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Build your Opening Repertoire - by GM Alex Yermolinsky

Build your Opening Repertoire - by GM Alex Yermolinsky

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1) In the introductory video, I tell a story of falling in love.


1 B67 Siclian Defence: Richter-Rauser
2 B67 Siclian Defence: Richter-Rauser
3 B67 Siclian Defence: Richter-Rauser
4 B67 Siclian Defence: Richter-Rauser
5 B67 Siclian Defence: Richter-Rauser
6 B67 Siclian Defence: Richter-Rauser

In the introductory video, I tell a story of falling in love. In love with a particular line of The Richter-Rauser Sicilian that would become my absolutely favorite opening for decades to come. It all started with a handful of games a young Russian schoolboy found in magazines and tournament bulletins. In those games Black was able to overcome very heavy odds - double pawns, King stuck in the middle, disconnected rooks - to win the key strategic battles.

The second video of the Opening Repertoire series shares a story of studying a line which was considered White's main alternative at the time I began my work on the Richter-Rauser. White neglects a chance of doubling Black's pawns on the f-file, and, instead, concentrates on the pawn thrust e4-e5. The key games I studied demonstrate how Black fights back by staying active and using typical Sicilian patterns of counterplay.

Video # 3, Part 1. First Experiences. When is the time to take your new opening to a tournament hall? In my case with that line of the Richter-Rauser it happened pretty soon, about a month into my studies. My first experiences were a mixed bag. In in my second game I badly butchered the move order and lost a pawn and the game, but already my third game turned out one of the most memorable in my entire career as I faced the young Garry Kasparov. Part 1 of this video deals with White's major alternative to creating the pawn structure I was aiming for. The type of play is quite characteristic of usual Sicilians, so I didn't feel totally out of place handling it. Harder tests still lie ahead.

Video # 3, Part 2. First Experiences. Mainline. The four games shown in this video are disheartening losses I suffered in the initial stages on learning to play this variation. While in part they were caused by some opening inaccuracies, the main reason was my lack of preparedness when it came to taking advantage of tactical opportunities. In short, I was not yet ready to play the resulting middle-game positions. Good thing, there was nowhere to go but up!

Video # 5, In this final video of the Richter-Rauser series I would like to showcase the games of a great practitioner of this line, The Croatian GM Zdenko Kozul. Having started to play it since his junior years Zdenko has amassed an incredible number of great wins along with some tough losses. The main thing is he never quits. Zdenko understands the risks, yet he goes for it time and time again. With a nod to his efforts, I would like to name this line the Kozul Suicide Variation. Enjoy the ride on the brink of disaster!

7 B09 Pirc:  Austrian Attack
8 B09 Pirc:  Austrian Attack

In this new short series of 'Building Your Opening Repertoire', I talk about acquiring a serviceable line against the Pirc Defense. My choice falls on the Austrian Attack, where some new ideas have been introduced in recent tournament practice. The good thing is, White seems to have more than one option available…

9 C18 French Defense: Armenian Variation
10 C18 French Defense: Armenian Variation

Many years ago I put up a lot of work on the French, but the results didn't match my expectations. There was something about putting my pawns on light squares and then trading away my dark-squared bishop that didn't agree with me.  Now I'm taking another look at the Armenian Variation, the 5...Ba5!? line. AT the least that bishop has a chance to stay alive...

11 B12 Caro-Kann
12 B12 Caro-Kann
13 B12 Caro-Kann
14 B12 Caro-Kann

One safer way of expanding your opening repertoire is to look for openings with similar structures. If you already have the French, then adding the Carto-Kann is a perfect idea. However, even a slight change can produce deviations from familiar patterns of play. Take Advance Caro vs. Advance French. In both cases, White puts his pawn to e5 on Move 3, but while in the French Black's light-squared bishop is locked up behind the pawn chain, in the Caro it can come out to f5. The problem with the latter is obvious: Black is late attacking the white center with c7-c6. It comes a tempo or two short, giving White the time to prepare counter-action in the center. Often Black comes to regret the absence of his 'bad bishop' from the Queenside. This series of videos is investigating an immediate reply 3...c3 in the Advance Caro.

15 D37 QGD: Bf4 line
16 D37 QGD: Bf4 line
17 D37 QGD: Bf4 line
18 D37 QGD: Bf4 line
19 D37 QGD: Bf4 line
20 D37 QGD: Bf4 line
21 D37 QGD: Bf4 line
22 D37 QGD: Bf4 line

In the opening video of the new series on Queen's Gambit Declined the Bf4 line, I cover the standard structure with the isolated d5-pawn where White applies a different strategy. Instead of trying to blockade the pawn he actually encourages it to move forward. Some of the lines are heavily researched and checked in practice, yet White retains good practical chances, such was the case of the Leko-Kramnik game from their World Championship Match in 2004.

Video #2 deals with various sidelines of the same isolated pawn structure. With the pair of knights gone from their respective posts on c3 and f6 Black's Kingside appears somewhat underdefended. In the Canney game, I was able to exploit that factor. Another interesting point is White willingness to trade light square bishops, the idea I failed to appreciate in my game against Tang. As it goes in the Bf4 line White aims not to blockade the d5-pawn but win it!

Video #3 From the previous videos, we have learned that in the absence of a pair of knights, traded on the d5-square, White rather attempts to attack and win the isolated d5-pawn, instead of blockading it. Defending passively may lead Black to a worse position. So, what to do? As one would expect from GM Shabalov, he found a perfect solution to the problem: he simply sacrificed that pawn! Facing this novelty over-the-board I bailed out with a queen trade into an equal endgame. However, post-game analysis failed to refute Black's outrageous idea. One thing is to get your move order right. My next opponent, Plunkett, mixed it up and found himself down a pawn for nothing. Also, Black may take a more traditional approach to the problem of the isolated d5-pawn by leaving a pair of knights on the board. This leads him to a safer position because White cannot count on winning the pawn. At the same time, the presence of Nc3 on the board relieves White of his worries about the a5-e1 diagonal. As my games with Mezentsev and Moore show, the game then takes the shape of a regular Queens Gambit Declined battle, where White possesses one of the smallest advantages. One difference is the maneuver Nf3-e5 made possible by Bf4, instead of the routine blockade with Nf3-d4.

Video #4 So, you think the Queens Gambit is a boring opening, all about weak pawns and endgame play? This video will open your eyes a bit wider. As the great champion Alexander Alekhine often proved in his games, White just uses a queenside diversion to force Black to draw his pieces way from the real target: Black's own king. The attack on the abandoned monarch can be swift and merciless. Against the young and talented John-Daniel Bryant, I used this strategy by deliberately fracturing my queenside pawns. Another surprising pawn recapture on move 23 decided the game in my favor. One of the most common pawn structure issues arising from the Bf4 line is White's recapture on f4 with his e-pawn. The three games there illustrate that Black shouldn't be counting his chickens too early. Thanks to the Nh5xf4 time-consuming operation White gets a massive lead in development that can be translated into an advantage in both middlegame and endgame.

Video #5 Anand's win over Carlsen in Game 3 of their second World Championship stands out as a modern classic. Deep opening preparation, along with perfect tactical execution, allowed the veteran to score a convincing victory. Detailed analysis, however, shows that White's play followed a known pattern, first introduced by Anand's great predecessor, Anatoly Karpov. The b4-b5 breakthrough represents White's only chance to break open Black's solid defenses. Black can play more carefully to sidestep this dangerous line. As the b4-b5 push is delayed it gradually loses its punch, as the following games show. All in all, it appears Black can hold his own despite the strong presence of White Bf4.

Video #6 The key issue in the structure appearing after White's move c4-c5 is the need to preserve the strong Bf4, the piece that fights against Black's natural break e6-e5 and extends its influence all the way to the b8-square, making the potential opening of the b-file White's main strategic goal. The little move h2-h3 therefore often becomes an integral part of White's setup. Question is, can Black hit the bishop before it happens? In this video, we're looking at 7...Nh5 as the immediate answer to White's c4-c5. While I have already touched the issue of a pawn structure change following the e3xf4 recapture, in this case, the position remains closed, making it more difficult for White to develop his play. Another great Anand win in the Bf4 QGD, this time against Nakamura, provides a blueprint of the campaign. The move Ne5 poses an interesting problem: which piece should Black capture that knight with? Compared with Anand's and Andreikin' games my own effort against IM Adler looks uninspiring. I guess I had to play Nf3-e5 a bit earlier.

Video #7 While 7.c5 remains White's principled answer to 6...Nbd7, closing the position is not to everyone's liking. I myself, have had a hard time playing such structures with White, as my game against IM Adler (see Video #6) can attest to. Does White have any options? One attempt is to sacrifice a tempo on a bishop move before the exchange on c4. The resulting positions may seem rather dry and equalish to some, but more experienced 1.d4 players know how to squeeze the smallest of advantages out of it, like a drop of water from a stone. My own efforts in this vein are rather unimpressive. I managed to win some games against a lower-rated opposition, but when the game with Lenderman didn't pan out at all. Perhaps, I need to follow the lead of the master technician Alexey Dreev, whose win over Yilmaz is to be studied and admired. I would also mention that any attempts on the part of Black to keep the queens on the board are likely to backfire in a bad way, as in the blitz game between So and Caruana. One can view the 7.Be2 line as a cold, practical approach, especially effective against higher-rated opposition.

Video #8 In this final video on the Bf4 system of the QGD I would like to devote some time to sideline options for both players. First is my somewhat clumsy attempt to economize on the bishop moves in the old game against GM Goldin. While in the game continuation White obtain a very promising position, the cold reality is that Black equalizes with ease. White's rook on c1 seems in the right place, but abandoning the a-pawn may not be a good idea. This brings us to the little move 6.a3 and its poisonous nature. White is attempting to trick Black into a more passive setup once he plays his knight to b5 and forces the reply Ne8. My personal experience with this line consists of one game where my opponent, the young J.D Bryant, was sidetracked by the idea of damaging White's pawn structure. Problem was, he fell behind in development, just as we saw in some examples from previous videos. The high-profile Andreikin-Kramnik game opens a new chapter, as Black tries to take advantage of the time spent on a2-a3 by switching to the Tartakower-Makagonov-Bondarevsky tracks. There's a lot of unexplored territory over there.

23 N/A Element of Suprise 1
24 N/A Element of Suprise 2

Modern opening preparation not only goes deep, it also extends wide. Every player has to have a few tricks up his sleeve to surprise his opponents. This may particularly become important when you cannot hope to match your adversary's knowledge and understanding of topical lines. Sometimes, you just go on with some line that has practical value for this particular game. That's what I did a couple of times in my recent tournaments. The fact that I played 1.e4 in both games was a nice bonus, an element of surprise. Part One deals with an obscure line in the Scotch game, which was played a few times by the uber-talented yet maddeningly inconsistent Russian GM Ian Nepo. True to his style, he put his pawns out while leaving his pieces undeveloped and the king dangerously stuck in the center. Black is certainly tempted to sacrifice something and crush White! My game deals with exactly that scenario. Part Two features White's somewhat bizarre attempt to uncover the possible weakness of 3...Nd7, now the most popular reply to 3.Bb5+ Anti-Sicilian. Invented by French GM Laurent Fressinet White concept revolves around piece play triggered by a pawn sacrifice in the center. Once again, the element of surprise played a large role in my own game, as my opponent lashed out wildly and went down in flames.

25 E74 KID: Averbakh variation
26 E74 KID: Averbakh variation
27 E74 KID: Averbakh variation
28 E74 KID: Averbakh variation
29 E74 KID: Averbakh variation
30 E74 KID: Averbakh variation
31 E74 KID: Averbakh variation
32 E74 KID: Averbakh variation
33 E74 KID: Averbakh variation
34 E74 KID: Averbakh variation

The Averbakh System, along with its variants such the Petrosian Variation in the Classical (early d4-d5) and the unnamed h3...Bg5 system represents a shift in White's approach to combatting the Kings Indian. Instead of focusing on the queenside alone while accepting a certain danger of being checkmated on the kingside (as it comes in the Classical Variation), White employs a strategy of full court press and containment. Playing g2-g4 is an integral part of White's setup. It serves both as a deterrent against f7-f5 (open g-file can be dangerous for the black king) and the basis of future attack with h4-h5.

This is what I had to deal with when I took up the Kings Indian in my early twenties, and I had faced a lot of the Averbakh. The theory of that day recommended Black all but abandon his standard plans with e7-e5 and focused solely on Benoni transpositions after c7-c5.

I was young and stubborn and I wanted to contradict, so my efforts concentrated on making e7-e5 work (6...h6). The first five videos tell the story of that journey. Some ten years later I was delighted to see my ideas becoming mainstream, as the reply 6..Na6 became the most popular choice.

In Part 6 I briefly introduce White's most ambitious plan of 7.f2-f4, a cross of the Averbakh and the Four Pawns Attack.  No series on the Averbakh KID can be complete without some coverage of the classical games in the Symmetrical Benoni structure (parts

7-8), but there are some new development there as well (parts 9-10) Enjoy!

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