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July 2009 has been a very special month for me. In fact, it was probably one of the best months I've experienced in a very long time. I was promoted on the 1st, and celebrated my birthday on the 7th. I amazingly scored the winning goal on the 18th (albeit a fluke, direct from a corner!) for my company's soccer team and they finally registered their first win for nearly a year. (It sounds like my team is really bad, but believe me, it isn't!) I started my leave on the 24th and I can finally take a break after a truly hectic year as an auditor. Best of all, I celebrated my 1st wedding anniversary on the 25th by meeting my wife in London Heathrow on the way to beautiful Vienna and Salzburg!
To get my working files ready for this big day, I've been sleeping less then 5 hours every I've decided to commemorate all of the above by delivering a bumper update, with loads of games and covering a spectrum of different variations. I hope everyone can find something of interest.

Download PGN of July '09 French games

3.Nd2 h6!? Tarrasch

This obscure line has been growing in popularity ever since Jeroen Bosch analyzed it in a SOS article for NIC Magazine. I've also tried it a couple of times back in Singapore against lower rated opponents and scored 2/2 which says a lot about its potential as a practical weapon.

In Kislik - Galyas, FSIM Hungary May 2009, White played 4.Bd3 which is one of the many logical responses against 3...h6. Play soon transposed to a position straight from the Colle where it is known that Black has a comfortable position:

In fact, after a couple of slips from White, Black soon obtained a promising position and went on the offensive right away.

After 20.Bc2 (Diagram) Black played the nice tactic 20...Ne3! when after 21.fe Nxg3 22.Qg2 Bxe3! 23. Qxg3 Bf4, Black gets a queen and 2 pawns plus a raging attack in return for 3 pieces. The final position itself is worth a look:

Anyone interested in 3...h6 ?

3.Nd2 Nc6 Guimard Variation

I previously annotated a game of mine in the Guimard Variation with the opening moves 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nc6 4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.e5 Nfd7 6.c3 f6 7.Bb5 fe Be7:

In a blitz game on the server, my opponent, incidentally a teammate on the National Team, tried 9.Nd4!?, a recommendation of Tzermiadianos. I'm not sure whether Tim knows it but after 9...Nde5, 10.Qh5+!? is actually a novelty, and a pretty dangerous one at that:

Unsurprisingly, I lost quite quickly and after some analysis, I was relieved that 10.Qh5+ doesn't quite refute the Guimard Variation but Black certainly has to know his stuff. All is revealed in Timothy Chan-Goh Wei Ming, 2009.

3.Nd2 Nf6 Classical Tarrasch

9.Nf4!?, however, is a variation which everyone was intent to use to refute the mainline Tarrasch. The position after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.c3 c5 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.Ne2 cd f6 9.Nf4!? has always been a subject of theoretical debate both in the regular updates and on the forum:

The general notion is that after the standard exchange sacrifice 9...Nxd4 10.Qh5+ Ke7 11.ef Nxf6 12.Ng6+ hg 13.Qxh8 Kf7 14.Qh4 e5

White has a slight plus almost by force and Black has next to zero winning chances. Some have therefore argued against the merits of 3...Nf6, pointing out that the best Black can get is a draw against this variation.

Sadly, after analyzing Rublesvky - Volkov, 16th Tch Rus 2009, I find myself agreeing with this pessimistic bunch and concluding that yes, Black might be better off playing something else other then 3...Nf6! Alright, not really, but the above variation certainly looks bleak and I've suggested a number of alternatives in the notes.

As if there are not enough headaches at the moment, White has another option at his disposal. In his games, GM Ni Hua has shown a preference for 14.0-0!? (instead of 14.Qh4). In the game Ni Hua-Rodriguez, Tch-ESP 2008, the following position arose after some natural moves from both sides

White unleashed the surprising 19.g4!! and obtained a strong attack which Black eventually found too hot to handle.


After the continuation 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6, White has the choices of replying with either 4.e5 or 4.Bg5. After 4.Bg5, Black mostly plays 4...Be7 or 4...Bb4 but some recent games have shown that Black has been willing to defend a slightly worse endgame after 4...de4 5.Nxe4 Nbd7 which has personally, always been a real pest. Among the top GMs, Akobian is the key adherent of this line and Wang Hao has also played this from time to time.

The line in fashion appears to be the position after the continuation 6.Nf3 h6 7.Nxf6 Nxf6 8.Be3 Nd5!? (threatening to swipe the 2 bishops) 9.Bd3 Nxe3 10.fe Bd6 11.e4:

For quite some time, Black exponents have believed strongly in the pawn sacrifice 11...e5 which doubles White's central pawns by force and increases the scope of both of Black's bishops in an instant. After Bc5 13.Bb5+! (Best, as I've explained in the notes) 13...c6 14.Qxd8 Kxd8 15.Bc4 Ke7, we have reached the critical position of this variation with 11...e5:

I've looked at existing games from this position and presented a mini repertoire of critical ideas in Gashimov - Akobian, Gibtelecom Masters 2009. As I've concluded in the summary at the end of the game, I can't help wondering whether this line is suitable for players below 2600s, for the main reason that it is not the most entertaining thing in the world to defend a slightly worse position from the word go.

As such, there is a case for the refreshing, and very recent 11...c5:

Games have been few so far but I like what I saw in Li Chao2-Lysyj, Lake Sevan GM 2009, where Black equalized comfortably. I figure this would be popular in the near future and expect further developments.

French Winawer - 4.Bd2

Magnus Teitsson, who is a recent subscriber of Chesspublishing, wants to know more about the 4.Bd2 variation, specifically the mainline in the analysis below. This was quite a coincidence as I've wanted to analyze this variation some time ago. A couple of years ago GM Viktor Varavin was coaching in Singapore and he taught a number of his students this precise variation.

The mainline in this variation continues 5.Qg4 Nf6 6.Qxg7 Rg8 7.Qh6 Qxd4 8.0-0-0 Bf8 9.Qh4:

Play is normally extremely tactical and in Winawer 4.Bd2 analysis 2009, I hope that I have presented some insights into this little known, but interesting variation.

Winawer Poisoned Pawn Special - Part 2

The highlights of this month's update are undoubtedly the games of the fascinating Poisoned Pawn Variation. The difficult thing about analyzing these games is that it is so hard to find tactical resources on your own and my engines do not necessarily evaluate the positions as accurately as I would like.

Firstly, my thanks to Franck Steenbekkers for sending me a piece of analysis on how Shirov killed a variation (!!). In the May update, we analyzed the position after 3...Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3 6.bc Ne7 7.Qg4 Qc7 8.Qxg7 Rg8 9.Qxh7 cd 10.Ne2 Nbc6 11.f4 Bd7 12.Qd3 dc 13.Qxc3 0-0-0 14.Rb1 Nf5 15.Rg1 d4 16.Qd3 Na5:

In Shirov - Ganguly, Canadian Open Ch 2009, the mercurial Latvian-turned-Spaniard played 17.Rb4 Nc6 18.Rc4!N which was a pretty effective novelty. Ganguly soon slipped, and allowed Shirov the pleasure to finish him off with a pretty sacrifice which wasn't very obvious at first glance.

Here, White played 22.Rxc6!!, tearing Black's defences apart. All hope is not lost though, as I hoped I've proved in the analysis.

The next feature is on the 12...d4 variation, brought into the limelight by Kamsky:

There will surely be more games with this line and Reinhart - Carpentier, Top 16 Poule Basse 2009, featured a novelty suggested in May's update.

Here Black played 16...b6!N which confused his opponent, and he went on to win in fine style.

While browsing through games from TWIC, I also came across an idea which I wasn't aware of in the Poisoned Pawn. Okay, I admit. I am pretty ignorant when it comes to matters of the Poisoned Pawn but I tend to have an impression, never mind how vague, when I see a particular variation of any opening. I'm pretty sure I've never seen the ideas connected to the subtly different move order with 10...dc:

One of the main ideas to delay the development of the Queen's knight is for it to be placed on the strangely effective a6 square. I've analyzed Sangma - Bhat, Parsvnath Open 2009, which is a good illustration of this theme.

Finally, we look at the rare but fairly logical 13.h4!?:

Theory hasn't quite decided what Black's reply was best and I've done a short summary in Liu - Shulman, World Open 2009. The game itself was highly entertaining, with mutual blindness on both sides on several occasions and culminated in a frantic finish.

I hope you enjoyed this month's updates as much as I had. I'll be back soon, with August's updates!

Do send me your comments and criticisms (politely please) to, or drop me a PM on the forum and I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Have fun with your chess!