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First of all sorry about the delay in getting the French update online. Hopefully everything will get back on track soon.
Unfortunately I don't have any games from the World Championship to show you as the players there find it much more profitable to study the Petroff. But at all other levels of chess, or at least where achieving a twenty move draw isn't regarded as a massive success for Black, there has been a lot of activity in our favourite opening.

Download PGN of August '07 French games

Advance: 4...Qb6- planning ...Bb5

The difference between strong players and titled players?

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Qb6 5.Nf3 Bd7 6.Bd3 cxd4 7.Nxd4!:

What I find most interesting here is that over the last four or five years 7.Nxd4 and 7.cxd4 have been played almost the same number of times, about 14 times each if I recall correctly. Most statistics tend to be meaningless, but here they are striking: the average rating of players choosing 7.Nxd4 is about 2550, and they have scored a hefty 80%; whereas 7.cxd4 is preferred by players around 2150 Elo, scoring 35%. It seems that news of 7.Nxd4 hasn't filtered down to lower rated players; or is there something 'unnatural' about recapturing with the knight that makes less experienced players recoil?

Not that 2150 isn't a very good rating in the scheme of things, far stronger than most tournament players. Perhaps the idea of Nimzowitsch that you can control the centre without necessarily occupying it with pawns still hasn't achieved full acceptance among strong but untitled chess players! Anyway have a look at Rozentalis - Perez Garcia.

Tarrasch 3...Be7 4. Ngf3 -8...a5!?

Black's intrepid a-pawn

Next up is 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Be7 4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.Bd3 c5 6.e5 Nfd7 7.c3 Nc6 8.0-0 a5 9.Re1 a4:

There is much to be said for the onward rush of the a-pawn. Black is side stepping a lot of highly analysed variations, and also giving his king the chance to seek shelter on the kingside- something that becomes unfeasible once he lashes out with the common move ...g7-g5. By avoiding the preliminary exchange c5xd4; c3xd4, Black is also cutting out the Nb1! and Nc3 redeployment of the white knight on d2 which has proved a nuisance. The drawback to queenside action is that the white centre isn't put under pressure as occurs after ...g7-g5. White is therefore free to build up his game without worrying about the loss of the d4-pawn.

Let's see how it worked out in Schneider - Shulman.

Tarrasch 3...Be7 4. Ngf3 -8...g5!?

The most fighting variation

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Bd3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ngf3 Be7 8.0-0 g5:

We saw 8...a5 in the game above. Instead 8...g5 virtually forces White to dissolve his pawn centre. On the other hand, the weakness created in the black kingside gives White the strategic justification for launching an attack that ignores the loss of pawns or serious blemishes in his pawn chain.

Hence the positions are extremely double edged. This month we have two examples: Iordachescu - Volkov and Sidorenko - Petr.

Tarrasch 3...Nf6: Ngf3 ideas

The promising 7...g6 system

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Bd3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ngf3 g6:

If Black has played 3...Nf6 rather than 3...Be7, he can profitably avoid developing his bishop in favour of immediate kingside action. It is strange that with 7...g6 it looks as if Black is preparing ...Bg7, but in the mainline he doesn't intend to put it there, or at least not in the opening. Chess can be a very weird game. Here is the exciting struggle Gopal - Ganguly.

Rubinstein 4...Nd7

A tremendous fight sees Black on top

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Nf3 Ngf6 6.Nxf6+ Nxf6 7.c3 c5 8.Ne5:

White's attacking scheme with 8.Ne5 caused Black a lot of grief after Kasparov introduced it to the top flight in his game with Ponomariov back in 2002. But now Black is finding convincing ways to neutralise it. In this month's entertaining game, the white attack is repelled in Nataf - Vaisser.

Classical McCutcheon- 6.Be3

A new hero of the French Defence

After 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Bb4 5.e5 h6, 6.Be3 is one of those moves that lie dormant for decades and then suddenly become trendy. The move 6.Bd2 was previously played 'automatically'. Ian Nepomniachtchi, a Russian player born in 1990 and already rated 2613, is fast becoming a hero of the French Defence. Here he shows that the McCutcheon is very much alive in Popov - Nepomniachtchi.

Winawer 7.Qg4 Qc7 8.Qxg7

Move order nuances in the Poison Pawn Variation

The position under scrutiny here is reached after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.Qg4 Qc7 8.Qxg7 Rg8 9.Qxh7 cxd4 10.Ne2 Nbc6 11.f4 Bd7 12.Qd3 dxc3 13.Rb1 0-0-0 14.Nxc3 Na5 15.Nb5 Bxb5 16.Rxb5:

Now Black normally chooses 16...Kb8, but by varying his move order Ganguly confused his opponent and won very easily in Sergeeva - Ganguly.

That's all for now. I hope you enjoyed the update. Good luck with your chess!

Best Wishes, Neil

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