[October 09, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
French Defense, Winawer Variation – Main Line

[Line 345 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 c5 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 Ne7 without 7. Qg4]

Apart from 7. Qg4 (Line 346), which is the most aggressive line of the Winawer Variation, White has a couple of choices that are more positional.

A natural developing move 7. Nf3 is often associated with the a3-a4-a5 advance, and if Black moves c5-c4 or goes for the exchange with cxd4, White dark-squared Bishop can become a very powerful piece on a3. An exemplary line can be 7. Nf3 Bd7 8. a4 Qa5 9. Bd2 Nbc6, with a balanced position.

The idea of 7. h4 is to gain some space on the kingside. In this case, Black usually avoids short castling, and either opts for a queenside castling or leaves his King in the center. Black is able to get even chances in more than a one way, as in 7. h4 Nbc6 8. h5 h6 9. Nf3 Qa5 10. Bd2 Qc7.

White can go for 7. a4, where the occurring positions greatly resemble those appearing in the 7. Nf3 line.

[Diagram: White to Move] White Bishop is under attack, and Black is ready to play f7-f6 against the g4-g5 threat, creating some counterplay. How should White continue in the diagrammed position?

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[October 08, 2018] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
Queen’s Indian Defense, Opocensky Variation

[Line 215 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Bb7 5. Bg2 Be7 6. Nc3 Ne4]

Opocensky Variation (7. Bd2) is the most principled continuation for White after the introductory moves of this opening line. White is ready to meet 7… Nxc3 with 8. Bxc3, without disrupting his pawn structure.

On the 7th move Black has a couple of reactions of about the same strength.

With 7… f5 Black takes control of the e4-square and usually puts the black-squared Bishop on f6 sometime later.

The alternative 7… Bf6 is a more solid choice. After 8. Qc2 Nxd2 9. Qxd2 d6 White has a bit more space, while Black keeps his bishop pair.

Move 7… d5 is another way to take hold of the e4-square, and here again Black should not have difficulties reaching equality.

[Diagram: Black to Move] A. Karpov – V. Salov, Rotterdam 1989. Karpov’s last move was Ra1-c1, which turns out to be a big mistake. How can Black punish his opponent’s oversight?

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[October 07, 2018] Updated Opening Article by GM Borki Predojević:
September 2018 Revisited: Italian Game, Giuoco Pianissimo with 8. a4!?

After the last week’s update of this highly fashionable opening article of great theoretical relevance (with games played by a number of perennial Top 10 mainstays, such as Caruana, Aronian, MVL and Nakamura), the Olympiad has brought more important games by the likes of Bacrot, Vidit, Erdos and Piorun. While these games don’t bring too much drama and/or tactical fireworks, they more than make up for it with extremely accurate play that follows deep engine analyses, which made us promote these games and the ensuing variations to the main line of this article.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Black’s bishop pair is obviosly very potent, providing ample compensation for the sacrificed pawn, but is there more for him than fighting for the dynamic balance?

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[October 06, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Modern Defense, Bishop & Three Pawns Attack (incl. Gurgenidze Defense)

[Line 290 : 1. e4 g6]

The Modern Defense leaves White with more space, while Black’s biggest gain is that he usually avoids forced lines.

After the most common 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 Black often opts for 3… c6, planning the d7-d5 advance. White can transpose to lines of the Caro-Kann with 4. Nf3 d5, while other independent continuations are the Gurgenidze Defense (4. f4 d5 5. e5) and the Bishop Attack (4. Bc4).

In case of the Gurgenidze Defense, White typically keeps a small edge after 4. f4 d5 5. e5 Nh6 6. Nf3 f6 7. Be3, while Black is able to equalize against the Bishop Attack, both after 4. Bc4 d6 5. Qf3 e6 6. Nge2 b5 and 4. Bc4 d6 5. Bb3 Nf6 6. Nf3 O-O.

[Diagram: White to Move] S. Galdunts – O. Buergi, Zuerich 2004. Black Queen is overburdened. How can White make use of it to get a big advantage?

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[October 05, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Slaviša Brenjo:
Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense with 4. d3 Bc5 (incl. Kaufmann Variation)

[Line 372 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 without 5. c3]

The main move 5. c3 is covered in Line 373, while among the alternatives 5. Bxc6 and 5. O-O seem most reliable.

After 5. Bxc6 dxc6 move 6. Qe2  has recently became popular. The idea is Nbd2-c4 and Bd2, followed by a pawn advance on the kingside, like e.g. in the game F. Caruana – S. Karjakin, Wijk aan Zee 2016. The more common continuation is 6. Nbd2, where both after 6… O-O 7. Nc4 Nd7 and 6… Be6 7. O-O Nd7, Black should equalize without difficulties.

In case of the 5. O-O, apart from a solid 5… d6, Black can exchange a pair of Knights with 5… Nd4, for example 6. Nxd4 Bxd4 7. Nd2 c6 8. Ba4 d6, and the ensuing position is roughly equal.

[Diagram: Black to Move] S. Movsesian – Z. Hracek, Sibenik 2009. Black has a better development and his opponent’s King is not placed very well. How can Black make use of these facts to seize a longterm initiative?

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[October 04, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Bogo-Indian Defense with 4. Bd2 (incl. Nimzowitsch Variation)

[Line 201 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Bb4+ 4. Bd2 with 4… a5, 4… Qe7]

In the Nimzowitsch Variation (4… Qe7) Black delays trading of the dark-squared Bishops. When White continues with 5. Nc3, Black often captures on c3, followed by Ne4 and exchanging another pair of pieces. White usually opts for 5. g3, where after 5… Bxd2+ 6. Qxd2 Black’s best option is 6… Nc6, with the idea of playing Ne4 and Qb4+. The alternative 5… Nc6 allows White to gain a small edge after 6. Nc3 Bxc3 7. Bxc3 Ne4 8. Rc1 O-O 9. Bg2 d6 10. d5.

The other variation covered in this opening line is 4… a5. Two common follow-ups are 5. g3 d5 6. Qc2 c5 and 5. Nc3 b6 6. e3 Bb7 with a roughly equal game.

[Diagram: White to Move] White has more than sufficient compensation for a pawn, and he can even make a decisive advantage with aggressive play. How should he continue?

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