After the most frequently played 7… a6, White has a choice between 8. Qxc4 (Lines 237-238) and the move that is the main focus of this opening line – 8. a4, which has gained a lot of popularity in recent years.
The main response to 8. a4 is certainly 8… Bd7, often followed by Bc6. Black’s plan typically involves a6-a5, Bxf3 and c6, which leads to very solid position. After 9. Qxc4 Bc6 White proceeds either with 10. Bg5 or 10. Bf4, and both of these move have been tried many times among the top-tier players. Apart from capturing the c4-pawn immediately with his queen, White can postpone it with 9. Rd1 Bc6 10. Nc3 or 9. Ne5 Bc6 10. Nxc6 Nxc6 11. e3. In both cases, Black is able to get equal chances, though it usually requires several accurate moves.
On 8th move Black has tried various alternatives to 8… Bd7, but only 8… c5 seems to give him good chances for equality. After 8… c5 9. dxc5 Bxc5 10. Nbd2 an interesting pawn sacrifice 10… b5!? 11. axb5 Bb7 12. bxa6 Nxa6 13. Qxc4 Bd5 leads to sufficient compensation for Black.
[Diagram: Black to Move] White’s last move was Nb1-c3, allowing Black the possibility to seize the initiative. What is the best way to continue as Black?
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