[December 07, 2018] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
English Opening, Nimzowitsch Variation

[Line 005 : 1. c4 e5 without 2. Nc3]

There are a couple of popular alternatives to 2. Nc3 (Lines 006-017), which is the main option in the English Opening.

Early kingside fianchetto 2. g3 occurs quite often even on the highest level. After 2… Nc6 a game often transposes to the lines stemming from 2. Nc3; for example position arising after 2… Nc6 3. Bg2 Nf6 4. Nc3 is covered in our Line 011. For club level players we recommend 2… c6, where after the most common 3. d4 Black is able to equalize with 3… e4 4. Nc3 d5. The most frequently seen follow-up is 2… Nf6 3. Bg2, where some of the ways for Black to gain satisfactory positions are 3… c6 4. d4 Bb4+, 3… d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. Nf3 Nc6 6. O-O Nb6 (preventing White from playing d2-d4) and 3… h6!? 4. Nc3 Bb4.

In the Nimzowitsch Variation (2. Nf3) Black is fine both after 2… Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Bb4+, and 2… e4 3. Nd4 Nc6.

[Diagram: White to Move] L. Portisch – Lj. Ljubojević, La Valetta (ol) 1980. Portisch obtained a small advantage with 9. cxd5 Bxd5 10. Bxd5 Nd4 11. Bg2 Qxb5 12. Qxb5 Rxb5 13. Rb1. However, there is an even stronger continuation for White in the diagrammed position – can you find it?

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[December 06, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Slav Defense, Modern Line (incl. Breyer Variation)

[Line 086 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 without 4. Nc3, 4. e3]

Main lines of the Slav Defense are covered in other opening lines: 4. Nc3 in Lines 098-111, and 4. e3 in Lines 088-097.

Move 4. Qc2 is also a frequently seen continuation. Black has a couple of solid replies, among them 4… g6, with the idea Bf5, is our recommendation for club level players, while 4… e6 transposes to Line 072. The most common option is 4… dxc4, where after 5. Qxc4 move 5… Bf5 is dealt with separately in Line 087. The alternative 5… Bg4 is of about the same strength, and White’s usual reactions are 6. Nbd2 and 6. Nc3.

The idea of 4. Qb3 is similar to 4. Qc2 – defending the c4-pawn. Besides 4… dxc4 (which leads to the above described position after 5. Qxc4), players of Black often opt for 4… e6, where their opponents typically choose one of the following: 5. Bg5, 5. Nc3 (Line 265) or 5. g3.

Breyer Variation (4. Nbd2) is an unambitious option, where Black can equalize without difficulties with 4… Bf5.

[Diagram: Black to Move] I. Caspi – E. Postny, Aix-les-Bains 2011. White’s last move was 12. f4, attacking both black Knights at a time. However, Black has a nice countermeasure that leads to a position with mutual chances.

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[December 05, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Nimzo-Indian Defense, Steiner, Spielmann, Saemisch & Leningrad Variations

[Line 173 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 without 4. e3, 4. Qc2, 4. Nf3, 4. f3]

The most frequent choices of White are dealt with in the separate opening lines: 4. e3 in Lines 186-194, 4. Qc2 in Lines 175-185, 4. f3 in Line 174, and 4. Nf3 in Lines 198-199.

Black has a couple of ways to get promising positions in the Leningrad Variation (4. Bg5) and 4… c5 is the most principal option.

Saemisch Variation (4. a3) forces Black to concede the pair of Bishops 4… Bxc3+ 5. bxc3, but White’s pawn structure gets weakened in return.

Spielmann Variation (4. Qb3) is rarely seen nowadays since Black equalizes comfortably, and 4… c5 seams like the easiest way to do it.

If White opts for Steiner System (4. g3), the game transposes to Line 170 after 4… O-O 5. Bg2 d5, where again Black should not have problems to get even chances.

[Diagram: White to Move] S. Mamedyarov – N. Grandelius, Rogaska Slatina 2011. Apart from the anticipated 8. c4xd5 White has a much stronger reply, leading to a big advantage. So, what is the best move for White in the diagrammed position?

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[December 04, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
French Defense, Advance Variation

[Line 323 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5]

Though Black has a couple of options at his disposal, move 3… c5 is the most common choice. After 4. c3, continuation 4… Qb6 5. Nf3 Bd7, with the idea Bd7-b5, is our recommendation for club level players.

The game usually goes 3… c5 4. c3 Nc6 5. Nf3, where moves 5… Bd7 (Line 324) and 5… Qb6 are of about the same strength. Against the latter option, 6. a3, 6. Be2 and 6. Na3 are frequently seen, and in any case with complex strategical battles.

The alternatives 4… Nh6 and 4… Nge7 are more promising for White, for example 4… Nh6 5. Bd3 cxd4 6. Bxh6 gxh6 7. cxd4 and 4… Nge7 5. Na3 cxd4 6. cxd4 Nf5 7. Nc2, with a small edge.

[Diagram: White to Move] F. Caruana – F. Vallejo Pons, Sao Paolo/Bilbao 2012. Black has just sacrificed a Knight on b4, and wants to make pressure on the pinned c3-Knight. How should White continue to get a strong initiative?

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[December 03, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
Sicilian Defense, Paulsen Variation – Taimanov-Bastrikov Variation with 5. Nc3 (incl. Four Knights Variation)

[Line 450 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 without 5… Qc7, 5… a6]

The most frequently played lines of the Paulsen Variation are 5… Qc7 (Lines 453-456) and 5… a6 (Lines 451&452), while from other notable moves we point out 5… Nf6 and 5… d6.

Against 5… Nf6 White can try 6. Ndb5, where Black can transpose to the main line of the Lasker Variation with 6… d6 7. Bf4 e5 8. Bg5, while after the alternative 6… Bb4 7. a3 Bxc3+ 8. Nxc3 d5 9. exd5 exd5 10. Bd3 White gets a small but lasting advantage. Move 6. Nxc6 seems like a more principal continuation. After 6… bxc6 7. e5 Nd5 8. Ne4 occurs a highly dynamical position that is generally easier to play with White pieces.

Move 5… d6 is a bit passive sideline for Black. In case of 6. Be3 a game often transposes to the Scheveningen Variation with 6… Nf6. The other promising option for White is 6. g4, resembling the Keres Attack. After the usual 6… a6 7. Be3 Nge7 8. f4 the arising position is in White’s favor.

[Diagram: White to Move] If White plays Nd2-c4, Black will parry his opponent’s threats with Ne7-c8. How can White achieve more and seize the initiative?

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[December 02, 2018] Busted: Opening Survey by GM Slaviša Brenjo
November 2014 Revisited: Gruenfeld Defense, Brinckmann Attack with 7… Qa5!?

During live broadcast of the game between Gelfand and Vachier-Lagrave from Tashkent 2014, our Editorial Board immediately noticed that MVL’s choice had been dismissed by GM Avrukh in his CHOPIN Line 138 as a rather dubious one. During the post-game analyses and interviews the general
verdict had been more or less favorable for White, so our editor made a decision to
subject the entire line to a bit of theoretical scrutiny out of sheer curiosity.

Bearing that in mind, this article is meant to resolve the following dilemma: did the French No. 1 simply outprepare the rest of the field, or should we treat his choice as a one-time surprise that generally worked in the featured game? After the update, and quite a number of over-the-board, correspondence and engine games, we believe in the latter.

[Diagram: White to Move] Just a simple question: should White capture on e6, or refrain from it?

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