March 2004 Update
Welcome to the March 2004 French Update. I hope your chess is going well!
Some good news for Black in the Tarrasch
Tarrasch fans will be aware that a critical position is reached in John Watson's pet variation after 5...c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ne2 Qb6 8.Nf3 cxd4 9.cxd4 f6 10.exf6 Nxf6 11.0-0 Bd6 12.b3!?
Things have been rather grim for Black over the last year, partly because Adams has been playing this line as White in club chess against lower rated opponents, which has the tendency to make it look like a forced loss for Black. Still there is good news for Black in that he has been doing very nicely in a side line. To see Black well on top against a much higher rated opponent, check out Naiditsch - Braun.
The danger of copying without understanding
This month's game demonstrates what happens if you are impressed by a game you see in a newspaper or a book or even on this website, and then you try to copy it without having a firm grasp of the ideas behind the moves. The result can be a disaster. Last month we looked at Anand's impressive sacrificial attack versus Bareev which you can see by clicking on Anand - Bareev, here White tries to play in the same way, but he gets confused between two systems and is routed. Here is Philippe - Sharif.
Classical 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e5 Nfd7 6.h4
A 'new' idea first played in 1909
The French Grandmaster Igor Nataf has added some modern touches to an ancient idea for White in the Alekhine-Chathard Attack. It was first seen in a cable match between England and the USA back in 1909- for the sake of diplomacy I should point out that game ended as a draw. Despite its long history, dating back to when Alekhine was a schoolboy, in the year 2004 the concept still appeared to be a devastating surprise for Nataf's opponent. As they say, everything is new that has been forgotten. Here is Nataf - Thorhallsson.
Botvinnik's forgotten variation
This month I have tried to bring back to life an opening system for Black that was played by the great Mikhail Botvinnik, but which has been discredited and then forgotten. I mean the Winawer 7.Qg4 answered by 7...cxd4:
and if, White captures on g7, then 8.Qxg7 Rg8 9.Qxh7 Qa5
The three most famous games in this line are all defeats for Black - a win by Alexander against Botvinnik himself in the 1946 Radio Match between Britain and the USSR; a win by Timman against Korchnoi and then a win by Short against Timman. Well, there is some hope if Timman was willing to swap colours and try it as Black!
Of course, if this works for Black then it is the perfect surprise weapon - even better than the Rustemov System, which also features Qa5 in the Winawer. First of all, here is an example of a Grandmaster being flummoxed by 7...cxd4 and making a losing blunder straightaway. Have a look at Ashley - Arizmendi Martinez.
Well that's a good start for a so-called bad opening line- a win in 21 moves. Now let's imagine that you are playing one of those guys [or girls like Judith Polgar!] who play Bd3 against everything- 7...0-0 8.Bd3 or 7...Qc7 8.Bd3. This is of course a good way for White to avoid the deluge of theory in the sharp lines. If you play 7...cxd4 against them they are likely to have a quick look at 8.Qxg7 Rg8 9.Qxh7, decide it is too messy for them, and then shrug their shoulders and play the 'universal' move 8.Bd3. This is a success for Black as if he wishes he can transpose into a non-critical line of the Rustemov System, or enter a Poisoned Pawn set up which White is hardly likely to know anything about. In effect, anyone who plays 8.Bd3 is going to be zapped by 7...cxd4! You can see what I mean by checking out Tatar Kis-Portisch.
So far, so good. Now we move on to the critical stuff: 7...cxd4 8.Qxg7 Rg8 9.Qxh7. It's not too late to chicken out with 9...Qc7, getting back into the mainline, which incidentally shows that no harm was done by playing 7...cxd4: on the contrary, everything was a bonus as you gave your opponent the chance to go wrong and upset him if he plays 8.Bd3
However, here we'll examine 9...Qa5!? starting with the line that Timman used to defeat Korchnoi, namely 10. Ne2:
I have found a game in which Black comes up with a highly interesting improvement on Korchnoi's play. Here is Silver - Teixeira.
That leaves just one problem for Black: the move that is given in all the books as leading to a clear advantage for White. Nigel Short used it to complete the trio of defeats that buried the variation. Well I have done a lot of analysis with the help of Fritz 8, and I think Timman missed a great chance of bringing his game to life and saving the reputation of the variation. See what you think when you look at Short - Timman.
Well that's all for now. I'll be writing again very soon on the website. Good luck with your chess!