[June 13, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Petroff Defense, Nimzowitsch Attack

[Line 353 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. Nc3]

The Nimzowitsch Attack (5. Nc3) is the most popular choice against the Petroff Defense in the modern practice of world’s top players.

White’s main idea after 5… Nxc3 6. dxc3 is to first develop his queenside with Bf4(e3), Qd2 and O-O-O, and create some pressure along the d-file. After Black’s short castling, White starts preparing the attack on the kingside. If Black wants to avoid double-edged positions, long castling is the safer option, like in the following line: 6… Be7 7. Be3 Nc6 8. Qd2 Be6 9. O-O-O Qd7. However, Black usually has to play a7-a6 first, prevent the unpleasant Bb5, and with a couple of precise moves should be able to fully equalize.

Move 5… Nf6 is a reasonable alternative to the main 5… Nxc3. Black loses a tempo or two, but White has no direct means to make use of it. After 6. d4 Be7 7. Bd3 O-O 8. h3 Re8 9. O-O Black usually transfers the Knight from b8 to f8, and White has difficulties getting something concrete out of his better development.

[Diagram: White to Move] R. Ponomariov – B. Gelfand, Odessa (rapid) 2008. Black’s last move was capturing the Bishop on e2: Bg4xe2, which gives his opponent an opportunity to play an intermediate move, giving him big advantage. How should White continue from the diagrammed position?

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[June 12, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Dragan Barlov:
Open Slav Defense, Czech Defense – Dutch Variation without 9. Qe2

[Line 107 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. a4 Bf5 6. e3 e6 7. Bxc4 Bb4 8. O-O Nbd7 without 9. Qe2]

The main line of the Dutch Variation of the Slav Defense is 9. Qe2 and it’s covered in our Line 108. Various options for White on 9th move can be found here.

The idea of 9. Nh4 is clear – to destroy Black’s light-squared Bishop. Black has the choice between leaving the Bishop on f5 with 9… O-O, offering the exchange on g6 with 9… Bg6, or trying to escape from the Knight with 9… Bg4. The last one typically leads to preferable positions for White, but the other two moves are regarded as equally good and solid.

After 9… O-O, apart from 10. Nxf5 exf5, White has other interesting options, such as 10. h3 and 10. f3.

Against 9… Bg6 White has tried 10. Nxg6, as well as postponing the capture on g6 with 10. g3, 10. Be2 or 10. Qb3, but in any case Black’s position is a tough nut to crack.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Black has sacrificed a piece and has a promising attack, though there’s only one path to a clear edge. What is the best continuation for him?

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[June 11, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Lasker-Pelikan Variation – Chelyabinsk Variation (Main Line with 12… O-O)

[Line 439 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Ndb5 d6 7. Bg5 a6 8. Na3 b5 9. Nd5 Be7 10. Bxf6 Bxf6 11. c3 Bg5 12. Nc2 O-O]

It turns out that the old main move 12… O-O is actually an inaccuracy, since White has a nice way to obtain the initiative, even though moves like 13. Be2, 13. g3 or 13. h4 don’t seem to pose Black any problems.

The most promising choice for White is 13. a4 bxa4 14. Rxa4 a5 and here after 15. Bb5 Ne7 16. Ncb4 Bh3! black gets excellent counterplay. That’s why White should proceed with 15. Bc4 and after 15… Rb8 move 16. b3 is more precise than the similar-looking 16. Ra2.

After 16. b3 Kh8 17. Nce3 the most critical position of this opening line occurs. After 17… Nce7 White gets a small but stable advantage with 18. Nxe7 Qxe7 19. Nd5 Qd8 20. O-O. Other options are even less promising for Black: after 17… g6 18. h4 Bxh4 19. g3 Bg5 20. f4 Black is in serious problems, while after 17… Be6 18. h4 Bf4 19. Nf5 g6 20. Nfe3 White again threatens to launch the attack along the h-file.

[Diagram: White to Move] V. Kramnik – L. Van Wely, Monte Carlo (rapid) 2005. Black took the poisoned pawn on h4, which gave White a very important resource. What is the best way to proceed?

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[June 10, 2018] Updated Opening Article by GM Aleksandar Kovačević:
February 2017 Revisited: Sicilian Najdorf, Grischuk’s Verbeterde List

With more than twenty game fragments added to the previous version of this article, this update is a must-see for all aficionados of the Najdorf Variation.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position is from M. Haubro – H. Ziska, Kollafjord 2017. Several pieces are hanging on both sides, and black king is stranded in the center. What is the best course of action for White?

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[June 09, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Old Indian, Budapest Gambit & Accelerated Queen’s Indian Defence

[Line 115 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 without 2… e6, 2… g6, 2… c5]

There are a few offbeat openings that Black can choose apart from 2… e6 (Lines 170-285), 2… g6 (Lines 123-169) and 2… c5 (Lines 116-122), and they are examined in this opening line. Move 2… c6 most frequently transposes to the Slav Defense, after 3. Nc3 d5 or 3. Nf3 d5, so the main focus of this line are the Old Indian Defense (2… d6) and the Budapest Gambit (2… e5).

The Old Indian resembles the King’s Indian, but the fact that the Knight on d7 and the Bishop on e7 are not as active as in the King’s Indian, gives White freedom to seize the center. After 2… d6 3. Nf3 Nbd7 4. Nc3 e5 5. e4 Be7 6. Be2 c6 7. O-O O-O White holds a stable advantage both with 8. Qc2 and 8. Be3.

The Budapest Gambit, though interesting and unconventional, doesn’t give Black equal play. After 2… e5 3. dxe5 Ng4, the most promising move is 4. Bf4. Black should avoid 4… g5 in view of 5. Bg3 Nc6 6. Nf3 Bg7 7. h4 and he gets in serious trouble. He should play 4… Nc6 5. Nf3 Bb4+ instead, though here White also obtains an edge both after 6. Nc3 and 6. Nbd2.

Accelerated Queen’s Indian Defence (2.. b6) is another opening covered here. Two promising options for White are 3. Nc3 Bb7 4. Qc2 and 3. f3 Nc6 4. Nc3

[Diagram: Black to Move] White would be glad to trade off the Queens, but Black has other plans; Qh3 is not possible because the Rook on e8 is hanging, so how can Black launch an almost decisive attack?

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[June 08, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Catalan Defense, Closed Variation with 4… Be7

[Line 235 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 Be7]

After 5. Bg2 O-O, besides 6. O-O, White has other viable alternatives as well.

The idea of 6. Qc2 is to prepare for 6… dxc4, where after 7. Qxc4 a6 White seizes the initiative with 8. Bf4. Because of that, Black usually opts for 6… c5 7. O-O cxd4 8. Nxd4 e5 with active play.

Gambit move 6. Nc3 is covered in our Line 253, albeit from a from different move order, while 6. Nbd2 leads to solid maneuvering play.

Black has a few popular options against 6. O-O. Line 6… c6 7. Nbd2 b6 8. Qc2 Bb7, followed by Na6 or Nbd7 is not too demanding, yet good enough for Black to get roughly equal positions, while moves like 6… Nc6 and 6… c5 are not as promising.

6… dxc4 is by far the most popular choice for Black on 6th move, where 7. Qc2 is covered in depth in our Lines 236-238. Move 7. Ne5 can frequently be seen on the highest level, too. Black usually reacts with 7… Nc6 and after 8. Bxc6 bxc6 9. Nxc6 Qe8 10. Nxe7+ Qxe7 11. Qc2 the most critical position of this opening line occurs. White often recaptures the c4-pawn, but Black gets sufficient compensation.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black’s queenside is undeveloped, and being two pawns up is not enough to maintain the balance. How does White make the best of his active pieces to obtain a strong initiative?

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