[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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[September 16, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Catalan Defense, Closed Variation with 4… Be7

[Line 235 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 Be7]

After 5. Bg2 O-O, besides 6. O-O, White has other viable alternatives as well.

The idea of 6. Qc2 is to prepare for 6… dxc4, where after 7. Qxc4 a6 White seizes the initiative with 8. Bf4. Because of that, Black usually opts for 6… c5 7. O-O cxd4 8. Nxd4 e5 with active play.

Gambit move 6. Nc3 is covered in our Line 253, albeit from a from different move order, while 6. Nbd2 leads to solid maneuvering play.

Black has a few popular options against 6. O-O. Line 6… c6 7. Nbd2 b6 8. Qc2 Bb7, followed by Na6 or Nbd7 is not too demanding, yet good enough for Black to get roughly equal positions, while moves like 6… Nc6 and 6… c5 are not as promising.

6… dxc4 is by far the most popular choice for Black on 6th move, where 7. Qc2 is covered in depth in our Lines 236-238. Move 7. Ne5 can frequently be seen on the highest level, too. Black usually reacts with 7… Nc6 and after 8. Bxc6 bxc6 9. Nxc6 Qe8 10. Nxe7+ Qxe7 11. Qc2 the most critical position of this opening line occurs. White often recaptures the c4-pawn, but Black gets sufficient compensation.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black’s queenside is undeveloped, and being two pawns up is not enough to maintain the balance. How does White make the best of his active pieces to obtain a strong initiative?

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[September 15, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Lasker-Pelikan Variation – Chelyabinsk Variation (Main Line with 12… O-O)

[Line 439 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Ndb5 d6 7. Bg5 a6 8. Na3 b5 9. Nd5 Be7 10. Bxf6 Bxf6 11. c3 Bg5 12. Nc2 O-O]

It turns out that the old main move 12… O-O is actually an inaccuracy, since White has a nice way to obtain the initiative, even though moves like 13. Be2, 13. g3 or 13. h4 don’t seem to pose Black any problems.

The most promising choice for White is 13. a4 bxa4 14. Rxa4 a5 and here after 15. Bb5 Ne7 16. Ncb4 Bh3! black gets excellent counterplay. That’s why White should proceed with 15. Bc4 and after 15… Rb8 move 16. b3 is more precise than the similar-looking 16. Ra2.

After 16. b3 Kh8 17. Nce3 the most critical position of this opening line occurs. After 17… Nce7 White gets a small but stable advantage with 18. Nxe7 Qxe7 19. Nd5 Qd8 20. O-O. Other options are even less promising for Black: after 17… g6 18. h4 Bxh4 19. g3 Bg5 20. f4 Black is in serious problems, while after 17… Be6 18. h4 Bf4 19. Nf5 g6 20. Nfe3 White again threatens to launch the attack along the h-file.

[Diagram: White to Move] V. Kramnik – L. Van Wely, Monte Carlo (rapid) 2005. Black took the poisoned pawn on h4, which gave White a very important resource. What is the best way to proceed?

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[September 14, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Modern Defense with 4. Be3

[Line 293 : 1. e4 d6 2. d4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. Be3]

Modern Defense is very similar to the Pirc Defense, though here Black opts to postpone the development of his Knight on g8.

The plan with 4. Be3 against the Modern Defense is the most flexible one, leaving White with multiple options: he can continue with f2-f4, f2-f3 or Nf3, depending on his opponent’s reaction.

Black’s common reply is 4… a6, followed by b7-b5 and Bb7. There are a few promising possibilities for White: one is a straightforward plan with 5. h4 Nf6 6. f3, exerting pressure on the kingside with g2-g4; the other is 5. f4 b5 6. Bd3 Bb7 7. Nf3 where White builds a strong pawn center; and the third – 5. Qd2 b5 6. h4 h6 7. O-O-O, which leads to double-edged position. Among the recent notable games in this opening line is Wei Yi – M. Carlsen, Bilbao 2016.

The other popular option for Black is 4… c6, again followed by b7-b5. White, here as well, has a pleasant choice, this time between 5. Qd2 b5 6. Bd3 Nd7 7. Nf3 and 5. f4 Nd7 6. Nf3.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black King is stuck in the center and the weaknesses of dark squares around him leave White with some mean ideas. How can White reinforce the attack? Hint: If white Queen comes to d6, Black can hardly save the game!

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[September 13, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Vadim Zvjaginsev:
Nimzo-Indian Defense, Classical Variation – Keres Defense with 7. Bg5 Bb7 8. e3

[Line 185 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 O-O 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. Qxc3 b6 7. Bg5 Bb7 8. e3]

The most common plan for Black in this line is 8… d6, with the idea Nbd7, c5 and Rc8.

For club level players we recommend 9. f3, followed by Bd3 and Ne2.

The other frequent choice of players of White is 9. Ne2. White wants, after moving the Queen, to put the Knight on c3, and than to develop his light-squared Bishop. The game usually continues with 9… Nbd7 10. Qc2 c5 11. Rd1, and here Black has a few promising options: 11… Qe7, 11… Qc7 and 11… Rc8.

[Diagram: White to Move] Rook on d4 is under attack, but moving it means losing the Bishop on c4. However, White can make use of the fact that black Queen is far away from the kingside. What is the best way to proceed as White?

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