[September 23, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
French Defense – Exchange Variation

[Line 322 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4]

Moves like 2… b6 or 2… c5 typically allow White to gain advantage quite easily so, on move two, the French Defense (2… d5) is the preference of most of the players of Black.

Advance Variation (3. e5) of the French Defense is covered in our Lines 323-324, Tarrasch Variation (3. Nd2) in Lines 325-330, and move 3. Nc3 in Lines 331-346.

Exchange Variation 3. exd5 is the simplest way to play against the French Defense, since it usually leads to quiet and symmetrical positions. Generally, after 3…exd5, there are two approaches that White can try – to play a straightforward plan by simply developing his kingside, e. i. 4. Nf3 Nf6 5. Bd3 Be7 6. O-O, or a more committal c2-c4, which leads to positions with an isolated d-pawn for White, like in 4. Nf3 Nf6 5. c4 Be7 6. Nc3 O-O 7. cxd5 Nxd5.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White has just captured the Knight on c6, and Black needs to play energetically to hold the game. How can he reach an equal position?

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[September 22, 2016] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
Semi-Slav, Vienna Variation with 5. e4 Bb4 6. Bg5 c5 7. Bxc4

[Line 247 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. e4 Bb4 6. Bg5 c5 7. Bxc4]

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.

The Vienna Variation is generally regarded as a reliable choice for the players of Black, and Line 247 deals with the most critical lines in this variation.

After 7… cxd4 8. Nxd4 Black usually plays Qa5, with or without exchanging the Bishop for the Knight on c3.

After the immediate 8… Qa5 White can return the dark-squared Bishop to d2: 9. Bd2, where the game typically continues with 9… Qc5 10. Bb5+ Bd7 11. Nb3 Qe7 12. Bd3 Nc6, and Black’s position remains solid.

On the other hand, after 8… Bxc3+ 9. bxc3 Qa5 White has the following options: 10. Nb5 Nxe4 11. Bf4, 10. Bxf6 Qxc3+ 11. Kf1 gxf6 12. Rc1 and 10. Bb5+ Bd7 11. Bxf6 gxf6 12. Bxd7+ Nxd7 13. O-O. In any case, both sides have their trumps – Black King is slightly exposed and White is either a pawn down or stays with the weak c-pawn.

[Diagram: White to Move] G. Blask – A. Grube, corr. 2009. White is obviously trying to exploit the poor placement of Black King. How can he create direct threats, and launch a strong attack?

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[September 21, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Najdorf Variation – English Attack (incl. Delayed Keres Attack & Perenyi Gambit)

[Line 492 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be3 e6 without 7. Be2, 7. f3]

Variation with 7. f3 is covered in Lines 493-494, and 7. Be2 leads to the Classical Scheveningen (Line 484-487).

Sharp Delayed Keres Attack (7. g4) is the main point of interest of this opening line, where Black has two viable replies: 7… e5 and 7… h6.

8. Qf3 has been recently tested in a few grandmasters games against the latter Black’s option. He needs to play carefully to gain reasonable counterplay.

After 7… e5 8. Nf5 g6 White is practically forced to sacrifice material by leaving the attacked Knight on f5. Both the Perenyi Gambit (9. g5 gxf5 10. exf5) and 9. Bg2 lead to extensively examined and forced lines, with approximately even chances.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White is an exchange up but Black can make use of his bishop pair to save the game. What is the best continuation for him?

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[September 20, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Slaviša Brenjo:
King’s Indian Defense, Gligorić-Taimanov Variation without 7… Ng4

[Line 160 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 e5 7. Be3 without 7… Ng4]

Black’s most frequent choice on 7th move is 7… Ng4, which is covered in our Line 161.

The other popular option is 7… exd4 8. Nxd4 Re8 9. f3 c6, followed by d6-d5. Since moves like 10. Qd2 or 10. O-O leave Black with comfortable play, White usually opts for 10. Bf2. The game often continues 10… d5 11. exd5 cxd5 12. O-O Nc6 13. c5, when Black has two interesting possibilities: 13… Re5 and 13… Bf8.

For club level players we recommend either 7… Qe8 or 7… h6, in both cases connected with the idea Ng4, where with Bg5 White no longer gets an important tempo.

[Diagram: Black to Move] E. Inarkiev – R. Mamedov, Moscow 2015. Inarkiev’s last move was f2-f4, missing Black’s strong reply. Can you see what White failed to notice, thus giving his opponent a big advantage?

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[September 19, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Keres Indian (Pseudo-Nimzo)

[Line 053 : 1. d4 e6 without 2. e4]

Move 2. e4 leads to the French Defense (Lines 321-346), and after the other popular choice (2. Nf3) the game can turn to many different openings: 2… c5 3. e4 transposes to the Paulsen Sicilian; 2… c5 3. c4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 is the English Opening; after both 2… Nf6 and 2… d5 occur variations of the Queen’s Pawn Game.

Keres Indian 2. c4 Bb4+ is in the focus of this opening line (also known as the Pseudo-Nimzo Defense). Covering from the check with 3. Nc3 usually leads to the Nimzo-Indian after 3… Nf6. The other two sensible moves (3. Nd2 and 3. Bd2) both lead to promising positions for White.

After 3. Nd2 Black can not equalize with 3… Nf6 4. a3 Be7 5. e4 d5, since White seizes the initiative with 6. e5 Nfd7 7. Qg4. In other lines, Black often trades his dark-squared Bishop for the Knight on d2, thus leaving White with a small edge due to his bishop pair, just like in e. g. 3… c5 4. a3 Bxd2+ 5. Qxd2 cxd4 6. Qxd4.

Against 3. Bd2 Black can trade off the dark-squared Bishops with 3… Bxd2+ 4. Qxd2, but White remains slightly better after 4… Nf6 5. Nc3 d5 6. e3 O-O 7. cxd5 exd5 8. Bd3, like in the game R. Wojtaszek – D. Vocaturo, Doha 2015. Black’s best option is 3… a5 and transposition to the Bogo-Indian Defense after 4. Nf3 Nf6, since after 4. Nf3 d6 5. Nc3, with later a2-a3 typically gives White a small plus.

[Diagram: White to Move] F. Peralta – R. Reinaldo Castineria, Barcelona 2008. How can White make use of his pawn center to gain a big advantage?

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[September 18, 2016] Updated Opening Article by GM Aleksandar Kovačević:
January 2016 Revisited: Sicilian Defense, Paulsen Variation: Bastrikov Variation

Our original main line of this variation stems from A. Morozevich – I. Bukavshin, Moscow (rapid) 2015, a marvelous tactical masterpiece by the former World No. 2. New theoretically important developments have appeared ever since, so it was only natural to update this more or less fashionable line.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position had originally appeared in R. Edouard – A. Neiksans, Drancy 2015, and what followed was probably still a part of the French grandmaster’s deep opening preparation. Can you follow in his footsteps and seize a considerable advantage as White?

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