[September 05, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Lasker-Pelikan Variation – Chelyabinsk Variation (Main Line with 11. c3)

[Line 438 : 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]

The Lasker Variation of the Sicilian Defense is not as popular as it used to be, but one should not be misled – it still is very hard for White to obtain some advantage. Carlsen and Grischuk tried it recently in a few games, and got comfortable positions. Black has several promising setups to decide from:

After 11… Ne7 12. Nxf6 gxf6 13. Bd3 White does make certain problems to his opponent.

Old main line 11… Bg5 12. Nc2 O-O is covered separately in Line 439, and here Black has experienced difficulties in the last few years.

The new main line is 11… Bg5 12. Nc2 Ne7, and though White has a number of interesting plans, Black has numerous resources at his disposal and should equalize without difficulties.

Another possibility for Black is 11… Bg5 12. Nc2 Rb8. The most ambitious continuation for White is 13. a4 bxa4 14. Ncb4 Nxb4, where both against 15. cxb4, and 15. Nxb4, Black should be fine.

[Diagram: White to Move] S. Karjakin – T. Radjabov, Warsaw 2005. White has a powerful knight on d5 and it gives him a strong motive for positional sacrifice, that Karjakin successfully carried out in the featured game. How does White obtain longterm initiative in the diagrammed position?

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[September 4, 2016] Updated Opening Article by GM Slaviša Brenjo:
September 2015 Revisited: Bishop’s Opening with 7. Qxd2

After Chinese prodigy Wei Yi mesmerized the world with a stunning queen sacrifice against his super-GM compatriot Ding Liren, this offbeat line suddenly gained in popularity. This update brings several new successful outings for the players of White, including a top-level one: N. Short – D. Anton Guijarro, Madrid (rapid) 2016.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Raubfisch ME 262  – Komodo 9.02, Internet (blitz) 2016. What seemed like another uneventful balanced game among the top engines could have turned into a barely defendable position for White had Komodo had more time to calculate more deeply… Can you find the hidden attacking plan for Black?

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[September 03, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Vadim Zvjaginsev:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Exchange Variation

[Line 172 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bg5 Be7 without 6. Nf3]

Unlike the other variations of the Queen’s Gambit Declined, in the Exchange Variation white knight can be deployed to e2 after Bd3, which seems to create certain problems for Black, though Kramnik’s probably begs to differ, as this line has recently been his weapon of choice.

A very common follow-up is 6. e3 O-O 7. Bd3 Nbd7 8. Nge2 Re8 9. O-O, when 9… Nf8 seems inaccurate as it allows White a nice trick: 10. b4!, and the following line obviously favors White: 10… Bxb4 11. Bxf6 gxf6 12. Nxd5! Qxd5 13. Qa4. That’s why the players of Black should opt for 9… c6 first, and only after 10. Qc2 should they choose 10… Nf8. The classical plan for White begins with 11. f3 (preparing e3-e4), where Black has to be careful, though basically still has quite decent chances.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Rook on e8 is under attack, but Black has better ways to proceed than to cover it with Bd7. How can Black create big problems to his opponent?

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[September 02, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Slaviša Brenjo:
Ruy Lopez, Morphy Defense (incl. Wormald & Mackenzie Variations and Exchange Variation Deferred)

[Line 384 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 without 5. O-O, 5. d3]

Besides the two most popular choices: 5. O-O covered in Lines 386-413 and 5. d3, Black needs to be prepared for several rare lines of Ruy Lopez.

With the Wormald Variation (5. Qe2) White avoids the Open Variation and plans, after castling short, to put the Rook on d1 and prepare the d2-d4 advance. Black usually continues with 5… b5 6. Bb3, and now has a choice between 6… Be7 and 6… Bc5.

Mackenzie Variation (5. d4) aims to initiate a very concrete play at an early stage of the game. Nevertheless, Black is able to obtain quite good prospects with 5… exd4 6. O-O Be7 7. Re1 b5 8. Bb3 d6.

Exchange Variation Deferred (5. Bxc6) is a slightly odd option for White, since the only drawback of knight’s placement on f6 is the inability to play f7-f6. Anyway, the game tends to become closed, e.g. like after 5… dxc6 6. d3 Bd6 7. Nbd2 Be6 8. O-O O-O.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White has just taken the Bishop on b4, expecting his opponent to do the same, but there is something better. How can Black make use of the e-file and seize the initiative?

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[September 01, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Ragozin Variation with 5. cxd5

[Line 250 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Bb4 5. cxd5]

The Ragozin Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined is a mainstream opening and it’s a part of the opening repertoire of many top players. Move 5. cxd5 is the main preference of the players of White, and after 5… exd5 an interesting bishop move 6. Bf4 has been tested lately by Svidler, Eljanov and several other strong grandmasters.

Against 6. Bg5, variation 6… Nbd7 is covered in our Lines 251-252, and apart from that, Black has two other promising options: 6… h6 and 6… O-O.

After 6… O-O 7. e3 h6 8. Bh4 players of Black have recently found a promising continuation in 8… Bf5 9. Qb3 Bxc3+ 10. bxc3 Nbd7, which was seen in the key game Ding Liren – P. Leko, Danzhou 2016.

Black can postpone castling by playing 6… h6 7. Bh4, where two options deserve serious attention: 7… g5 8. Bg3 Ne4 and 7… c5 8. dxc5 Nbd7.

[Diagram: White to Move] White would be very pleased to open the h-file for his rook, but after h2-h4 Black would react with g5-g4, keeping the kingside closed. How can White outwit his opponent?

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[August 31, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Alatortsev Variation

[Line 062 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Be7 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bf4 c6]

The Alatortsev Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined can be frequently seen on the highest level, which speaks enough of its reputation. As an alternative to the main 6. e3, White has 6. Qc2, aiming to delay development of the black Bishop to f5. Black’s best way to react is either 6… Nf6 or 6… Bd6, since moves like 6… g6 or 6… Bg4 seem insufficient for full equality.

On the other hand, after 6. e3 Black should proceed with 6… Bf5, where the most challenging attempt for White is 7. g4. Since after 7… Bg6 8. h4 Black gets into trouble, he should probably reply with 7… Be6. Here, White has a wide range of options, but 8. h4 is the biggest challenge to his opponent.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black is a pawn up, but also seriously behind in development. What is the best way for White to seize the initiative?

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