NEW UPDATED OPENING LINE

[March 21, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Catalan Defense, Open Defense with 5… a6

[Line 242 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 dxc4 5. Bg2 a6]

Open Defense with 5… a6 is one of the sharpest lines in the Catalan Defense.

Move 6. O-O is the main choice of the players of White where 6… b5, although interesting, is generally considered preferable for White. For example, 7. Ne5 Nd5 8. a4 Bb7 9. axb5 axb5 10. Rxa8 Bxa8 11. e4 Nf6 12. Nc3, with the initiative. Somewhat better option for Black is 6… Nc6, where players of White have tried numerous replies. Among them 7. e3 poses the most problems to Black. After 7… Bd7 as an alternative to the main 8. Nc3 White sometimes opts for 8. Qe2 b5 9. b3 cxb3 10. axb3, with sufficient compensation for the sacrificed pawn.

There is another popular option for White – 6. Ne5, where Black has two possibilities that should be enough to equalize: 6… c5 and 6… Bb4+.

[Diagram: White to Move] D. Refalo – R. Sanchez Ortega, corr. 2010. Black is a pawn up but his King is poorly protected. What is the best way for White to launch an attack and get a big advantage?

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NEW UPDATED OPENING LINE

[March 20, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Open Slav Defense, Carlsbad Variation

[Line 111 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. a4 Bf5 6. Ne5 Nbd7 7. Nxc4 Qc7]

Line 111 covers one of the main variations of the Slav Defense. After almost the exclusive 8. g3 Black usually replies with the Carlsbad Variation (8… e5). The next couple of moves are fairly forced: 9. dxe5 Nxe5 10. Bf4, where the best option for Black is 10… Nfd7. In the position arising after 11. Bg2 there are two well-investigated continuations for Black: 11… g5 and 11… f6.

If Black opts for 11… g5, we recommend 12. Ne3 gxf4 13. Nxf5 O-O-O 14. Qc2 for advanced players, while 12. Bxe5 Nxe5 13. Qd4 and 12. Nxe5 gxf4 13. Nxd7 are somewhat less complicated lines, thus more suitable for club level players.

Move 11… f6 is considered to lead to positions that are more pleasant for White, for example: 12. O-O Nc5 13. Ne3 Bg6 14. b4 with the initiative.

[Diagram: White to Move] D. Fillon – T. Hagen, corr. 2010. There are many pieces aligned on the c-file, and it’s far from obvious how White can make use of the position of his Rook on c1 to make concrete threats to black King. How can White launch a very strong attack?

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NEW UPDATED ARTICLE

[March 19, 2017] Pick of the Week by GM Boris Avrukh:
August & December 2016 Revisited: Closed Catalan Defense with 7. Ne5, 9. Na3 & 11. Qd2 

After the original key game W. So – H. Nakamura, Saint Louis 2016 many good players had followed suit, so we have decided to update the article with recent developments in this line. Some computer engine games are also not to be missed, and currently the most important one for the modern opening theory is Brainfish 091016 – Raubfisch ME 262, Internet (blitz) 2016.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White’s key threat in the diagrammed position from Y. Kuzmin – H. Langrock, Marianske Lazne 2017 is quite obvious: Ba3, followed by Bc5 if Black moves one of his two major pieces from the a3-f8 diagonal. Is there any way to properly defend against that maneuver?

NEW UPDATED OPENING LINE

[March 18, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Nimzo-Indian Defense, English Hybrid

[Line 199 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Bb4+ 4. Nc3 c5 5. g3 cxd4]

The position arising after 6. Nxd4 often occurs from the English Opening: 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. Nc3 e6 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 Bb4 6. g3. The main continuation here is 6… O-O, while from the other options 6… Ne4 seems to be the only one that allows Black to equalize.

After 6… O-O 7. Bg2 d5 there are two interesting sidelines: 8. O-O dxc4 9. Qa4 and 8. Qb3 Bxc3+ 9. bxc3. Players of White usually opt for 8. cxd5 where on 8… Nxd5 move 9. Bd2 leads to a balanced and not too complicated position. Move 9. Qb3 is frequently seen on the highest level, where beside 9…. Qa5 10. Bd2 Nc6 Black is also able to get a decent position with 9… Nc6, 9… Qb6 and 9… Na6.

[Diagram: White to Move] V. Zvjaginsev – Z. Almasi, Altensteig 1994. Black pieces lack coordination, while white Bishop on d4 dominates the black squares. Can you see how White can obtain a decisive advantage in just a couple of moves?

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NEW UPDATED OPENING LINE

[March 17, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Queen’s Gambit Accepted, Old & Alekhine Variations

[Line 058 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 without 3. e4]

Apart from the most direct approach 3. e4, covered in our Lines 059 & 060, White has two fairly popular options: 3. Nf3 and 3. e3.

After the Knight development with 3. Nf3, Black can transpose to Line 080 with 3… Nf6, or choose between other viable possibilities – 3… e6 and the Alekhine Variation (3… a6).

In case of the solid Old Variation (3. e3) Black has, besides the calm 3… Nf6 and 3… e6, a more concrete option in 3… e5, leading to an isolated d-pawn for White after 4. Bxc4 exd4 5. exd4.

[Diagram: White to Move] S. Pujos – Y. Afek, France 2003. Black’s last move was the careless 10… Ra8-d8, missing the strong reply leading to a winning position for his opponent. How should White continue and get an overwhelming edge?

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NEW UPDATED OPENING LINE

[March 16, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Dragon Variation – Yugoslav Attack

[Line 466 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 O-O 8. Qd2 Nc6 9. Bc4]

The Yugoslav Attack in the Dragon Variation is certainly one of the most daring lines in the modern chess theory.

The most popular continuation is 9… Bd7. If White opts for 10. Bb3 Black has, apart from 10… Rc8, two extra possibilities: 10… Nxd4 11. Bxd4 b5 and 10… Na5, both with roughly equal chances.

The main move is 10. O-O-O, where Black has, besides the most common 10… Rc8, two also interesting options: 10… Rb8 (Chinese Variation) and 10… Qb8. The game is very sharp and with mutual chances in both of these sidelines, though  White’s position, if played accurately, should be slightly preferable.

One of the best known tabiyas of the Dragon Variation occurs after 10… Rc8 11. Bb3 Ne5. Now, lines 12. Kb1 Re8 and 12. h4 h5 are considered to be of about the same strength, both leading to highly complex positions.

For club level players we recommend rarely played, yet viable, 9… Nxd4 10. Bxd4 Be6 leading to positions that are balanced, but a bit easier to play with white pieces.

[Diagram: White to Move] The end of a famous game: A. Karpov – V. Korchnoi, Moscow (m/2) 1974. To crack his opponent’s defense White needs to remove the black Knight from protecting the h7-pawn. White to play and win!

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