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The French is enjoying a little renaissance at the highest level. Are players getting sick of the Petroff and Ruy Lopez? At the M-Tel Masters, so far Topalov has been on the White and Black side of our opening. Both games are featured in this update- a cool 2/2 for Black.

Download PGN of May '08 French games

Tarrasch 3.Nd2 Be7 4.Ngf3

More misery for Black in the Universal

This month sounds the death knell for the long variation 1.e4 e6 2.d4 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 13.Nc3 Bc5?.

Two months ago we looked at 14.Be3 for White, which isn't very convincing, but 14.Nb5! has subsequently scored a crushing success:

I think Black is doomed here. He'll have to go back to trying to make 13...Qb6 work or else give up on the variation, see Sutovsky - Vavrak.

Tarrasch 3.Nd2 Be7 4.Bd3

The Guimard Treatment

Here 4...Nc6 is an interesting alternative to the usual 4...c5. Black intends to harass White's bishop on d3 with 5...Nb4 and only then strike out with 6...c5. Not everyone likes to play with an IQP, but Black exploits all his dynamic chances in Kaplan - Bartel.

Tarrasch 3.Nd2 Nf6: Ngf3 lines

Suicide by computer analysis

There deserves to be more coverage on the website of 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Ngf3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ngf3 cxd4 8.cxd4 f6!?. So here, to start things rolling, is a battle between two strong GMs, in which White tried 9.Ng5?:

It surprises me that Pavasovic should have made this dubious sacrifice. Perhaps 8...f6 was unexpected, and he half remembered some old analysis by Kundin and Alterman that claimed 9.Ng5 gave White a dangerous initiative. Nevertheless, he should have considered that an opponent rated 2647 would have checked out the sacrifice using the latest computer program. In effect, White committed 'suicide by computer analysis'. Here is Pavasovic - Baklan.

Hecht-Reefschlaeger 3.Nc3 Nc6

Great analysis from a new IM

IM Goh Wei Ming from Singapore has kindly sent me a selection of his games with the Hecht-Reefschlaeger. I've put the first two online this month- here are Kaufman - Goh Weiming and Alavi Moghadam-Goh Weiming. Many thanks for these instructive games.

Classical 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5

Four wins and a draw for Black

Under the spotlight is 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3:

First, the 7...cxd4 8.Nxd4 Bc5 variation, in which French expert Mikhail Gurevich wins in splendid attacking style as Black. His opening scheme is noteworthy and bamboozles his opponent. Here is one of a French players sweetest dreams in Sebag - Gurevich.

We should also take a look at 7...Qb6!? as played by Ivanchuk and Volkov and others. The critical reply is then 8.Na4, but White is comprehensively outplayed in Nyback - Volkov.

Next up is 7...a6. Last month one of the Subscribers asked if they could have access to the French game that was given by Richard Palliser in the Sicilian section, Radjabov - Ivanchuk, so here it is.

Next, two high class games featuring unusual decisions by White. First is 8.a3!?:

It shows the sophistication of modern theory that both players have take a time out from development to push their a-pawns one square! Actually Topalov's move has a subtle point, but he is swept away by an in-form Ivanchuk. Check out Topalov - Ivanchuk.

The second idea is 8.Ne2!?- and this time it is Veselin Topalov who is Black:

It seems that the Bulgarian World title candidate wanted to avoid a theoretical discussion in the Sicilian against a player who knows all his opening secrets- his long time assistant Cheparinov. Perhaps he was also influenced in his opening choice by Cheparinov's disaster versus the French in his recent game with Grischuk?

Until this month Topalov only featured in one game as Black on the French website- a loss to Shirov. So here it is, his first win: Cheparinov - Topalov.

Winawer 7.Qg4 0-0 8.Bd3 f5

The key to the position

An important variation in the 8...f5 line runs 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 Ne7 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 c5 7.Qg4 0-0 8.Bd3 f5 9.exf6 Rxf6 10.Bg5 Rf7 11.Qh5 g6 12.Qd1 Nbc6 13.Nf3 Qf8 14.0-0 c4 15.Be2 h6 16.Bc1:

The key to the position is how successfully White is able to utilise his dark-squared bishop. There are two theatres of action for it- on the c1-h6 diagonal, pointing towards the h6 pawn, and, after 17. a4, along the a3-f8 diagonal. In particular, if White could get in the moves Ba3 and Bd6, the bishop would control the centre dark squares. It could also help to thwart any attack that Black planned along the semi-open f-file.

But it doesn't always work out for White. The latest word in this strategic battle is Vehi Bach-Drasko.

Well, that's all for this month. My thanks again to Goh Wei Ming for his contribution to the update.

I hope you enjoyed the games and have a lot of success with your chess, whether or not you play the French. But if you do play a good or interesting game with our opening, drop me a line here. It might take a [very] long time, but eventually I reply to everyone. Or at least that's the idea- if anyone feels they have been ignored, please email again, as your original email has gone astray somehow.

Anyway, all the best to everyone! Cheers, Neil

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