[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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[June 19, 2016] Updated Opening Article by GM Slaviša Brenjo:
March 2015 Revisited: Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense with 4. d3 Bc5 5. c3

In the original article our game of the week was P. Svidler – M. Ragger, Baden-Baden 2015, where White scored a rare top-level win in one of the main lines of the Berlin Defense. We have now updated the survey with several theoretically important over-the-board, correspondence and engine games, and the most important addition is on move 14, where a new interesting try 14. Qd1!? was seen in two elite level games: F. Caruana – A. Giri, Moscow 2016 and M. Vachier-Lagrave – V. Anand, Leuven (rapid) 2016.

[Diagram: Black to Move] The diagrammed position comes from a game between two recent versions of Stockfish. Black has to do something about his opponent’s pressure on the kingside, and prevent f4-f5, before it becomes too late.

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[June 18, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Modern Benoni, Snake & Pawn Storm Variations (incl. Czech Benoni)

[Line 117 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 without 3… b5]

The main focus of our Line 117 is the Pawn Storm Variation: 3… e6 4. Nc3 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. e4 g6 7. f4. This line requires nerves of steel paired with very deep knowledge, and our evaluation is that Black should be able to get promising positions.

Apart from the above mentioned line, White can also choose the solid 7. Nge2 Bg7 8. Ng3 O-O 9. Be2, or a very similar one: 7. Bd3 Bg7 8. Nge2 O-O 9. O-O. We recommend both these lines to club level players.

Snake Variation 5… Bd6 of the Modern Benoni has probably been rightfully neglected in recent years, since White can fight for tangible advantage in a number of ways.

Czech Benoni 3… e5 leads to closed positions with long-term spatial advantage for White.

The early fianchetto, where e7-e6 is typically postponed, is an interesting try for Black, though after 3… g6 4. Nc3 Bg7 5. e4 d6 6. Nf3 O-O 7. Be2 e6 8. O-O exd5 9. exd5 White has a generally preferable position.

[Diagram: Black to Move] J. Gil Capape – R. Kuczynski, Sharjah 1985. White only needs to castle to get a dominant position, but Black can turn the tables and get a strong attack after several energetic moves.

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[June 17, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Aleksandar Kovačević:
French Defense, Normal Variation – Classical Variation (Boleslavsky Variation with 7… Be7)

[Line 337 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3 Be7]

Black has three main choices against the Boleslavsky Variation of the French Defense: 7… cxd4 (covered in Line 338), 7… a6 (covered in Line 339) and 7… Be7, which is examined in this particular Line.

Black’s idea is connected with short castling, while White either opts for short castling with a dynamic positional battle, or captures on c5 and castles long with double-edged positions. In first case, after 8. Qd2 O-O 9. Be2 Black has two interesting possibilities – 9… a6 and 9… b6, both seen recently in top grandmaster games.

If White opts for 8. Qd2 O-O 9. dxc5, Black again has a choice between 9… Bxc5 10. O-O-O Qa5, or  9… Nxc5, that has been heavily explored in recent years.

[Diagram: White to Move] In the diagrammed position a typical Greek gift sacrifice Bxh7+ practically screams to be played, but it’s important to calculate what happens against Black’s most stubborn defense.

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