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Welcome to the first update of 2007. I hope it proves a great year for all of us!
It's certainly off to an exciting start chess-wise. I'm writing these words the day after round two of the Wijk aan Zee tournament. There were six decisive results in the seven games. This surely gives the lie to players who claim that chess has been 'played out' or destroyed by opening theory. No player in the world can guarantee getting an effortless draw if his opponent wants to fight.
In this month's update we also get to see some fantastic fighting chess.

Download PGN of January '07 French games

Tarrasch 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Ngf3

A trial of Mikhail Gurevich's recommended defence

We start pretty much as we left off in 2006 with a typical hard slog in the so-called Universal System. It's the same old story: Black is allowed to destroy the white centre, but in return he has to face a dangerous attack. In a game lasting 27 moves, with an open battle in the centre, he never finds time to develop either his queen's bishop or queen's rook! Nevertheless, Black survives, and the defensive system he adopts deserves further investigation. Here is Neelotpal - Ganguly.

Tarrasch 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Bd3

A tricky sideline, a model win and an enterprising sacrifice

First we'll take another look at the off beat variation 5...c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ne2 cxd4 8.cxd4 f6 9.Nf4!?:

This is a tricky line for Black to face and in my opinion is rather underestimated. It is rarely seen compared to 9.exf6, but this doesn't mean that Black has it easy. Have a look at Ni Hua-Wang Hao.

Next up is the mainline 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.c3 c5 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.Ne2 cxd4 8.cxd4 f6 9.exf6 Nxf6 10.0-0 Bd6 11.Nf3 Qc7 12.Bg5 0-0, when it is hard to criticise a move like 13.Rc1:

After all, it develops a rook to an open file and pins the black knight against the queen. And doesn't White often plays Rc1 in this variation? True, but it sets the opponent fewer problems than 13.Bh4 Nh5 14.Qc2, and Black succeeds in winning a model game in Persson - Berg.

Continuing our survey of the Tarrasch 3...Nf6 mainline, one of the most critical variations runs 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 Qc7 11.0-0 Bd6 12.Bg5 0-0 13.Qc2 h6 14.Bh4 Nh5 15.Bh7+ Kh8 16.Bg6 Rxf3:

Here White can decline taking the rook with the more solid 17.Bxh5. Black then has the chance to make an alternative exchange sacrifice with 17...Bxh2+!? 18.Kh1 Rf5 19.Bg6 Bd6 20.Bxf5 exf5:

A controversial position. Despite Black's demise in the selected game, I think he has sufficient dynamic play. But I'll let you decide by checking out the analysis in Ismagambetov - Kosyrev.

Tarrasch 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.exd5 Qxd5

Precise defence required from Black

A popular line runs 5.Ngf3 cxd4 6.Bc4 Qd6 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Nb3 Nc6 9.Nbxd4 Nxd4 10.Nxd4 a6 11.Bb3 Qc7 12.Qf3:

It's no wonder that White wants to avoid the mass of theory that occurs after 12.Re1 Bd6 13.Nf5 etc. However, this doesn't mean he has given up on his attacking aspirations. In this month's game, Black is obliged to defend precisely before he is able to take advantage of his opponent's impatience in Oral - Pomes Marcet.

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nc6

Another point for the Reefschlaeger-Hecht Defence

Here Rozentalis outplays as Black an opponent who directs play into a harmless form of the French Exchange Variation. As I've said before, I don't see why Black's chances should be worse after 3.Nc3 Nc6 than after 3.Nd2 Nc6. White is soon wishing that his knight wasn't blocking an attack on the centre with c2-c4 in Orndahl - Rozentalis.

Classical 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5

An endgame win, a successful surprise and a brilliant attack

Food for thought in the mainline is 4....Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Bc5 9.Qd2 Nxd4 10.Bxd4 Bxd4 11.Qxd4 Qb6 12.Nb5!?:

If White can keep a decent advantage in the resulting endgame it would be a useful alternative to the heavily analysed 12.Qd2 Qxb2. Black needs to get his house in order as Belov has won two games as White with frightening ease- see Belov - Akobian.

Finally, we look at two games with 7...a6 8.Qd2:

In the first, Black tries an unusual idea that provokes an instant blunder from his opponent. For the umpteenth time we see the value of surprise at work in Horvath - Balog.

In the October update, I gave the great attacking win Vovk - Vysochin. Here Yuri Vovk of the Ukraine has done it again. He destroys Black in an opening line I had earlier described as 'safe enough, but not very inspiring for Black'. Here is Vovk - Esen.

Anyway, that's all for now. Good luck with your chess and see you next time!

Best Regards, Neil

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