[March 07, 2019] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense (incl. Mortimer & Duras Variations and Nyholm Attack)

[Line 371 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 without 4. Nc3, 4. O-O]

Apart from allowing the main line of the Berlin Defense with 4. O-O (Lines 376-380), and entering the Four Knights Game with 4. Nc3 (Lines 374 & 375), players of White also often opt for the strategic line 4. d3.

Now, the most ambitious move 4… Bc5 is covered in our Lines 372 & 373, while 4… d6 is another popular option. White’s plan usually starts with 5. O-O, and includes c2-c3, Re1, Nbd2-f1-g3, h2-h3 followed by d3-d4 at a convenient moment. Black gets good prospects by responding with Be7, O-O, then a7-a6, b7-b5 and Re8. If Black chooses the kingside fianchetto with 5… g6, White gets slightly better prospects with the immediate 6. d4.

Duras Variation (5. c4) is more suitable for beginners, where White’s plan typically includes Nc3, O-O and d3-d4.

From other options for Black on the 4th move, he has the solid 4… Bd6 followed by O-O, Re8 and Bf8, and not as good Mortimer Variation (4… Ne7) where White should avoid the trap 5. Ne5? because Black wins a piece in view of the Qa5+ threat.

White also has a couple of sidelines at his disposal on the 4th move: 4. Qe2 (another way of defending the e4-pawn), Nyholm Attack (4. d4 exd4 5. O-O) and 4. Bxc6 dxc6 5. d3, hoping to exploit Black’s doubled pawns.

[Diagram: White to Move] E. Najer – A. Aleksandrov, Sochi (rapid) 2015. A middle-game climax has occurred in the diagrammed position, where central squares are occupied by pawns from both sides. White needs to decide what to do with the attacked Bishop, so what would you propose him?

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[March 06, 2019] Updated Opening Line by GM Borki Predojević:
Modern Defense, incl. Rossolimo Variation & Geller’s System

[Line 291 : 1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nf3]

Modern Defense is the name for a setup where Black plays early King’s fianchetto followed by d7-d6. It has one major drawback in that it allows White to develop freely and gain a very strong pawn center.

The Rossolimo Variation with 3… d6 4. c4 Bg4 is also covered in Line 291, and this option should give Black quite reasonable positions.

Geller’s System with 3… d6 4. c3 is a very flexible setup, which leads to positions similar to Ruy Lopez, but we think that 4. Bc4 Nf6 5. Qe2 is probably the best way for White to fight for opening advantage.

[Diagram: White to Move] G. Sargissian – A. Morozevich, Turin (ol) 2006. Sargissian found an excellent way to seize a very strong initiative – can you find it, too?

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[March 05, 2019] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
King’s Indian Defense – Normal Variation; Modern Benoni – Four Pawns Attack

[Line 151 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4]

Line 151 is an introductory line of the Normal Variation in the King’s Indian Defense. Positions arising after 4… O-O usually transpose to those starting with the more common 4… d6. The most frequently played options on 4… d6 are covered in other opening lines: 5. Nf3 in Lines 157-169, 5. f3 in Lines 153-155, 5. Be2 in Line 156, while 5. h3 and 5. Bd3 can be found in Line 152.

Move 5. Bg5 is rarely seen nowadays since Black gets comfortable positions in a couple of ways.

Four Pawns Attack (5. f4) is one of the most aggressive possibilities in the King’s Indian. Our main recommendation for Black is 5… O-O 6. Nf3 c5, where both 7. d5 and 7. dxc5 lead to highly complicated positions with mutual chances.

The other popular choice is 5. Nge2, with positions resembling those from the Saemisch Variation, since White later often plays f2-f3. After 5… O-O White can continue with 6. Ng3 or 6. f3. In both cases Black gets good prospects both with 6… c5 and 6… e5.

[Diagram: Black to Move] The Knight on b4 is under attack and its retreat would give White the necessary time to consolidate. How can Black, in the diagrammed position, gain a longterm initiative with an energetic play?

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[March 04, 2019] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Queen’s Pawn Game (Chigorin Variation, etc.)

[Line 056 : 1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 without 2… Nf6]

Apart from 2… Nf6, transfering to our Line 080, there are also other perfectly fine alternatives: 2… e6, 2… c6, 2… Bf5 and 2… c5.

By playing 2… e6 Black offers a transposition to the Queen’s Gambit Declined, occurring after 3. c4 (Line 063). In case of 3. g3, Black can opt for 3… c5 where after 4. Bg2 cxd4 5. O-O Nf6 6. Nxd4 e5 7. Nb3 Be6 arises a position resembling the reversed Gruenfeld Defense.

Move 2… c6 is suitable for the players of Slav Defense. White can continue in the spirit of London System with 3. Bf4, where after 3… Bf5 Black should equalize without difficulties.

For beginners we recommend 2… Bf5, and after 3. c4 e6 4. Nc3 Nc6 the ensuing position is roughly equal.

The immediate 2… c5 can be seen even in grandmaster practice. White usually replies with either 3. c4 or 3. dxc5, and though this line is easier to play with White, players of Black are typically able to get satisfying positions.

Against the Chigorin Variation (2… Nc6) White can get a small edge both with 3. c4 (Line 057), and 3. Bf4 Bf5 4. c4.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black pieces are passive but no concrete threats against him are visible at first sight. However, White has a hidden resource that leads to an almost decisive advantage…

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[March 03, 2019] Updated Opening Article by GM Boris Avrukh:
December 2017 Revisited: Grünfeld Defense, Russian Variation with 7… Be6 8. Qd3

In the original article our game of the week was a clash between two Grünfeld Defense titans of the modern era: P. Svidler – Wei Yi, Baku (m/3) 2015, where we suggested an interesting improvement for Black.

We have now updated the survey with several theoretically important over-the-board and engine games, which led to a change in the main line. Our new best mutual play in this variation now comes from a game played in the superfinal match of the 11th edition of TCEC: Stockfish 260318 – Houdini 6.03, Internet (m/37) 2018.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White is just a castling away from safety, so Black has to hurry if he doesn’t want to end up in a position with material deficit without any compensation. How can he equalize in the diagrammed position?

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[March 02, 2019] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Traditional Variation (incl. Capablanca-Duras Variation)

[Line 229 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 without 4. g3, 4. Nc3]

Apart from the two most popular moves: 4. Nc3 (Lines 243-285) and the Catalan Defense 4. g3 (Lines 230-242), White also has a few more options at his disposial.

One of them is 4. Bg5, often accompanied with Nbd2. After 4… dxc4 White can transpose to the Vienna Variation with 5. Nc3 or he can choose a sideline 5. Qa4+, where Black has a few paths to full equality, e.g. 5… Nbd7 6. e4 c6 7. Qxc4 h6 8. Bxf6 Qxf6. After 4… Bb4+ White can transpose to the Ragozin Variation with 5. Nc3, or he can go for 5. Nbd2, where the best response from Black is 5… dxc4. Another independent line is the Capablanca-Duras Variation 4… h6 5. Bxf6 Qxf6 where, again, Black should have no problems to reach good positions out of the opening.

The most solid variation for White is 4. e3, often followed by b2-b3, Bb2, Bd3 and O-O. Black can respond to that plan with many setups at his disposal. Symmetrical Tarash Defense (4… c5) usually leads to isolated d-pawn structures, for one of the sides. The other popular setup is a mixture of the Queen’s Indian and the Queen’s Gambit Declined, like after 4… Be7 5. b3 O-O 6. Bb2 b6 7. Bd3 Bb7, with even chances. Black can postpone c7-c5 until White completes his queen fianchetto: 4… Be7 5. b3 O-O 6. Bb2 c5, or he can opt for some of many other possibilities, like 4… Nbd7 or 4… Bd6.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black pieces are lacking coordination, but he only needs one move to reach a satisfactory position. What is the best way for White to seize the initiative?

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