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I hope your chess is going well. My thanks to all the subscribers who have made Chesspublishing such a success. There are now almost 1000 annotated games just in the French Defence archive on ChessPublishing!

Download PGN of December '06 French games

Tarrasch 3.Nd2 Be7

A great strategic victory for Svidler- but Black is OK!

It's amazing to think that when I first started doing the French section, the move 3...Be7 was regarded as an oddity that was only suitable for Romanishin and other fans of so-called 'tricky but inferior' openings. Then along came Morozevich and everything changed. The theory of the 3...Be7 Tarrasch has expanded month by month over the last seven years, and now it is as respectable as the old stalwart 3...Nf6.

Whilst it is good to see the variation getting the attention it deserves, one drawback is that the better known an opening becomes, the more superior chess brains there are trying to demolish it.

This month we see Svidler scoring a beautiful strategic victory for White after 4.e5 c5 5.Qg4:

This line was used by Michael Adams to beat Nigel Short in one of the earliest games of the 3...Be7 revival, and it remains problematical. Nevertheless, I think there are some important improvements to Black's play which I've suggested in the analysis to Svidler - Nepomniachtchi.

Guimard 3.Nd2 Nc6

A great opening or a load of junk?

Another long maligned opening is the Guimard Defence. The variation under discussion this month is 4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.e5 Nd7 6.Be2 f6 7.exf6 Qxf6 8.Nb3!?:

In the first game, Black has a model victory: his opponent plays passively and allows him to achieve the freeing e6-e5 advance, after which he never looks back. To see why the Guimard is a great opening, take a look at Mogranzini - Berkes.

In the second game, White plays with a lot of energy, while Black needlessly weakens his queenside. This time we see why the Guimard is a load of junk. Here is Godena - Contin.

Classical 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4

A highly speculative pawn sacrifice: Part One

Here the Brazilian Grandmaster Vescovi has tried out an unusual pawn sacrifice: namely 5...c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 a6 8.Qd2 b5 9.f5:

It would be great for White if he could make this sacrifice work, as this variation is a real nuisance for him- in fact he has tried all sorts of moves without ever finding anything convincing! Could this be the answer? Check out the analysis in Vescovi - Pelikian.

Classical 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Nce2

How to win as Black

There are two ways of trying to win as Black. The first is to risk some double-edged moves to spice things up; the other way is to play with almost exaggerated calmness, and wait for the opponent to over reach himself. In this month's game, Izoria's modest development of his pieces provokes his opponent into a highly risky strategy- something which would never have happened if he had played in a more overtly aggressive style. Here is Pearson - Izoria.

Winawer Exchange Variation.

A plausible-looking counterattack

After 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.exd5 exd5 5.Bd3 Ne7 6.Qh5 the counter attacking move 6...c5 looks very plausible:

After all, hasn't White weakened his control of d4 with his last move? To see the consequences, check out the game Fernandez Aguado-Fernandez Romero.

Winawer 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Ba5

A highly speculative pawn sacrifice: Part Two

Here the seemingly quiet bishop move 6.Bd2 is not to be underestimated. After all, it was played by Kasparov versus Khalifman - and never in his career was the former World Champion looking for a dull draw versus the French. In the next game, Zhukova comes up with a highly speculative pawn sacrifice for Black. If you are feeling lucky, you might like to test the idea in Breslavska - Zhukova.

Winawer Mainline 7.Qg4 0-0 8.Bd3 Nbc6 9.Qh5

Volokitin improves on ChessPub analysis at move 23

We continue to investigate the variation 9...Ng6 10.Nf3 Qc7 11.Be3 Nce7:

In the game Delchev-Berg in the archives, I describe 11...Nce7 as 'a pleasant change from the deluge of theory after 11...c4.' Well, as we are starting to see improvements on move 23 here, I guess it is time to reassess this verdict!

However, Volokitin plays the second half of the game, when he had to think for himself, in an admirable style. Whether or not you are a devotee of theory, I'm sure you will enjoy playing through Volokitin - Jussupow.

Winawer Mainline 7.Qg4 0-0 8.Bd3 f5

A long rejected variation

Here after 9.exf6 Rxf6 10.Bg5 we take a look at the long rejected 10...e5:

This looks and smells like a blunder and Informator doesn't hesitate to give it a big juicy question mark. But White faces a hard slog to prove he has the advantage, if he can at all. Here is the latest word on the variation in Arutyunova - Dolzhikova.

That's all for now. I hope you enjoyed it. Let me wish you all the best for 2007!

See you again in the New Year, Neil

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