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Happy New Year to everyone. I hope it brings you a lot of joy and success, chess and otherwise. With luck, in 2006 the Petroff will be banned in tournaments and everyone will start playing the French instead!

Download PGN of December '05 French games

Tarrasch 3.Nd2 c5 /3...Nf6

Universal System: the original Korchnoi Gambit line

Over the last seven years, I have devoted a lot of time and effort to the so-called 'Universal System'. However, the primitive response by Black involving the snatching of the d4 pawn with the queen has had remarkably little coverage. To make amends, I have completed the analysis of the following critical position, after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Ngf3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Bd3 Qb6 8.0-0 cxd4 9.cxd4 Nxd4 10.Nxd4 Qxd4 11.Nf3 Qb6 12.Qa4 Qb4 13.Qc2:

There are three main moves for Black here: 13...Qc5 was analysed earlier in the game Degraeve-Lukov on ChessPub. Now I have added 13...Nc5 in Tyomkin - Tu Hoang Thong and 13...Be7 in Rasik - Laznicka.

My thanks to subscriber Jose Soza whose analysis to his exciting game with Dothan I have included in the Rasik game.

Alas, there is no wonder cure for Black's Ngf3 ills, just a lot of very interesting chess.

Tarrasch 3.Nd2 c5 4.ed5 Qxd5

An enchanting queen sacrifice and a new idea for White

In this variation, the following position is often reached after the ten moves 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.exd5 Qxd5 5.Ngf3 cxd4 6.Bc4 Qd6 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Nb3 Nc6 9.Nbxd4 Nxd4 10.Nxd4 a6:

White has grown tired of the mass of theory, 25 or more moves deep in the mainline, and has opted for other ideas. One of the most important is 11.Bb3 Qc7 12.Qf3.

Here I have returned to a game which won the Game of the Month competition some moons ago. Entranced by the beautiful queen sacrifice, I was insufficiently critical of Black's play. I have reassessed it in the light of Bareev's comments in Informator 90. Here is Lastin - Bareev, version 2.

Another interesting line, played recently by ChessPub's own John Emms, is 11.Re1 Qc7 12.Qe2!?:

White defends his bishop rather than retreat it to b3. I have analysed the two main responses in detail in the games Wittmann - Pap and Emms - Kelly.

Tarrasch 3.Nd2 Nf6 /5.Bd3

An ultra theoretical line revisited

A lot of brains and computer programs have been spending a lot of hours trying to find out the truth about the following position:

At the moment, it is looking at least equal for Black. In fact, White has to cut his way through a dense forest of bad variations to find a path to an equal ending. Not that it is easy for Black to remember the theory and not get confused. Here is the latest word on the mainline, with a summary of all the false trails in Hagarova - Rudolf.

Sebastian Gueler from Boston, USA has suggested a possible new move for White before the diagram position is reached. For a discussion of this, plus a new move that may turn the position in the diagram decisively in Black's favour, check out Biti - Gleizerov.

Thanks Sebastian for the compliments about the website- it's much appreciated.

Classical 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5

Dynamism versus space leads to a typical French explosion.

Anand and others had some notable successes in the 4...Nfd7 5.Nce2 line as White a few years ago. The basic idea is to choke the life out of the black pieces by creating a broad wall of pawns with f2-f4, etc. However, if things go wrong, White can be left with a huge, tottering edifice that is full of holes that the enemy pieces can slip through.

I have chosen a real hard fight of theoretical importance to illustrate this. My thanks again to Jose Soza for sending me one of his games with analysis that I have incorporated into the game Lupulescu - Smerdon.

Classical 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 dxe4

A cold dose of reality

I'm sure everyone enjoyed Emanuel Berg's delightful win over Bareev given in the July update- you can see it again by clicking on Berg - Bareev. However, Russian Grandmasters don't lose the same game twice, and you can see what happened when someone dared to repeat the Swedish Grandmaster's moves in Naiditsch - Bareev.

So, White's idea was only good for one game before Fritz 9 got its hands on it: but never mind, the Berg game will appear in lots of chess books and online games collections.

On that happy note, I will say goodbye until next time. I hope you enjoyed the update and found something useful here. My thanks again to the subscribers who contributed to this edition. Now go out there and win!

Best Wishes, Neil