[October 27, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Slaviša Brenjo:
Ponziani Opening; Three Knights Opening; Four Knights Opening

[Line 358 :1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 without 3. Bc4, 3. Bb5, 3. d4]

Besides the Three/Four Knights Opening and the Ponziani Opening, Line 358 covers various rare lines for White. Though none of these lines pose real problems for Black, they became popular even at the highest level, as a way to avoid the “Berlin Wall”.

Among the above mentioned lines, our recommendations for beginners and club level players are either 3. g3 or 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Be2. Both lines are quiet and modest, but very easy to treat for the players of White.

Ponziani Opening (3. c3) often leads to original dynamic positions and demands more knowledge from both sides. In our opinion, Black has two promising choices: 3… d5 and 3… Nf6.

Three/Four Knights Opening (3. Nc3) is more frequently seen in grandmaster practice, especially the following position occurring after 3… Nf6 4. d4 exd4 5. Nxd4 Bb4 6. Nxc6 bxc6 7. Bd3 d5 8. exd5 cxd5. White will generally be trying to exploit Black’s slightly inferior pawn structure, while Black can count on his good piece play to compensate for it.

[Diagram: White to Move] F. Tunega – A. Kyhos, corr. 2006. Black only needs to move his Bishop to c7 and play d7-d5, which would even give him a preferable position. However, White’s next move spoils his opponent’s plans, and creates him serious problems.

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[October 26, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Semi-Slav Defense – Normal Variation without 6. Qc2

[Line 275 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 without 6. Qc2]

Stoltz Variation (6. Qc2) of the Semi-Slav Defense is covered in our Lines 280-285, while this opening line deals with the alternatives.

Meran Defense (6. Bd3) is certainly, along with 6. Qc2, the most important option on 6th move. After 6… dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 the main move 8. Bd3 can be found in Lines 276-279. Move 8. Be2 is an interesting possibility, though Black should not have difficulties reaching the equality.

White has also a couple of sidelines at his disposal. We recommend 6. Be2 to club level players, and 6. Ne5 to beginners.

The idea of 6. Be2 is to meet 6… dxc4 with 7. a4, stopping the b7-b5 advance. However, Black is able to equalize after 7… Bd6 8. Nd2 O-O 9. Nxc4 Bc7, as well as with 6… Bd6 7. O-O O-O, since White can hardly play e3-e4 with his Bishop on e2.

The above mentioned 6. Ne5 is typically followed by a straightforward plan f2-f4, Bd3 and O-O, though position arising after 6… Nxe5 7. dxe5 Nd7 seems rather balanced.

[Diagram: White to Move] L. Fressinet – W. Spoelman, Germany 2011. Fressinet missed the chance to get a big advantage with a surprising blow! How should White continue?

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[October 25, 2018] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
English Opening, Neo-Catalan Accepted

[Line 041 : 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 d5 4. Bg2 dxc4]

Moves like 5. O-O and 5. Qc2 do not seem to pose serious problems to Black – he usually equalizes without much effort. That is why White’s most common reply is 5. Qa4+. Covering from the check with the Bishop 5… Bd7 has recently gained a lot of attention, as players of Black have found the way to get comfortable positions, for example 6. Qxc4 c5 7. Ne5 Qc8 8. Nc3 Nc6 9. Nxd7 Qxd7 10. O-O Be7 11. Qa4 Rc8, like in the recent H. Nakamura – P. Eljanov, Baku 2015 game. White has a bishop pair, but Black’s space advantage compensates it.

The alternative 5… Nbd7 is a more investigated response, which also offers Black good chances to get even positions. After 6. Qxc4 c5 Black is fine both after 7. Qb3 Rb8 8. d3 Bd6 9. a4 b6 and 7. O-O b6, followed by Bb7.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Z. Almasi – A. Naiditsch, Bastia (rapid) 2013. If White takes twice on d5 Black will respond with Qc7 and Bb7, with strong compensation. So, how can White still get an edge in the diagrammed position?

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[October 24, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
Sicilian Defense, Paulsen Variation – Taimanov-Bastrikov Variation (Bastrikov Variation with 6. Be3)

[Line 455 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 Qc7 6. Be3]

After the most common 6… a6, White has a couple of highly popular options: 7. Qd2 (Line 456), 7. f4 (transposing to Line 453), 7. Qf3, 7. Bd3 and 7. Be2.

Move 7. Qf3 is an introduction to the most frequently seen line of the Paulsen Variation in the modern grandmaster practice. Black has tried almost a dozen choices, and at least two of them, namely 7… Nf6 8. O-O-O Ne5 9. Qg3 b5 and 7… Ne5 8. Qg3 h5, lead to balanced positions.

If White opts for 6… a6 7. Bd3 Nf6 8. O-O, we recommend either 8… Ne5 9. h3 Bc5 or 8… b5 9. Nxc6 Qxc6, in both case with complex positions and even chances.

Move 7. Be2 more often leads to quiet lines, where after 7… Nf6 White can transfer to the main variation of Line 454 with 8. O-O, or carry out with an independent plan after 8. a3.

If Black postpones a7-a6 by playing 6… Nf6, White gets favorable position with 7. f4 Bb4 8. Ndb5 Qa5 9. e5 Nd5 10. Bd2 Nxc3 11. Bxc3.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black’s undeveloped kingside gives White motives that enable him to get a big advantage. How should he continue?

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[October 23, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Bogo-Indian Defense with 4. Bd2

[Line 200 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Bb4+ 4. Bd2 without 4… a5, 4… Qe7]

Black’s most common choices in this variation are 4… a5 and 4… Qe7 and they are covered in our Line 201. In case of 4… Be7 a game usually transposes to the Catalan Defense with 5. g3 d5, or to the Queen’s Gambit Declined with 5. Nc3 d5 6. Bf4 or 5. Nc3 d5 6. Bg5.

Move 4… c5 allows White to double black pawns on the b-file after 5. Bxb4 cxb4, which typically results in a small but lasting edge.

Simplifying the position with 4… Bxd2+ seems like a reasonable option for beginners and club level players. White more often recaptures the Bishop with the Queen – 5. Qxd2, followed by the Knight’s deployment to c3. Though positions arising after 5… d5 6. Nc3 O-O 7. e3 are generally easier to play with white pieces, Black should be fine after 7… Qe7 8. Rc1 Rd8.

[Diagram: Black to Move] V. Eingorn – V. Korchnoi, Odessa (rapid) 2006. White’s last move was the careless Qd1-c2. How can Black make use of his opponent’s mistake to obtain an advantage?

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[October 22, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Slaviša Brenjo:
Ruy Lopez, Closed Defense – Flohr-Zaitsev Variation (Main Line with 12. d5)

[Line 406 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 O-O 9. h3 Bb7 10. d4 Re8 11. Nbd2 Bf8 12. d5]

By blocking the center with 12. d5 White eases the pressure of the black pieces on his central pawns. It also allows his knights ample opportunities to transfer to more active squares by common routes: Nd2-f1-g3 and Nf3-h2-g4. The most promising reply for Black is 12… Nb8, while in case of 12… Ne7 13. Nf1 Ng6 14. Ng3 White can count on more space, and after 12… Na5 White typically gets better prospects with 13. Bc2 followed by b2-b4.

The game usually continues 12… Nb8 13. Nf1 Nbd7 14. N3h2 Nc5 15. Bc2 c6 16. b4 Ncd7 17. dxc6 Bxc6 18. Bg5, and here Black has a couple of ways to get equal chances: 18… Qc7, 18… h6 19. Bxf6 Nxf6 and 18… Be7.

[Diagram: White to Move] If White manages to transfer one of his rooks to the h-file, Black can hardly contain the threats. How can White secure the realization of that idea and finish the game in just a couple of moves?

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