[January 26, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
Sicilian Defense, Najdorf Variation (Miscellaneous)

[Line 477 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 without 6. Be3, 6. Bg5, 6. Be2, 6. Bc4, 6. f3, 6. f4, 6. g3]

Various choices of White on 6th move can be found pretty much everywhere in our CHOPIN Encyclopedia: 6. Be3 in Lines 491-500, 6. Be2 in Lines 484-490, 6. Bg5 in Lines 481-483, 6. Bc4 in Line 480, 6. f4 in Line 479, and 6. f3 and 6. g3 in Line 478.

The main topic of Line 477 is 6. h3, a move that has become exceedingly popular among the top players in the recent years. White’s plan includes g2-g4, Bg2 and Be3, hoping to exert pressure on the kingside. Black has tried numerous options in response, but only 6… e6 and 6… e5 seem to be sufficient for getting equal chances. There are many possibilities for both sides, and we will mention here the two currently most popular lines: 6… e6 7. g4 Be7 8. Bg2 Nfd7 9. Be3 Nc6 and 6… e5 7. Nde2 h5. In both cases the ensuing positions are highly complex and, though Black should be the more cautious side, he should typically be able to equalize.

From the other options for White, the following stand out: the classical 6. a4, somewhat unusual 6. Qf3 and 6. Rg1, the hypermodern 6. Nb3 and even 6. h4.

[Diagram: White to Move] K. Sasikiran – Lu Shanglei, Abu Dhabi 2016. Black is threatening to take the b2-pawn, though he would also be quite happy to play Ne3, eliminating the opponent’s important dark-squared Bishop. Sasikiran played a very strong move that allowed him to gain a substantial advantage. Can you find the best continuation for White?

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[January 25, 2018] Updated Opening Line by GM Slaviša Brenjo:
King’s Indian Defense, Aronin-Taimanov/Mar del Plata Defense – Bayonet Attack with 9… Nh5

[Line 169 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 e5 7. O-O Nc6 8. d5 Ne7 9. b4 Nh5]

The Bayonet Attack of the Mar del Plata Defense is one of the sharpest lines in the King’s Indian Defense, and 9… Nh5 is the most common reaction to it.

Besides the main 9. Re1, White has two alternatives that deserve serious attention – 9. g3 and 9. c5.

After 10. Re1 f5 11. Ng5 Nf6, White has a choice between occupying the f3-square with his bishop or with  a pawn – both leading to equally interesting positions.

[Diagram: White to Move] K. Holroyd – V. Ivanov, corr. 2012. White has enough material to compensate for the queen, but he can even get a big advantage. How should he continue?

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[January 24, 2018] Updated Opening Line by GM Aleksandar Kovačević:
Queen’s Indian Defense, Quiet Line with 5… Bb4+ 6. Bd2 Be7 7. Bg2

[Line 226 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Ba6 5. b3 Bb4+ 6. Bd2 Be7 7. Bg2 without 7… c6]

Line 226 deals with Black’s various choices on 7th move, excluding 7… c6, which is covered in our Line 227.

The main line discussed here is 7… d5, where White usually continues with either 8. Ne5 or 8. cxd5 exd5 9. Nc3.

Nothing says better of the reputation of this line as the fact that it was the main opening weapon of Karjakin in his recent conquest of the Candidates Tournament in Moscow: not only did he played it with Black pieces against Nakamura, Topalov, Caruana and Giri, he also employed it as White in his victory against Nakamura!?

[Diagram: White to Move] D. Lintchevski – E. Alekseev, Tyumen 2012. White has a nice way to make use of the unstable position of the black knight. How should he continue?

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2016-05-09 - Update Line 033[January 23, 2018] Updated Opening Line by GM Bojan Vučković:
English Opening – Keres Defence; QGD Tarrasch – Symmetrical Variation

[Line 033 : 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. Nc3 e6 without 4. d4]

Apart from 4. d4, which is covered in our Line 034, White has a choice between the symmetrical 4. e3 and standard 4. g3.

In the first case the Symmetrical Variation of the Tarrasch Defense usually occurs, often with Black’s isolated pawn on d5, e. g. like after 4. e3 Nc6 5. d4 d5 6. cxd5 exd5 7. Bb5 Bd6 8. O-O O-O 9. dxc5 Bxc5. Though the position is slightly preferable for White, Black can typically count on sufficient counterplay.

After 4. g3 Black can opt for a queenside fianchetto with 4… b6, thus transposing to our Line 044. The second most popular continuation for Black is 4… Nc6 5. Bg2 d5 6. cxd5 Nxd5, where White can go for 7. d4. These variations often lead to endgames after 7… cxd4 8. Nxd4 Nxc3 9. bxc3 Nxd4 10. Qxd4 Qxd4 11. cxd4, or White can castle first (7. O-O Be7 8. d4), thus choosing the line known as the Keres Defense, where in our opinion White can count on a slight edge.

[Diagram: White to Move] V. Utemov – V. Titenko, Moscow 1990. Black bishop on b6 is in danger and his queen is overloaded. How can White exploit that fact?

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[January 22, 2018] Updated Opening Line by GM Trajko Nedev:
Neo-Grünfeld Defense, Fianchetto/Exchange Variation, Main Line

[Line 135 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nf3 Bg7 4. g3 d5 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. Bg2 Nb6 7. Nc3 Nc6 8. e3 O-O 9. O-O Re8]

The main line of the Fianchetto Variation of the Grünfeld Defense is the place where many theoretical battles take place. Very good players of have tried no less than ten (!?) different ideas on 10th move, leading to rather similar, yet slightly different set-ups.

After the main 10. Re1 a5 White has, again, tried about a dozen continuations, where some of them require Black’s surgical precision. That being said, it is probably the biggest drawback of this line for Black – too many lines to remember; apart from that, from a purely theoretical standpoint, Black’s position should be considered quite satisfactory.

[Diagram: Black to Move] R. Leitao – F. Caruana, Khanty-Mansiysk 2010. The diagrammed position should be dynamically balanced, but it requires accurate play from both sides. Caruana showed better preparation in the ensuing complications, so he managed to score a full point. How did Black continue?

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[January 21, 2018] Dusted Off: Opening Survey by GM Aleksandar Kovačević
English Opening, Accelerated Nimzo

Our decision to pick a game for this week’s article from the ongoing Wijk aan Zee supertournament was obviously a no-brainer. While P. Svidler – M. Carlsen, Wijk aan Zee 2018 already looks like a strong candidate for “the draw of the year” (that is – if such a category exists at all), we believe that the game opening line also has considerable theoretical significance.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White is exerting a very strong pressure, but Black has a hidden resource. What should he do to create a strong counterplay?

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