[July 17, 2016] Updated Opening Article by GM Boris Avrukh:
March 2015 Revisited: Sicilian Defense, Paulsen Variation with 7. Qf3 Bd6

The updated version of this article brings several interesting attempts by the players of White. The most serious one comes from a high-profile game between World No. 2 & 3, where Black has to tread carefully to keep the balance: V. Kramnik  – F. Caruana, Dortmund 2016.

[Diagram: Black to Move] G. Jones – P. Garbett, Auckland 2016. The diagrammed position shows a familiar scenario with a very important detail that makes all the difference – after g3 White can no longer move his queen to that square, and his most dangerous piece is left unprotected in some variations. Let’s see what Black can do about it 😉

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[July 16, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Aleksandar Kovačević:
French Defense, Normal Variation – Classical Variation (Boleslavsky Variation with 7… a6)

[Line 339 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3 a6]

The idea behind 7… a6 in the Boleslavsky Variation is to launch an early pawn advance on the queenside. White usually opts for short castling and tries to make use of his spatial advantage.

After 8. Qd2 b5 White has a few possibilities. For club level players we recommend 9. dxc5 Bxc5 10. Bd3 Qb6 11. Bf2, where with precise play Black can reach satisfactory positions.

White’s main response is 9. a3, with the idea to postpone the b5-b4 advance. Black has two interesting choices: 9… Bb7 10. Bd3 Be7 11. O-O O-O or 9… Qa5 10. Ra2!? Qc7 11. Bd3 Be7, which both offer him reasonable counterplay.

[Diagram: White to Move] W. So – S. Volkov, Kocaeli 2015. Black’s last move was g7-g6, with the idea to stop the thematic f4-f5. However, Black’s plan is seriously flawed, and White can exploit the weaknesses in his opponent’s position. How did So continue in the diagrammed position?

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[July 15, 2016] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
Queen’s Indian Defense, Classical Variation (Euwe & Kramnik Variations, Taimanov & Polugaevsky Gambits)

[Line 216 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Bb7 5. Bg2 Be7 6. O-O]

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.

Black doesn’t have an adequate alternative to 6… O-O, and the main move here (7. Nc3) is dealt with in our Line 217.

Kramnik Variation (7. Re1), with the idea Nc3 and e2-e4, is a modern treatment of the Classical Variation of QID. Black has a few ways to parry it, one of which is 7… Na6 8. Nc3 d5 9. cxd5 exd5 10. Bf4 c5.

For the tactically-minded players we recommend Polugaevsky Gambit (7. d5 exd5 8. Nh4), which leads to very complex positions. The similar looking Taimanov Gambit (7. d5 exd5 8. Nd4) is considered to be promising for Black, since after, for example, 8… Bc6 9. Nxc6 dxc6, Black shouldn’t have problems to equalize.

From other notable lines worth mentioning we will recommend the Euwe Variation (7. b3), which is in our opinion suitable for club level players, though it has recently been seen even in some top-level games, such as A. Grischuk – L. Aronian, London 2015.

[Diagram: White to Move] L. Polugaevsky – V. Korchnoi, Buenos Aires (m/12) 1980. The diagrammed position is both instructive and theoretically relevant. How does White gain a significant long-term initiative?

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[July 14, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Dragan Barlov:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Semi-Slav Defense – Stoltz Variation (incl. Center Variation & Mikhalchishin Line)

[Line 280 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Qc2]

The Stoltz Variation (6. Qc2) is the most popular line in the Semi-Slav Defense. Among the interesting sidelines for Black, we can recommend 6… b6 7. Bd3 Bb7 8. O-O Be7, recently employed in a few games by A. Dreev. The critical game of that system is B. Adhiban – A. Dreev, Wijk aan Zee 2016, where Adhiban prepared an attractive novelty, and his opponent, after a poor reaction, quickly found himself in a difficult position.

By far the main line is 6… Bd6, and here, besides 7. Bd3 that is covered in our Lines 283-285, quiet 7. b3 (Line 282) and sharp 7. g4 (Line 281), White has several remaining options that are covered here.

After 7. Bd2 O-O 8. O-O-O Black has promising a pawn sacrifice: 8… b5 9. cxb5 Bb7.

Center Variation 7. e4 doesn’t pose real problems for Black, as after 7… dxe4 8. Nxe4 Nxe4 9. Qxe4 he has quite a few ways to equalize, e. g. the Mikhalchishin Line 9… e5.

7. Be2 O-O 8. O-O could transpose to Line 283 after 8… dxc4 9. Bxc4, though Black can also get satisfactory positions after 8… Re8 9. Rd1 Qe7.

[Diagram: White to Move] O. Sande – K. Haug, corr. 2013. White has a very good compensation for a sacrificed pawn – Black has poor coordination and weak dark squares. How can White launch a dangerous attack?

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[July 13, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
King’s Indian Defense, Sämisch Variation – Normal Defense with 6… c5

[Line 155 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. f3 O-O 6. Be3 c5]

Line 155 deals with what’s currently considered the most promising reaction from Black against the Sämisch Variation of KID. There are many double-edged positions occurring in this line, whatever White chooses to play: 7. dxc5, 7. d5 or 7. Nge2.

If White accepts the pawn sacrifice with 7. dxc5 dxc5 8. Qxd8 Rxd8 9. Bxc5, Black generally gets a nice compensation, for example 9… Nc6 10. Nge2 b6 11. Ba3 Ba6, with good development advantage.

In case when White decides to block the center with 7. d5 e6 8. Qd2 exd5 9. cxd5, a Benoni-type positions occur, and again Black is able to get sufficient counterplay, like in the following line: 9… a6 10. a4 Re8 11. Nge2 Nbd7 12. Ng3 h5.

The most demanding line for both sides is the flexible 7. Nge2. Black can decide between an interesting sideline 7… Qa5 8. Nc1 cxd4, that has been seen in a few recent games, and the critical 7… Nc6 8. d5 Ne5 9. Ng3 h5 10. Be2 h4 11. Nf1 e6 with very sharp play.

[Diagram: Black to Move] A. Istratescu – E. Berg, Eritrea 2011. White’s last move was the careless g2-g4, allowing his opponent a strong blow that immediately turns things into his favor.

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[July 12, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Semi-Slav, Pseudo-Meran & Quiet Variation

[Line 093 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 e6 without 5. Nc3]

Pseudo-Meran is a popular setup against Semi-Slav, with the general idea to avoid well-examined and forced lines of the Meran. The difference is that knight from b1 can be transferred to d2, instead of its more common destination – c3. White usually suports the c4-pawn with b2-b3, and either plays Bd3 or Be2, followed by O-O, Bb2 and Nbd2.

Black can respond with an almost symmetrical setup: Nbd7, Bd6, O-O, b7-b6 and Bb7.

Here is an illustration of how the game could proceed: 5. Bd3 Nbd7 6. b3 Bd6 7. Bb2 O-O 8. O-O b6 9. Nbd2 Bb7. White can try to seize more space with Ne5 and f2-f4, while Black’s idea is to prepare a thematic counter-attack with c6-c5.

There aren’t many forced lines in this variation, but the presence of all pieces on the board means that tough strategic battles are to be expected!

[Diagram: Black to Move] C. Voiculescu – Y. Gudzovati, corr. 2015. It looks like Black’s kingside attack got stuck, leaving him with many weaknesses. How can he continue, and secure a half point?

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