What's New- April '01
Welcome to this month's update. One thing that has struck me from your emails is that a lot of subscribers are looking for ways to bash the French as White- you aren't all trying to prove it is a forced win for Black! Therefore I'll try to keep my verdicts as objective as possible, though this month as usual Black makes a plus score in the games given.... In any case, whether you are a friend or foe of the French I hope you find some useful weapons here.
The sharp line 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Bd3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ne2 cxd4 8.cxd4 f6 9.Nf4!? still attracts attention. In the game Timman-Morozevich. given a couple of months ago White had a convincing victory but this month it is Black's turn to score a wonderful counter-attacking win. The conclusion seems to be that if Black wants equality or more in this line then he should plunge straight into the sharpest line- the white king must be exploited as a target! Have a look at the impressive game Ferguson-Morris, APR01/04.
Tarrasch- White plays Ngf3 in mainline
This system can arise against either 3...c5 or 3...Nf6 or 3...Be7 so needs to be studied carefully by any Tarrasch player. In the example given here from the World Cup of Rapidplay, the move order was 3...c5 4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.e5 Nfd7 6.c3 Nc6 7.Bd3 Qb6, but it could also have occurred via 3...Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Bd3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ngf3 Qb6.
Now after 8 0-0, 8...Be7 would more or less transpose to 3...Be7. Have a look at the 'Wrong Knight on f3!' section on the Tarrasch 3...Be7 page for more details. The theoretical verdict looks very good for Black in this line. Instead Black played 8...g6 which is also well known and perfectly reasonable, though he followed it up badly. This gave Kasparov the chance to demonstrate the devastating power that has made him invincible in tournaments. Click on Kasparov-Bareev, APR01/06 for a lot of important information on this system.
Here the variation 4.Bd3 c5 5.dxc5 Nf6 6.Qe2 Nc6 7.Ngf3 Nb4 remains critical. The key game and analysis is still Godena-Morozevich- see NM204- but this month the prodigy Radjabov has added something new to the debate. He scores a powerful win with Black after White loosens his position too much in trying to hold onto his extra pawn. This line seems alive and well for Black after the low point of Morozevich's defeat versus Adams. Take a look at Losev-Radjabov, APR01/07.
Tarrasch: the 'non-French' Option
Rather than plunge into the mainline Tarrasch pawn structure, White can play systems based on keeping a pawn on e4 and supporting the d pawn with c2-c3. Then play normally transposes to Queen's Gambit IQP structures, for example 3.Nd2 Be7 4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.Bd3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.0-0 dxe4 8.Nxe4 cxd4 9.cxd4 0-0 was played in Plaskett-Short, NM132, a game won by White. GM Plaskett also won in NM95 after 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.Bd3 c5 5.c3 Nc6 6.Ngf3 cxd4 7.cxd4 etc.
Whilst there is no way for Black to force a Tarrasch structure, if it has to be an IQP position, then it would be nice if it were an unusual one! That's why I like Black's play in the game selected this month. Black borrows an idea from the Fort Knox to give the position an original feel. The game began 3...Be7 but have a look at my notes to see if a similar plan would work versus 3...Nf6. You can find it in Todorovic-Antic, APR01/08.
Here also we look at a popular line that can arise from two distinct move orders.
the Rubinstein- 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Nf3 Ngf6 6.Nxf6+ Nxf6 7.Bg5 h6
the Classical- 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 dxe4 5.Nxe4 Nbd7 6.Nxf6+ Nxf6 7.Nf3 h6
The plus to the Rubinstein move order is that you don't have to worry about White going 4 e5; the plus to the Classical is that White has already committed his bishop to g5 so can't diverge with any variations like 5 g3 as he can in the Rubinstein.
In either case, the critical continuation is now 8.Bh4 c5 9.Bb5+ Bd7 10.Bxd7+ Qxd7. Here in Leko-Shirov, NM234, the straightforward 11 0-0 didn't set Black many problems, so this month I want to consider the sharper 11 Qe2!? which temporarily gives up the d-pawn in order to facilitate castling queenside. Black has the choice between accepting the pawn with 11...cxd4 or continuing his development with 11...Be7. Which of these methods is preferable? Have a look at the evidence in Pavlovic-Antic, APR01/09.
Classical 4 Bg5 dxe4
Next up is a tremendous attacking display by Bareev in his favourite opening system. Despite seeing great attacking wins by Radjabov and Morozevich and others it still somehow surprises me that Black can generate such dynamism when he concedes the centre with dxe4. I guess the key thing is that White gives up the dark squared bishop so that if he loses control then he can be hit very hard by a counterattack. This is what happens to White in the game selected here. Judith Polgar launches a bold attack but it gets nowhere and meanwhile Black generates overwhelming threats of his own. Have a look at Polgar-Bareev, APR01/05.
In the February 2001 emailbag I replied to an interesting email by Philip Davis about answering 1.e4 e6 2.Nf3 d5 3.Nc3 with 3...Bb4 hoping to transpose to the Winawer.
Noel Aldebol then sent me a game which featured a clever idea which I didn't consider in my reply to Phillip- you can see it by clicking on not2deep-sleipner, APR01/03.
Finally I asked Andrew Harley, the co-author of Mastering the French, what he thought of the Two Knights and Noel's idea. He made several points:
(1) I think 3...Nf6 is the soundest transposing to the line 1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 e5 Nfd7 5 Nf3
(2) 3...d4 can end Black two tempi down on the White side of a King's Indian Defence, e.g. 4 Nce2 c5 5 c3 Nf6 6 d3 Nc6 7 g3 e5 etc.
(3) 3...Bb4 is interesting - I had never thought of it before. After 4 a3 Ba5 5 e5 Ne7 6 b4 might be better than 6 d4. But 4 e5 seems to make sense unless Black can respond 4...d4 but this seems unlikely to be good for Black.
My thanks to Phillip, Noel and Andrew for their input. Keep the ideas coming!
Paul Cumbers of Sheffield has been examining the line 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Qb6 6.a3 Nh6 7.b4 cxd4 8.cxd4 Nf5 9 Be3 f6. Here in NM126 - the game Otero-Nogueiras- I analyse 10 Bd3 and 10 exf6, but Paul comments:
'However, Psakhis cites the game Romanishin - Lputian, Erevan 1988, which puts me right off playing this line as Black - 9.Be3 f6!, and now instead of 10.Bd3 we get: 10.b5 Nxe5! 11.dxe5 Nxe3 12.fxe3 Qxe3+ 13.Qe2 Qc1+ 14.Qd1 with a draw by perpetual check. What an anti-climax!'
Paul then asks if I have any ideas of how Black should keep the game going after 10.b5 if he doesn't want an immediate draw. I checked on my database and found that after 10 b5 nine games had indeed finished as quick draws by the perpetual and Black had won once when White had tried to keep the game alive! You can have a look at that victory and some additional notes by clicking on Acs-Williams, APR01/02.
Besides his analysis of the Advance Variation above Paul Cumbers has also sent me a fine attacking game he won in the French Exchange. He writes:
'Thank you for your recommendation of the French Exchange variation as a way for White to play for a win. I decided to give it a go yesterday in the Notts. Rapidplay tournament, and it worked a treat! I didn't expect the variation to lead to some nice tactical play...I'll definitely be trying 3.exd5 more often in the future!'
You can see this game by clicking on Cumbers-Marsh, APR01/01.
If you have an interesting game that you would like to share with other subscribers just send me an email.
Well that's it for April. I hope you found some new ideas here. Good luck in your games!
Bye for now,