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There's a lot of great chess this month, including some excellent positional sacrifices. It's a pity that we don't see more of the French at the very highest level- it would be a pleasant change from the endless Sicilians and 1.e4 e5 games.

Download PGN of March '08 French games

Tarrasch 3...Be7

Good old fashioned pawn snatching

Our first game features a critical line in the Universal System, namely: 1.e4 e6 2.e4 d5 3.Nd2 Be7 4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.e5 Nfd7 6.Bd3 c5 7.c3 Nc6 8.0-0 a5 9.Re1 cxd4 10.cxd4 Qb6 11.Nb1 Nxd4 12.Nxd4 Qxd4:

It is curious that the mainline with 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Bd3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ngf3 Qb6 8.0-0 cxd4 9.cxd4 Nxd4 10.Nxd4 Qxd4 has gone right out of fashion for Black, whereas grabbing the pawn on d4 remains one of the main battle grounds in the 3...Be7 version. I guess it becomes more attractive if the opponent has nothing better to do than send his knight home with 11.Nb1.

Still, the position in the diagram is very tense, and this month we look at two more tries for White in the game Pert - Redmond.

Tarrasch 3...Nc6

A terrific victory for Black in the Guimard

Some critics complain that 3...Nc6 isn't quite sound, but who cares if it doesn't work against a super brain like Leko or Adams [and let's see what happens when Morozevich starts to play it!]

The player of White in our next game is rated 2467, and he only lasts 24 moves against the Guimard. The chance to gain wins like that is surely enough for most of us. Here is the final position in the game:

The white king is in check and will be checkmated after 25.gxf3 Bxf3 by 26...Qh1. If you want to know more, click on Antal - Bauer.

Tarrasch 3...Nf6

Three set ups for Black versus the Universal System

Next is 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Ngf3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Bd3 a5 8.0-0 a4:

I had great hopes for the rapid advance of Black's a-pawn versus the Universal System, based on the game Fedorchuk-Ivanchuk in the archives. However, Fedorchuk came to this month's game armed with an important improvement. Check out Fedorchuk - Ulibin.

Another deployment for Black is 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Bd3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ngf3 Qb6 8.0-0 g6 and here after Kasparov's 9.dxc5 we should investigate 9...Qc7!?:

Black goes after the e5 pawn. Soon we will have the classic Universal System paradox: White's broken centre will give his own pieces the chance to shine because they can exploit the gaps in it. In this case, the deflection of the white pawn from the 'good' d4 square to the 'bad' c5 square will provide the white knight with a great base on d4. Not that it is at all easy for White: check out Black's victory in Neelotpal - Rathnakaran.

A third variation, and perhaps the most promising for Black, is 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Bd3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ngf3 g6 8.h4 h6:

Another game from the Indian Championship shows Black winning smoothly in Sethuraman - Ganguly.

I hope these games show that Black is no longer just a victim against the Universal System.

Tarrasch 3...c5 4.exd5 Qxd5

Black blown away by a bishop sac on a6-twice!

After 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.Re1 Bd7, the move 12.c3 may appear rather innocuous:

But don't be fooled by appearances: the Scottish IM Steve Mannion uses it to score a marvellous attacking win against a GM rated 228 points above him. Even if you are devoted to the French, it's hard not to admire White's play in Mannion - Erdos.

Our seconds game features 12.Bg5, as used by Adams to crush Nisipeanu recently. This game demonstrates the power of a prepared variation in a dynamic opening line: White, rated 2178, beats a 2442 opponent thanks to his surprise at move 14. Here is Venevtsev - Nakhapetiane.

Classical McCutcheon 6.Bd2

A nice plan by a former Russian Champion

If you want to play better chess, it can be worth studying the games from Open Swiss tournaments. In events with a large mixture of playing strengths, the guys [and girls] who really know their stuff often demonstrate their technique against weaker players in a clear cut manner. Here is the position in this month's game after White's 13th move:

Can you guess Black's plan over the next three moves? It's very hard to grasp but very instructive! Compare your thoughts with those of the ex-Russian Champion in Kargin - Volkov.

Classical Alekhine-Chatard Attack

One dubious, one promising idea for Black

The Russian GM Vovk has got three games in the archives now, and they are all great attacking wins as White- he's a name to look out for if you like blood thirsty chess!

Here he takes on the variation 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e5 Nfd7 6.h4 a6. After 7.Qg4! Black can either reply 7...Bxg5 or else 7...h5 8.Qg3 g6, trying to block things up. I have a lot of sympathy for the latter idea, but unfortunately it doesn't quite seem good enough for Black. You can see a review of games in this line in Vovk - Naumkin.

Finally, we look at a possible antidote to one of White's most dangerous attacking lines, namely 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e5 Nfd7 6.h4 Bxg5 7.hxg5 Qxg5 8.Qd3 and now 8...Nf8!?:

Black retreats his knight to defend h7. There is a very important nuance in Black's defensive method which you can see by clicking on Bobras - Bartel.

Well that's all for this month. I hope you enjoyed the games and get the chance to use some of the ideas. Good luck with your chess.

Until next time, Neil

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