[October 16, 2016] Trusted: Opening Survey by GM Aleksandar Kovačević
Sicilian Defense, Rossolimo Variation with 8… c4!?

While Gelfand’s recent plight during the Tal Memorial 2016 still remains fresh in memory of all true chess fans, it has nothing to do with his uniformly great opening preparation. He has always been a golden standard for the Sicilian fans, so this article examines his latest weapon against the ever tricky
Rossolimo Variation that he recently tested on several occasions against Anand, Svidler and Inarkiev (twice).

[Diagram: White to Move] Black has a menacing bishop pair along with some semi-open files that he could use for his rooks. However, White can completely stifle his opponent’s counterplay with a series of accurate moves – can you find them?

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[October 15, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Pirc Defense with 4. Be3, incl. Sveshnikov-Jansa & 150 Attack

[Line 298 : 1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. Be3]

The so-called 150 Attack starts with 4. Be3 where White has a pretty straightforward plan in Qd2, f2-f3 and O-O-O. After Black plays Bg7, trading the dark-coloured bishops with Bh6 and launching  a kingside attack is White’s next logical step. Black usually opposes his opponent’s plan by postponing Bg7 and advancing on the queenside instead, where c7-c6 and b7-b5 are his typical moves.

After the most common 4… c6 5. Qd2 b5 White either sticks to the above mentioned aggressive plan, like in 6. f3 Bg7 7. g4, or shifts to a more positional option, such as 6. Bd3 Nbd7 7. Nf3 Bg7 8. h3 O-O 9. O-O. It is generally easier to play the arising positions as White, but Black nevertheless has sufficient resources to get even chances.

Sveshnikov-Jansa Attack (4… c6 5. h3) is another popular setup for White. Move 5… b5 is a dubious one against this plan, since after 6. e5 White gets a very strong initiative. Black usually opts for 5… Bg7 instead, where White has a choice between 6. Qd2 (which is similar to the 5. Qd2 line), and some more sharp alternatives, such as 6. f4 and 6. g4.

[Diagram: Black to Move] F. Caruana – V. Ivanchuk, Biel 2009. Ivanchuk missed the chance to get a decisive advantage. Can you see how Black could have exploited the fact that bishop on b5 was horribly misplaced?

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[October 14, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Vadim Zvjaginsev:
Nimzo-Indian Defense, Kmoch Variation (incl. Romanovsky Variation)

[Line 174 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. f3]

The Kmoch Variation is one of the sharpest reactions to the Nimzo-Indian Defense and is frequently employed by many of the world’s top players. Black has a couple of ways to obtain equal chances and most of them require accurate play from both sides.

Move 4… c5 leads to positions resembling the Modern Benoni. After 5. d5 O-O 6. e4 Black has two moves of about the same strength: 6… Re8 and 6… b5, in either case with considerable complications.

The idea behind 4… O-O is to meet 5. e4 with 5… d5 6. e5 Nfd7 and further undermine White’s pawn center with c7-c5. If White opts for 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3, Black’s common choice is 6… Ne8, followed by b7-b6, Nc6-a5 and Ba6, with counterplay against the weak c4-pawn.

Line 4… d5 is probably the most popular among the players of Black. After 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 c5 7. cxd5 Nxd5 8. dxc5 Black has in Romanovsky Variation (8… f5) a viable alternative to the main 8… Qa5.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black’s last move was capturing the sacrificed e-pawn with Nf6xe4. How does White make use of the opponent’s poorly protected King to get more than sufficient compensation?

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[October 13, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Slaviša Brenjo:
Ruy Lopez, Closed Defense without 6. Re1 (Miscellaneous)

[Line 391 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 without 6. Re1]

Line 391 mainly deals with the highly popular 6. d3, as well as other alternatives to 6. Re1 (Lines 393-413).

Apart from 6. d3 b5, covered in Line 392, Black has in 6. d3 d6 another popular choice of defending from the threat of Bxc6 followed by Nxe5. Here, White has an interesting sideline in 7. c4, which is often followed by Nc3 and Bxc6 – by giving away his bishop pair, White gains a better pawn structure in return.

After 7. c3 O-O 8. Nbd2 occurs a typical Ruy Lopez position with lots of maneuvering. Black has a few ways of obtaining even chances with 8… b58… Re8 or 8… Nd7 being some of the usual introduction moves.

The Double Deferred Exchange Variation (6. Bxc6) can sometimes be seen in strong grandmasters’ practice. After 6… dxc6 7. d3 Bishop on e7 feels less comfortable than on c5 or d6, but Black still has just enough time to transfer the pieces to good squares, before White gains some activity. Black’s common plan is Nd7 and f7-f6, followed by transferring the Knight from d7 either to c6 or e6.

[Diagram: White to Move] V. Ivanchuk – V. Kramnik, Monte Carlo (blindfold) 2002. By moving his Knight from e3 White can attack the pinned e4-pawn. Therefore, the question is: what is the best place to move the Knight to?

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[October 12, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Classical Variation (incl. Fianchetto & Boleslavsky Variations)

[Line 469 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 without 6. Bg5, 6. Bc4]

Two main variations are covered separately: Richter-Rauzer Variation (6. Bg5) in Lines 472-476, and Sozin Attack (6. Bc4) in Line 471.

Against the Fianchetto Variation (6. g3) two most common continuations are 6… e6 and the transposition to the Dragon Variation with 6… g6 (Line 464). In either case Black has good prospects.

Move 6. f3 leads to dynamic positions resembling the English Attack of the Najdorf Sicilian. Black’s usual response is 6… e5 7. Nb3 Be7 8. Be3 O-O, and his plan is often connected with the a7-a5-a4 advance.

Boleslavsky Variation 6. Be2 e5 is a classical opening, which is not seen very often in modern grandmaster practice. Moves 7. Nf3 and 7. Nb3 lead to similar positions, with typical maneuvers for both sides.

Black has two viable alternatives against 6. Be2: one is the Classical Scheveningen 6… e6 (Line 470), and the other is 6… g6 – a quiet line of the Dragon Variation.

[Diagram: Black to Move] The diagram shows one of the critical positions of this opening line. How does Black create sufficient counterplay?

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[October 11, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Dragan Barlov:
Slav Defense – Sidelines

[Line 071 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 with 3. e3, 3. Nf3]

Move 3. e3 is a rather unambitious one, since it gives Black free hands. One of the ways for Black to obtain a comfortable position is 3… Bf5 4. Nc3 e6, since after 5. Nf3 he has 5… Nd7, depriving White of a topical Nh4.

White’s most frequent choice is 3. Nf3. Apart from the main line of the Slav Defense (3… Nf6), which is covered in our Lines 086-110, Black can also try 3… dxc4, where after the usual 4. e3 he has an interesting sideline that begins with 4… Be6.

Move 3… e6 introduces the so-called triangle setup, with white Knight on f3. Variations 4. Qc2 and 4. e3 are discussed in our Line 072, whiled 4. Nc3 transposes to Line 068. Move 4. g3 is often connected with a pawn sacrifice – Black can take the pawn on c4 and protect it with b7-b5.

For positional players 4. Nbd2 seems like a reasonable option. Apart from the natural 4… Nf6 Black has an interesting alternative in 4… f5, which makes use of the fact that the Bishop from c1 can not be easily deployed to f4. After 4… f5 5. g3 Nf6 6. Bg2 Bd6 7. O-O O-O a complicated strategical battle typically occurs with chances for both sides.

[Diagram: White to Move] Moving the Knight from c3 gives Black just enough time to consolidate, so White has to play more aggressively to secure a longterm initiative…

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