[February 05, 2017] Updated Opening Article by GM Aleksandar Kovačević:
May & October 2015 Revisited: Sicilian Najdorf, Grischuk’s Verbeterde List

While capturing on f6 instead of Bh4 has recently been in vogue among grandmasters, our latest update proves that at least two options on the 13th move contain so much venom that it makes them highly playable at any level for the players of White.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position appears in our analysis of S. Lomasov – D. Khismatullin, Moscow 2017. It seems that White can hardly make any improvement, but he has a very subtle maneuver that exposes the fact that Black king is stick in the center. Can you find that neat idea?

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[February 04, 2017] 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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[February 03, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Bogo-Indian Defense (incl. Gruenfeld Variation)

[Line 196 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Bb4+ without 4. Nc3, 4. Bd2]

Move 4. Bd2 is covered in our Lines 200-201, and 4. Nc3 in Lines 198-199. Hence, the Gruenfeld Variation (4. Nbd2) is the matter of interest of this opening line. Black has tried numerous replies against 4. Nbd2, and we believe that 4… b6 (Line 197), 4… d54… c5 and 4… a5 are insufficient for full equalization.

The main line goes 4. Nbd2 O-O 5. a3, where after 5… Bxd2+ 6. Qxd2 White gets a small but lasting edge in view of his bishop pair. A bit more ambitious is 5… Be7, when after the principled 6. e4 Black can get enough counterplay with 6… d5 7. e5 Nfd7, with the idea c7-c5.

[Diagram: White to Move] A. Riazantsev – D. Vocaturo, Jerusalem 2015. A theoretically important game where Riazantsev’s preparation was impressive. Can you find how White can boost his attack, and get a decisive advantage?

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[February 02, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Queen’s Indian Defense, Quiet Line with 5… Bb4+ 6. Bd2 Be7 7. Bg2 c6 8. Bc3 d5 9. Ne5 Nfd7

[Line 228 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Ba6 5. b3 Bb4+ 6. Bd2 Be7 7. Bg2 c6 8. Bc3 d5 9. Ne5 Nfd7]

Line 228 deals with one of the main variations of the Queen’s Indian Defense. The idea of 9… Nfd7 is to exchange an active white Knight from d5 for the less active one from b8. After the usual 10. Nxd7 Nxd7 11. Nd2 O-O 12. O-O Black has a choice between the following moves of about the same strength: 12… Rc8, 12… f5 and 12… b5.

In the first case, position often gets a forced character, like in 12… Rc8 13. e4 c5 14. exd5 exd5 15. dxc5 dxc4 where, both after 16. cxb6 and 16. c6, Black is able to equalize with accurate play.

By playing 12… f5 Black prevents his opponent from executing the main idea e2-e4. Black’s plan is frequently connected with transferring the Knight from d7 to e4, or preparing f5-f4.

After 12… b5 13. c5 e5 Black also has sufficient counterplay, for example 14. dxe5 Nxc5 15. a3 Bb7 16. Qc2 Ne6.

[Diagram: White to Move] J. Ballow – J. Viberg, corr. 2010. White has a clear compensation for the sacrificed pawn, and he can even get a substantial advantage, primarily thanks to the passed d-pawn!

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[February 01, 2017] 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]

This update is a small tribute to our late colleague GM Dragan Paunović. In memory of our dear friend, our Editorial Board will continue updating his lines and articles.

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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[January 31, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Semi-Slav Defense – Stoltz Variation with 6… Bd6 7. b3

[Line 282 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Qc2 Bd6 7. b3]

Topic of our Line 282 is a positional plan beginning with 7. b3, often leading to mostly symmetrical setups. After 7… O-O the most principal response from White is 8. Be2, since Black gets comfortable positions both after 8. Bb2 e5 and 8. Bd3 e5. Move e6-e5 is possible even against 8. Be2, but the position arising after 8. Be2 e5 9. cxd5 cxd5 10. Nb5 is easier to play with white pieces.

Black most often opts for a queenside fianchetto 8. Be2 b6 9. O-O Bb7 10. Bb2, where there are at least two paths that lead to balanced positions. One is 10… Rc8 with the idea c6-c5, and the other is 10… Qe7, connecting the Rooks and later deploying them on two of the following lines – c, d or e, for example 11. Rad1 Rad8 12. Rfe1 Rfe8.

[Diagram: Black to Move] M. Simantsev – I. Yagupov, Police 2014. Bishop sacrifice 16… Bxh2+ is an obvious idea, but can you see how can Black continue the attack after the forces 17. Kxh2?

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