[April 23, 2017] Updated Opening Article by Boris Avrukh:
March 2015 Revisited: Sicilian Defense, Taimanov-Bastrikov Variation with 7… Bd6

In one of our previous installments of this article V. Kramnik – F. Caruana, Dortmund 2016 was this line’s key game, where Black had problems reaching the full equality. It didn’t take long and Caruana got the opportunity to try the same line as White: his choice proved successful and he scored an important win against Movsesian. However, more developments followed, and our new best mutual play now follows A. Motylev – M. Bosiočić, Moscow 2017. This is a very topical and fashionable line, and we believe there is still plenty of room for improvement for both sides.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position comes from an analysis from the above mentioned game from the Moscow Open. Can you find the way to untangle White’s pieces that ends in a perpetual check?

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[April 21, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Queen’s Indian Defense, Kasparov Variation with 4… Bb4 5. Bg5

[Line 205 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. Nc3 Bb4 5. Bg5]

Though Black can opt for 5… h6 or even 5… Bxc3+, the most common choice is definitely 5… Bb7. Now, there are three recommendable options for White: 6. e3, 6. Nd2 and 6. Qc2.

In case of 6. e3, Black usually replies with 6… h6 7. Bh4 g5 8. Bg3 Ne4. Black’s kingside gets a bit weakened, but White remains with doubled c-pawns when Black plays Bxc3. For example, 9. Qc2 Bxc3+ 10. bxc3 d6 11. Bd3 f5, with mutual play.

Also, after 6. Nd2 h6 7. Bh4 Black gets a comfortable position in a couple of ways. One of the options is 7… Be7 8. e4 O-O 9. Bg3 d5, and this position is roughly balanced.

Black may play a similar plan even after 6. Qc2. For example 6… h6 7. Bh4 g5 8. Bg3 Ne4 9. Nd2 Bxc3 10. bxc3 Nxg3 11. hxg3 Qe7, often followed by d7-d6, Nd7 and O-O-O.

[Diagram: White to Move] If Black manages to castle long, he would get a satisfactory position. How should White continue to seize the initiative?

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[April 20, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
French Defense, Normal Variation – Rubinstein Variation (incl. Fort Knox Variation)

[Line 331 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 without 3… Bb4, 3… Nf6]

The two most common moves are dealt with in other opening lines: 3… Bb4 in Lines 343-364, and 3… Nf6 in Lines 336-342.

Rubinstein Variation (3… dxe4) is another popular option, where after 4. Nxe4 the main move 4… Nd7 is covered in depth in Lines 332-335. The Fort Knox Variation (4… Bd7) is suitable for begginers and club level players. Black’s plan is Bc6 and, at a right moment, capturing one of the white Knights, followed by c7-c6. White stays with a bishop pair and small space advantage, but Black has a solid position without weaknesses.

Various sidelines can also be found in this line, including 3… Nc6 and 3… Be7. In these sidelines, White generally gets more promising positions without difficulties.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black is ready to recapture the piece with fxe6. How can White thwart his opponent’s plan, and claim a big edge?

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[April 18, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Semi-Slav Defense – Stoltz Variation (Shabalov Attack)

[Line 281 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Qc2 Bd6 7. g4]

In the Shabalov Attack, which arises after 7. g4, White reveals his intentions of exerting a kingside pressure early. There are several Black’s replies of about the same strength.

Line 7… h6 is currently the most popular one, where after the usual 8. Rg1, move 8… b5 is an interesting alternative to the classical central strike with  8… e5.

The other logical plan for Black is 7… dxc4 8. Bxc4 e5 with a double-edged game.

Accepting the gambit with 7… Nxg4 can be recommended to those with strong nerves. White gets sufficient compensation after 8. Rg1, but Black’s chances should not be worse.

Variations 7… Bb4 8. Bd2 Qe7 and 7… O-O are a bit easier to handle, so they are our recommendations for club level players and beginners.

[Diagram: White to Move] In this intriguing position both white Knights are active, but also under attack. What is the best way for White to redeploy the Knights, and gain a big advantage?

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[April 17, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Dutch Defense, Fianchetto Variation (Stonewall & Classical)

[Line 049 : 1. d4 f5 2. g3]

After the usual 2… Nf6 3. Bg2, the main line of the Dutch Defense – 3… g6 is covered in our Line 050. Move 3… e6 is another popular choice for Black, where his plan often includes d7-d5 and c7-c6, leading to the Stonewall Variation. There are several of options for Black against the most common 3… e6 4. c4, among them 4… c64… d5 and 4… Be7.

The idea of 4… c6 is to postpone the d7-d5 advance until the Knight from g1 develops to f3, while keeping an extra option after 5. Nh3: 5… d6 followed by e6-e5.  Black can also opt for 5. Nh3 d5, where White’s position is slightly preferable, though its closed nature gives Black good practical chances.

If Black immediately decides to play the Stonewall setup with 4… d5, he gets another interesting possibility in 5. Nh3 Bd6, postponing the c7-c6. There is also 5. Nf3 Bd6 6. O-O O-O 7. b3 b6, followed by Bb7 and Ne4, with good prospects for Black.

In case of 4… Be7, move 5. Nh3 appears to be the most precise reply, often leading to positions arising in either 4… c6 or 4… d5 lines.

[Diagram: White to Move] A well known “trick” that allows White to seize a longterm initiative. What would you play for White?

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[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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