[October 31, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Dutch Defense, Normal Variation

[Line 048 : 1. d4 f5 without 2. g3]

Line 048 deals with alternatives to the most frequently played Fianchetto Variation (2. g3), which is covered in our Lines 049-050.

By choosing 2. c4 White keeps the option of a later transposition to the Fianchetto. After 2… Nf6 3. Nc3 Black can opt either for 3… e6, or for the kingside fianchetto 3… g6. In the first case, after 3… e6 4. g3 d5 5. Bg2 c6 occurs a position from the Stonewall Variation with the difference that white Knight is already developed on c3, which could be in Black’s favor, since White can no longer play a standard maneuver Nb1-d2-f3. That’s why the game often continues with 3… e6 4. Nf3 Bb4 where Black should get equal chances, too. In case of 3… g6, White has an interesting gambit line in 4. h4, followed by h4-h5 and the exchange sacrifice on h5.

From the notable sidelines for White, we should also mention 2. Nc3 and after 2… Nf6 both the positional 3. Bg5 and sharp 3. e4 fxe4 4. Bg5 deserve serious attention.

For club level players we recommend 2. Bg5 with some similarities with the Trompowsky Attack, and for beginners we suggest 2. Bf4 with the idea e2-e3, Nf3 and h3, and a very solid position.

[Diagram: White to Move] White has superior development and, if he wants to make use of it, he needs to play proactively!

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[October 30, 2016] Updated Opening Article by Boris Avrukh:
January 2016 Revisited: Grünfeld Defense, Improved Nadanian Attack

Our original key game in this line was A. Tari – M. Vachier-Lagrave, Gibraltar 2016, where Black managed to equalize comfortably with 9… Qe7, though 9… exd4 seemed to offer Black equally good prospects. The most recent top-level game Li Chao – I. Nepomniachtchi, Moscow 2016 only confirmed our assessment, as the Russian on the rise never really had any problems at all.

[Diagram: Black to Move] The diagrammed position comes from our improvement on D. Haessel – I. Chirila, Chicago 2016. Black has managed to win material, but still has to solve the problems coming from the insecure placement of his uncastled king. How would you secure the opening advantage as Black in this position?

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[October 29, 2016] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
Semi-Slav, Noteboom Variation & Marshall Gambit

[Line 068 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 e6 with 4. Nf3, 4. e4]

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.

Line 068 deals with the two most critical variations of the Semi-Slav: 4. Nf3 and 4. e4.

In the Noteboom Variation (4. Nf3 dxc4) the game usually continues with 5. a4 Bb4 6. e3 b5 7. Bd2 a5, and after the forced 8. axb5 Bxc3 9. Bxc3 cxb5 10. b3 Bb7 11. bxc4 b4 12. Bb2 occurs the main tabiya of this opening line. White has a strong pawn center while his opponent has connected passed pawns on the queenside. This position requires precise play from both sides, but Black’s task is a bit more sensitive.

The other principled choice for White is 4. e4 where 4… Bb4 leads to less demanding positions, but at the same time leaves White with somewhat better prospects. More ambitious line for Black is 4… dxe4 5. Nxe4 Bb4+. Here 6. Nc3, which typically leads to quiet positions, was successfully used by Carlsen in the third game of the World Championship match against Anand, in Chennai in 2013.

Move 6. Bd2 is the introductory move of the Marshall Gambit in the Semi-Slav. After 6… Qxd4 7. Bxb4 Qxe4+ White has a choice between two moves of about the same strength: 8. Be2 and 8. Ne2. In both cases White has sufficient compensation for the pawn, though Black, if he plays correctly, should eventually get equal chances.

[Diagram: White to Move] Coordination of Black pieces is very poor and White can launch a decisive attack with the right continuation. Can you see how?

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[October 28, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Italian Game, Giouco Pianissimo without 5… a6

[Line 364 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d3 without 5… a6]

Giouco Pianissimo in the Italian Game has become a mainstream opening in the past few years. Besides the prophylactic 5… a6 (Lines 365-366) Black often opts for 5… O-O or 5… d6.

After 5… O-O 6. O-O move 6… d5 is an ambitions option for Black, but it demands precise knowledge of the consequences. There were a significant number of theoretical discussions on the highest level in the line 6… d5 7. exd5 Nxd5 8. a4, like in the game V. Anand – W. So, Saint Louis 2016.

Move 6… d6 is more solid than 6… d5, and now line 7. a4 deserves serious attention. Since White threatens b2-b4 and a4-a5, Black usually replies with 7… a6 where two continuations were recently severely examined – a typical 8. Re1 and a funny-looking 8. Bg5 h6 9. Bh4 g5 10. Bg3, often connected with double-edged play.

[Diagram: White to Move] If White gives check Qa4+ Black will go back with the Knight to c6 and his position will be just fine, but there is another way for White to make use of the awkward position of the Knight!

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[October 27, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Pirc Defense, Byrne Variation

[Line 297 : 1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 without 4. Be3, 4. Nf3, 4. f4]

Other more popular variations of the Pirc Defense are covered in our Lines 298-300, and Line 297 deals primarily with 4. Bg5, 4. g3 and 4. Be2.

Byrne Variation (4. Bg5) is certainly one of the lines posing the most problems for Black. There are basically two plans connected with it. One starts with early Qd2 followed by long castling, and the other relies on the expansion in the center with f2-f4 and Nf3, where the Bishop on g5 is placed very actively. An illustrative lines could be 4… Bg7 5. Qd2 h6 6. Bh4 O-O 7. O-O-O c6 and 4… Bg7 5. f4 O-O 6. Nf3 c6 7. Bd3 Qb6, in both cases with mutual play.

Fianchetto System (4. g3) leads to calm maneuvering play, for example 4… Bg7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. Nge2 e5 7. h3 c6, and the position is balanced.

The idea of 4. Be2 is supporting of the h-pawn advance after 4… Bg7 5. h4. Here both 5… Nc6 and 5… c5 promises Black equal chances.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black’s extra pawn is hardly something to be proud of in the diagrammed position. How does White make a clear plus from his superior piece development and poor placement of the black Queen?

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[October 26, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Aleksandar Kovačević:
Sicilian Defense, Maroczy Bind with 5… Bg7 (incl. Breyer Variation)

[Line 433 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 g6 5. c4 Bg7]

The Maroczy Bind is a flexible, yet passive, defense for Black. After the introductory moves, the game usually continues with 6. Be3 Nf6 7. Nc3 O-O 8. Be2, where Black has two possibilities: 8… d6 and 8… b6.

After 8… b6 9. O-O Bb7 9. f3 White’s spatial advantage is typically a long-term one.

The other choice 8… d6 9. O-O also does not promise Black full equality. If he goes for an early 9… Nxd4, White can react with 10. Bxd4 Bd7 11. Qd3, often followed by b2-b4 and f2-f4. Against the more frequent 9… Bd7 White has two reactions of about the same strength: one is 10. Nc2 avoiding the exchange of a pair of Knights, and the other is the old line 10. Qd2 Nxd4 11. Bxd4 Bc6 12. f3 a5 13. b3 Nd7 14. Be3.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White’s last move was b3-b4, attacking the Knight on c5. What is Black’s best reaction in the diagrammed position?

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