[June 07, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Czech Pirc Defense, Anti-Philidor & Lion’s Jaw

[Line 294 : 1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6]

Lion’s Jaw (3. f3) is one of the decent ways to avoid the Philidor Defense as White. The main reaction from Black is 3… e5 followed by 4. d5 Be7. The ensuing positions resemble the Saemisch Variation of the King’s Indian Defense, with the important difference that the dark-squared Bishop is placed here on e7, and not on g7. White has, in view of his spatial advantage, a generally more pleasant position, but Black is not without counterplay.

After 3. Nc3 two most common choices for the players of Black are Philidor Defense (3… e5) and Pirc Defense (3… g6), covered in or Lines 295-300.

Czech Pirc Defense (3. Nc3 c6) allows White to gain a strong pawn center with 4. f4, where Black’s main plan is 4… Qa5, followed by e7-e5. White has two paths to obtain a small, but pleasant advantage: 5. Bd3 and 5. e5.

If Black wants to enter the Philidor Defense via another move order, i. e. 3. Nc3 Nbd7 with the idea e7-e5, White has at his disposal a promising alternative to 4. Nf3 in 4. f4.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black is ready to play Nc4, and White has to find how to stop his opponent’s plan. What is the best solution for him?

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[June 06, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Alatortsev Variation

[Line 062 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Be7 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bf4 c6]

The Alatortsev Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined can be frequently seen on the highest level, which speaks enough of its reputation. As an alternative to the main 6. e3, White has 6. Qc2, aiming to delay development of the black Bishop to f5. Black’s best way to react is either 6… Nf6 or 6… Bd6, since moves like 6… g6 or 6… Bg4 seem insufficient for full equality.

On the other hand, after 6. e3 Black should proceed with 6… Bf5, where the most challenging attempt for White is 7. g4. Since after 7… Bg6 8. h4 Black gets into trouble, he should probably reply with 7… Be6. Here, White has a wide range of options, but 8. h4 is the biggest challenge to his opponent.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black is a pawn up, but also seriously behind in development. What is the best way for White to seize the initiative?

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[June 05, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
French Defense, Tarrasch Variation (incl. Morozevich & Guimard Variations)

[Line 325 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 without 3… c5, 3… Nf6]

Apart from the most popular systems: Open System (3… c5) covered in Lines 327-330, 3… Nf6 (Line 326) and Rubinstein Variation (3… dxe4 4. Nxe4, Lines 331-335) Black has at his disposal various alternatives.

Among the variations that are presented here, Morozevich Variation (3… Be7) apears to be the most promising. There are three major choices for White on the fourth move:

Move 4. Ngf3 leads to dynamic battles. After 4… Nf6 5. e5 Nfd7 6. Bd3 c5 7. c3 Nc6 occurs a critical position. White is later often obliged to sacrifice the d4-pawn, or to cede his strong pawn center with dxc5, but in return he gets half-opened e- and d-files for his rooks.

More quiet alternative for White is 4. Bd3. The game then usually continues with 4… c5 5. dxc5 Nf6 6. Qe2 Nc6 7. Ngf3, and here Black is able to get even chances with 7… Nb4.

With 4. e5 c5 5. Qg4 White wants to make use of the fact that black Bishop isn’t defending the g7-pawn. Yet, Black is willing to defend the pawn with the King 5… Kf8, and after 6. dxc5 Nc6 he gets sufficient counterplay.

Guimard Variation (3… Nc6) has its share of followers, but White should be able to get a preferable position after 4. Ngf3 Nf6 5. e5 Nd7 6. Bd3.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black is a pawn up and attacking on f2, but White has a path to longterm initiative with enterprising play!

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[June 04, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Lasker-Pelikan Variation – Chelyabinsk Variation (Main Line with 11. c3)

[Line 438 : 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]

The Lasker Variation of the Sicilian Defense is not as popular as it used to be, but one should not be misled – it still is very hard for White to obtain some advantage. Carlsen and Grischuk tried it recently in a few games, and got comfortable positions. Black has several promising setups to decide from:

After 11… Ne7 12. Nxf6 gxf6 13. Bd3 White does make certain problems to his opponent.

Old main line 11… Bg5 12. Nc2 O-O is covered separately in Line 439, and here Black has experienced difficulties in the last few years.

The new main line is 11… Bg5 12. Nc2 Ne7, and though White has a number of interesting plans, Black has numerous resources at his disposal and should equalize without difficulties.

Another possibility for Black is 11… Bg5 12. Nc2 Rb8. The most ambitious continuation for White is 13. a4 bxa4 14. Ncb4 Nxb4, where both against 15. cxb4, and 15. Nxb4, Black should be fine.

[Diagram: White to Move] S. Karjakin – T. Radjabov, Warsaw 2005. White has a powerful knight on d5 and it gives him a strong motive for positional sacrifice, that Karjakin successfully carried out in the featured game. How does White obtain longterm initiative in the diagrammed position?

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[June 03, 2018] Dusted Off: Opening Survey by GM Aleksandar Kovačević
Queen’s Indian Defense, Petrosian Variation (9. h4!?)

With 6th Altibox Norway Chess 2018 underway in Stavanger, our editor was rather ambivalent whether to choose a game from that event and quite possibly overlap with a number of analysts, or opt for a game that he found interesting for entirely different reasons. Well, the option two prevailed, and the article delves into 81st game of the final showdown between Stockfish and Houdini.

The game was played during the 100-game superfinal event of 11th Edition of TCEC  (12th Edition is currently underway), and it immediately piqued our editor’s curiosity. As a former Benoni player, he always considered playing g6 in the Petrosian Variation of the Queen’s Indian Defense a logical repertoire choice, so he wanted to know whether there might be a problem for Black in that line. This survey presents his findings on the matter.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black’s defense is hanging on a thread – can you execute the final breakthrough?

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[June 02, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Semi-Tarrasch (incl. Pillsbury Variation)

[Line 243 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 without 4… Nbd7, 4… dxc4, 4… Bb4, 4… Be7, 4… c6]

The most common choices of Black are spread over various opening lines: 4… c6 can be found in Lines 265-285,  4… Be7 in Lines 253-264, 4… Bb4 in Lines 248-252, 4… dxc4 in Lines 245-247, and 4… Nbd7 in our Line 244.

The main topic of this opening line is the so-called Semi-Tarrasch (4… c5), where after 5. cxd5 Black replies 5… Nxd5. The Semi-Tarrasch gained a lot of popularity in the recent couple of years, mainly due to Kramnik’s efforts to revive this classical opening with black pieces. The usual follow-up is 6. e4 Nxc3 7. bxc3 cxd4 8. cxd4 Bb4+ 9. Bd2 Bxd2 10. Qxd2 O-O, where White obtains a pawn center, but Black has already exchanged two pairs of minor pieces, which gives him good chances to equalize.

Another viable option for Black is 5… cxd4, where after 6. Qxd4 exd5 the principal continuation is 7. e4 Nc6 8. Bb5. Even here Black is able to equalize with accurate play, as seen in the recent W. So – Wei Yi, Wijk aan Zee 2017 game.

The Pillsbury Variation 4… c5 5. Bg5 is a possible sideline for White, where after 5… cxd4 6. Qxd4 Be7 7. cxd5 exd5 the position is roughly balanced.

[Diagram: White to Move] L. Polugaevsky – M Tal, Moscow 1969. White has carried out a topical pawn sacrifice d4-d5 and intends to exert pressure on the kingside. White Bishop and Rook on d1 are currently under attack by the black Knight. How should White proceed and obtain an almost decisive advantage?

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