[February 12, 2017] Trusted: Opening Survey by GM Aleksandar Kovačević
Catalan Defense, Closed Variation with 7… b6 (12. Rd1)

Nakamura’s three-peat at the Gibraltar Tradewise Open was nothing short of impressive, so examining his weapon of choice in the decisive game of the first leg of the play-offs seems quite logical. In addition to two high-profile grandmaster games – R. Kasimdzhanov – A. Kovalyov, Baku 2015 and M. Rodshtein – A. Franco Alonso, Linares 2014, our examination of this variation will also include a number of theoretically important engine games, which will surely broaden our understanding of this rather fashionable line.

[Diagram: Black to Move] H. Nakamura – Yu Yangyi, Caleta (rapid, m/3) 2017. Moves like Nd6 or Ne3 typically annoy Black, so he has to act quickly before his opponent’s pressure becomes unpleasant. Any ideas?

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[February 11, 2017] Updated Opening Line from Dragan Paunović:
English Opening, Korchnoi’s Variation

[Line 038 : 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. g3]

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.

After the usual follow-up 5… Bg7 6. Bg2 O-O 7. O-O occurs a major branching of this opening variation. If Black continues with 7… c5, notable choices of White include 8. Qa4 and 8. d4, yet 8. Nxd5 Qxd5 9. d3 Nc6 10. Be3 is the most frequently played one. Black can obtain equality without difficulties, often including simplification of the position, like in 10… Bd7 11. Nd4 Qd6 12. Nxc6 Bxc6 13. Bxc6 Qxc6.

Other possibilities are 7… Nc6 8. d4 e5!?, 7… e5 (known as the Kortchnoi’s Variation) and 7… Nxc3 8. bxc3 c5, that should also be fine for Black.

For club level players we recommend an interesting sideline – 5… Bg7 6. Bg2 O-O 7. h4, trying to provoke Black to weaken the kingside with 7… h6, where positions arising after 8. O-O Nc6 9. d4 typically favor White.

[Diagram: White to Move] A. Adorjan – P. Popovic, Vrbas 1980. Black Bishop went astray on a4, which gives White motives connected with double attack. How can White win material in the diagrammed position?

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[February 10, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Anti-Moscow Gambit

[Line 270 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. Bg5 h6 without 6. Bxf6]

In this line White has a choice on 6th move between two very different types of position: the quiet Moscow Variation 6. Bxf6 (Lines 272-273), and the very sharp Anti-Moscow Gambit 6. Bh4. In the latter case, the game usually continues with 6. Bh4 dxc4 7. e4, where 7… b5 8. e5 transposes to the main line of the Botvinnik Variation, though nowadays players of Black usually prefer 7… g5 8. Bg3 b5. Though White has a couple of possibilities here, move 9. Ne5 is an alternative of equivalent strength to the main 9. Be2.

As the response to 9. Be2, Black frequently opts for 9… Bb7, while 9… b4 10. Na4 Nxe4 and 9… Bg7 are also viable. In fact, position arising after 6. Bh4 g5 7. Bg3 dxc4 8. e4 b5 9. Be2 Bb7 is a modern chess opening tabiya, where 10. O-O and 10. h4 are covered in our Line 271. Other well-investigated options are 10. Ne5, 10. e5 and 10. Qc2, and they are the point of interest of this opening line.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black’s vulnerable King and poor Queen placement allow White to launch a decisive attack, starting with a nice tactical blow!

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[February 08, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Blumenfeld Countergambit

[Line 195 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 without 3… b6, 3… d5, 3… Bb4+]

Line 195 covers the alternatives to mainstream openings: 3… d5 (Lines 229-285)3… b6 (Lines 202-228) and 3… Bb4+ (Lines 196-201).

The most popular among them is the Blumenfeld Countergambit, arising after 3… c5 4. d5 b5. White usually accepts the challenge and takes the pawn with 5. dxe6 fxe6 6. cxb5. Move 6… d5 is the most critical option here, though 6… a6 also seems fine. After 6… d5 7. g3 a6 8. bxa6 Be7, followed by O-O and Nc6, Black has sufficient compensation for the sacrificed pawn. Players of White sometimes also opt for 7. e3, 7. Bf4 or 7. Nc3, with the idea e2-e4, but the evaluation stays the same – chances are roughly equal.

Move 5. Bg5 is an interesting possibility for White. Black should continue with 5… exd5 6. cxd5 h6, where he is fine after 7. Bxf6 Qxf6 8. Qc2 Be7.

[Diagram: Black to Move] S. Rodes – S. Dibley, corr. 2009. White is a piece up and looks like his King is protected well enough, thanks to his bishop pair. How can Black boost his attack and get the upper hand?

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[February 07, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
Sicilian Defense, Paulsen Variation – Taimanov-Bastrikov Variation (Bastrikov Variation with 6. Be3 a6 7. Qd2)

[Line 456 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 Qc7 6. Be3 a6 7. Qd2]

The positions covered in this opening line are among the most demanding ones in the Paulsen Variation. White’s intentions after Be3 and Qe2 are clear, that is, he intends to castle queenside, followed by the flank attack with f2-f3 and g2-g4.

The most examined move is 7… Nf6, where 8. f4 has recently received a lot of attention. Black has found a way to get balanced positions there with 8. f4 Bb4 9. Bd3 Na5 10. a3 Bxc3 11. Qxc3 Qxc3+ 12. bxc3 d5. In case of 8. O-O-O, positions arising after 8… Bb4 9. f3 Ne5 and 8… Be7 9. f3 b5 10. g4 are highly complex, but Black should not be inferior there.

For those players of Black pieces who want to avoid main lines, move 7… b5 seems like a reasonable alternative. After 8. O-O-O b4 9. Na4 Nf6 10. f3 Ne5 Black should get a decent counterplay.

[Diagram: White to Move] White has already sacrificed a Knight to get a strong attack, while black pieces lack coordination. What is the best way to continue as White and create serious difficulties to the opposing side?

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[February 06, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
English Opening, Symmetrical Variation

[Line 019 : 1. Nf3 c5 2. c4 without 2… Nf6]

Apart from 2… Nf6 (Lines 030-035), Black can delay the development of his Knight from g8, with either 2… Nc6, or 2… g6. In the second case the game usually transposes to the Maroczy Bind with 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. e4 (Lines 431-433).

The main variation of this opening line is 2… Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4. Black can here decide between the two moves of about the same strength – 4… e6 and 4… Nf6. After 4… e6 5. g3 Qb6 6. Nb5 Ne5, the ensuing position often gets a forced character, but Black should still be fine.

The other critical position is 4… Nf6 5. g3, where Black gains playable positions both after 5… e5 6. Nb5 Bb4+ 7. N1c3 d6 8. a3 Bxc3+ 9. Nxc3 Be6 and 5… Qb6 6. Nc2 e6 7. Bg2 d5.

[Diagram: Black to Move] V. Topalov – V. Ivanchuk, Linares 1999. Ivanchuk did not miss the most aggressive continuation, which gave him a strong initiative. How would you continue with the black pieces?

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