[February 11, 2018] Updated Opening Article by GM Dragan Paunović:
March 2015 Revisited: Neo-Gruenfeld Defense (14… Qd6!?)

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.

This article was originally inspired by Wei Yi’s success in this sideline of the highly fashionable Neo-Gruenfeld Defense, especially given the fact that the young Chinese phenom mostly sticks to his guns – despite his tender age, he has become one the world’s leading specialists on the Gruenfeld.

However, upon closer examination, it turned out that he was mostly outplaying his opponents in the middlegame, and that his opening choices were not always the best ones. Enter Igor-Alexandre Nataf, a strong French over-the-board grandmaster with quite an experience in correspondence chess. Computer engines are completely oblivious to his stunning idea that saves Black’s hide in a rather precarious position, though we believe that this remarkable fruit of his dedicated labor in the home lab is most likely better suited for correspondence chess. Over-the-board players are typically incapable of finding all those finesse moves and deep plans that often feel counterintuitive, even to our silicon friends.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White’s bishop pair and their queenside pressure are too much to handle for Black, while his pieces seem poorly coordinated. Can Black create sufficient counterplay to secure the equality?

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[February 10, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Slaviša Brenjo:
Ruy Lopez, Closed Defense – Anti-Marshall Variation with 8. a4

[Line 395 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. a4 without 8… Bb7]

Move 8. a4 leads to the currently most popular variation of the Anti-Marshall, which occurs quite frequently on the highest level.

One of the popular follow-ups here is 8… b4 9. d4 d6 10. dxe5 dxe5 11. Nbd2 Bc5, seen in a couple of games by Svidler, Caruana and Aronian.

Somewhat less concrete is 8… b4 9. d3 d6 10. a5 Be6 where, again, Black more or less has equal prospects.

There is an interesting sideline for Black – 8… Na5, offering a pawn sacrifice 9. axb5 Nxb3 10. cxb3 Bb7, with sufficient compensation.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White’s queenside is completely undeveloped, and Black just needs to launch a decisive attack on his opponent’s King!

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[February 09, 2018] Updated Opening Line by GM Trajko Nedev:
Philidor Defense, Improved Hanham Variation

[Line 296 : 1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 e5 4. Nf3 Nbd7 5. Bc4 Be7 6. O-O O-O]

The Improved Hanham Variation typically occurs via the 1… d6 2. d4 Nf6 move order and is considered the preferable way to play the Philidor Defense in recent years, since after 1… e5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 Nf6 4. dxe5 (which is covered in our Line 349) White can obtain a longterm initiative.

After both sides complete the castling, White has several different plans, but Re1 & a4 is the most common. So, after 7. Re1 c6 8. a4 Black has a number of possibilities, like 8… exd4 followed by 9… Ne5, somewhat passive options like 8… b6, 8… Qc7 or 8…h6, or, in our opinion, the most promising 8… a5.

Either way, though White is the more active side, it’s Black’s flexibility that gives him decent chances.

[Diagram: White to Move] It seems like Black has sufficient compensation, but it’s White’s turn to move and he can use the f6-f7 fork as an important resource. Can you secure the advantage for White?

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[February 08, 2018] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
English Opening, Symmetrical Variation

[Line 003 : 1. c4 c5 without 2. Nf3]

Move 2. Nf3 often appears from another move order (1. Nf3 c5 2. c4) and can be found in our Line 019, while the other logical continuation 2. Nc3 often transposes to other opening lines.

Most of the Line 003 covers early kingside fianchettoes from both sides – 2. g3 g6 3. Bg2 Bg7 4. Nc3 Nc6, and since move 5. Nf3 is dealt with in our Line 004, other White’s fifth move reactions are examined here.

One popular setup is 5. e3, followed by Nge2, O-O and d2-d4. Black either makes symmetrical piece arrangement, or opposes White’s plan with e7-e5.

A modern approach from White is the early queenside advance 5. a3, followed by Rb1 and b2-b4. Again, Black has many choices. Among them, we recommend either the slightly committal 5… d6 6. Rb1 a5 7. e3 e5, or the flexible 5… b6 with Bb7, e7-e6 and Nge7.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White has just played the intermediate move Rf1-d1, but it turns out that Black has a better choice than to retreat his Queen to f5. So, what is the superior alternative here?

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[February 07, 2018] Updated Opening Line by GM Borki Predojević:
Slav Defense, Schallopp Defense with 7. Nxg6

[Line 097 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 Bf5 5. Nc3 e6 6. Nh4 Bg6 7. Nxg6]

Line 097 deals with the main line of the Schallopp Defense. Most positions in this line are quite typical of the Slav Defense: White gets a bishop pair, but Black’s position remains very solid. After 7… hxg6, White has a plethora of possibilities.

8. g3 Nbd7 9. a3 with the next b2-b3 is one of our recommendations to advanced players; 8. Qb3, followed by g3 and Bg2 is another interesting plan.

For club level players we suggest 8. Rb1, with the idea to launch a queenside advance c4-c5 and b2-b4-b5, an idea introduced at the high level by Topalov in his World Championship match against Kramnik.

[Diagram: Black to Move] I. Khairullin – V. Artemiev, Khanty-Mansiysk 2013. Young Artemiev missed a chance to get a lasting advantage. What should Black play?

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[February 06, 2018] Updated Opening Line by GM Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Paulsen Variation – Taimanov-Bastrikov Variation with 6. Nxc6

[Line 452 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Nxc6]

The Paulsen Variation with early 5… a6 allows White to capture the knight on c6, where Black is practically forced to recapture with his b-pawn – 6… bxc6. White’s main reaction is then 7. Bd3, followed by 7… d5 8. O-O.

After 8… Nf6, White has a choice among several equally promising options: 9. Re1, 9. Qf3 and 9. Qe2; he can also opt for some reasonably interesting sidelines.

Though Black’s position has a reputation of being solid, it is quite tricky and demands careful treatment.

[Diagram: White to Move] It seems like Black has enough resources to defend his king, but White’s unexpected tactical blow breaks through his opponent’s defense. How can White reach a practically winning position?

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