[June 25, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
French Defense, Normal Variation – Classical Variation without 4. Bg5

[Line 336 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 without 4. Bg5]

Line 336 deals with various sidelines in the Boleslavsky Variation (4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3) of the French Defense, as well as with the alternatives for both sides, starting from White’s fourth move.

In the Boleslavsky Variation, the main examined line is 7… Qb6, where White usually responds with 8. Na4 Qa5+ 9. c3. Positions tend to become quite closed after 9… c4 10. b4 Qc7, and after several accurate moves, Black should be able to equalize. His 9th move alternative is 9… b6 10. Bd2 c4 11. b4 Nxb4 12. cxb4 Bxb4, and though it’s easier to play the position for White, Black still has his fair share of counter-chances. The other try for Black (9… cxd4 10. b4 Nxb4 11. cxb4 Bxb4+ 12. Bd2) leads to his opponent’s advantage.

Nakamura had tried 7… Rb8 several times, and that is the line we recommend for beginners.

For the players of White that want to avoid the most critical lines, we recommend either 5. Nce2 c5 6. c3 Nc6 7. Nf3, or 4. exd5 exd5 5. Bg5, which is more suitable for beginners.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black’s central pawns seem terrifying, and they would indeed offer him dangerous compensation, were it not for White’s unexpected blow. How can White get an almost winning position?

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[June 24, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
King’s Indian Defense, Sämisch Variation (Steiner Attack & Normal Defense)

[Line 153 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. f3]

The so-called Normal Defense of the Sämisch Variation starts with 5… O-O.

Our major variation covered in Line 153 is the Steiner Attack (6. Bg5), as it is the most important alternative to the main 6. Be3, covered in our Lines 154 and 155.

In our opinion, Black has a few choices that lead to satisfactory positions.

The most frequently played line is 6… c5 7. d5 e6, which leads to sharp Benoni-like positions, where Black has enough tactical resources to compensate for White’s spatial advantage.

Black can also opt for a Benko Gambit-type of position with 6… a6 7. Qd2 c5 8. d5 b5 9. cxb5 Nbd7, where, in our opinion, he gets sufficient compensation for the sacrificed pawn.

From our recommendations for club level players we would like to draw your attention to the following promising line: 7… Nc6 8. Nge2 Rb8 9. Rd1 Bd7, followed by b7-b5.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Black has already sacrificed one Rook and the other one is hanging. Still, he has a way to get a nearly decisive advantage. How should he continue?

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[June 23, 2016] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
Modern Defense – Averbakh Variation

[Line 047 : 1. d4 g6 2. c4 Bg7 3. Nc3 without 3… Nf6]

This update is a small tribute to our late colleague GM Dragan Paunović. In memory of our dear friend, our Editorial Board will continue updating his lines and articles.

In the focus of Line 047 is the Averbakh Variation of the Modern Defense (3… d6). After the most logical 4. e4, along with the transposition to the King’s Indian Defense with 4… Nf6, Black has several plans at his disposal.

One possibility is 4… e5 5. Nf3 exd4 6. Nxd4, and now Black usually continues with 6… Nc6 7. Be3 Nge7, where White can make advantage both with the aggressive 8. h4, and with the more solid 8. Be2.

Black’s viable fourth move alternative is 4… Nc6, with the idea to exert pressure on the d4-square, but then both 5. Be3 and 5. d5 should lead to slight opening advantage for White.

Apart from the above mentioned lines, Black could also try the rare 3… c5, and after 4. d5 he could opt for 4… d6, 4… Bxc3+ or 4…. f5, but in all the cases White has means of securing opening advantage.

[Diagram: White to Move] D. Lintchevski – I. Kurnosov, Tyumen 2012. Black is behind in development and White has a chance to make use of that fact to gain a long-term initiative!

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[June 22, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Catalan Defense, Open Defense with 5… Bb4+

[Line 240 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 dxc4 5. Bg2 Bb4+]

Line 240 deals with one of the critical variations of the Open Defense (4… dxc4) of the Catalan. By giving a check, Black wants to disturb White’s development. White’s usual choice is 6. Bd2, and now 6… a5 is considered to be the best option for Black.

If White continues with 7. O-O O-O 8. Bg5, Black could play 8… Nc6 and meet White’s a2-a3 with Bd6 and e6-e5.

If White decides to attack the c4-pawn immediately with 7. Qc2, Black should try to protect the pawn as long as possible, i.e. 7… Bxd2+ 8. Nbxd2 b5 9. a4 c6, or 8. Qxd2 c6 9. a4 Ne4 10. Qc2 Nd6. White has full compensation for the pawn, but probably not much more than that.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Black Rook on d3 is under attack and he can not move it because his Knight is hanging. However, White’s pieces lack coordination and Black has the means to launch a strong attack. What should he do?

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[June 21, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Dragan Barlov:
Grünfeld Defense, Schlechter Variation (Main Line)

[Line 089 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 g6 5. Nc3 Bg7 6. Be2]

The Schlechter Variation, where White plays early e2-e3, has a reputation of a solid opening choice for Black. Since it’s a sort of combination of Slav and the Grünfeld Defense, it bears obvious similarities to the both. After 6… O-O 7. O-O Black typically has a choice among several plans.

For beginners we recommend 7… Bg4, with the idea to give away that Bishop for the Knight of f3 at some point, followed by placing practically all the pawns on white squares. White can try 8. cxd5 cxd5 9. Qb3 b6 10. h3 Bxf3 11. Bxf3 e6, and although he has a bishop pair, Black’s position is rock-solid without obvious weaknesses.

Another suggestion of ours is 7… Nbd7. Depending on White’s reaction, Black can either play slowly by opting for b7-b6 and Bb7, or he can choose Ne4 with the idea to trade a pair of Knights. If White fights it with 8. Qc2, there is an interesting possibility that Black can try: 8… Nb6 9. cxd5 cxd5 10. a4 Be6, and his position should be fine.

Black can also play 7… b6, most typically followed by Bb7 and Nbd7, though White has a way to keep a slight, but long-term pull.

The main variation in this line is 7… a6 8. a4 a5, with the idea to transfer the Knight from b8 to b4, or to make a queenside fianchetto. White has a few ways to fight for opening advantage, but Black should be able to equalize.

[Diagram: White to Move] White would like to play e3-e4, but it seems that Black has full control over the e4-square. How can White accomplish his plan?

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[June 20, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Alapin Variation – Barmen Defense (Main Line)

[Line 418 : 1. e4 c5 2. c3 d5 3. exd5 Qxd5 4. d4 Nf6]

Line 418 covers the main line (4. d4 Nf6) of the Barmen Defense of the Alapin Variation. After 5. Nf3, Black usually plays one of two moves of equivalent strength: 5… e6 or 5… Bg4.

The first of the two (5… e6) is the more solid one, where Black’s goal is to develop his kingside as fast as possible. Players of White have tried several moves against that setup, and 6. Na3 seems like the most ambitious one. The game can continue with 6… Nc6 7. Be3 cxd4 8. Nb5 Qd7 9. Nbd4 Nd5, and Black’s position should be fine.

With 5… Bg4 Black wants to develop his light-squared Bishop before completing his development on the kingside with e7-e6, Be7 and O-O. White’s reaction 6. Be2 doesn’t seem to pose real problems for his opponent, but 6. dxc5 does requires precise play from Black. After 6. dxc5 Qxc5 7. Na3 a6 8. Be3 Qc7 9. h3 Bh5 10. Qa4+ Nbd7 Black should not be worse.

[Diagram: Black to Move] This is a well-known trick that has appeared even in a few grandmaster games. White has just played Qd1-a4, and the Black Queen is under attack. How should Black react?

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