[August 30, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Alapin Variation (incl. Barmen Defense)

[Line 417 : 1. e4 c5 2. c3 without 2… Nf6]

Line 417 deals with different Black’s reactions to the Alapin Variation of the Sicilian Defense. Detailed coverage of move 2… Nf6 can be found in our Lines 419-420, and the main focus of this line is the so-called Barmen Defense – 2… d5 3. exd5 Qxd5. Since moves like 4. Nf3 and 4. Na3 hardly pose any problems for Black, White usually continues 4. d4, where the most frequently played 4… Nf6 can be found in our Line 418.

For club level players we recommend the plan starting with 4… g6, then typically followed by Bg7, cxd4, Nf6 and O-O.

4… Nc6 5. Nf3 Bf5 leads to more complicated position, which is the reason why it has recently become popular among grandmasters.

Another popular choice for Black is 2… e6. White can transpose to the Advance Variation of the French Defense with 3. d4 d5 4. e5, but more frequently White opts for positions resembling the Tarrasch Variation of the French Defense with 3. d4 d5 4. exd5 exd5 5. Nf3.

Other Black’s options are not as reputable as the mentioned ones. Line 2… d6 certainly deserves attention, though White should be able to secure some small opening advantage in this variation.

[Diagram: Black to Move] White has just played an intermediate move Bf1-c4, preparing to capture the d4-pawn on the next move. How can Black thwart his opponent’s plan?

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[August 29, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Dragan Barlov:
Open Slav Defense, Czech Defense – Dutch Variation without 9. Qe2

[Line 107 : 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. a4 Bf5 6. e3 e6 7. Bxc4 Bb4 8. O-O Nbd7 without 9. Qe2]

The main line of the Dutch Variation of the Slav Defense is 9. Qe2 and it’s covered in our Line 108. Various options for White on 9th move can be found here.

The idea of 9. Nh4 is clear – to destroy Black’s light-squared Bishop. Black has the choice between leaving the Bishop on f5 with 9… O-O, offering the exchange on g6 with 9… Bg6, or trying to escape from the Knight with 9… Bg4. The last one typically leads to preferable positions for White, but the other two moves are regarded as equally good and solid.

After 9… O-O, apart from 10. Nxf5 exf5, White has other interesting options, such as 10. h3 and 10. f3.

Against 9… Bg6 White has tried 10. Nxg6, as well as postponing the capture on g6 with 10. g3, 10. Be2 or 10. Qb3, but in any case Black’s position is a tough nut to crack.

[Diagram: Black to Move] Black has sacrificed a piece and has a promising attack, though there’s only one path to a clear edge. What is the best continuation for him?

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[August 28, 2016] Updated Opening Articles by GM Boris Avrukh:
Pick of the Week: March/July/October 2015 Revisited

This time three articles have been updated, and we recommend the following three theoretically important key games:

Open Catalan Defense with 5… c5: B. Gelfand – Lu Shanglei, Moscow 2016

Caro-Kann Defense, Short Variation with 5… c5 6. Be3: L. Aronian – E. Tomashevsky, Berlin 2015

Sicilian Najdorf, Adams Attack: Stockfish 7 – Stockfish 7, Internet 2016

[Diagram: Black to Move] Stockfish 7  – Stockfish 7, Internet 2016. White’s bishop pair will soon become unstoppable if Black does not act quickly. Any ideas?

Click here to see the updated articles in our viewer: article 1, article 2 & article 3.


[August 27, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Aleksandar Kovačević:
French Defense, Normal Variation – Classical Variation (Boleslavsky Variation with 7… cxd4)

[Line 338 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3 cxd4]

The Boleslavsky Variation with 7… cxd4 often leads to sharp and demanding positions. After 8. Nxd4 Black has the choice between 8… Qb6 and 8… Bc5.

Against the first of the two, White is practically obliged to sacrifice the b2-pawn and play for the compensation. 8… Qb6 9. Qd2 Qxb2 10. Rb1 Qa3 11. Bb5 is one of the critical positions in this opening line. Black should be able to neutralize White’s strong initiative, but only at the cost of returning the extra pawn: 11… Nxd4 12. Bxd4 a6 13. Bxd7 Bxd7 14. Rb3 Qe7 15. Rb7. Black’s position is sensitive, but not without counterplay.

The other important line is 8… Bc5 9. Qd2 O-O, where for club level players we recommend 10. g3 followed by Bg2 and O-O.

More complicated is 10. O-O-O, and after 10… a6 our suggestion for White is 11. Qf2, 11. Nb3 or 11. Kb1, in either case with double-edged positions.

[Diagram: White to Move] White only needs to activate his Queen, and when it’s finally coupled with his menacing rooks Black will be in big trouble. What is the best way for him to exploit the poor placement of black King?

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[August 26, 2016] Updated Opening Line by Vadim Zvjaginsev:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Semi-Slav Defense – Stoltz Variation with 6… Bd6 7. Bd3

[Line 283 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Qc2 Bd6 7. Bd3]

On the seventh move Black can try 7… e5, a sideline aiming to simplify the position at an early stage. After 7. cxd5 cxd5 White has a choice between 8. Nb5 and 8. e4, but either way Black should have sufficient resources to obtain equality.

Both sides usually castle first: 7… O-O 8. O-O, and here recently, on the highest level, the following direct approach has become quite popular: 8… e5 9. cxd5 cxd5 10. e4 exd4 11. Nxd5 Nxd5 12. exd5 h6. Though precise play is required from Black, the best that White can get is a slightly more pleasant endgame.

By far the most popular continuation is 8… dxc4 9. Bxc4, and apart from 9… a6 (Line 284) and 9… b5 (Line 285) Black has 9… e5 at his disposal. Since, in some lines, Black has the idea to play e5-e4, which usually results in exerting pressure on the h2-pawn, White’s frequent choice is to neutralize by playing 10. h3. After that, Black can slowly improve the position of his pieces with 10… Qe7, Bb8 (thinking about Nf3-h4-f5), h7-h6 and Rd8, preparing to meet e3-e4 by capturing on d4, followed by Ne5. As an illustration, take a look at the following line: 11. a3 Bb8 12. Ba2 h6 13. Nh4 Rd8 14. Nf5 Qe8, with mutual play.

[Diagram: White to Move] It appears that Black’s position should be fine, but White has a nice maneuver, which leads to his big advantage!

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[August 25, 2016] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
Sicilian Defense, French Variation with 3. d3

[Line 441 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d3]

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.

Line 441 covers the seemingly unambitious 3. d3, which is one of the most popular ways for White to avoid the Paulsen Sicilian. White is prepared to react on 3… d5 with 4. Nbd2, which transposes to the French Defense, or with 4. Qe2, which is typically followed by king’s fianchetto. Apart from the early d7-d5, Black also has other promising setups at his disposal.

Queen’s fianchetto 3… b6 is our recommendation for club level players. After 4. g3 Bb7 5. Bg2 d6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 Nf6, the arising position is about equal.

Similar to the above mentioned plan is 3… b5 4. g3 Bb7 5. Bg2 d6 6. O-O Nf6, and again, Black is doing fine.

The main line goes 3… Nc6 4. g3, and here Black has various promising possibilities: 4… d5 with Nf6, Be7 and O-O; 4… g6 5. Bg2 Bg7 6. O-O d6 often accompanied with Nf6; 4… Nf6 5. Bg2 d6 6. O-O Be7, which is quite flexbile; and 4… Nge7 5. Bg2 g6 6. O-O Bg7, which is a frequent choice of advanced players.

[Diagram: White to Move] G. Kamsky – M. Bartel, Istanbul (ol) 2012. What happens if White captures the Knight on d3, and is there anything better for him in the diagrammed position?

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