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Last month, the Olympiad provided some entertaining and useful games in the French. It's a pity that the rascals who play in elite tournaments haven't shown a similar appetite for our favourite opening. For example, at the Aerosvit tournament with Rublevsky, Karjakin, Ivanchuk, Grischuk, etc. no less than 47 out of 66 games started with 1.e4, but there wasn't one French to be seen!

Download PGN of June '06 French games

Advance 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Bd7 6.Be2

The Australian Attack?

«I was checking out my database today and found a line which is not even mentioned in most books on the French which I am considering playing as white. I was not terribly convinced by the play of either white or black in the games on my database. Maybe you should discuss this idea in your column.
The line is 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. c3 Nc6 5. a3:»

Thanks for the email David, which has given me the chance to discuss some of the strategic themes in the Advance in the context of Juglard - Barsov.

Classical 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e5

A way to counter the Alekhine-Chatard Attack

The following section was inspired by an email from Jeff Brassard who talks about his excellent results versus the Alekhine-Chatard Attack with 5...Ng8!?:

These include an impressive win against GM Boris Alterman (albeit in a simul). I've given a lot of analysis to the reply 6.h4, including references to games by Spassky and Hector, in Alterman - Brassard.

So what happens if White prefers 6.Be3, which Jeff himself thinks might be the best move? The news here is encouraging as well: Black, rated 2105, frustrates his 2458 rated opponent in Perez - Carrabeo Garcia.


An examination of the 'Retreat' Variation

Encouraged by the example of a successful knight retreat above, I have looked at the similar 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 Bf8:

Back to square one! Fischer accused the Winawer of being an anti-positional defence as it weakens the kingside, but even he couldn't object to this version. Incidentally, this position can equally be reached from the Classical move order 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Ng8.

If you adopt either of these move orders as Black, you will be side stepping a HUGE amount of opening theory. But is it any good? For analysis, check out Cheparinov - Karlsson.

Winawer 6...Qc7 7.Qg4

Is there such a thing as a natural move in the Winawer?

Mike Ridge writes: «Enjoying your website very much, and I also like your book on the Winawer, which manages to find a nice mix between concrete analysis and ideas (as well as your old co-authored book, Mastering the French, for that matter!).
I've found opponents often playing the following line against me when I play 6 ...Qc7 as Black in the Winawer: 7. Qg4 f5 8. Qg3 cxd4 9. Ne2
9 Ne2 is in a way a natural move here, since its often played in similar positions in the Poisoned Pawn, nor have I been able to find anything like an obvious 'refutation' of it. Yet none of my sources even mentions it (and I have your book, Watson's, Psakhis's as well as Pedersen's!) Should Black take the pawn on c3 or try for something else here? What is your assessment of the position and why? It would be nice to see a detailed discussion of this position as I suspect that even if it is inferior, it will crop up a lot at club level by players who are used to the White side of a standard Poisoned Pawn position and aren't 'booked up' on 6 ...Qc7. Thoughts?»

Thanks for the nice comments- they are much appreciated. As for 9.Ne2, it is worth asking ourselves why everyone is so silent about it. If it is indeed a 'natural' move, it is highly likely that someone would have analysed it by now, if only to prove it isn't very good! Anyway, here is some analysis in Winawer question.

Winawer 7.Qg4 Qa5

A critical position in the 'Rustemov' Variation

Franck Steenbekkers writes: «Dear Neil, In Luther-Szelag Black plays your suggestion of c3 but somehow I doubt if Black is ok!

What do you think 20 Ng5! and 20 Rg1 are better for White. I think 20 Ng5 is even close to winning!»

One of my suggestions is wrong?? Thanks Franck for another interesting [and provocative] email! I've had another look again at the position after 19...Bd7 with the help of Fritz. Do you have any independent analysis you are willing to share? Here is Luther - Szelag.

Winawer 7.Qg4 0-0

Timman at his best

Whereas the 'modern' generation have been slighting the French, players such as Timman and Ivanchuk are continuing to uphold its honour. What follows is 'only' a 26 move draw, but Black beats off his opponent's attacking attempt in crisp style. Here is Nijboer - Timman.

Winawer 7.Qg4 cxd4

An opportunity missed

Michael Roza has sent me one of his games in which he tested out the unusual line 8.Qxg7 Rg8 9.Qxh7 Qa5!?:

It should have been a glorious success, as his opponent reacted in just the confused manner we were hoping for. But alas...well, here is GP - Ch23.

Winawer 7.Qg4 Qc7

Timman not at his best

After drawing with Nijboer in the 7...0-0 variation above, Timman tried for more in their next encounter. Here is Njboer - Timman.

Finally, thanks to Phillip R Davis for his positive comments about the chesspublishing website. And thanks to Harinder Brar for his friendly remarks about my book Chess: the Art of Logical Thinking.

Chris from Germany: you've sent me some very interesting comments, I'll try to look at them all in the next update, especially if there is an important game in one of the variations.

In answer to your question, in my Starting Out with 1.e4 repertoire book, I give the Ngf3 'Universal System' against the French: it's quite complicated, but then, as you know, I've been saying Ngf3 is the strongest line against the French for years now, so I could hardly avoid giving it. Versus the Sicilian I give the mainlines, as that seems to be the way to get 'the 1.e4 experience'.

Thanks to the Scandinavian player for the interesting games you sent me on 9.Nbd2 in the Milner-Barry- I'll wait and see how theory develops in this line before using them. I would like to know about any more observations you make it tournaments. Of course, any subscriber can remain anonymous if he or she chooses. Just let me know in the email whether you want your name posted on the site.

Jose Blades, I think I still have to answer your question on the Guimard. I'll try to do that next time.

Nick Thomas- that was unexpected! The idea sounds very interesting, could you please send me the game Hanley-Thomas 4NCL Round 8 Div2, as it doesn't seem to be on any database? Alternatively, you might want to keep it secret!

Well that's all for now. Thanks to everyone who contributed to this site, and good luck with your chess!

All best Regards, Neil

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