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Welcome to the French July 2002 Update

The Fort Knox

This month there is something different. Long term subscribers may recall a questionnaire last year that asked them what opening lines they particularly wanted to see discussed on ChessPublishing. In response to this in previous updates I examined in detail things like the Winawer Declined 5...Ba5 and the McCutcheon Variation, but for some strange reason one of the winners- the Fort Knox- was never covered. So here it is at last.

I have decided to present a comprehensive survey based on my own games as I have used it many times. Two of the ten opponents are now over 2650 Elo rating and seven are GMs so my score isn't that great. Still, that is my fault rather than the opening's!

All this month's new games, and the Roadmaps, are easily downloaded in PGN format using ChessPub.exe, but to download the July '02 French games directly in PGN form, click here: Download Games

The Fort Knox is an excellent back up variation if something goes wrong in one of your opening lines in the Winawer or Tarrasch- you can play it against either 3.Nd2 or 3.Nc3. The basic ideas are easy to learn and you will see many recurring themes when you play through the games.

The Fort Knox 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bd7

The Fort Knox mainline can be considered to be 5.Nf3 Bc6 6.Bd3 Nd7 7.0-0 Ngf6

White's tricky 8.Ned2!?

My first ever game with the Fort Knox was against GM Ian Rogers at the LLoyds Bank Masters back in 1993. I was shown how to play it for about an hour by IM Andrew Ledger and then went into battle. The theory is way past its sell by date, but the middlegame strategy for both sides is quite instructive. Have a look at Rogers-McDonald.

My latest game in the Fort Knox features a truly absurd opening novelty by me after 8.Ned2. Have a look at Wells-McDonald.

For more sober coverage of 8.Ned2 I refer you to Ledger-McDonald, a game already given on ChessPub.

White exchanges with 8.Nxf6+

The strongest player I faced in this line was the young Vladimir Malakhov, who is now rated in the World's top thirty. We were both trying for GM norms in the tournament where the game was played. As Malakhov was White he was intending to win, whereas with Black I would have been happy with a draw. I made an inaccuracy in the opening and Russian technique prevailed in the end. Check out Malakhov-McDonald.

White plays the pseudo aggressive 8.Neg5

As long as Black avoids falling for a sucker punch like 8...h6 9.Nxe6! he shouldn't have any difficulties in this line. I managed to equalise against strong GM Sutovsky in the game given here and even achieved some edge- check out Sutovsky-McDonald. White also achieves little in the similar line 7.Qe2 [rather than 7.0-0] 7...Ngf6 8.Neg5, which is examined in O'Shaughnessey-McDonald.

White's solid 8.Ng3

This used to be White's most common response, but now 8.Ned2 seems the most popular. I found a useful novelty for Black in this line, but frustratingly it all came to nothing as I later played insipidly and lost. This game was later annotated by my opponent in Informator, though curiously the games from the tournament never made it onto ChessBase. Have a look at Berelovic-McDonald.

In contrast Black had problems in the next game due to an opening inaccuracy. Curiously I have played IM Ron Burnett twice in the last round of a tournament and in both cases he needed to win for the GM norm. Have a look at Burnett-McDonald.

White centralises his queen: 8.Qe2

This permits Black to capture twice on e4 and so free his game. I had an interesting encounter with a young player [and future IM] in this line but overpressed in the search of a win and lost horribly. The moral is: if you play the Fort Knox as Black you must be very patient and wait for your opponent to weaken himself. Over aggressive measures are fatal. Have a look at Mah-McDonald.

Other ideas.

White castles queenside as soon as possible.

This is an aggressive attempt to refute Black's opening system, but in fact promises White less than the standard plan of castling kingside and advancing the queenside pawns. Black came very close to winning after White's crude build-up in Varga-McDonald.

The ineffective 5.Nf3 Bc6 6.Bd3 Nd7 7.Bg5

Another rather crude attacking gesture that promises little. The exchange of bishops that it invites can only help Black who has less space. He had few problems in Enders-McDonald.

Well I hope you enjoyed the opening survey. Next month normal service will be resumed.

Good luck with your chess!

'Bye for now,