[August 08, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Dragan Barlov:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Semi-Slav Defense – Stoltz Variation (Main Line with 9… a6)

[Line 284 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Qc2 Bd6 7. Bd3 O-O 8. O-O dxc4 9. Bxc4 a6]

Move 9… a6 leads to one of the critical lines of the Stoltz Variation of the Semi-Slav Defense. The idea is to protect the b5-square, planning the typical b7-b5, c6-c5 and Bb7.

The main choice of players of White is 10. Rd1, and after 10… b5 there are four responses deserving attention: 11. Be2, 11. Bd311. Bf1 and even leaving the Bishop under attack with 11. e4!?, followed by e4-e5.

If White fights the abovementioned plan with 10. a4, Black gets a satisfactory position with 10… c5 11. dxc5 Bxc5, where he White can no longer carry out the common plan with a2-a3 and b2-b4.

Apart from the mentioned lines on the 10th move, White can also opt for 10. Bd2, 10. e4 or 10. a3, in any case with balanced positions rich with possibilities for both sides.

[Diagram: Black to Move] C. Teichmann – A. Kochemasov, corr. 2010. Black’s attack is obviously very dangerous, but can he finish off the opponent?

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[August 07, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Nimzo-Indian Defense, Rubinstein Variation – Normal Variation (Bernstein Variation)

[Line 194 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. Bd3 d5 6. Nf3 c5 7. O-O Nc6]

White has recently found the way to pose the problems to his opponent with 8. cxd5 exd5 9. dxc5. Black remains with the isolated d-pawn, where after 9… Bxc5 move 10. h3, not allowing 10… Bg4, gives White small but durable advantage.

The old main line is 8. a3 Bxc3 9. bxc3. Black’s main option is  9… Qc7, where White’s common responses are 10. Bb2, 10. Qc2 and 10. cxd5. In any case, Black is generally able to get comfortable positions.

[Diagram: White to Move] Move Bxh7+ seems like an obvious choice, but can you see the consequences of the Bishop sacrifice?

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[August 06, 2018] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
English Opening, Four Knights Variation

[Line 012 : 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e5 3. Nf3]

Move 3… Nc6 is by far the most popular choice from the initial position of this opening line, since moves like 3… d6 and 3… e4 lead to positions that are generally in White’s favor.

White has various replies to 3… Nc6: 4. g3 (covered in Lines 014-017), 4. e3 (topic of our Line 013), 4. d34. a3 and 4. e4 are the most common among them.

In most of the above mentioned variations, players of Black frequently choose one of the following setups: the most ambitious is the Reversed Open Sicilian, where Black plays an early d7-d5; fianchetto lines with g7-g6 and Bg7 are similar to the Reversed Closed Sicilian; some prefer developing the dark-squared Bishop to either b4 or c5. The choice depends on the taste of players and, in any case, Black is typically able to obtain equal chances.

[Diagram: Black to Move] B. Jobava – S. Rublevsky, Khanty-Mansiysk 2005. White’s last move was accepting the challenge with Qb3xb7. How can Black make use of the misplaced white Queen to seize the initiative?

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[August 05, 2018] Pick of the Week by GM Boris Avrukh:
March 2014 Revisited: Slav Defense, Alapin Variation: Soultanbeieff with 6. e4

After the original key game B. Adhiban – F. El Debs, Caleta 2014 (voted “The Best Novelty Game” of the Gibraltar Open 2014 by the ACP) many theoretically important games followed. Among the most recent additions we recommend M. Matlakov – A. Motylev, Poikovsky 2016, D. Yuffa – S. Rublevsky, Moscow 2017 and Wang Hao – L. Fressinet, Sharjah 2017 as the most interesting encounters in terms of their relevance for modern opening theory.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position comes from our analysis of A. Leniart – C. Balogh, Achaea 2016. Black is quite passive, but seems to have everything covered. Well, does he?

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[August 04, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense with 4. d3 Bc5 5.c3 (Main Line)

[Line 373 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. c3]

Black’s most common choice in this line is 5… O-O, though 5… d5 has recently been tried by some very strong players, including Kramnik and Aronian.

White has tried many options in response to 5… O-O, and some of them are 6. Bxc6 bxc6 7. Nxe5 and 6. Bg5. Move 6. O-O probably deserves to be seen more often, where 6… Re8 and 6… d5 are decent alternatives to 6… d6. There are many possibilities for both sides almost on every move. Among them 6. O-O d6 7. Nbd2 is the most natural, where Black has a couple of options of about the same strength. Moves 7… a6, 7… Ne7 and 7… Bb6 are probably all good enough for equalizing without difficulties.

[Diagram: White to Move] White can obtain a lasting edge with 17. Nf6+ Nxf6 18. Qxf5, but there is an even better continuation for him, leading to an almost winning position. Any thoughts?

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[July 03, 2018] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
English Opening, Four Knights Variation – Romanishin & Stean Variations

[Line 013 : 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e5 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. e3]

By choosing 4. e3 against the Four Knights Variation of the English Opening, White supports the d4-square with his e-pawn and later indends to play d2-d4.

Depending on the taste, Black usually opts for one of the following: 4… Bb4, 4… Be7, 4… d6 or 4… d5.

Variation 4… Bb4 is aimed against White’s d2-d4 advance, and after 5. Qc2 the two most frequent continuations from Black are the Romanishin Variation (5… Bxc3) and 5… O-O 6. Nd5 Re8, where 7. Qf5 is the initial position of the Stean Variation.

Move 4… Be7 leads to less demanding positions, and two common follow-ups are 5. a3 O-O 6. Qc2 d5 7. cxd5 Nxd5 and 5. d4 exd4 6. Nxd4 O-O.

Line 4… d6 5. d4 g6 offers White an immediate opportunity to enter the endgame with 6. dxe5 Nxe5 7. Nxe5 dxe5 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8, where Black ought to get equal chances without much effort.

Reversed Paulsen Variation of the Sicilian Defense, occuring after 4… d5 5. cxd5 Nxd5, is typically very sensitive for Black since it requires his full attention.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White’s last move was a defensive one: Rd1-d4 brings the Rook to an active role in protection against Black’s strong attack. Still, Black has a powerful response, which should secure him a big advantage!

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