What's new in the French Defence
Welcome to the April Update.
Gary Kasparov has just celebrated twenty years as the World's highest rated player, having taken over from Karpov back in 1983. The only record in modern times that can be compared to this is Judith Polgar's dominance of Women's chess: she is now 165 points above her nearest female rival!
In fact Polgar is playing some of her best chess ever as demonstrated by her famous victory against Kasparov in the Russia-Rest of the World Match.
She didn't quite succeed in winning the recent Super GM event in Budapest, despite an excellent start of three wins, but in the game selected here she came up with a fantastic opening novelty.
Have a look at the fine miniature game Polgar - Berkes.
Now for something completely different.
A variation with no name
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 h6
Is this a piece of nonsense or an intriguing new opening line? Well here is the case for the defence:
- In contrast to the Winawer 3...Bb4 Black doesn't weaken the g7 square.
- In contrast to the Classical 3...Nf6 Black doesn't expose the knight to attack with 4.e5.
- In contrast to the Rubinstein Black doesn't concede the centre with d5xe4.
- If after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Black can play 3...a6!? to stop Bb5 and no one laughs at him, then why not 3...h6!? to stop the pin on the kingside with Bg5?
- and compared to Petrosian's experiment 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 5.e5 Ng8 Black is a tempo up.
The ugliest thing about 3...h6 is that Black is positively begging White to play e4xd5 and enter a French Exchange- not something I believe any self respecting French player should ever contemplate. But what do you think? And does anyone have any suggestions for a name for this opening?
In any case it all works well for Black in Delorme - Legky.
There have been some very interesting developments in our favourite Rustemov System. A hotly debated position is reached after 9.Bd2 Nbc6 10.Nf3 f5 11.exf6 Rxf6 12.Qh5 Nf5
No less a player than Shirov tries to bust the opening system in our first game, but with precise defence former FIDE World Champion Khalifman shows that Black is OK. This is reassuring as Shirov chooses a variation that Timman has used with crushing effect as White, namely 13.g4!? Have a look at Shirov - Khalifman.
The other selected Rustemov game features the alternative critical move 13.c4!? which has been much discussed on the site. We patched up Black's position after his disastrous defeat in the earlier game Sutovsky - Goloshchapov given on ChessPub but now he is under fire again. Here is Seres - Erdos.
Winawer Mainline: 7.Qg4 0-0 8.Bd3 Nbc6
This is looking perfectly OK for Black, but he must treat the early middlegame with great care- especially if he is playing someone rated 2746. In the game selected here Almasi makes a standard exchange sacrifice to ward off the danger of Leko's kingside onslaught. Have a look at Leko - Almasi.
If having played through this game you are convinced that White's dark-squared bishop is a useless piece, then the two games by Alexander Grischuk in the Advance Variation should be quickly administered as an antidote.
Despite all the refinements of chess strategy, the easiest way to win a game is to take your opponent's pieces. Luther does precisely that after his opponent becomes mesmerised by his own attacking chances and forgets all about his poor bishop. Have a look at Luther - Schenk.
I find it astonishing how Grischuk manages to build up such promising positions as White from apparently innocuous opening systems. But I guess that is one of the mysteries of being a great player. In the first game Gurevich seems to be only under the slightest of pressure, but then suddenly finds he is facing a strong attack with all his pieces on the wrong squares! That's life. Enjoy the wonderful positional game Grischuk - Gurevich.
In the next game it is clear where things went wrong for Black as Apicella is far too experimental in the opening. As in the Gurevich game above White's dark square bishop is the star of the show. Check out Grischuk - Apicella.
Michael Adams is continuing his quest to demolish every line of the Tarrasch. Here it is the turn of the mainline with Qc7, which is reached after the moves:
4.e5 Nfd7 5.Bd3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ne2 cxd4 8.cxd4 f6 9.exf6 Nxf6 10.Nf3 Bd6 11.0-0 Qc7
I used this line a lot when I was young as the idea of pointing the queen at h2 straightaway appealed to me! However, the plan that Adams adopts in the game given here has always proved difficult for Black to handle. There is nothing new here- the analysis has been known for more than ten years- and Black's attempt at an improvement leads to disaster. Check out Adams - Mullon.
Tarrasch 3...c5 4.Ngf3 cxd4 5.exd5 Qxd5
Because of the liquidation of both of White's centre pawns you would imagine that in this system it is a case of all or nothing: Black is either going to emerge from the opening in deep trouble or with completely equal chances. In fact, as this month's game demonstrates, he can still be subjected to annoying long term pressure if White gets a grip on the centre with his pieces. There is a useful warning in Korneev - Fernandez Romero.
Well that's all for now. Have fun winning your chess games!
See you next time,