What's new in the French Defence
Welcome to the May Update.
This month we'll begin by looking at a subject discussed on the Forum, namely what is the best response to 4.e5 c5 [someone suggests 4...Nh6 here, which also deserves consideration] 5.Qg4!?
White plays in typical Winawer style: Black has weakened g7 so he hits it straightaway with the queen. So what should Black do?
First of all Black seems to be under pressure after 5...Kf8 6.dxc5 Nc6 7.Qg3!
In a game at the Bled Olympiad last year Radjabov played 7...f6 but it looked very risky- you can find this game in the notes to Pokorna-Matveeva given earlier on ChessPub. This month at the Russian team championships Black tried a different approach without much luck. In fact he ended up in the infamous bad bishop versus good knight endgame. For a very instructive example of positional play have a look at Kobalia - Ivanov.
So 5...Kf8 appears to be in trouble. Nevertheless there is hope for Black from a rather unexpected direction. In an earlier game given on Chesspub between Adams and Short Black soon got into difficulties after 5...g6 6.dxc5 f5. However, Lputian has played 5...g6 in a recent game and has a clear improvement up his sleeve. So perhaps the maligned 5....g6 is after all the answer to the 5.Qg4 problem? You can check this out in Jaracz - Lputian.
The Russian GM Sergei Rublevsky has been involved in many exciting tussles in the variation 4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.Bd3 c5 6.e5 Nfd7 7.c3 Nc6 8.0-0. As I have remarked before, if White is better here then he has got an anti-Tarrasch line that can be used against both 3...Be7 and 3...Nf6. So it is no wonder the theoretical battle is very hot indeed.
In this month's game Morozevich ducks the mainline in favour of something slightly less theoretical. Nevertheless, Rublevsky is well prepared and wins in convincing style. Have a look at Rublevsky - Morozevich.
Here in the 4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.exd5 exd5 mainline White has scored another convincing victory with a system of attack that was outlined in the February update based on the game Pavlovic-Antal. This time the victim is no less than Mikhail Gurevich, which should make us sit up and take notice. No doubt Gurevich had an improvement in mind, but his opponent gets in first by finding a way to save a tempo on the Pavlovic game. Even a French fan can enjoy White's fine positional display in Kharlov - Gurevich.
Volkov's pet system with 4.c3 Qb6 5.Nf3 Bd7 6.a3 a5!? aims to stop White's queenside expansion with b2-b4. It is one of the most interesting modern developments in the Advance. In this month's encounter the former Russian Champion diverges from his game with Delchev given on ChessPub and scores an impressive win. Check out Sveshnikov - Volkov.
Another popular line is 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Qb6 6.Be2 Nh6!? in which Black is willing to allow his kingside to be broken up after 7.Bxh6 gxh6. The positive feature for Black is that he can play ...Bg7 and put pressure on the white centre. However, at the European Championship Luke McShane found a way to exploit the downside of the open g file with a bold rook manoeuvre. Check out McShane - Gdanski.
As well as finding good new moves for White and Black we also need to know how to exploit mistakes by our opponents. In the next example White seems to become confused when Black avoids a trendy line in favour of a related but less common variation. Moves which are good against one line can be harmless or even bad against a similar set up: such is the complexity of chess. Have a look at Polovnikova - Radziewicz.
It's good to see the Rustemov System getting a trial at the highest level, though it also means that players of White are going to learn some dangerous new weapons against it. Thus Topalov has found an original and unexpected method of casting doubt on Black's set up. Black had better find an improvement as not everyone is as resourceful and lucky as Ponomariov! Here's Topalov - Ponomariov.
Winawer Mainline 7.Qg4 0-0 8.Bd3 f5
This move 8...f5 has a long history but at the moment is less popular than 8...Nbc6. That of course is a good reason to play it as your opponent might well have forgotten all the theory that was popular ten years ago- if indeed he ever knew it in the first place. In the example given here White makes a very interesting queen sacrifice but unfortunately he goes wrong at the critical moment. See what you think of this new idea in Dominguez - Arencibia.
Finally this month we take a look at the variation 5.exd5 Qxd5.
Capablanca recommended this method of play for White based on the classical principle that breaking up the opponent's kingside structure is more important than any reciprocal damage that Black might inflict on the queenside. Nevertheless modern analysis of this line suggests that Black has far fewer problems than after 5.e5. And so it proves in Kovalevskaya - Volkov.
Well that's all for now. I hope you found some of the stuff useful here. Good luck with your chess!