[August 31, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Ruy Lopez, Morphy Defense – Normal Variation (Miscellaneous)

[Line 386 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O without 5… Nxe4, 5… Be7]

In addition to the Closed Defense 5… Be7 (Lines 391-413) and the Open Variation 5… Nxe4 (Lines 389-390), Black has two more viable choices, namely 5… b5 and 5… Bc5.

After 5… b5 6. Bb3 move 6… Bc5 (Lines 387-388) is the most frequently played option, while 6… Bb7 is an alternative of about the same strength.

The idea of 6… Bb7 is to react against 7. c3 with 7… Nxe4, where White has sufficient compensation for the pawn, but Black should not be worse. In the case of calm 7. d3 Black is fine both after 7… Be7 and 7… Bc5, while after 7. Re1 Bc5 8. c3 he can equalize with 8… d6 9. d4 Bb6, as well as with 8… O-O 9. d4 Bb6.

Move 5… Bc5 is a sideline, where Black’s position after 6. c3 O-O 7. d4 Bb6 should be roughly equal.

[Diagram: White to Move] P. Negi – W. Spoelman, Wijk aan Zee 2007. White Knight on g5 is under attack and Black can meet 16. Nxe4 with 16… Qxh4. Is there a better continuation for White in the diagrammed position?

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[August 30, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Dragan Barlov:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Semi-Slav Defense – Stoltz Variation (Main Line with 9… b5)

[Line 285 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Qc2 Bd6 7. Bd3 O-O 8. O-O dxc4 9. Bxc4 b5]

By playing 9… b5 Black has attacked the Bishop on c4, intends to play Bb7, and later either c6-c5, or e6-e5. White has two replies of about the same strength: 10. Be2 and 10. Bd3.

In the first case, after 10. Be2 Bb7, the two most common continuations are 11. e4 e5 12. dxe5 Nxe5 13. Nd4 Neg4 and 11. Rd1 Qc7 12. e4 e5 13. dxe5 Nxe5 14. Nd4 Neg4, both with immense complications.

If White retreats the Bishop to d3, Black replies the same, i. e. 10… Bb7. Black is again ready to meet 11. e4 with 11… e5. The most popular choice of the players of White is 11. a3, preventing b5-b4, and in some cases planning b2-b4, thus keeping the Bishop on b7 passive. After 11… a5 White switches to the abovementioned plan: 12. e4 e5 13. dxe5 Nxe5 14. Nxe5 Bxe5 15. h3, and again Black is fine after 15… Re8. The alternative is 11… a6, and since he is now ready to play c6-c5, White prevents it with 12. b4. Black’s idea is 12… a5 13. Rb1 axb4 14. axb4 Qe7, pressing the b4-pawn.

[Diagram: White to Move] White Rook on a1 and Bishop on e5 are hanging, and so is the black Queen. In such a complicated position there is a path for White that leads to an almost decisive advantage, can you see it?

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[August 29, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Nimzo-Indian Defense, Rubinstein Variation – Normal Variation (incl. Schlechter & Bernstein Defenses)

[Line 191 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. Bd3 d5 6. Nf3]

Schlechter Defense (6… b6) is one of the most reliable choices for Black in the Rubinstein Variation, and no wonder that it’s frequently employed by Karjakin, who is probably the biggest Nimzo-Indian expert. Against 7. a3 Bxc3+ 8. bxc3 Black gets good prospects both with 8… c6 and 8… Ba6. After the more common 7. O-O Black can choose between the strategically tense 7… Bb7 8. cxd5 exd5, and a bit less complicated 7… Ba6 8. cxd5 exd5 followed by exchange of the light-squared bishops.

Bernstein Defense (6… c5) is the most popular continuation, and after 7. O-O the old main line 7… Nc6 is covered in our Line 194. The alternative is 7… dxc4 8. Bxc4 where, in addition to 8… cxd4 (Line 193) and 8… Nbd7 (Line 192), Black has few more viable options – among them are 8… Nc6 and 8… Bd7.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black King is poorly protected and the most important defensive piece is the Knight on f6. How can White strengthen his attack by disrupting the black Knight?

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[August 28, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Aleksandar Kovačević:
Sicilian Defense, Maroczy Bind – Gurgenidze Variation (Main Line with 9. Be3)

[Line 432 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 g6 5. c4 Nf6 6. Nc3 d6 7. Be2 Nxd4 8. Qxd4 Bg7 9. Be3]

The Maroczy Bind is, in our opinion, an advisable opening choice for club level players, since it allows Black to get solid positions, with a rather straightforward plan.

The idea of the Gurgenidze Variation is to force white Queen to capture on d4 by playing Nc6xd4 before white Bishop is developed on e3. The Queen soon needs to take flight from d4, which means that White has hardly gained a tempo, while exchanging a pair of Knights generally favors the side with less space – in this case it’s Black.

After the usual 9… O-O 10. Qd2 Be6 11. Rc1 Black has two viable setups – one is to advance his a-pawn to a4, then develop the Queen to a5 and Rook from f8 to c8, and the other is the immediate abovementioned deployment of the Queen and the Rook. Exemplary continuations are 11… a5 12. f3 a4 13. Rc2 Qa5 14. Nd5 Nxd5 15. cxd5 Rfc8! and 11… Qa5 12. f3 Rfc8 13. b3 a6 14. Na4 Qxd2+ 15. Kxd2 Nd7, where White has difficulties getting something concrete out of the opening.

[Diagram: Black to Move] One of the critical positions of the Maroczy Bind is displayed on the diagram above: White has just played Be3-b6, attacking the Rook on d8, while planning to proceed with Ke3 and Rhd1. How can Black transform the position to an easily defendable endgame?

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[August 27, 2018] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
English Opening, Four Knights Variation – Kingside Fianchetto with 4… d5 (Main Line)

[Line 016 : 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e5 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. g3 d5 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. Bg2 Nb6 7. O-O Be7 8. a3]

Line 016 deals with one of the main lines of the Four Knights Variation of the English Opening.

White intends to play b2-b4, gaining some space on the queenside. The game usually continues 8… O-O 9. b4 Be6, where Black wants to play f7-f6, Nd4 and c7-c6. After 10. Rb1 f6 11. d3 Nd4 moves 12. Nd2, 12. Nxd4 and 12. Be3 have all been tried many times and, in any case, Black should have equal chances.

Black has an interesting alternative in 8… O-O 9. b4 Re8, followed by Bf8, a7-a5 and Nd4. In case of 10. b5 Nd4 11. Nxe5 Black gets good prospects with 11… Bf6.

[Diagram: Black to Move] B. Jobava – D. Arutinian, Tbilisi 2007. Unusual position of the black Rook together with an awkward placement of the white Queen give Black motives for a powerful tactical blow!

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[August 26, 2018] Pick of the Week by GM Boris Avrukh:
August 2017 Revisited: The Paulsen Sicilian, Bastrikov Variation with 7. Qf3 Ne5

After a series of games played by Anish Giri in 2014 and 2015, this variation became highly fashionable and many theoretically important encounters ensued. As it still appears that Black can’t fully equalize after 8… h5 9. O-O-O (though fighting for advantage as White is far from simple – check for instance Z. Abdumalik – G. Antal, Budapest 2018), we have promoted our analysis of 8… b5 to the variation’s main line and probably the best option for the players of Black.

[Diagram: Black to Move] The diagrammed position is from E. Nakar – A. Stukopin, Dallas 2016. White is ahead in development, and he is even prepared to part ways with his bishop pair to maintain his momentum. Is there anything better for Black than capturing on e3?

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