ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
Welcome to the February 2009 French Update. I hope it's better for having been delayed...
Having look through the games chosen for this update, I see to my surprise that Black didn't score a single win! However, in the ChessPub archives-which contain way over 1000 French games- the second player scores very healthily, so I guess this just redresses the balance somewhat.
In any case, I hope you enjoy the games- there's a lot of exciting and beautiful chess this month.

Download PGN of February '09 French games

King's Indian Attack: 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2

The bishop on e2 rather than g2

It's been a long time since we looked at variations in which White avoids the traditional fianchetto on g2. One such line is 1.e4 e6 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.Ngf3 Nc6 5.c3 a5 6.Be2:

White's set up looks very modest, but Black has to be careful not to be over run on the queenside by the plan of b2-b3, a2-a3 and b3-b4. In this month's game a Ukrainian Grandmaster rated 2673 shows just how deadly this gradual encroachment can be in Areshchenko - Rychagov.

Tarrasch: 3.Nd2 c5

Who's afraid of an IQP?

In the recent Topalov-Kamsky match the US Grandmaster came up with an almost new idea after nine moves, 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.Ngf3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Nc6 6.Bb5 Bd7 7.Nxc6 Bxc6 8.Bxc6+ bxc6 9.c4 Bd6:

Of course, the outcome to the game isn't a great advertisement for 9...Bd6, but I believe it does lead to a fully acceptable position for Black- assuming, of course, he is happy to defend vigilantly in an IQP position. I guess that players such as Mikhail Gurevich or Bareev or Vaganian, who have spent their careers labouring in IQP positions, would have managed to hold on OK, but Kamsky doesn't seem to enjoy the experience. An over anxiety to simplify proves his undoing in Topalov - Kamsky.

Classical: 4.Bg5 dxe4

Has Bacrot killed a sharp variation?

The focus this month is on the critical variation 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 dxe4 5.Nxe4 Be7 6.Bxf6 Bxf6 7.Nf3 0-0 8.Qd2 b6 9.Bd3 Bb7 10.0-0-0 Nd7 11.h4 c5:

In the first game we examine 12.Nxf6+ [with 12.Neg5 in the analysis]. It is hard to believe this colourless exchange should set Black any problems, but a Grandmaster recently rated over 2600 comes within an ace of being trounced by a 2300 player when he replies carelessly in Tumakov - Kharlov.

Next up is the mainline with 12.Nfg5! Be7 13.dxc5 Qc7! 14.Nd6 Nf6:

Our first example is a short draw, but the analysis reveals that White could easily have lost if he hadn't pulled back in time from launching a very enticing, but ultimately doomed attack. Here is Naiditsch - Lysyj.

The 22 year old Russian GM Igor Lysyj, rated 2630, had achieved good results as Black in this variation until he was hit by Bacrot with a new move at the Aeroflot Open. Here is Bacrot - Lysyj.

Classical: 4.e5 Nfd7

Almost a win and almost a loss for Black

On a slightly happier note for Lysyj, he has found a new approach for Black in our favourite variation 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 Be7. Check out Kabanov - Lysyj.

Also in the Classical, we re-examine Morozevich's interesting sacrifice 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 a6 8.Qd2 b5 9.a3 g5!? Here is Bobras - Feygin.

Winawer 7.Qg4 Qc7 8.Qxg7

More Poison Pawn madness

It's great to see the Winawer Poison Pawn Variation making a comeback at top level, even if the result isn't always the 'right' one!

The mainline runs 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Qc7 7.Qg4 Ne7 8.Qxg7 Rg8 9.Qxh7 cxd4 10.Ne2 Nbc6 11.f4 Bd7 12.Qd3 dxc3. Now play might go 13.Nxc3 a6 14.Ne2!?

Rather surprisingly, this is the first time we have looked at this move on ChessPub. Previously we have examined 14.Rb1 and 14.h4. I love Volokitin's move 21.Ke3!! reaching the following position:

A rare visit by the king to the third rank in a complicated middlegame. Having a computer program is what makes such decisions possible- what might be called 'metallic courage'- but there's no denying this is a pretty move. Enjoy Volokitin - Hou Yifan.

Our final two games focus on the experiences of Cuban GM Dominguez Perez with the alternative 13.Rb1. In the first game, after 13...0-0-0 14.Nxc3 Na5 he comes up with the interesting and unusual move 15.h3!?:

White normally plays Nb5 to exchange off the knight for Black's light squared bishop, and then plays g2-g3 followed by developing the bishop from f1 to e2 or g2 as circumstances require. Instead Dominguez plans to expand on the kingside with g2-g4, taking the f5 square away from the black knight. On the other hand, the white king won't have a safe hideout on the kingside- will Black be able to exploit this? You can find the answer in Dominguez Perez-Stellwagen.

Instead Black can hold onto the c3 pawn with 13...d4 which is the subject of Dominguez Perez-Grischuk.

Well that's all for now. I hope you had fun with the games and picked up one or two ideas. Good luck with your chess!

Best Wishes, Neil

Subscribers can email me at