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Sad to say, my vacation is coming to an end and I'm really dreading going back to work. Well at least I've managed to complete my update on time for once (not surprising, with all the time I had!) and I visited a number of beautiful cities in Europe. So, it was time well spent.
Anyway, this month's update is a mixture of wild, complicated games and slow positional lines. The top GMs still refuse to play the French but there are still plenty of exciting games to keep our interest going.

Download PGN of August '09 French games

Advance with 6..Nh6!?

The move 6...Nh6 in the Advance Variation is doing well at the moment and the game Barbeau - Bhat, Montreal Open 2009 made me think that White is the one that has to find equality in this variation. Practitioners of this line should recognize this position which arises from the absolute mainline:

Play continued 16...Bxc5 17.Rxc5!? (17.dxc5 is also covered in the notes) and here the American GM played the important 17...Ng5!, seizing the initiative.

3...Be7 Tarrasch - Universal system with 7...b6!?

The Universal system has been by far the most popular variation against 3...Be7. Theory has been growing relentlessly in the main lines and as such, there has been an increasing interest in the 7...b6 system. This is relatively new and certainly appeals to "system players" who neither has the time or interest to study some hard core theory.

This month, I've analyzed Nikolova - Drasko, XV Leonardo di Bona Magistrale 2009, and G.Jones-Smerdon, Queenstown Classic 2009. In both games, Black emerged from the opening unscathed. The line is doing well at the moment and it is a certainty that we would be seeing more of this in the future.

3...Nf6 Tarrasch- 6...b6

I sometimes wonder whether Black can employ the ...b6 system at an even earlier stage, perhaps, by playing the move sequence 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.c3 c5 6.Ngf3 b6. Given that 9.Nf4! is giving Black problems in the Classical Mainline, it is even more enticing to try to make this system work for Black:

Unfortunately, White's best response has been worked out a long time ago (by a certain 2827 rated Kasparov) and this sideline continues to live in the doldrums. Matters, however, are not so clear and all is explained in Degraeve - Demanghon, 8th Open La Fere France 2009.

3...Nf6 Classical - Alekhine Chatard

The Alekhine Chatard Attack "AC Attack" has always appealed to me ever since I began taking on the French with 3.Nc3. White often gets a fair bit of compensation for the sacrificed pawn and we seldom see players taking on the gauntlet anymore.

ChessPub once advocated 6...c5 as an effective antidote and the line is now considered as the main challenge to White's entire concept.

Thomas Rendle has kindly analyzed Trent - Rendle, 96th GBR Ch 2009, where he followed Neil's recommendations from 1999 (!) and essayed this variation:

The game continued 7.Bxe7 Kxe7! (7...Qxe7 is interesting and I've seen Short playing like that a number of times on, 8.f4, which in my opinion, is not the critical test of this line. The position was tricky though, as Black had to be careful even if the position was objectively equal.

Because of my great interest (and belief) in the French, I've accumulated a large number of resources of this opening and I was curious to see what variations are generally preferred by authors against the AC attack. Interestingly, both Moskalenko and Ziegler like 6...0-0 which I've always thought to be grossly unsound.

I've compared their analysis and tried to refute the entire line in Vorobiov - Rychagov, 32nd Aegean Open 2009. The entire line is wild indeed, with both sides looking to maul each other to death and hidden resources in every other juncture.

3...Bb4 Winawer - Poisoned Pawn Variation

Finally, the last game in the update feature Kamsky's 12...d4 in the Poisoned Pawn variation:

Robson - Shankland, US Junior Close Ch 2009, features an important and strong novelty which threatens the existence of the entire line. Even though Black lost in depressing manner, he could probably save the game through the skin of his teeth with some very precise, defensive resources.

That's it for this month, and I'll be back in September, on time! (Fingers crossed)

Do send me your comments and criticisms (politely please) to, or drop me a PM on the forum and I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Have fun with your chess!