[March 05, 2018] Updated Opening Line from GM Trajko Nedev:
Gruenfeld Defense, Russian Variation

[Line 148 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. Qb3]

After the almost obligatory 5… dxc4 6. Qxc4, Black has an interesting gambit continuation in 6… Be6 7. Qb5+ Bd7 7. Qxb7 Nc6, that could be unpleasant to meet for the unprepared players of White.

In the main 6… O-O 7. e4 Black has a few promising possibilities:

Hungarian Variation 7… a6 is covered in our Line 149.

Smyslov Variation 7… Bg4 8. Be3 Nfd7 has generally lost its popularity in the last decades, but it can still be occasionally seen nowadays on top level.

Somewhat similar to the Smyslov Variation is 7… Nc6 8. Be2 Bg4, where Black pieces exert pressure on White’s pawn center.

Prins Variation 7… Na6, popularized by Kasparov, is the most frequently employed variation among those covered in Line 148. White gets a passed pawn after 8. Be2 c5 9. d5 e6 10. O-O exd5 11. exd5, and Black usually continues with 11… Bf5, followed by Re8 and Ne4, with sufficient counterplay.

[Diagram: Black to Move] R. Wojtaszek – J. Tomczak, Wroclaw 2013. White is a pawn up and it seems that his position is solid, but Black has a way to get a lasting initiative!

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[March 04, 2018] Updated Opening Article by GM Boris Avrukh:
March 2015 Revisited: Gruenfeld Defense, Hungarian Attack (11… b6!?)

This is the first updating of this article, where both the main line and its risky alternative seem to offer the players of Black nice practical chances. We have added the most recent over-the-board and engine games, and the theoretical verdict remains the same as before, but there’s a number of improvements that you’ll certainly find interesting.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position is from the analysis following our improvement on A. Sumets  – W. So, Montreal 2012. White can make use of Black’s poor piece coordination and create some serious winning chances. Any ideas?

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[March 03, 2018] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Traditional Variation (incl. Capablanca-Duras Variation)

[Line 229 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 without 4. g3, 4. Nc3]

Apart from the two most popular moves: 4. Nc3 (Lines 243-285) and the Catalan Defense 4. g3 (Lines 230-242), White also has a few more options at his disposial.

One of them is 4. Bg5, often accompanied with Nbd2. After 4… dxc4 White can transpose to the Vienna Variation with 5. Nc3 or he can choose a sideline 5. Qa4+, where Black has a few paths to full equality, e.g. 5… Nbd7 6. e4 c6 7. Qxc4 h6 8. Bxf6 Qxf6. After 4… Bb4+ White can transpose to the Ragozin Variation with 5. Nc3, or he can go for 5. Nbd2, where the best response from Black is 5… dxc4. Another independent line is the Capablanca-Duras Variation 4… h6 5. Bxf6 Qxf6 where, again, Black should have no problems to reach good positions out of the opening.

The most solid variation for White is 4. e3, often followed by b2-b3, Bb2, Bd3 and O-O. Black can respond to that plan with many setups at his disposal. Symmetrical Tarash Defense (4… c5) usually leads to isolated d-pawn structures, for one of the sides. The other popular setup is a mixture of the Queen’s Indian and the Queen’s Gambit Declined, like after 4… Be7 5. b3 O-O 6. Bb2 b6 7. Bd3 Bb7, with even chances. Black can postpone c7-c5 until White completes his queen fianchetto: 4… Be7 5. b3 O-O 6. Bb2 c5, or he can opt for some of many other possibilities, like 4… Nbd7 or 4… Bd6.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black pieces are lacking coordination, but he only needs one move to reach a satisfactory position. What is the best way for White to seize the initiative?

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[March 02, 2018] Updated Opening Line from GM Aleksandar Kovačević:
Modern Benoni, Uhlmann & Knight’s Tour Variations

[Line 118 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 e6 4. Nc3 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. Nf3]

Modern Benoni is one of the openings that chess players can’t be indifferent about – they  either love it or dislike it!

After 6… g6, one of the simplest set-ups for White is 7. Bf4, with the idea to meet the logical 7… Bg7 with an unpleasant check: 8. Qa4+. For that reason, Black usually proceeds with 7… a6 8. a4 Bg7, knowing that White’s main idea is 9. h3, followed by e2-e3, Be2 and O-O.

Uhlmann Variation (7. Bg5) is rarely seen nowadays, since Black can easily get a very comfortable play.

Knight Tour Variation (7. Nd2) is definitely one of the best options for White, and though it’s slightly preferable for him, it’s not without its venom. This line, just like many others in Modern Benoni, require not only good opening knowledge, but also a very accurate treatment from both sides.

We should also mention that the Fianchetto Line (7. g3) is covered in our Line 119, and Classical Variation (7. e4) in Line 120.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Black knight on g4 is under attack, but fearless Benoni players know that such pieces could sometimes be left hanging. So, Black to play and launch a strong attack!

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[March 01, 2018] Updated Opening Line from GM Slaviša Brenjo:
Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense – Main Line with 9… Ne7

[Line 378 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. d4 Nd6 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. dxe5 Nf5 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8 9. Nc3 Ne7]

Early Knight maneuver Ne7-g6 in the Berlin Defense is the main area of interest that is covered in our Line 378. Similar to most Berlin lines, white has numerous possibilities, yet none of them offer tangible advantage.

10. h3 Ne7 is the most frequently played variation, and now White has two substantially different plans: queenside fianchetto of the dark-squared bishop or its deployment on the c1-h6 diagonal. An illustration of the former plan is 11. Ne4 h6 12. b3 a5 13. a4 c5 14. Bb2 Bf5, whereas an example of the latter could be 11. Be3 Ke8 12. Rad1 Be7 13. a3 Bd7 14. Rfe1 Rd8, like in a recent game A. Shirov – V. Kramnik, Zurich 2016.

Having an endgame on the board can be misleading, as both sides have to be careful not to miss tactical blows.

[Diagram: Black to Move] If Black plays 18… Ng5, White has 19. Bc1 with clear advantage, so Black has to find a different path to equalization.

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[February 28, 2018] Updated Opening Line from GM Dragan Paunović:
English Opening, Hedgehog Variation & The Double Fianchetto Defense

[Line 031 : 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. g3 b6 without 4. Nc3]

Line 031 mostly deals with Black’s double fianchetto, which occurs after 3… b6 4. Bg2 Bb7 5. O-O g6 6. Nc3 Bg7.  This very flexible variation is a pet line of the new World Title Challenger – Sergey Karjakin. White usually continues with 7. d4 cxd4 8. Qxd4 followed by Qh4 (usually after Black short castling), thus exerting pressure on the kingside.

In a couple of games from Shamkir 2014, Karjakin with Black managed to neutralize White’s tries in the following line: 8… d6 9. Rd1 Nbd7 10. Be3 Rc8 11. Rac1 O-O 12. Qh4 a6 13. b3 Re8, so we suggest that you check out his games against S. Mamedyarov and H. Nakamura.

The other popular try for Black is 13… Rc7, with the idea Qb8 followed by b6-b5, though after 14. Bh3 Qb8 15. g4 e6 16. g5 Ne8 17. Nd4 the final position still seems more pleasant for White.

[Diagram: White to Move] P. Eljanov – S. Karjakin, Tromso (m/5) 2013. Eljanov didn’t miss his chance, and won the game in just a few moves. Can you find the winning sequence?

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