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As usual, I have to say sorry about the delay in getting this online. I hope you are all enjoying your chess and the big events that have been taking place over the past month, particularly the M-Tel Masters and the Olympiad. Sadly there were no French Defences at the former event, and far too many 1.e4 e5 games. Bring back Morozevich!

Download PGN of April '06 French games

Unusual lines

Variation with no name

We'll start with something rather odd: 1.e4 e6 2.Nf3 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3

White delays or avoids putting a pawn on d4 altogether. This position is more common than you might imagine, as it also arises from the c3 Sicilian with the move order 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.c3 d5 4.e5. Write to me if you know what this variation is called!

Black can either throw a spanner in the works with 4...d4 or else continue simply with 4...Nc6. In the latter case, 5.d4 might prove annoying if you intended to play Qb6 and Bd7 and Bb5 versus the Advance, delaying Nc6: but most players should be happy. Instead White might try to keep it off beat with [4...Nc6] 5.Na3. For analysis of these lines, and an exciting though flawed game, click on Cicak - Berg.

Tarrasch 3.Nd2 Be7 4.e5 c5 5.Qg4

Precise play required

Here we get to examine what is a model game for Black after 5...g6. Unfortunately for Pelletier he ruins it all with a strategic blunder, but theoretically speaking, Black is fully OK in Naiditsch - Pelletier.

Tarrasch: 3.Nd2 Be7 4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.e5 Nfd7 6.Bd3

Black bites back

I'm sick of seeing crushing attacks by Rublevsky, Grischuk and co. as White in this variation, so it's nice to be able to give a win from the Olympiad by a 2448 player as Black versus a 2646. Though I have to admit that he was rather lucky!

The battle ground is 6...c5 7.0-0 Nc6 8.Re1:

White avoids the usual typical 8.c3: a strategy that works supremely well until disaster strikes in the middlegame. Check out Asrian - Prasca.

Tarrasch 3.Nd2 Nc6

The Guimard goes from strength to strength

Have you been persuaded yet to give the Guimard a try? If you aren't convinced of its counter attacking potential, here is analysis of the mainline 4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.e5 Nd7 6.Be2, which is built around the Olympiad game Petrik - Zhang PengXiang.

Tarrasch 3.Nd2 Nf6

The 'long' variation

Whereas the Guimard is relatively unexplored, the 3...Nf6 Tarrasch comes with a lot of theoretical baggage. As I've said before, I have mixed feelings about the role of theory in chess. There is something deeply unsatisfying about having to copy other people's ideas- especially when it leads to defeat!

On the other hand, the most heavily analysed variations are often the most interesting. An underpinning of theoretical knowledge gives players the confidence to make sacrifices and launch speculative attacks.

Chess would be much duller without theory. After all, it is possible to escape from hot theory with moves like 1.e4 e6 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2, followed by 4.g3 and 5.Bg2; but is this really more rewarding than playing 15 moves or so of the Winawer Poison Pawn, and then having to start thinking for yourself in a highly complex position? It depends on the style of the player, I guess.

Anyway, the two games given this month focus on the critical line 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 12.Bg5 0-0 13.Bh4 Nh5 14.Qc2 h6 15.Bg6 Rxf3 16.gxf3 Bxh2+ 17.Kh1 Nf4 18.Ng3 e5!:

Things are looking rosy for Black. He is successful after White muddles up his theory in Can - Berg while he gains an important draw in Kotronias - Gurevich.

Winawer 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Ba5

An excellent sacrifice for Black

Here Neil Berry, rated 2285, comes within an ace of beating Emil Sutovsky, 2628, with Black- and luck had nothing to do with it! The variation given here is looking highly dubious for White. See for yourself by clicking on Sutovsky - Berry.

Winawer 7.Qg4 Qc7

Two sharp clashes in the Poisoned Pawn Mainline

Here we examine the latest ideas after 8.Qxg7 Rg8 9.Qxh7 cxd4 10.Ne2 Nbc6 11.f4 Bd7 12.Qd3 dxc3 13.Qxc3:

In the first game, Bunzmann takes a tremendous risk to escape the clutches of theory, and almost comes a cropper. Here is the very exciting game Calistri - Bunzmann.

Black also introduces a new move in the second game, which is a tough encounter between two exceptionally strong and well prepared Russian Grandmasters. Naturally, we cannot know what they have discovered in their secret preparation; but we can get some idea by looking at Smirnov - Kornev.

That's all for now. I hope you enjoyed playing through the games and got one or two ideas. Good luck with your chess! Neil

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