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First of all, sorry about the delay in getting this update online. My only excuse is that I have a pretty busy schedule at the moment. Anyway a lot of interesting and creative chess has been played over the last month, so let's take a look at some of it.

Download PGN of August '08 French games

Tarrasch 3...Be7

White avoids putting the queen on e2

After 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Be7 4.Bd3 c5 5.dxc5 Nf6 White's usual move is 6.Qe2, but sometimes he chooses 6.Ngf3:

Now it seems to me that anyone playing Topalov in a Super GM tournament would jump at the chance to swap off into an endgame with 6...dxe4 7.Nxe4 Nxe4 8.Bxe4 Qxd1+ 9.Kxd1 Bxc5 10.Ke2 Nd7 etc. However, the position is perhaps too drawish for the taste of players of Black who happen to be young, ambitious and higher rated than their opponents. In that case they might choose 6...0-0, for which check out Burg - Rodshtein.

Or alternatively they might prefer 6...Nc6. At the time of writing Alexandra Kosteniuk is about to play a match for the Women's World title, but she has no luck in the game given here. On the other hand, it did take some fine strategy from Nepomniachtchi to defeat her.

It is Black to play. What should he do to increase his positional advantage? I'll give you a clue: the black rooks and knight are brilliantly placed- but what about the king? Here is Kosteniuk - Nepomniachtchi.

Classical 4.e5

A devilish trap

The line analysed is 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 Be7 8.Qd2 0-0 9.dxc5.

Now on the website there has been lots of coverage of 9...Bxc5 with the idea of attacking on the queenside after 10.0-0-0 Qa5. It works very well. So I'm interested to know if the same plan works after the alternative recapture: 9...Nxc5 10.0-0-0 Qa5:

According to recent games, the answer is no, with Black being wiped out 2-0 in Grandmaster games. Besides, there is a really horrible trap he can fall into just by making natural moves. All the same, I'm optimistic about strengthening Black's play [or at least trying to] and you can see the analysis in Zhigalko - Li Shilong.

Incidentally at the end of this game you get a little lesson on how to checkmate with knight and bishop against king.

Classical McCutcheon 6.Be3

An interesting novelty for Black

Here we consider the mainline 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Bb4 5.e5 h6 6.Be3 Ne4 7.Qg4 g6 8.a3 Bxc3+ 9.bxc3 c5 10.Bd3:

It takes something special to get the better of Emil Sutovsky in a theoretical battle. But Wang Hao, one of the select group of Chinese GMs whose rating is about 2700, achieves just that. Have a look at Sutovsky - Wang Hao.

Classical McCutcheon 6.Bd2

A model game for White

In the McCutcheon mainline White doesn't have to have his king sitting in the centre. Instead after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Bb4 5.e5 h6 6.Bd2 Bxc3 7.bxc3 Ne4 8.Qg4 g6 he can play 9.Qf4, aiming to recapture on d2 with his queen. Here I want to show you a model handling of the position for White after Black exchanges on d4: 9... c5 10.Bd3 Nxd2 11.Qxd2 Nc6 12.Nf3 cxd4 13.cxd4 Bd7:

At first glance it looks promising for Black, who has the c-file to attack along, with an attractive square on c4 for his knight and a target on c2. Meanwhile nothing much is happening on the kingside. However, take a look what happens in the highly instructive Inarkiev - Glek.

Classical Alekhine-Chatard Attack

Is castling kingside refuted?

I guess if you play 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e5 Nfd7 6.h4 0-0 as Black you know that you are likely to face a big attack. That's not too bad if your opponent has to take some risks, as then you might win. But I find it a bit depressing that in this month's game White gets a decisive attack without having to make any big sacrifice, or commit himself to any 'do-or-do' scenario. He barely has to sacrifice even a measly pawn in Perez Candelario - Sola Plaza.

Winawer 4.Qd3

The power of centralisation

I've always been reluctant to concede the centre with 4...dxe4 in view of 5.Qxe4 Nf6 6.Qh4:

It looks as if White has achieved the attacking set up he hoped for with his early queen move. However, Drasko comes up with a remarkably simple and effective response in Batricevic - Drasko.

Winawer 5.Bd2

A deceptively slow opening

The variation 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.Bd2 might appear a rather timid choice by White, as he prefers to breaks the pin on c3 rather than playing an overtly aggressive move. However, a very sharp struggle can develop which I've examined in two games.

Incidentally, I recall playing through Brinck Claussen's games in the 1970s when I first learnt to play chess, so it's good to see the Danish IM is still going strong. I can't resist showing you one of the variations analysed in the second game.

Here White might play 18.Qh5, which looks like a decisive move, as there is a double threat of mate on h7 and 19.Nf7+, winning the black queen. Obviously 18...Qg8 19.Nf7+ won't do for Black, but he can hold on in a remarkable way with 18...g6! 19.Bxg6 Qg8! which pins the white bishop. Then after 20.Nf7+ Kg7 21.Qh6+ [the only move, as if 21.Nh6 hxg6!] 21...Kf6 22.Qg5+ Kg7 23.Qh6+ Kf6 24.Qg5+ is a curious draw by perpetual. A much more exciting repetition than is ending most of the games at the Bilbao tournament.

Here are the games Rostgaard - Brinck Claussen and Wirig - Iotov.

That's all for now. I hope you enjoyed the games and good luck with your chess!

All the best, Neil

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