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Welcome to the April 2008 French update.
As I write the FIDE Grand Prix tournament is in full swing- and no less than three players have tried out the French. Perhaps this is a sign that top level tournaments may one day be cured of the 1...e5 disease that is currently afflicting them.

Download PGN of April '08 French games

Tarrasch 3...Nf6: Ngf3 lines

Is White running out of ideas in the Universal System?

We begin with the Baku GP tournament, and a variation that has caused Black a lot of trouble. After 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.c3 c5 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.Ngf3 g6 8.h4 Qb6 Michael Adams played 9.dxc5 against David Navara:

This is a novelty at the highest level, but not particularly impressive, and it met with a strong response from the Czech GM. In the end, the Cornishman's preventive/ restraining style came out trumps, as it so often does; but from the point of view of theory I think the Universal System is losing some of its impact. Here is Adams - Navara.

Hecht-Reefschlaeger 3.Nc3 Nc6

A tactical trick and some heavy violence

It seems that the chess world is finally starting to take 3...Nc6 seriously. Here under discussion is the mainline 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.e5 Ne4 6.Bd3 Bb4 7.Bd2 Nxd2 8.Qxd2:

First up is 8...Bd7. Ukraine GM Georgy Timoshenko had faced 3...Nc6 a year ago. He must have been impressed by it, as now he is choosing to play it as Black! Here he scores an easy win over a dangerous attacking player rated 2561. The tactical trick he uses should be studied by anyone intending to take up this line. Here is Vovk - Timoshenko.

Next is 8...f6. Black should be OK, but allowed himself to come under a big attack. Here is the position after Blacks 24th move:

Here White played 25.Na4+. He could have finished the game in a blaze of tactics with 25.Rxd5!! Bf6 26.Qxf6! Qxf6 27.Na4+ Ka6 28.Bb5+ Ka5 29.b4 mate! I have to admit that was courtesy of my new toy, the Hiarcs 12 program, rather than a flash of inspiration. Anyway, here is Philippe - Bricard.

Classical 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5

A devilish novelty

I've always regarded the variation 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 a6 8.Qd2 b5 as one of Black's most solid lines. But this month it falls prey to a devilish novelty after 9.g3 b4 10.Ne2 a5 11.f5!:

It is very unpleasant to face such a novelty, as it stands to reason that the opponent must have checked all the sharp variations that result on a computer. Therefore, a bad response is likely to meet with the most precise- and lethal- sequence of moves. Black doesn't last long in Inarkiev - Vitiugov.

Classical 4.Bg5 dxe4

A positional queen sacrifice

Here we have the latest word on 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 dxe4 5.Nxe4 Nbd7 6.Nf3 h6 7.Nxf6+ Nxf6 8.Be3. With the aid of a positional queen sacrifice, the Russo-Belgo-Turkish French guru Mikhail Gurevich succeeds in anaesthetizing White's attacking aspirations. Here is Erdogdu - Gurevich.

Classical McCutcheon 4.Bg5 Bb4

Vintage Korchnoi and a killer novelty

Viktor Korchnoi has been playing the French for at least 57 years and hasn't yet found a reason to give it up. But that doesn't mean he always plays the same variation. On the contrary, he has kept up his playing strength by testing out new ideas and trying to solve problems by calculating variations over the board. There is nothing 'old' about his approach to chess. There are admittedly a lot of mistakes in this month's game, but it shows Korchnoi's wonderful fighting qualities. He outlasts a player aged 22 who after eight rounds is leading the Baku Grand Prix tournament! Here is Gashimov - Korchnoi.

Our second game features a much younger exponent of the McCutcheon, 18 year old Ian Nepomniachtchi. Alas, he gets hit by a strong novelty and reacts badly in Popov - Nepomniachtchi.

Classical 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e5

Business as usual for Anand, Elo 3126

World Champion Anand has 20 games as White in the French ChessPub archives, and has scored +18=2. That's 95% against an average of 2656. Anand's rating performance is 3126 versus the French.

Morozevich is the player who has got the two draws, but even he has lost twice to the Indian genius, including today's game Anand - Morozevich.

Winawer 7.Qg4 Qc7 8.Qxg7

Cheparinov's curious blunder

We finish as we began at the FIDE Grand Prix in Baku. The first round game between Cheparinov and Grischuk began with the sharp Winawer Poisoned Pawn:

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.Qg4 cxd4 8.Qxg7 Rg8 9.Qxh7 Qc7 10.Ne2 Nbc6 11.f4 Bd7 12.Qd3 dxc3 13.Nxc3 a6 14.Rb1 Na5 15.h4 Nf5 16.Rh3 0-0-0 17.h5 Nc4 18.Rb4 Bc6 19.Ne2 Bb5 20.a4 Qc5 21.Qc3??:

I'd be interested to know how long Cheparinov spent making his 21st move. It feels very natural: the queen defends the hanging rook, gets out of the way of a surprise attack by the bishop on b5, and pins the knight on c4. But after Grischuk's reply 21...d4! White's position simply fell apart. For discussion of the correct move 21.Ba3! check out Cheparinov - Grischuk.

I thought I should catch up on some correspondence, see the Emailbag. My apologies if I have missed your email- no one is being purposely slighted.

Anyway, 'bye for now. As always, I hope you enjoyed the games and best of luck with your chess! Cheerio, Neil

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