What's new in the French Defence
Welcome to the August Update.
We begin with an email from Patrick McCartney:
I don't know if you read the French forum much, since I haven't seen many messages on there from you (compared to say, Kosten), but could you check out my message (I'm Flanker) on the 6...a5 line of the French Advance and perhaps give some more incite on the line than a 2-liner that basically says it's bad because it ends up a Milner-Barry with the pawn committed to a5?
Full details are in the message on the forum. I have your book on Mastering the French, and in the short coverage there of the Milner-Barry, Black doesn't play ...a6, and in my games against the Milner-Barry over the board, I play the Qxe5 followed by Qb8 lines, and have had excellent results. That combined with Black's plus-score in the Fritz 8 Database get me to believe this line is underrated.
Again, full details are in the form under the name "Flanker". Hope to see this line in a future month's update.
My thanks to Patrick for the email- and thanks again for buying my book on the French! Sorry that I've taken so long to reply.
First of all I have to confess that I prefer to put all my effort into the website update each month rather than add things piecemeal to the Forum. In effect the whole chess world is a giant Forum in which there is a continuous creative discussion going on at all levels of play. The Updates try to reflect this by bringing to attention the latest trends and ideas. If I do ever happen to have any good idea-which isn't very often- I prefer to add it to the Update where it can more easily be related to these trends rather than put it as a message on the Forum.
Re. the Milner-Barry with a2-a3 and ...a7-a5, I should mention that back in 2000 I gave the game Shirov-Anand from the World Championship Final in Tehran in which Anand boldly took the d4 pawn. But as I say there Black can't play in the standard fashion after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Qb6 6.a3 a5 7.Bd3 Bd7 8.0-0 cxd4 9.cxd4 Nxd4 10.Nxd4 Qxd4 11.Nc3 with 11...Qxe5 12.Re1 Qb8 13.Nxd5 Bd6 'as White has the extra option of 14 Nb6 which looks too strong.' So Anand actually played 11...Qb6 and held on after a hard tussle.
Also I see that 'Dom' from France has posted a reply to Patrick's query on the Forum which clarifies things with a lot of analysis. By the way, my thanks to Dom for his 44 posts on the French Forum out of a total number of around 177! That shows enormous devotion by the French to the French :-)
Incidentally, the inventor of the Milner-Barry Gambit, Sir Stuart Milner-Barry, used to play for my chess club, but I never got to face him with the black pieces. One time though during a club match someone ventured the Gambit against me whereupon Sir Stuart pointedly came over, looked closely at my scoresheet and began shaking his head!
Anyway let's see what's been happening out there.
This is still a relatively unexplored avenue of the Tarrasch. If you fancy giving it a go then you could do worse than study the games of GM Vysochin. In the first game he scores a terrific victory with a queen sacrifice after his opponent shows only a hazy knowledge of the theory of the opening. Have a look at Petrik - Vysochin.
The second game features analysis on 4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.e5 Nfd7 6.Bd3 and so completes the Guimard coverage on ChessPub where 6.Bb5 and 6.Be2 have previously been analysed. It makes a sad contrast to the previous game as Vysochin overpresses by grabbing the so called 'poisoned' b pawn- to whom hasn't this happened? Here is Potkin - Vysochin.
Finally I got the chance in one of my own games to try out the b2-b3!? plan against the variation that John Watson gives in his great book Play the French. Black needs a new idea here as it felt very pleasant being on the white side of the board! Have a look at McDonald - Anderton.
This remains the greatest find of the last five years in the French- or perhaps any opening. In this day and age it is almost unknown for an idea as early as the third move to go from obscurity to a place in the repertoire of both amateurs and top GMs. In this month's game Black wins with a positional queen sacrifice after some unbalanced play by White. Check out Wang - Arencibia
Black is still struggling in the variation already seen in the Kasparov - Radjabov and Grischuk - Iljushin games, which were featured respectively in the March and June 2003 Updates. This month White scores a very quick win with the type of attack most often seen in a Sicilian Dragon which has gone horribly wrong for Black. Check out Kritz-O'Cinneide.
Classical: 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 a6
After a couple of disasters in the variation above it is no wonder than Black is looking more closely at the alternative 6...a6!?. This would transpose after 7.Be3 Qb6 to the game Kasparov-Radjabov on ChessPub in which the World No 1 came very close to defeat.
Chesspublishing's own Tony Kosten has been involved in a couple of critical games in this variation and shown that Black is more than alive and kicking. Have a look at Fontaine - Kosten and Santo Roman-Kosten.
Classical 4.Bg5: Alekhine-Chathard Attack
It is good to see Alexander Morozevich, perhaps the most interesting of all the elite players, moving back up the rankings. He has always been unusually strong as Black, but now he seems to be trying to inject a new ferocity into his white openings. Thus at Biel he eschewed the King's Indian Attack in favour of 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3: and scored wins in 20 and 33 moves respectively versus the Classical and Winawer!
Here is Morozevich's win versus Korchnoi, who could never have expected to be facing the Chathard Attack. Even such an experienced player can be thrown by surprises in the opening and after an unsuccessful novelty the old lion quickly succumbs. Here is Morozevich - Korchnoi.
As stated above, Morozevich is now taking on the French mainline as White. As you would expect the result is a lot of fireworks and a game that is a pleasure to play through. Nevertheless, friends of the Winawer as Black can still sleep soundly as I think theoretically at least Black was more than OK. Enjoy Morozevich - Pelletier.
Winawer: Mainline 7.Qg4 0-0 8.Bd3 Qa5
After giving Morozevich's exciting win above it is rather embarrassing to talk about my boring draw in the last round of the British Championship. Nevertheless, it contained an important moment for the theory of the Rustemov System as Black could have got a decidedly inferior position. Check out Longson - McDonald.
Well that it for the time being. I'll see you all next month. Happy hunting with the French!