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Welcome to the February 2007 French Update.
First of all, we start with an email from subscriber Joseph "Chip" Franklin that might be of interest to other subscribers

«Hi Neil, I've played chess for some time now, but am just starting to actively study openings. I'm taking up the French as black and just joined the Chess Publishing site and ordered the Starting Out - The French book by Byron Jacobs for general ideas and plans. I was wondering if you would be willing to give me some advice on developing a plan of action to learn this opening utilizing your site. As a side note, I have both Chessbase 9 and Fritz 9.
Thanks very much for any help!»

Thanks Joseph for subscribing to the site. I hope you are enjoying the French experience. You certainly seem to have all the tools you need. There have been some interesting discussions on the forum about developing a repertoire [believe it or not, I do sometimes go to the Forum to see what people are saying!]. You might like to read through some of the threads, or start one of your own.

If you like playing sharp, theoretical lines, which means having a good memory and nerves, then I would suggest the Winawer versus 3.Nc3, being prepared to enter the Poison Pawn Line with 8.Qxg7, or the McCutcheon Variation. Both of these variations are discussed in this month's update. Versus 3.Nd2, the mainline 3...Nf6 or 3...Be7 lead to complex games, where you will score a lot of points if you do serious preparation.

If you want a quiet life, or a quick fix way to get started in the French whilst you learn the more complex stuff, then I would recommend the Fort Knox 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bd7 or equally 3.Nd2 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bd7.

As for the mechanics of using, you can easily download the games in a particular variation, and quickly play through them. For example, say you decide you want to play the Advance Variation in the style of former Russian Champion Volkov. Type in C02, the ECO code for the Advance Variation, in the PGN Games Archive search engine (above right, and on the front page of the whole site). You will get 91 games in the Advance plus 6 ChessPub Guides written by yours truly in a PGN file. Five of the games begin 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Qb6 5.Nf3 Bd7 6.a3 a5, which is Volkov's pet line.

You'll be surprised at how quickly you pick up the theory. If you like the variation, then go through it in more detail. If not- well there are 97 games in the Advance Variation to choose from!

There are also useful summaries of the state of theory in the ChessPub Guides. For the Volkov line above, you would need to look for a game with the title 'Advance- 4...Qb6- intending Bb5' among the other Advance games in the database.

As I said, it's really easy to find study material on the site, in fact there is now so much material that one subscriber actually asked for a refund because of "Too much detail, ... it is overwhelming"! Let me wish you good luck!

Talking of the 6...a5 system versus the Advance, my thanks to Lawrence Stevens for sending me an interesting game from the US chess league. I'll incorporate it into a future update.

Download PGN of February '07 French games

King's Indian Attack

Hugely entertaining play by two Dutch masters

Zeno Kupper asked for some more games in the King's Indian Attack. So here is a truly outrageous encounter between two Dutch masters at the Wijk aan Zee 'C' tournament. All I can say is that you can't accuse either player of having used a computer for the final moves! Here is the imaginative game Bosboom - Willemze.

Advance: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Qb6 5.Nf3 Bd7

Mixed fortunes for Black in a tricky sideline

It's first blood to White in this variation as Kjetil Lie plays a very energetic attack and actually checkmates his Grandmaster opponent on the board. Check out Lie - Ostenstad.

I was pleased to see that the 16 year old Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi, with a rating of 2587, has embraced the French Defence. I've given no less than four of his games from Wijk aan Zee in this update. He scores a tough win against a dangerous theorist in Jonkman - Nepomniachtchi.

Tarrasch: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Bd3

Another excursion into a very perplexing variation

Once again we delve into 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Bd3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ne2 cxd4 8.cxd4 f6 9.exf6 Nxf6 10.Nf3 Bd6 11.0-0 Qc7 12.Bg5 0-0 13.Bh4 Nh5 14.Qc2 h6 15.Bg6 Rxf3 16.gxf3 Bxh2+ 17.Kh1 Nf4 18.Ng3:

Could this be the most tactically complex of all standard opening positions, including those reached in the Dragon and Najdorf Sicilians? It's all tactics, tactics, tactics, with both sides ignoring 'obvious' captures in favour of counter intuitive moves. Here is the latest slugfest in Nemcova - Sengupta.

McCutcheon Defence

Fighting chess from a young Russian

First under the microscope is the variation 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Bb4 5.e5 h6 6.Bc1 Ne4 7.Qg4 g6 8.Nge2 c5 9.a3 Ba5:

I think 6.Bc1 demonstrates just how counter intuitive modern opening theory can be. Even though I've looked at all the theory and studied the resulting middlegames, I still find it amazing that it can be a good move: White returns his bishop to c1 and doesn't even try to break the pin on c3. How absurd!

Anyway, Nepomniachtchi had two big clashes at Wijk in this line, facing both 10. b4 and 10.dxc5. They are fully analysed in Berg - Nepomniachtchi and Negi - Nepomniachtchi.

Nepo has to face the alternative 6.Be3 in the next game, and almost comes a cropper; here is Spoelman - Nepomniachtchi.

Finally, we see a convincing wearing down and eventual demolition of the white pawn centre after 5.Nge2 dxe4 6.a3 Be7 7.Bxf6 gxf6!? in Willemze - Nepomniachtchi.

Winawer Mainline: 7.Qg4

Timoshenko tries to revitalise the mainline

After the well known moves 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.Qg4 cxd4 8.Qxg7 Rg8 9.Qxh7 Qc7 10.Ne2 Nbc6 11.f4 Bd7 12.Rb1 dxc3 13.Qd3 0-0-0 14.Qxc3 Nf5 15.Rg1 d4 rather than 16.Qd3, the Ukrainian Grandmaster Timoshenko has tried 16.Qc5!?:

In this month's game, White soon gets a better endgame and wins smoothly. So just how good is the new [i.e. long forgotten] queen move? You can see by clicking on Timoshenko - Ivanov.

Anyway, it's time to say goodbye. I hope you enjoyed the update and see you next time.

Good luck, Neil

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