King's Indian Attack: 2.d3 d5 3.Qe2
Struck down by Strikovic
If Black is lulled into complacency by this apparently slow opening he can soon fall into a terrible bind. GM Strikovic has a way of handling the white pawns which would make Philidor proud: 1.e4 e6 2.d3 d5 3.Qe2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4:
White has broken the law of rapid development by moving his queen and four pawns in the first five moves. On the other hand he has achieved a desirable objective: the spear head on e5 is already supported by the f4 pawn. The further advance f4-f5 is always on the cards. Even such a strong player as Timman was bemused and suffered a catastrophic defeat in Strikovic - Timman.
Tarrasch 3.Nd2 c5 4.Ngf3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Nc6
A fine positional game
Here attention has focused on 6.Bb5, but this month's game shows that the straightforward 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.Bd3 isn't without pitfalls for Black:
Brynell arranges ...Ba6 as everyone tells us too, but is then soundly beaten. I don't know Victor Nithander, but he can certainly play a fine positional game as you can see in Nithander - Brynell.
Hecht-Reefschlaeger 3.Nc3 Nc6
Shades of the French Exchange
One of the drawbacks of 3...Nc6 becoming respectable is... well people start to treat it with respect! We don't want this if it means they start playing things like 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.exd5 exd5 6.Bb5 against us:
The diagram above is rather sad if you played 3...Nc6 looking for a dynamic fight. We'll look at two moves. Firstly, 6...Be7 is a speciality of GM Nguyen. He's achieved 1.5/3 with it against very strong opponents, though his latest game, Kobalia - Nguyen, isn't very encouraging.
A more energetic reply is 6...Bb4 which back in 2006 Kosyrev also used three times, and achieved 1.5/3 against formidable opponents- this time three rather early draws. To decide which you prefer check out Kasimdzhanov - Kosyrev.
Rubinstein 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7
As rare as a queen sacrifice
The game chosen here doesn't feature one of Shirov's ingenious attacks. On the other hand, he manages to come up with something new on move eight of a heavily analysed variation- an occurrence that is getting as rare as a queen sacrifice! Here is Shirov - Sumets.
Classical 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5
Two fine tactical victories and one heavy positional defeat
Once again we focus on the trendy variation 4...Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 Be7 8.Qd2 0-0:
Now the attacking approach by White with 9.dxc5 Bxc5 10.0-0-0 gives Black excellent counterchances, as has been proved in many recent games. More tricky to face is 9.Be2 a6 10.0-0. You can find analysis to both lines by clicking on Smith - Berczes and Sadvakasov - Hernandez Guerrero.
After 7.Be3 in this sequence, Black has an important alternative in 7...cxd4. It's been a bit neglected lately because of the intriguing 7...Be7 move, but GM Brynell uses it to score a brilliant attacking victory which you can see in Huschenbeth - Brynell.
Winawer 7.Qg4 Qc7 8.Qxg7
Once more into the maelstrom
Under scrutiny this month is 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 13.Nxc3 a6 14.Rb1 Na5 15.h4 Rc8:
As I've remarked before, I don't trust ...Rc8 ideas for Black in the Winawer Poisoned Pawn. But then it's the player with the clearer head, the most imagination and the deepest theory who usually comes out on top in this variation, whatever the objective verdict of the line. And so it proves in this month's game: I'm dubious about the merit of 15...Rcx8 but there's no denying that GM Emanuel Berg wins in some style. Here is Zawadzka - Berg.
Well it's time to say goodbye. I hope you enjoyed the update. Good luck with your chess!
I should also thank Jerome Schwindling for his email. Yes, it's the patriotic duty of every French man and every French woman to play the French Defence. Thanks for your kind comments and happy new year!
All the best, Neil
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