[May 23, 2016] Updated Opening Line by GM Dragan Barlov:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Semi-Slav Defense – Meran (Reynolds Variation)

[Line 277 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 8. Bd3 a6]

8… a6 is a classical continuation in the Meran Defense, that was played in a few games during the Meran 1924 tournament, where this defense was officially born!

After 9. e4 c5, the Reynolds Variation 10. d5 is not considered particularly dangerous, as it gives Black comfortable play after 10… c4.

The main variation in this line is 10. e5 cxd4, where White’s only serious try is 11. Nxb5. Black now has two interesting choices: the most popular is 11… axb5 12. exf6 gxf6, and the equally interesting alternative is  11… Nxe5 12. Nxe5 axb5 13. Bb5+ Bd7. In our opinion, line 11… Ng4 12. Qa4 Bb7 13. Nbxd4 is an inferior choice that leads to favorable positions for White.

The most memorable game in these lines is V. Kramnik – V. Anand, Bonn (m/5) 2008, played in the World Championship match, where Anand scored an important victory.

This line should give Black sufficient resources to get satisfactory play, though some accuracies are certainly required.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position stems from an engine game. Our silicon friends are merciless when some tactics occur. Without further ado, White to play and win!

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[May 22, 2016] Updated Opening Article by GM Boris Avrukh:
May 2015 Revisited: Sicilian Defense, Najdorf Variation – Verbeterde List

In the original article our featured games were D. Frolyanov – L. Dominguez Perez, Sochi 2015 and M. Cornette – P. Idani, Reykjavik 2015. We have now updated the survey with several theoretically important correspondence games, and it seems that the verdict remains the same: Black usually gets rich piece play after the pawn sacrifice, but he can hardly reach complete equality if White plays all the accurate moves.

[Diagram: White to Move] 15. Nd5 looks very much like one of those Sicilian-killers, but can you see what comes next?

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[May 21, 2016] Updated Opening Line by GM Trajko Nedev:
Gruenfeld Defense, Russian Variation (Hungarian Variation)

[Line 149 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. Qb3 dxc4 6. Qxc4 O-O 7. e4 a6]

The Hungarian Variation (7… a6) is the most popular choice among the Grünfeld aficionados against the Russian Variation.

The main line goes 8. Be2 b5 9. Qb3 c5 10. dxc5, where our recommendation for advanced players is 10… Be6 11. Qc2 Nbd7 (which is often seen in top-level games), and for club level players 10… Bb7 11. O-O Nxe4 12. Nxe4 Bxe4.

White has several alternatives on 8th move, but 8. e5 b5 9. Qb3 Nfd7 demands the most serious attention. Here again, White has two interesting options: namely – 10. e6 and 10. h4.

The overall evaluation of Black’s position in this line is pretty much the same like in the remaining lines of the Grünfeld Defense – good, yet quite demanding.

[Diagram: White to Move] D. Navara – A. Giri, Wijk aan Zee 2016. Whether it was his fantastic preparation or just a moment of inspiration, Navara’s next few moves are a real treat for your eyes!

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In Memoriam: GM Dragan Paunović
November 8, 1961 (Belgrade, Serbia) – May 19, 2016 (Vigo, Spain)

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved friend and colleague GM Dragan Paunović.

On May 18, 2016 he was incapacitated by a sudden health affliction, and transported by helicopter to a hospital in Vigo, Spain. Dragan was admitted to the hospital with severe vascular complications resulting in abdominal aortic aneurism. He passed away the morning after surgery.

Dragan is survived by his father Bogoljub and his brother Tomislav, an international chess master. Our dear colleague was loved by his family, friends and fellow chess players for his gentle demeanor and genuine kindness. He will be sorely missed and fondly remembered by everyone who had the good fortune to cross paths with him.



[May 20, 2016] Updated Opening Line by GM Trajko Nedev:
Philidor Defense, Improved Hanham Variation

[Line 296 : 1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 e5 4. Nf3 Nbd7 5. Bc4 Be7 6. O-O O-O]

The Improved Hanham Variation typically occurs via the 1… d6 2. d4 Nf6 move order and is considered the preferable way to play the Philidor Defense in recent years, since after 1… e5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 Nf6 4. dxe5 (which is covered in our Line 349) White can obtain a longterm initiative.

After both sides complete the castling, White has several different plans, but Re1 & a4 is the most common. So, after 7. Re1 c6 8. a4 Black has a number of possibilities, like 8… exd4 followed by 9… Ne5, somewhat passive options like 8… b6, 8… Qc7 or 8…h6, or, in our opinion, the most promising 8… a5.

Either way, though White is the more active side, it’s Black’s flexibility that gives him decent chances.

[Diagram: White to Move] It seems like Black has sufficient compensation, but it’s White’s turn to move and he can use the f6-f7 fork as an important resource. Can you secure the advantage for White?

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[May 19, 2016] Updated Opening Line by GM Dragan Šolak:
French Defense, Tarrasch Variation with 3… Nf6 (incl. Leningrad & Botvinnik Variations)

[Line 326 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 Nf6]

Line 326 covers the dynamic 3… Nf6, where White gets more space after 4. e5 Nfd7, while Black usually either exerts pressure on the d4-pawn, or undermines White’s center with f7-f6 (or both).

For club level players we recommend 5. c3 c5 6. f4, with mostly maneuvering play from both sides.

The Botvinnik Variation, occurring after 5. Bd3 c5 6. c3 b6 (with the idea Bc8-a6) should leave White with a small advantage, like in the 7. Nh3 Ba6 8. Bxa6 Nxa6 9. O-O line.

The Leningrad Variation 5. Bd3 c5 6. c3 Nc6 7. Ne2 cxd4 8. cxd4 Nb6 is another old line, which is not so popular nowadays, since it is mostly favorable for White.

The most promising line for Black is 5. Bd3 c5 6. c3 Nc6 7. Ne2 cxd4 8. cxd4 f6, where 9. Nf4 leads to very sharp positions, while after 9. exf6 Nxf6 10. O-O White can probably count on a slightly more pleasant position.

[Diagram: White to Move] White’s next move 18. Nxd5 first comes to mind, but how should he proceed after 18… Qd8?

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