[December 08, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense – Rio Gambit Accepted (incl. Rio de Janeiro & L’Hermet Variations)

[Line 377 : 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. d4]

Rio de Janeiro Variation 5… Be7 is an old variation, and a pet line of Russian grandmaster Malakhov. The best reaction from White is 6. Qe2, where after 6… Nd6 7. Bxc6 bxc6 8. dxe5 Nb7 White is able to get a small edge with 9. Nc3 O-O 10. Re1.

After 5… Nd6, White has two viable alternatives to the main 6. Bxc6, i. e. L’Hermet Variation (6. dxe5) and 6. Bg5. In both cases Black has a couple of paths to equality.

The extremely popular Berlin Defense occurs after 5… Nd6 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. dxe5 Nf5 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8. White’s options include 9. h3 and 9. Rd1+. In case of the most frequently played 9. Nc3 Black’s common reactions are 9… Ke8 (Line 380), 9… Bd7 (Line 379), 9… Ne7 (Line 378), 9… Be6, 9… h6 and 9… Be7.

[Diagram: White to Move] If White recaptures the piece with exd6, Black will capture the pawn on d6 with his Bishop and vacate the f8-square for the King. What is the best way for White to continue from the diagrammed position, and gain a decisive advantage?

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[December 07, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Neo-Gruenfeld Defense, Delayed Exchange Variation

[Line 132 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nf3 Bg7 4. g3 c6 5. Bg2 d5 6. cxd5]

Exchange Variation of the Neo-Gruenfeld Defense is considered to be good for Black, but to reach equality he does need to play a few precise moves.

After 6… cxd5 White’s options are 7. Nc3, 7. O-O and 7. Ne5. In all the cases Black usually decides between castling and the immediate Ne4, with the idea to exchange a pair of Knights in the early stage of the game.

The main line goes 7. Nc3 O-O 8. Ne5, where there are several moves of about the same strength: 8… e6 followed by Nfd7, 8… Bf5 with the idea Ne4, and 8… b6 with Bb7 and Nc6, should all be fine for Black.

[Diagram: White to Move] S. Ernst – M. Darban, Rasht 2014. Black has just given a check and plans to capture on e5, with a good position. What is White’s best reaction in the diagrammed position?

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[December 06, 2016] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
Pillsbury Defense

[Line 051 : 1. d4 d6 without 2. Nf3, 2. e4]

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.

Move 2. e4 transposes to Line 292, 2. Nf3 is covered separately in our Line 052, while 2. c4 is the main point of interest of this opening line.

After 2. c4 e5 two moves are considered to be of about the same strength: 3. Nf3 and 3. Nc3.

In the first case, the usual continuation is 3… e4 4. Ng5 f5 5. Nc3 Be7 6. Nh3 Nf6, where White has lost a few tempi with his Knight, but has gained some squares for his pieces in return. On the other hand, after 3. Nc3 exd4 4. Qxd4 Nc6 5. Qd2 Nf6, White’s plan is to make fianchettoes on both flanks and than try to control some extra space. In either case, Black can get equal chances with accurate play.

Other options for White, like 2. g3 and 2. Bg5, don’t seem to pose real problems to Black.

[Diagram: Black to Move] M. Simantsev – A. Vaulin, Bydgoszcz 1999. Black Rook on a4 and Knight on c6 are hanging. How can Black overcome the threats and obtain a longterm advantage?

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[December 05, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Nimzo-Indian Defense, Rubinstein Variation – Normal Variation (Bernstein Variation)

[Line 194 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. Bd3 d5 6. Nf3 c5 7. O-O Nc6]

White has recently found the way to pose the problems to his opponent with 8. cxd5 exd5 9. dxc5. Black remains with the isolated d-pawn, where after 9… Bxc5 move 10. h3, not allowing 10… Bg4, gives White small but durable advantage.

The old main line is 8. a3 Bxc3 9. bxc3. Black’s main option is  9… Qc7, where White’s common responses are 10. Bb2, 10. Qc2 and 10. cxd5. In any case, Black is generally able to get comfortable positions.

[Diagram: White to Move] Move Bxh7+ seems like an obvious choice, but can you see the consequences of the Bishop sacrifice?

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[December 04, 2016] Updated Opening Article by GM Borki Predojević:
February 2016 Revisited: Italian Game, Giuoco Pianissimo with 8. a4!?

Well, this line is obviously so important for the modern opening theory that this is its third update after it was originally published in February 2016. This update has it all: top-tier games (A. Giri – E. Tomashevsky, Moscow (blitz) 2016), elite battles from the Olympiad (R. Mamedov – C. Balogh, Baku (ol) 2016) and, as usual, theoretically important engine games (Komodo 10 – Stockfish 210616, Internet (blitz) 2016).

[Diagram: Black to Move] It is quite clear that the diagrammed position is about equal, but it’s Black who’s on the suffering side due to his weakened pawn structure. How can he avoid a long-term grind and equalize in a convincing manner?

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[December 02, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Aleksandar Kovačević:
Queen’s Indian Defense, Quiet Line with 5… Bb4+ 6. Bd2 Be7 7. Bg2 c6

[Line 227 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Ba6 5. b3 Bb4+ 6. Bd2 Be7 7. Bg2 c6]

Black wants, after 8… d5 9. cxd5, to be able to recapture with cxd5 and keep the symmetrical pawn structure. The position is quite complex with various plans for both sides.

8. O-O d5 9. Qc2 Nbd7 10. Rd1 O-O 11. a4 is one of the common follow-ups, where after immediate 11… c5, as well as 11… Qc8, Black gets roughly equal chances.

The other popular plan is to move the dark-squared Bishop to c3: 8. Bc3, intending to meet 8… d5 with either 9. Ne5 or 9. Nbd2. In both cases Black is able to obtain comfortable positions with relative ease.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black is eager to play Rg1+ and a1=Q, but it’s White’s move and the exposed black King gets caught in the mating net!

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