[April 14, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Neo-Grünfeld Defense, Exchange & Counterthrust Variations

[Line 124 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. g3]

Early fianchetto is one of the popular choices for White that is mostly aimed against the Grünfeld Defense. Depending on a player’s taste, Grünfeld fans either support the d-pawn with c7-c6 or allow White to form a pawn center.

In the first case Black plays 3… c6 4. Bg2 d5, and White has many possibilities, but two of them stand out: the quiet 5. Qa4 with the idea cxd5, or an interesting pawn sacrifice 5. e3, introduced by Kramnik.

Black second choice is the Counterthrust Variation – 3… g6 4. Bg2 d5. Unlike other fianchetto systems, White deploys his Knight from g1 to e2: 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. e4 Nb6 7. Ne2. Black’s best reaction is 7… c5 8. d5, and here he usually plays O-O, e6, Na6 and exd5. Appropriate handling of these positions requires great accuracy from the players of Black, but with accurate treatment they can count on sufficient counterplay.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black pieces are terribly uncoordinated and White certainly has ample compensation, but he can achieve even more if he plays the right moves!

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[April 13, 2018] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
Queen’s Indian Defense, Classical Variation (Euwe & Kramnik Variations, Taimanov & Polugaevsky Gambits)

[Line 216 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Bb7 5. Bg2 Be7 6. O-O]

Black doesn’t have an adequate alternative to 6… O-O, and the main move here (7. Nc3) is dealt with in our Line 217.

Kramnik Variation (7. Re1), with the idea Nc3 and e2-e4, is a modern treatment of the Classical Variation of QID. Black has a few ways to parry it, one of which is 7… Na6 8. Nc3 d5 9. cxd5 exd5 10. Bf4 c5.

For the tactically-minded players we recommend Polugaevsky Gambit (7. d5 exd5 8. Nh4), which leads to very complex positions. The similar looking Taimanov Gambit (7. d5 exd5 8. Nd4) is considered to be promising for Black, since after, for example, 8… Bc6 9. Nxc6 dxc6, Black shouldn’t have problems to equalize.

From other notable lines worth mentioning we will recommend the Euwe Variation (7. b3), which is in our opinion suitable for club level players, though it has recently been seen even in some top-level games, such as A. Grischuk – L. Aronian, London 2015.

[Diagram: White to Move] L. Polugaevsky – V. Korchnoi, Buenos Aires (m/12) 1980. The diagrammed position is both instructive and theoretically relevant. How does White gain a significant long-term initiative?

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[April 12, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Vadim Zvjaginsev:
Sicilian Defense, Classical Variation with 6. Be2 e6

[Line 470 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Be2 e6]

Classical Variation of the Sicilian Defense stands for very flexible and resourceful opening, for either side.

White’s setup usually consists of Be3, f2-f4, Kh1 and Qe1-g3, with kingside pressure, though Black has a few plans to counter it.

In this variation 7. O-O Be7 8. Be3 O-O 9. f4 is generally considered to be the main line. Black can continue with a7-a6, Qc7, Nxd4 and b5, transposing to the Classical Scheveningen covered in our Lines 486-487.

An alternative plan for Black could be 9… Qc7 10. Kh1 Nxd4 11. Bxd4 e5 with a7-a6, or b7-b6 and Bb7.

Probably, the easiest system to employ is 9… e5 10. Nb3 exf4 11. Bxf4 Be6, followed by d6-d5, with good prospects for Black.

[Diagram: Black to Move] J. Benjamin – V. Zvjaginsev, Groningen 1997. The diagram shows a common Sicilian scenario: White advances his pawns on the kingside, while Black typically counteracts in the center with d6-d5. However, it turns out that a small preparation before the aforementioned central thrust can secure Black a tangible advantage!

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[April 11, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Ragozin Variation with 5. cxd5

[Line 250 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Bb4 5. cxd5]

The Ragozin Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined is a mainstream opening and it’s a part of the opening repertoire of many top players. Move 5. cxd5 is the main preference of the players of White, and after 5… exd5 an interesting bishop move 6. Bf4 has been tested lately by Svidler, Eljanov and several other strong grandmasters.

Against 6. Bg5, variation 6… Nbd7 is covered in our Lines 251-252, and apart from that, Black has two other promising options: 6… h6 and 6… O-O.

After 6… O-O 7. e3 h6 8. Bh4 players of Black have recently found a promising continuation in 8… Bf5 9. Qb3 Bxc3+ 10. bxc3 Nbd7, which was seen in the key game Ding Liren – P. Leko, Danzhou 2016.

Black can postpone castling by playing 6… h6 7. Bh4, where two options deserve serious attention: 7… g5 8. Bg3 Ne4 and 7… c5 8. dxc5 Nbd7.

[Diagram: White to Move] White would be very pleased to open the h-file for his rook, but after h2-h4 Black would react with g5-g4, keeping the kingside closed. How can White outwit his opponent?

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[April 10, 2018] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
English Opening, Hedgehog Variation

[Line 044 : 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c5 4. g3 b6]

The Hedgehog Variation of the English Opening, though a bit passive, is very a flexible opening for the players of Black.

Line 044 deals mostly with various choices for Black after 5. Bg2 Bb7 6. O-O, and also covers the main 6… Be7 lines without 7. d4, which is covered in our Line 045.

In recent years 7. Re1 with the idea e2-e4 gained in popularity. For club level players we recommend 7… d5 8. cxd5 Nxd5, where Black has good chances to equalize. The alternative is 7… d6, which leads to more complex positions, but also demands accuracy from both sides, though perhaps a bit more from Black.

From several setups that are easy to adopt for the players of White, we recommend 7. b3 O-O 8. Bb2, followed by e2-e3, Qe2, Rfd1 and d2-d4.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black King is temporarily exposed, so it’s the right time for White to start the action!

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[April 09, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Aleksandar Kovačević:
French Defense, Normal Variation – Burn Variation

[Line 341 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 dxe4]

After 5. Nxe4 Nbd7 this line transposes to our Lines 333-334, whereas Line 341 covers the position that arises after 5…. Be7 6. Bxf6 gxf6, while the other capture (6… Bxf6) is covered in our Line 342.

White’s most frequent choice is 7. Nf3, and here 7… a6 with the idea b7-b5 allows White to get a favorable position after 8. c4 f5 9. Nc3.

Black’s best option is 7… f5, with the idea to respond to Ned2 or Ng3 with c7-c5. White’s most promising setup probably includes 8. Nc3, though 8… a6 followed by b7-b5-b4 and Bb7 should give his opponent quite decent counterplay. White could continue with 9. Qe2 b5 10. O-O-O b4 11. Na4 Qd5, and though Black has a few weaknesses, his bishop pair should provide reasonable compensation.

[Diagram: White to Move] L. Bruzón Batista – J. Nogueiras Santiago, Havana 2006. Black Queen is not actually much of a threat, and his King is poorly defended. How can White make use of his advantages and launch a decisive attack?

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