[June 17, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Aleksandar Kovačević:
French Defense, Normal Variation – Classical Variation (Boleslavsky Variation with 7… Be7)

[Line 337 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3 Be7]

Black has three main choices against the Boleslavsky Variation of the French Defense: 7… cxd4 (covered in Line 338), 7… a6 (covered in Line 339) and 7… Be7, which is examined in this particular Line.

Black’s idea is connected with short castling, while White either opts for short castling with a dynamic positional battle, or captures on c5 and castles long with double-edged positions. In first case, after 8. Qd2 O-O 9. Be2 Black has two interesting possibilities – 9… a6 and 9… b6, both seen recently in top grandmaster games.

If White opts for 8. Qd2 O-O 9. dxc5, Black again has a choice between 9… Bxc5 10. O-O-O Qa5, or  9… Nxc5, that has been heavily explored in recent years.

[Diagram: White to Move] In the diagrammed position a typical Greek gift sacrifice Bxh7+ practically screams to be played, but it’s important to calculate what happens against Black’s most stubborn defense.

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[June 16, 2016] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
English Opening, Kramnik-Shirov Counterattack

[Line 006 : 1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 without 2… Nc6, 2… Nf6]

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.

Kramnik-Shirov Counterattack (2… Bb4) is, in our opinion, an interesting alternative to the usual 2… Nf6 (Lines 011-017) and 2… Nc6 (Lines 006 and 007). Players of White have tried many plans, and among them 3. Nd5 seems to be the most ambitious. Apart form 3… Bc5, Black gets satisfactory positions both after 3… Be7 and 3… a5.

The other heavily examined variation in Line 006 is 2… d6, followed by f7-f5, Nf6, g7-g6 and Bg7. An illustrative line could follow: 3. g3 f5 4. Bg2 Nf6 5. e3 g6 6. Nge2 Bg7, and Black’s flexible setup should give him enough for equalization.

[Diagram: Black to Move] B. Gulko – J. Granda Zúñiga, Moscow 1994. Last White’s move was g2-g4, missing Black’s strong response. How did Granda Zúñiga get an almost winning advantage?

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[June 15, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Slaviša Brenjo:
Ponziani Opening; Three Knights Opening; Four Knights Opening

[Line 358 :1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 without 3. Bc4, 3. Bb5, 3. d4]

Besides the Three/Four Knights Opening and the Ponziani Opening, Line 358 covers various rare lines for White. Though none of these lines pose real problems for Black, they became popular even at the highest level, as a way to avoid the “Berlin Wall”.

Among the above mentioned lines, our recommendations for beginners and club level players are either 3. g3 or 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Be2. Both lines are quiet and modest, but very easy to treat for the players of White.

Ponziani Opening (3. c3) often leads to original dynamic positions and demands more knowledge from both sides. In our opinion, Black has two promising choices: 3… d5 and 3… Nf6.

Three/Four Knights Opening (3. Nc3) is more frequently seen in grandmaster practice, especially the following position occurring after 3… Nf6 4. d4 exd4 5. Nxd4 Bb4 6. Nxc6 bxc6 7. Bd3 d5 8. exd5 cxd5. White will generally be trying to exploit Black’s slightly inferior pawn structure, while Black can count on his good piece play to compensate for it.

[Diagram: White to Move] F. Tunega – A. Kyhos, corr. 2006. Black only needs to move his Bishop to c7 and play d7-d5, which would even give him a preferable position. However, White’s next move spoils his opponent’s plans, and creates him serious problems.

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[Jun 14, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
King’s Indian Defense, Makagonov Variation

[Line 152 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 with 5. h3, 5. Bd3]

Line 152 deals with two substantially different systems: the Makagonov Variation (5. h3) and the 5. Bd3 setup, typically followed by 6. Nge2.

In the Makagonov Variation, after 5. h3 O-O White develops his dark-squared Bishop either to g5 or e3, while 6. Nf3 transposes to our Line 157. Against both previously mentioned Bishop moves, Black has a choice between the e7-e5 or the c7-c5 central push that both lead to satisfactory positions for him.

On the other hand, after 5. Bd3 O-O 6. Nge2 we recommend either 6… Nc6 7. O-O e5 8. d5 Nd4, or a Benoni-like setup 6… c5 7. d5 e6, again with good play for the players of Black.

[Diagram: Black to Move] M. Șuba – W. Schmidt, Polanica-Zdrój 1976. In the original game grandmaster Schmidt missed his chance to get a tangible advantage. Can you find it?

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[Jun 13, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Najdorf Variation – Opočenský Variation; Classical Scheveningen – Maróczy Variation

[Line 484 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be2 without 6… e5]

The Opočenský Variation (6. Be2) against the Najdorf Variation is the preference of positionally-minded players. Black has two significantly different main plans – to play 6… e5 (which is covered in our Lines 488-490), or opt for the Classical Scheveningen with 6… e6, which is partially covered here. Variation with 7. O-O can be found in our Lines 485-487, and the main point of interest of Line 484 is the plan which includes long castling: 7. Be3 followed by Qd2 and O-O-O.

After 7… Qc7 8. Qd2 b5 9. a3 Bb7 10. f3 one of the critical positions in this line occurs. Black has several possibilities, most importantly 10… Be7, 10… Nbd7 and 10… Nc6, which all lead to double-edged positions with mutual chances.

[Diagram: White to Move] White’s attack looks devastating, and indeed it is – he needs to find several accurate moves and it’s curtains for Black!

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[June 12, 2016] Updated Opening Article by GM Aleksandar Kovačević:
July 2015 Revisited: Sicilian Defense, Najdorf Variation with 6. h3 e5

In the original article our game of the week was F. Caruana – W. So, Dortmund 2015, where Black managed to create excellent counterplay. We have now updated the survey with several theoretically important over-the-board, correspondence and engine games, and it seems that this variation remains a reliable choice for the players of Black, as they generally don’t seem to have many problems equalizing in this line.

[Diagram: Black to Move] The diagrammed position comes from an analysis from the game P. Karthikeyan – P. Darini, Al Ain 2015. Black has to do something about his opponent’s pressure on the queenside, and save his hanging pieces before it becomes too late.

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