[July 16, 2017] Updated Opening Articles by Aleksandar Kovačević & Slaviša Brenjo
Oct/Nov 2016 & Feb 2017 Revisited: Sicilian Rossolimo, Ruy Lopez: Keres Variation & Closed Catalan

Multiple important developments in the variations examined in our articles simply required updating games in several opening surveys. The following games (including the one from the diagrammed exercise) are theoretically relevant, in our opinion:

Sicilian Defense, Rossolimo Variation: B. Deac – A. Moiseenko, Bastia 2016

Ruy Lopez, Keres Variation: S. Mazur – M. Matlakov, Minsk 2017

Closed Catalan: E. Can – D. Cherednichenko, Minsk 2017

[Diagram: Black to Move] The diagrammed position is from a top-level grandmaster game A. Areshchenko – Z. Hráček, Hungary 2017. Removing the attacked knight from f5 leads to disaster, after White captures the pawn on e7. How can Black improve on Hráček’s play and create reasonable counterplay?

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[July 15, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Aleksandar Kovačević:
Sicilian Defense, Najdorf Variation – Opocensky Variation with 6… e5 (Main Line with 9. Kh1)

[Line 490 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be2 e5 7. Nb3 Be7 8. O-O O-O 9. Kh1]

Moving the King to the h1-square is a useful prophylactic move in the Opocensky Variation of the Najdorf. Depending on Black’s reaction, White may continue with f2-f3, f2-f4, or even with g2-g4 in some cases. Though Black has many possibilities on the 9th move, the following two moves are his most common choices: 9… b6 and 9… Nc6.

If Black opts for the fianchetto development of his light-squared Bishop, the game typically continues 9… b6 10. Be3 Bb7 11. f3 b5, and Black is now ready to meet 12. a4 with 12… b4 13. Nd5 Nxd5 14. exd5 Nd7, with roughly equal chances.

Move 9… Nc6 is often followed by Be6 and/or a7-a5 or b7-b5, with mutual play.

Move 9… Qc7 should be avoided because of 10. g4! Against 9… Be6 White seizes the initiative with 10. f4, while after 9… b5 White gets the upper hand by playing 10. a4 Bb7 11. Nd5.

[Diagram: White to Move] S. Azarov – R. Wojtaczek, Czechia 2010. If White proceeds with a2-a4, Black will react with b5-b4, and the position would be roughly balanced. What is a better choice for White, leading to a clear edge?

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[July 14, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Caro-Kann Defense, Breyer Variation & Two Knights Attack

[Line 301 : 1. e4 c6 without 2. c4, 2. d4]

Apart from the main line of the Caro-Kann Defense 2. d4 (covered in Lines 303-320), and the Accelerated Panov 2. c4 (Line 302), White has at east two more playable options – Two Knights Attack (2. Nc3 d5 3. Nf3) and the Breyer Variation (2. d3).

In case of 2. Nc3 d5 3. Nf3, the most promising replies are 3… Bg4 4. h3 Bxf3 5. Qxf3 e6, 3… Nf6 4. e5 Ne4 and 3… dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nf6. In any of these lines Black is able to obtain good prospects without difficulties.

The Breyer Variation is not very ambitious, and often leads to positions resembling the Reti Opening. The game often proceeds with 2. d3 d5 3. Nd2 e5 4. Ngf3 Bd6, where White usually chooses between the concrete 5. d4 and a more modest 5. g3. Again, Black should equalize rather easily.

[Diagram: Black to Move] A. Cosentino – M. Brzoza, corr. 2011. Black needs to act quickly if he wants to make the most of his initiative on the kingside. What would you propose?

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[July 13, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
Petroff Defense, Classical Attack (incl. Marshall, Mason & Staunton Variations)

[Line 354 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. d4]

After the introductory moves, the game usually continues with 5… d5 6. Bd3, where besides 6… Nc6 and 6… Be7 7. O-O Nc6 covered in Lines 355-357, Black has a popular option in the Marshall Variation (6… Bd6). A big branching of this opening line occurs after 6… Bd6 7. O-O O-O 8. c4 c6. White now has a choice between 9. Qc2, 9. Re1, 9. cxd5 cxd5 10. Nc3 and 9. Nc3 Nxc3 10. bxc3.

Variation 9. Qc2 seems to be the most unpleasant for Black since after 9… Na6 10. a3 White is able to gain edge in each of the following lines: 10… Re8 11. Nc3 Bg4 12. Nxe4 dxe4 13. Bxe4 Bxf3 14. Bxf3 Qh4 15. g3 Qxd4 16. Be3, 10… f5 11. Nc3 Nc7 12. b4 and 10… Bg4 11. Ne5 Bf5 12. b4.

Staunton Variation (9. Re1) is another possibility deserving serious attention, though Black is able to get roughly equal chances here with accurate play. For instance, after 9. Re1 Bf5 10. Qb3 Qd7 11. Nc3 Nxc3 12. Bxf5 Qxf5 13. bxc3 b6 Black should hold without difficulties.

White gets better prospects in the Mason Variation (6… Be7 7. O-O O-O) with 8. Re1 Bf5 9. Nbd2

[Diagram: White to Move] I. Nepomniachtchi – Li Chao, Sharjah 2017. Nepomniachtchi came out with a fantastic opening preparation against Li Chao, which gave him an almost decisive advantage out of the opening. What do you think – what did he play in the diagrammed position?

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[July 12, 2017] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Chigorin Defense & Albin Countergambit

[Line 057 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 without 2… dxc4, 2… c6, 2… e6]

This update is a small tribute to our late colleague GM Dragan Paunović. In memory of our dear friend, our Editorial Board will continue updating his lines and articles.

Aside from the mainstream openings covered in other opening lines: 2… c6 (Lines 064-072), 2… e6 (Lines 061-063) and 2… dxc4 (Lines 058-060), Black also has some other popular alternatives, which are covered here.

In response to the Chigorin Defense (2… Nc6) White has a couple of ways to obtain slightly better prospects. The main line goes 3. Nc3 dxc4 4. Nf3 Nf6 5. e4, while among other notable options we recommend considering 3. Nf3 Bg4 4. Nc33. Nf3 Bg4 4. cxd5 Bxf3 5. gxf3 and 3. cxd5 Qxd5 4. e3 e5 5. Nc3 Bb4 6. Bd2 Bxc3 7. bxc3.

Albin Countergambit (2… e5) allows White to gain a longterm edge with 3. dxe5 d4 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. Nbd2 Nge7 6. Nb3.

Variations 2… c5 and 2… Bf5 are rarely seen in grandmaster practice, since White generally gets an easy game in both cases.

[Diagram: White to Move] White gets a small edge with 22. Rg1 Qh5+ 23. Kf1, but there is a stronger continuation for him, leading to a considerable advantage. Can you find it?

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[July 11, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Aleksandar Kovačević:
Queen’s Indian Defense, Quiet Line

[Line 223 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Ba6 5. b3 without 5… Bb7, 5… Bb4+]

The most frequently played 5… Bb4+ is covered in our Lines 225-228, while another popular option 5… Bb7 is dealt with in Line 224.

The main point of interest of this opening line is 5… d5, where 6. cxd5 allows Black to obtain a comfortable game with 6… exd5 7. Bg2 Bb4+ 8. Bd2 Bxd2+ 9. Qxd2 Ne4 10. Qb2 O-O. After a more common 6. Bg2 Black should proceed 6… Bb4+ with even chances, while 6… dxc4 leads to a longterm advantage for White after 7. Ne5 Bb4+ 8. Kf1.

Another notable option for Black is 5… b5. After 6. cxb5 Bxb5 7. Bg2 Bb4+ 8. Bd2 a5 9. O-O the ensuing position is roughly equal, though a bit easier to handle with white pieces. Another possibility 6. Nbd2 seems to be more promising, since White gets more than adequate compensation after 6… c5 7. Bg2 Nc6 8. d5 exd5 9. cxd5 Nxd5 10. Ne4.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black pieces lack coordination, which allows White to make a final blow and get a full point. Can you find the best continuation for White?

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