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from what i have heard i understand white should play this line if trying to fight for some opening advantage after Nf6.
Q1) What is the common assessment of this position in top player level?
Q2) I don't feel very confortable with c4 - b3, it feels like white overextends themeselves. Black has some disadvantages, but they have quite compact position with sound options like g6 or 0-0-0. Are there some sidelines for white to there realistically fight for some opening advantage? Maybe 6. Bd3?
Assesment is that the position is still slightly lightly better for white however both parties have something to go for and both can play for a win. As a black player I am normally not unhappy with the position
The following variations gives black some headaches on GM level however I think at amateur level it is roughly equal because the differences with the main lines are small
In the diagram i made a little mistake ofcourse. In the main line black does not play 10. ... Bd6 as it loses a pawn but c6 first with Bd6 later.
There is a lot of dispute whether Black should play 8...Ba6 or 8...Nb6 in the above variation. IMO both are good, and the result is largely relevant to the player's understanding of the position.
The line given by Moonie is (IMO) perfect for amateurs who want as white to play something simple, and with a very clear plan in mind. Objectively, it's just equal, but not dead equal. White has a very clear-cut plan in mind, which makes more sense than the old plans with Bg5/Na4/Ne2: He simply intends to complete his development harmoniously with Qf3, Rfe1, Bf4, Rad1, parry any threats on the b-file by b3, redeploy the c3 knight to g3 via e2, eyeing the f5 square (not the only good square for that knight, anyway), and when Black is not in a convenient position to answer with ...d4, hit against his center by c2-c4.
All that are very simple (almost simplistic) but you will be surprised to find out how many Black players react to this simplistic plan in an inappropriate way. Even Aronian got into some trouble against Kramnik in that position, when Vlad used against him this oddball.
Actually this is just what I'm recommending to play (as white) against 1...e5 to my not-so-advanced students...
3/14/2014 - Mate in 4
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