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This month is entirely devoted to the Tarrasch Variation 3 Nd2. I’ve focused on variations which are being actively played but which I haven’t given adequate attention to recently.

Download PGN of June ’21 French games

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Tarrasch Variation 3...Nf6 Main Line with 7 Ne2 cxd4 8 cxd4 f6 9 Nf4 [C06]

In the main line with 3...Nf6 4 e5 Nfd7 5 Bd3 c5 6 c3 Nc6 7 Ne2 cxd4 8 cxd4 f6, it seems that there is always something new to say about 9 Nf4, which is still played fairly regularly after years of theory and practice. Black replies 9...Nxd4 10 Qh5+ Ke7:











Strangely, after years of theory and practice, White still plays 11 Ng6+!? almost as often as 11 exf6+, although the latter cuts down on Black's options. In Plat, V - Rosenbaum, V, Betsys ch Blitz 2021, after 11 Ng6+ hxg6 12 exf6+, Black chose not to revert to the main line with 12....Nxf6, but preferred 12...gxf6 13 Qxh8 Ne5, a position we haven’t seen played in any Archive games. Both this continuation and 12...Kxf6 look fully playable.

There were a couple of Blitz games in the main line 12...Nxf6 13 Qxh8 Kh7:











Even if you’re very booked up, this strikes me as the kind of position that in a Blitz game is bound to degenerate into wild complications, very likely with blundering in time pressure. In Rasulov, V - Gadimbayli, A, Titled Arena Apr 3rd 2021, and the embedded game, that proves to be the case.


Tarrasch Variation 3...Nf6 Main Line with 9 exf6 Nxf6 10 0-0 Bd6 11 Nf3 Qc7 [C06]

After the normal 9 exf6 (instead of 9 Nf4) 9...Nxf6 10 0-0 Bd6 11 Nf3, I’ve rather neglected 11...Qc7 recently in favour of 11...0-0. But the queen move is as popular as ever, and I will try to catch up with the lines which have given Black the most problems. Personally I had become a little discouraged by the simple move 12 h3, which prepares to play Be3 and serves to discourage some of Black’s favorite maneuvers. 12...0-0 13 Be3 Bd7 usually follows:











In Colbow, C - Papasimakopoulos, A, Titled Tuesday 18th May 2021, I update the ideas after both 14 Re1, as played, and 14 Rc1. As long as Black knows what he’s doing, it looks like 12 h3 isn’t as bothersome as it first appeared to be.

Another White finesse that has enjoyed some success is the move 12 Bd2, when White avoids the various tempo losses and tactics that follow the traditional 12 Bg5. The game Kuhn, C - Ryan, Jo, Closed IM Barcelona 2021, tested the main line 12...0-0 13 Rc1 Bd7 14 Nc3 a6:











Here 15 Re1 has been the normal move, as examined in the notes. In the game, White tried 15 Bb1. Black seems to have good chances in either case.

Probably the biggest recent challenge to the 11...Qc7 lines has come in the revival of the sequence 12 g3 0-0 13 Bf4:











In most sources, including my own PTF4, the line 13...Ng4 14 Rc1 Bxf4 15 Nxf4 Rxf4 16 gxf4 Qxf4 is recommended. Black seems to have obvious compensation, but with the recent addition of detailed engine analysis, White has found ways to pose problems for Black. Both sides need to be well prepared. A Blitz game this month, Gokerkan, CK - Baskin, R, Titled Tuesday 20th April 2021, was unclear, and then ended in chaos. I’ve tried to include all the relevant games and analysis. In the notes I also analyse the alternative 13...Bd7, which is Moskalenko’s recommendation in his new book. It’s a more practical choice for those who want a double-edged middlegame.


Tarrasch Variation 3...Nf6 Main Line with 9 exf6 Qxf6 10 Nf3 h6 [C06]

The recapture 9...Qxf6 has always enjoyed a following and Black’s performance rating with it through the years has been quite satisfactory:











I always get the feeling that White should have some edge, but that players don’t tend to prepare as well against 9...Qxf6 as 9...Nxf6.

White played a main line in Kairbekova, A - Devnani, K, Cherkasy 2021, which went 10 Nf3 h6 11 0-0 Bd6 12 Ng3 0-0 13 Bc2. The game is a nice model of how White can keep an advantage with precise moves, although it’s also true that Black had improvements to limit the damage.



Tarrasch 3...c5 4 exd5 Qxd5 5 Ngf3 cxd4 6 Bc4 Qd8 [C07]

The Archives are full of games after 3 Nd2 c5 4 exd5 Qxd5 5 Ngf3 cxd4 6 Bc4 with 6...Qd6 and 6...Qd7. Of late, while both of those 6th moves are still popular, Black has increasingly experimented with 6...Qd8 . This has tended to be associated with a very early ...a6 and then ...b5 or ...Bd6 with ...Ne7. Play usually goes 7 0-0 Nc6 8 Nb3 a6 9 Nbxd4 Nxd4 10 Nxd4:











In Vaishali, RB - Xiong, J, Titled Tuesday 23rd Mar 2021, Black played 10...Qc7 11 b3 Bd6 12 Qh5!?, a new move that might have paid off handsomely if Blitz irrationality hadn’t taken over. I’ve done some analysis of White’s most common 11th and 12th move alternatives.

Gadimbayli, A - Siniauski, A Titled Arena Apr 3rd 2021, deviated from that game with 10...Bd6, trying to develop quickly (...Qc7 is a threat) and delaying a commitment to ...Ne7 or ....Nf6.











Both 10...Qc7 and 10...Bd6 are flexible and look like satisfactory moves, while from White’s point of view there is a huge swath of unexplored territory to explore.


Tarrasch 3...c5 4 exd5 exd5 5 Ngf3 Nc6 6 Bb5 Qe7+ [C09]

Finally, anyone examining trends in the Tarrasch Variation these days can’t ignore 3 Nd2 c5 4 exd5 exd5 5 Ngf3 Nc6 6 Bb5 Qe7+, a variation which has caught on at high levels and has appeared often in my recent columns. Not a great deal has changed here in the main line 7 Be2 Qc7 8 0-0 Nf6:











In Hapala, L - Lubbe, M, Mitropa Women’s Online Cup 2021, the simplifying line 9 Re1 cxd4 10 Nb3 Bb4 11 Bd2 Bxd2 was tried. In this type of IQP position, Black’s knights are as good as White’s bishop and knight. The game is objectively drawn, but White can hope for a little something if Black doesn’t play precisely. I’ve put various recent examples in the notes.


Till next month, John

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