[October 04, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Modern Variation – Moscow Variation (Canal Attack)

[Line 461 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+ Bd7]

Move 3… Bd7 is the simplest way for Black to respond to the Moscow Variation of the Sicilian Defense. Black wants to exchange a pair of Bishops, and thereby ease the development of the remaining pieces.

White has an interesting option in 4. c4, postponing the capture on d7 and offering his opponent to trade the Bishops himself on b5. Since after 4… Bxb5 5. cxb5 Nf6 6. Nc3 White typically gets more pleasant positions in view of his space advantage on the queenside, Black should avoid capturing on b5. Instead, he can continue with e. g. 4… Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. O-O Bg7 7. d4 cxd4 8. Nxd4 O-O, which should be about equal.

White usually opts for 4. Bxd7+, and now 4… Nxd7 is a good alternative to the main 4… Qxd7.

After 4… Qxd7, the main move is 5. c4 (Line 462), and 5. d4 is our recommendation for beginners. Players of White often choose 5. O-O, where after 5… Nf6 White has two moves of approximately the same strength: 6. Qe2 and 6. Re1; in either case Black has a few paths to equality.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black Queen and Knight are misplaced, and it’s a signal that White should make his attack more concrete. How can he get a winning position in just a couple of moves?

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[October 03, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Open Slav Defense, Krause Attack (Sharp Line – Wiesbaden Variation)

[Line 109 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. a4 Bf5 6. Ne5 without 6… Nbd7]

Main move 6… Nbd7 is covered in our Lines 110-111, and this opening line deals with the Wiesbaden Variation (6… e6), as well as other sidelines, like 6… Na6, 6… Qc7, 6… g6 and 6… Nd5.

The Wiesbaden Variation, though a bit passive, is generally a solid choice from Black, and it was employed in a couple of games by Anand, in his World Championship match against Topalov in 2010. The only principled continuation for White is 7. f3, where Black should respond with 7… c5 8. e4 Bg6. Now, move 9. d5 doesn’t seem to pose any problems to Black, while after 9. Be3 cxd4 10. Qxd4 Qxd4 11. Bxd4 Nbd7 12. Nxd7 Nxd7 13. Bxc4 arises the critical position of this opening line. White’s position is, in view of Black’s passive Bishop on g6, a bit more pleasant, but after a few precise moves from Black, it’s hard for White to obtain a tangible edge.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black wants to take the c6 pawn with the Rook, and if White exchanges the pawns with cxb7, the c4-pawn will be protected, and Black would be doing fine. Still, White has other means to obtain the advantage. Can you see how?

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[October 2, 2016] Updated Opening Article by Boris Avrukh:
December 2015 Revisited: Neo-Grünfeld, Modern Defense (11. Nxc6)

Our original key game in this line was V. Kramnik – D. Naroditsky, Doha 2015, where Kramnik again displayed the incredible depth of his opening preparation. Life goes on, and this update brings new developments in this topical line, where White hopes to keep the pressure as long as possible, whereas players of Black keep searching for the most accurate move orders that would release them from his opponent’s unpleasant long-term grip.

[Diagram: Black to Move] The diagrammed position comes from a top engine game Fizbo 1.4 – Protector 1.8.0, Internet 2015. This time you need to find two moves: first, Black has to find a way to keep the material balance intact, and after that White has to make sure that his long-term pressure doesn’t go away. Are you up to the task?

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[October 01, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Dragan Barlov:
Nimzo-Indian Defense, Rubinstein Variation with 5. Nge2

[Line 188 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 c5 5. Nge2]

The Rubinstein Variation with 5. Nge2 is the logical response to the 4… c5 line: White wants to play a2-a3, without having to play with doubled pawns after Bxc3+. Moreover, since black pawn is on c5, he can no longer return his Bishop to e7.

Move 5… b6 gives White the opportunity to obtain a promising position with 6. a3 Ba5 7. Rb1 Na6 8. Ng3.

The best reaction from Black is probably 5… cxd4 6. exd4 O-O 7. a3 Be7. White now has two main options of approximately the same strength: 8. Nf4 and 8. d5. Though Black needs to play precisely, he should be able to equalize.

[Diagram: White to Move] One of the critical positions of this opening line: White seizes the initiative with energetic play!

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[September 30, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Dragon Variation without 6. Be3 (incl. Classical, Fianchetto & Levenfish Variations)

[Line 464 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 without 6… a6, 6… Nc6, 6… e6]

Line 464 covers mostly introductory and quiet lines of the Dragon Variation (5… g6) of the Sicilian Defense.

Levenfish Variation (6. f4) is rarely seen in modern grandmaster practice, since it allows Black to obtain satisfactory positions rather easily.

Fianchetto Variation (6. g3) leads to strategical battles, and it is hence a preference of positionally-minded players.

Classical Variation (6. Be2 Bg7 7. O-O O-O) is the simplest way for White to face the Dragon. There are a couple popular setups: one is 8. Be3 Nc6 9. Nb3 Be6 10. f4; another is 8. Bg5 Nc6 9. Nb3 Be6 10. Kh1, followed by f2-f4; and 8. Re1 Nc6 9. Nb3 Be6 10. Bf1. Black also has a few good plans to respond with: d6-d5 is a straightforward plan; a7-a6 with b7-b5 is also quite simple; move a7-a5 is also frequently seen in this type of positions.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Black Queen and the dark-squared Bishop are aiming towards white King, but other pieces are needed join the attack to create problems for White.

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[September 28, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Modern Defense, Miscellaneous (incl. Pseudo-Austrian Attack)

[Line 292 : 1. e4 d6]

After 2. d4, apart from the Pirc Defense (2… Nf6), covered in our Lines 297-300, some players of Black choose Modern Defense (2… g6), delaying development of the Knight from g8. After 2. d4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 White has various setups at his disposal, and the most popular 4. Be3 is covered in our Line 293.

Pseudo-Austrican Attack (4. f4) is an aggressive approach from White. In the spirit of the variation is 4… a6 5. Nf3 b5 6. Bd3 Nd7, where both 7. e5 and 7. a4 should lead to small advantage for White.

White can also opt for a more positional continuation 4. Nf3 with a simple plan of development. A typical follow-up could be 4… a6 5. Be2 b5 6. O-O Bb7 7. Re1 Nd7 8. a4 b4 9. Na2, with a preferable position for White.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black’s position seems solid, but White has a way to make use of the fact that Black’s king has not castled yet.

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