[September 17, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Caro-Kann Defense, incl. Maroczy & Exchange Variations

[Line 303 : 1. e4 c6 2. d4]

After 2… d5, the two most popular variations of the Caro-Kann are covered in separate opening lines – 3. Nc3 in our Lines 307-314, and 3. e5 in Lines 315-320.

The main topic of Line 303 are two very different lines: Maroczy Variation (3. f3) and Exchange Variation (3. exd5).

The Maroczy Variation leads to dynamic positions. There are four viable choices for Black on 3rd move: the highly solid 3… e6, unconventional 3… Qb6, typical kings fianchetto 3… g6 4. Nc3 Bg7 5. Be3 Qb6!, and sharp 3… dxe4 4. fxe4 e5.

In the Exchange Variation 3. exd5 cxd5, Panov Attack (4. c4) is dealt with in Lines 304-306. The ideal variation for beginners is 4. Bd3. After 4… Nc6 5. c3 Nf6 White has a few possibilities of similar strength at his disposal: 6. h3, followed by Nf3 and O-O, 6. Bf4 and 6. Nf3. In any case Black has no problems reaching the equality.

[Diagram: White to Move] Hou Yifan – R. Ruck, Bastia (rapid) 2014. Black has just taken the poisoned pawn on b2, which gives White a chance to finish the game in just a couple of moves. White to play and win!

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[September 16, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Catalan Defense, Closed Variation with 4… Be7

[Line 235 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 Be7]

After 5. Bg2 O-O, besides 6. O-O, White has other viable alternatives as well.

The idea of 6. Qc2 is to prepare for 6… dxc4, where after 7. Qxc4 a6 White seizes the initiative with 8. Bf4. Because of that, Black usually opts for 6… c5 7. O-O cxd4 8. Nxd4 e5 with active play.

Gambit move 6. Nc3 is covered in our Line 253, albeit from a from different move order, while 6. Nbd2 leads to solid maneuvering play.

Black has a few popular options against 6. O-O. Line 6… c6 7. Nbd2 b6 8. Qc2 Bb7, followed by Na6 or Nbd7 is not too demanding, yet good enough for Black to get roughly equal positions, while moves like 6… Nc6 and 6… c5 are not as promising.

6… dxc4 is by far the most popular choice for Black on 6th move, where 7. Qc2 is covered in depth in our Lines 236-238. Move 7. Ne5 can frequently be seen on the highest level, too. Black usually reacts with 7… Nc6 and after 8. Bxc6 bxc6 9. Nxc6 Qe8 10. Nxe7+ Qxe7 11. Qc2 the most critical position of this opening line occurs. White often recaptures the c4-pawn, but Black gets sufficient compensation.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black’s queenside is undeveloped, and being two pawns up is not enough to maintain the balance. How does White make the best of his active pieces to obtain a strong initiative?

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[September 15, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Lasker-Pelikan Variation – Chelyabinsk Variation (Main Line with 12… O-O)

[Line 439 : 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 Bg5 12. Nc2 O-O]

It turns out that the old main move 12… O-O is actually an inaccuracy, since White has a nice way to obtain the initiative, even though moves like 13. Be2, 13. g3 or 13. h4 don’t seem to pose Black any problems.

The most promising choice for White is 13. a4 bxa4 14. Rxa4 a5 and here after 15. Bb5 Ne7 16. Ncb4 Bh3! black gets excellent counterplay. That’s why White should proceed with 15. Bc4 and after 15… Rb8 move 16. b3 is more precise than the similar-looking 16. Ra2.

After 16. b3 Kh8 17. Nce3 the most critical position of this opening line occurs. After 17… Nce7 White gets a small but stable advantage with 18. Nxe7 Qxe7 19. Nd5 Qd8 20. O-O. Other options are even less promising for Black: after 17… g6 18. h4 Bxh4 19. g3 Bg5 20. f4 Black is in serious problems, while after 17… Be6 18. h4 Bf4 19. Nf5 g6 20. Nfe3 White again threatens to launch the attack along the h-file.

[Diagram: White to Move] V. Kramnik – L. Van Wely, Monte Carlo (rapid) 2005. Black took the poisoned pawn on h4, which gave White a very important resource. What is the best way to proceed?

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[September 14, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Modern Defense with 4. Be3

[Line 293 : 1. e4 d6 2. d4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. Be3]

Modern Defense is very similar to the Pirc Defense, though here Black opts to postpone the development of his Knight on g8.

The plan with 4. Be3 against the Modern Defense is the most flexible one, leaving White with multiple options: he can continue with f2-f4, f2-f3 or Nf3, depending on his opponent’s reaction.

Black’s common reply is 4… a6, followed by b7-b5 and Bb7. There are a few promising possibilities for White: one is a straightforward plan with 5. h4 Nf6 6. f3, exerting pressure on the kingside with g2-g4; the other is 5. f4 b5 6. Bd3 Bb7 7. Nf3 where White builds a strong pawn center; and the third – 5. Qd2 b5 6. h4 h6 7. O-O-O, which leads to double-edged position. Among the recent notable games in this opening line is Wei Yi – M. Carlsen, Bilbao 2016.

The other popular option for Black is 4… c6, again followed by b7-b5. White, here as well, has a pleasant choice, this time between 5. Qd2 b5 6. Bd3 Nd7 7. Nf3 and 5. f4 Nd7 6. Nf3.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black King is stuck in the center and the weaknesses of dark squares around him leave White with some mean ideas. How can White reinforce the attack? Hint: If white Queen comes to d6, Black can hardly save the game!

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[September 13, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Vadim Zvjaginsev:
Nimzo-Indian Defense, Classical Variation – Keres Defense with 7. Bg5 Bb7 8. e3

[Line 185 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 O-O 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. Qxc3 b6 7. Bg5 Bb7 8. e3]

The most common plan for Black in this line is 8… d6, with the idea Nbd7, c5 and Rc8.

For club level players we recommend 9. f3, followed by Bd3 and Ne2.

The other frequent choice of players of White is 9. Ne2. White wants, after moving the Queen, to put the Knight on c3, and than to develop his light-squared Bishop. The game usually continues with 9… Nbd7 10. Qc2 c5 11. Rd1, and here Black has a few promising options: 11… Qe7, 11… Qc7 and 11… Rc8.

[Diagram: White to Move] Rook on d4 is under attack, but moving it means losing the Bishop on c4. However, White can make use of the fact that black Queen is far away from the kingside. What is the best way to proceed as White?

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[September 12, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Alatortsev Variation & Schara-Hennig

[Line 061 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 without 3. Nf3]

After the introductory two moves shown above, two most natural third moves for White are 3. Nf3, covered in Line 063 and 3. Nc3, which is the topic of this opening line.

After 3. Nc3 Black usually choses between Alatortsev Variation (3… Be7), classical Queen’s Gambit Declined with 3… Nf6 (Line 171), the so-called Triangle Setup 3… c6 (Line 067) or even 3… Bb4. There are also a few sidelines that are occasionally seen on grandmaster level: the solid 3… a6, risky Schara-Hennig Gambit (3… c5 4. cxd5 cxd4) or, a not very promising line for Black with 3… dxc4.

Against the Alatortsev Variation, apart from a transposition to Line 253 with 4. Nf3 Nf6, and the common 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bf4, White can also opt for immediate 4. Bf4, followed by 4… Nf6 5. e3 O-O 6. a3, with the idea Nb5.

The most frequent choice after 3… Be7 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bf4 is 5… c6, covered in our Line 062, but Black has another option – 5… Nf6. After 6. e3 Black again has two notable possibilities: 6… Bf5 and 6… O-O

[Diagram: White to Move] White pieces are aiming at Black King. What is the best way for White to proceed with the attack?

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