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Lots of fighting chess as usual, but it's been a low key month as regards clashes between the World elite in the French. Probably the best news is Kramnik's two defeats with the Petroff- that might encourage more players to push their king's pawn a different number of squares...

Download PGN of July '08 French games

Tarrasch 3...Be7 4.Ngf3/ 3....Nf6- Ngf3 line

Which knight should capture on e5?

We begin by looking at the most modern and dangerous opponent of the French Defence, namely the 'Ngf3 versus everything' approach that I dubbed the 'Universal System'.

A critical position might be reached by two distinct move orders: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Be7 4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.e5 Nfd7 6.Bd3 c5 7.c3 Nc6 8.0-0 g5 9.dxc5 g4 10.Nd4 or 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Bd3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ngf3 Be7 8.0-0 g5 9.dxc5 g4 10.Nd4

Now Black should capture on e5, but how?

First of all, we'll check out the rather unusual 10...Ncxe5!? Black's general plan of development is ...Nxc5, ...Bd7, ...Qc7 and ...0-0-0 if given the chance. I'm not sure that choosing a game that ends with the black king in checkmate after 22 moves is going to encourage you to play it, but there's a lot of analysis that indicates it is worth a try in Lagerman - Alaguzov.

As compensation for the defeat in the game above, you get to see the black centre and bishop pair triumph after the alternative 10...Ndxe5: just click on Mader - Berczes.

Tarrasch 3.Nd2 c5 4.exd5 Qxd5

An annoying little move

Here the 10...a6 mainline runs 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.exd5 Qxd5 5.Ngf3 cxd4 6.Bc4 Qd6 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Nb3 Nc6 9.Nbxd4 Nxd4 10.Nxd4 a6 11.Bb3 Qc7 12.Re1 Bd6:

In the past, White tried to bash Black on the head with 13.Nf5!?, but reams and reams of analysis with the aid of computers has made it into a drawing line. Meanwhile the insidious little move 13.h3, which attacks nothing, is surprisingly awkward for Black. I guess such 'quiet' moves are harder to neutralise with the aid of a computer than sharp sacrifices. In any case, a very experienced French player soon falls into grave difficulties in Korneev - Farago.

Hecht-Reefschlaeger 3.Nc3 Nc6

The monthly Goh show

IM Goh Wei Ming, a regular contributor to this page, has been trying out this off beat variation in blitz games, and beating Nigel Short amongst others!

After 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.Nf3 Nf6, you can find Goh's comments on 5.exd5 and 5.e5 by clicking on Hecht - Reefschlaeger - 5.ed5 analysis and Rustam Khusnutdinov- Goh Weiming respectively.

Classical 4.e5

More joy than grief for Black

I would love 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 b6 to be OK for Black- for one thing it would escape a heavy load of theory. Alas, in the selected game White's build up proves too fast.

See if you can find the win for White [to move] in the diagram above. [Black has just played 16...g6 to stop mate on g7].

Here is the whole of the fine attacking game Valmana Canto-Balog.

Our next two games feature 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 Be7! Black has had great success with this quiet bishop move in 2008.

Here it looks as if White has a big attack based on 24.Qh3, but it is Black's move and he came up with the superb sacrifice 23...Nxb4!! which overthrew the white position. Enjoy Kogan - Bruno.

In the second game with 7...Be7, White elects to castle queenside, but like so many players before him he comes a cropper in Vila Gazquez-Berczes.

Winawer 7.h4

Black's Poison Pawn revival continues

Our final two games discuss 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.h4 Qa5 8.Bd2 Nbc6 9.h5 h6:

I criticised this for Black in the archives because 10.Qg4 intending 11.Qxg7 in the style of the Poison Pawn variation seemed a strong reply. However, I may have to rewrite it after looking at the games Niemi - Toufighi and Tomczak - Toth.

OK, that's all for now. My thanks as usual to Goh Wei Ming for his contribution.

Let me wish you all a lot of fun with your chess whether you are playing, studying or spectating.

Good luck and best wishes, Neil

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