[April 16, 2017] Pick of the Week by GM Boris Avrukh:
March 2015 Revisited: Open Slav Defense, Krause Attack (9. h4!)

After the original key game A. Korobov – D. Šolak, Jerusalem 2015, a flurry of theoretically important games followed, so this update is highly relevant for modern chess opening theory. While everything is quite interesting, make sure not to miss the following games: L. Aronian – V. Anand, Leuven (blitz) 2016, Ding Liren – Bu Xiangzhi, Shenzhen 2015 and Li Shilong – Yu Ruiyuan, China 2015.

[Diagram: Black to Move] M. Parligras – D. Šolak, Kragujevac 2016. This is probably an exercise for advanced players: White has no visible weaknesses, and is a healthy pawn up. However, Black can still seize the initiative, but it’s far from obvious. Can you find an improvement for Black in the diagrammed position on Šolak’s otherwise really impressive play?

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[April 15, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Queen’s Pawn Game (Chigorin Variation, etc.)

[Line 056 : 1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 without 2… Nf6]

Apart from 2… Nf6, transfering to our Line 080, there are also other perfectly fine alternatives: 2… e6, 2… c6, 2… Bf5 and 2… c5.

By playing 2… e6 Black offers a transposition to the Queen’s Gambit Declined, occurring after 3. c4 (Line 063). In case of 3. g3, Black can opt for 3… c5 where after 4. Bg2 cxd4 5. O-O Nf6 6. Nxd4 e5 7. Nb3 Be6 arises a position resembling the reversed Gruenfeld Defense.

Move 2… c6 is suitable for the players of Slav Defense. White can continue in the spirit of London System with 3. Bf4, where after 3… Bf5 Black should equalize without difficulties.

For beginners we recommend 2… Bf5, and after 3. c4 e6 4. Nc3 Nc6 the ensuing position is roughly equal.

The immediate 2… c5 can be seen even in grandmaster practice. White usually replies with either 3. c4 or 3. dxc5, and though this line is easier to play with White, players of Black are typically able to get satisfying positions.

Against the Chigorin Variation (2… Nc6) White can get a small edge both with 3. c4 (Line 057), and 3. Bf4 Bf5 4. c4.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black pieces are passive but no concrete threats against him are visible at first sight. However, White has a hidden resource that leads to an almost decisive advantage…

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[April 14, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
Gruenfeld Defense, Exchange Variation (Sidelines)

[Line 140 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4]

After the usual 5… Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 a big branching arises in the Exchange Variation of the Gruenfeld Defense. The two main moves – 7. Bc4 (Lines 144-145) and 7. Nf3 (Lines 141-143) are covered separately. From other options 7. Be3 is also quite common, while 7. Qa4+, 7. Bb5+ and 7. Bg5 are interesting sidelines.

By playing 7. Be3 White wants to develop his queenside first and then defend the c3-pawn with either Qd2 or Rc1. A typical continuation would be 7… c5 8. Qd2 Qa5, where both 9. Rc1 and 9. Rb1 deserve serious attention.

Move 7. Qa4+ was introduced on the highest level by Kramnik. The idea of this check is to disrupt harmonious development of black pieces. Replies 7… Nd7 and 7… Qd7 are a bit more accurate than 7… c6 and 7… Bd7.

In case of 7. Bb5+ the easiest way for Black to get a satisfactory position is by playing 7… c6 8. Ba4 O-O 9. Ne2 c5.

The idea of 7. Bg5 is similar to 7. Be3. The Bishop from g5 aims at e7, but the d4-pawn is less protected than when the Bishop is on e3. An exemplary line may follow 7. Bg5 c5 8. Rc1 O-O 9. Nf3 Bg4, with mutual play.

[Diagram: Black to Move] In the game A. Karpov – G. Kasparov, Lyon/New York (m/17) 1990 Karpov avoided his opponent’s trap and instead of 14. Rb1xb7 (shown in the diagram), he played a stronger move 14. Nf3. How should have Black reacted in the diagrammed position to gain a decisive advantage?

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[April 13, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Sicilian Defense, Najdorf Variation – Poisoned Pawn Variation

[Line 483 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 Qb6]

The Poisoned Pawn Variation is the most crticial continuation in the 6. Bg5 line of the Najdorf Variation in the Sicilian Defense. It occurs when Black takes the b2-pawn after 8. Qd2 Qxb2. The old move 9. Nb3 is considered not too promising for White, as Black gets satisfactory positions in more than one way.

The main line is 9. Rb1 Qa3, where 10. e5 remains the most ambitious choice. After 10… h6 11. Bh4 dxe5 12. fxe5 there are three options for Black of about the same strength. Heavily investigated and extremely sharp positions arise both after 12… Nfd7 13. Ne4 Qxa2 14. Rd1 Qd5 15. Qe3 Qxe5, 12… g5 13. exf6 gxh4 14. Be2 Qa5 15. O-O Nd7 and 12… Nd5 13. Nxd5 exd5 14. e6 Bxe6 15. Nxe6 fxe6.

If Black avoids capturing the pawn, and goes for 8… Nc6, White gets a small but durable edge with 9. Bxf6 gxf6 10. Nb3.

There are other possibilities for White on 8th move: 8. Qd3, which has some similarities with the 8. Qd2 line, or defending the b2-pawn by means of 8. Nb3 or 8. a3. In any case, position remains sharp and Black has more then one path to get balanced positions.

[Diagram: White to Move] M. Kolesar – V. Filipchenko, corr. 2004. White Rook on h3 is not only participating in the attack on the black King, but can also create threats to the opponent’s Queen along the 3rd rank. How can White gain a considerable advantage starting from the diagrammed position?

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[April 12, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Nimzo-Indian Defense, Rubinstein Variation – Normal Variation without 5. Bd3

[Line 189 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O without 5. Bd3]

Apart from 5. Bd3 (Line 190-194) another highly popular choice for players of White in the Rubinstein Variation is 5. Nge2, while 5. Nf3 often transposes to positions from the 5. Bd3 line, that is after White places his Bishop on d3.

Black has three satisfactory options against 5. Nge2 and they are 5… d5, 5… Re8 and 5… c6.

Move 5… d5 is the most straightforward one, preparing a retreat with the dark-squared Bishop when White attacks it with a2-a3. After the usual 6. a3, Black’s response is either 6… Be7, or 6… Bd6. In the latter case Black prevents White from playing Nf4, provoking the c4-c5 advance.

The idea of 5… Re8 is to save a tempo by moving the Bishop immediately back to f8. White can try to make use of it with 6. a3 Bf8 7. d5,which gains some extra space.

By playing 5… c6, Black plans to maneuver the Bishop from b4 to c7 and, if White allows it, intends to continue with d7-d5. An exemplary line could be 5… c6 6. a3 Ba5 7. b4 Bc7 8. e4 d5 9. e5 Ne8, typically creating counterplay with f7-f6 and a7-a5.

[Diagram: White to Move] D. Navara – K. Kulaots, Heraklio 2007. It looks like Black has efficiently stopped White from making a pawn advance on the kingside by playing 13… h5. Nonetheless, White can launch a strong attack – can you see how?

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[April 10, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Queen’s Gambit Declined – Anti-Meran Gambit; Semi-Slav Defense Accepted – Botvinnik Variation

[Line 266 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. Bg5 without 5… h6, 5… Nbd7]

Line 266 deals with available options in the Anti-Meran Gambit, excluding 5… h6 (Lines 270-273) and 5… Nbd7 (Lines 267-269).

The Botvinnik Variation of Semi-Slav Defense (5… dxc4) is one of the sharpest opening in the modern chess opening theory and requires extremely good preparation from both sides. For those who want to avoid main lines we recommend 6. a4 Bb4 7. e4, which is a bit easier to master.

The well-known tabiya of the Botvinnik Variation arises after 5… dxc4 6. e4 b5 7. e5 h6 8. Bh4 g5 9. Nxg5 hxg5 10. Bxg5. The critical position of this line occurs after 10… Nbd7 11. exf6 Bb7 12. g3 c5 13. d5 Qb6 14. Bg2 O-O-O 15. O-O b4. Both 16. Na4 and 16. Rb1 lead to highly demanding and well-investigated positions.

The alternative 10… Be7 11. exf6 Bxf6 is preferable for White, who has two paths to gaining a small edge: 12. Bxf6 Qxf6 13. g3 Bb7 14. Bg2 Na6 15. Ne4 Qe7 16. O-O and 12. Be3 Bb7 13. Qf3.

More suitable for beginners is the solid, yet passive, 5… Be7 6. e3 Nbd7. Black’s idea is to castle short and later develop the queenside with either b7-b6 and Bb7, or dxc4, b7-b5 and Bb7, with satisfactory positions.

[Diagram: White to Move] In this sharp position White’s biggest trump is the passed h-pawn, which could become dangerous especially in the endgame. Can you find the idea for White that gives him a big advantage?

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