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Welcome to the July French Update.

I expect you are all looking forward to the World Championship in Argentina.

Download PGN of July '05 French games

Advance Mainline 6.Be2 f6

A risky variation

It's good to see Ivan Cheparinov, the most promising player to emerge from Bulgaria since Topalov, trusting the French as Black. Perhaps one day soon he will reintroduce our favourite opening to elite tournaments, and help drive out the deadly dull Petroff. Cheparinov employs one of the most double edged variations which leads to a highly interesting tactical fight. Here is Jonkman - Cheparinov.

Tarrasch 3...Be7

Force versus matter

The response 4. e5 c5 5.Qg4!? is based on a similar philosophy to the Ngf3, so called 'Universal System':

White accepts his classically prized d4/e5 pawn centre will have to broken apart, but in return he gets open lines and an initiative. Will force prove stronger than matter? Here from the European Championships is an extreme example: enjoy Nevednichy - Pelletier.

Tarrasch 3...Nc6

Another win for Black in the Guimard

If White is ever going to prove 3...Nc6 wrong, then I think the refutation will involve Bb5 rather than Bd3. Not that there are any dark clouds on the horizon for Black at the moment. Check out Fossan - Fyllingen.

Tarrasch 3...Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5.Bd3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ngf3

Black fights back in the Universal System

The Swedish GM Emanuel Berg proves a hero this week- not so much because he beats Bareev in a brilliant game [see below] but rather because he actually manages to win against the doom laden Universal System. This looks like tangible progress for Black, as Gurevich's recommendation is holding firm. It's just a pity it can't be applied versus 3...Be7. Here is Perunovic - Berg.

Classical 4.Bg5 dxe4

A stunning move beats Bareev

Berg swapped sides to score a beautiful win as White in the next game. It is hard to find a more visually impressive move than 16.Bg6- and what's more, it is sound!

No doubt it gave Bareev a headache, but players of the Classical as Black don't need to panic as there was a way to salvation. So it's safe to enjoy Berg - Bareev.

French Two Knights

A dangerous new treatment

This system has never attracted much attention at the highest level- its heyday was when Spassky used it to beat Petrosian in a game in their 1966 match. Still, I dare to suggest you don't play much better than Petrosian at his peak, so be careful. To see what can happen if you are careless, take a look at Rogers - Witt.

What's more, White has recently become attracted to an aggressive handling of the system involving queenside castling. You have to be ready for this line, as play gets very tactical. Check out Pablo Marin-Narciso Dublan.

Winawer 7.Qg4 0-0 8.Bd3 f5

White is looking for a new idea

Two games feature this month in what is probably the key variation after 8...f5:

Black now looks at least OK in the long mainline, as you can confirm by clicking on Korneev - Pogorelov.

White is therefore looking around for fresh ideas, and the ever inventive Ivanchuk came up with the goods at Gothenburg. But I wonder whether his novelty will prove good for more than one game at top level. Here is Ivanchuk - Brynell.

Winawer 6...Qc7 7.Qg4 f5

A nice win by Black, but...

I hoped for Black's sake that Schneider had come up with an improvement in this troubled variation. However, it turned out to be a mirage. If his opponent had been alert then he could have administered the fearful battering Black normally gets in this variation. Here is Adamson - Schneider

Well that's all for this month. I'll try to answer some emails next time- thanks to everyone who has contacted me. Meanwhile have a great time with your chess.

Best Wishes and good luck, Neil