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What's new in the French Defence

Welcome to the March Update!




To download the March '03 French games directly in PGN form, click here: Download Games

Classical 4.e5

First of all we have the game from the Linares Super GM tournament that won the Best Game Prize: the sensational win by Teimour Radjabov versus Kasparov as Black in the French.

Apparently Kasparov was very angry about this award as he felt that it was a poor quality game. In fact I have a lot of sympathy with him: if Kasparov had been playing Black and Radjabov White then you can bet that this game would never have won anything!

Perhaps the idea of a 'Brilliancy Prize Game' should be replaced with a 'Most Dramatic Game' Prize. In that case Kasparov-Radjabov wins hands down.

Kasparov rarely loses with the white pieces. According to one source he has been undefeated with White for seven years at Classical time controls- and here he is suddenly upended by a 15 year old boy who comes from his hometown.

Everything begins normally: Kasparov plays a mainline and then, in a variation which Radjabov knows extremely well, comes up with a little move to take his opponent out of theory. Everything is progressing smoothly for Kasparov when he suddenly makes one of the worst blunders of his life! A great result for Radjabov, but what do you think of the game? Have a look at Kasparov - Radjabov.

Next is a highly interesting development in a variation discussed in the December Update. At the last Wijk aan Zee tournament Shirov played the following gambit line versus Bareev:

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Bc5 9.Qd2 Bxd4 10.Bxd4 Nxd4 11.Qxd4 Qb6 12.Qd2!?

Bareev took the pawn with 12...Qxb2 and was obliterated. You can find the game Shirov-Bareev on ChessPub, or by clicking here.

I thought this was the end of the road for the variation as Black, but incredibly Bareev has played it twice more at the Melody Amber Rapidplay- once against Shirov. The Russian Super GM has come up with a serious improvement that at first glance appears to lose by force!

By the way, don't be fooled into thinking that the players don't take the Melody Amber tournament seriously- besides prestige there is a mass of prize money at stake, which means they aren't going to hold back on revealing novelties in the opening.

Incidentally, it is curious that Bareev won the Rapidplay section ahead of the world elite but was appalling at Blindfold chess.

Well here are the two games: you can click on Almasi - Bareev [round Two] and Shirov - Bareev [round Four].

One of the best ways to revitalise your chess is to change your openings. The World's second 2800 player, Vladimir Kramnik, has in the last year or so changed from being a predominantly 1.d4 type of player to regularly opening 1.e4. I recall Anand doing something similar after his New York 1995 Match with Kasparov, except in reverse: he switched from only ever playing 1.e4 to throwing in the occasional 1.d4. It says something for the genius of these players that they became instant experts on lines that they had never played before.

Of course it helps if you know exactly what your opponent is going to play as Black. In the game selected here from Linares Kramnik is facing an opponent who virtually always plays the Classical French, and has clearly spent some time looking at a rather offbeat idea. Kasparov tried the same 'trick' against Radjabov in the game above but Kramnik is far more successful.

Have a look at Kramnik - Radjabov.

Classical 4.Bg5 Bb4

This month I have tried to improve the coverage of the McCutcheon Variation. For many years this hybrid of the Classical and Winawer was regarded with suspicion by the theorists, despite the fact that the great World Champion Capablanca said it was one of his favourite defences- and he knew better than anyone whether an opening was positionally sound or not!

Nowadays the McCutcheon has Radjabov championing its cause, though he doesn't find it easy playing Black against 2700 players- at least not yet!

The mainline begins 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Bb4 5.e5 h6

In the first game I have selected Peter Leko adopts the standard 6.Bd2 against Radjabov and repeats a line he had played earlier against Nigel Short. Black tries to play sharply but it all ends in disaster. Have a look at Leko - Radjabov.

First blood to White!

The second game features 6.Bc1. Again Radjabov plays in a very provocative style and appears to be facing a strong attack. However, it ends all square after a wild struggle. You can check out Vallejo Pons-Radjabov.

The next two games are on 6.Be3!? when after 6...Ne4 7.Qg4 Black has to make a critical choice between 7...Kf8- which gives up castling- or 7...g6 which is more dynamic but also more weakening. You can see which idea I prefer by looking at Goloshchapov - Reefat and Ernst - Brynell.

So overall it's a narrow 2.5-1.5 victory for White in the McCutcheon. Perhaps it's time to give it a go?




Tarrasch 3...c5 Qxd5

After 3.Nd2 c5 4.exd5 Qxd5 5.Ngf3 cxd4 6.Bc4 Qd6

a good way for White to escape the seemingly endless theory of the 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Nb3 mainline is with 7.Qe2!? which disdains to regain the pawn in order to prepare queenside castling. This month I've selected a fine win by Michael Adams: have a look at Adams - Buhmann.




Winawer Mainline 7.Qg4 0-0 8.Bd3 Qa5

Finally there has been a lot of analysis of the so-called Rustemov System against the 7.Qg4 Winawer on Chesspub, but rather surprisingly after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.Qg4 0-0 8.Bd3 Qa5 9.Bd2 Nbc6 10.Qh5 h6

we haven't yet considered the rather obvious move 11.Nf3. So take a peek at Neelotpal - Barsov which seems to indicate Black is more than OK. You will also find a game by Rustemov himself in the notes.




Well that's all for this Update. Good luck in your chess adventures and see you next time!