, where, apart from 12. Bd3, White can also go for 12. Bxf7+ Rxf7 13. fxg4 Rxf1+ 14. Kxf1 or 12. Bd5. The main line goes 12. Bd3 cxd4 13. cxd4 Be6, where both the Sokolsky Variation (14. d5 Bxa1 15. Qxa1) and 14. Rc1 Bxa2 15. Qa4 lead to complications.

Positions arising after 10… Qc7 are a bit less forced. White usually replies 11. Rc1, and Black now has two moves that should be enough to obtain roughly equal chances – 11… Rd8 and 11… b6.

[Diagram: White to Move] This intriguing position comes from the analysis of the game D. Dvirnyy – T. Sanikidze, Rijeka 2010. Black has strong threats, yet it’s White’s move and, to win the game, he has to make the most out of his two pawns on the 7th rank.

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