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This month we only look at one game apiece with the Advance and Tarrasch variations in order to concentrate upon 3 Nc3. The main line 7 Qg4 Winawer is being hotly contested, especially the Poisoned Pawn Variation, and we look at the lines with an early ...dxc3 which have become so popular. The MacCutcheon has been faring as well (in theoretical terms, anyway) as it has for some time, so we look at an old attempt by White to dig out an advantage by holding on to his bishops, as well as recent news in a main line. Finally, I peek at another Hecht-Reefschlaeger game, since it seems to be a creation with many lives.

Download PGN of May '10 French games

Advance Variation

One of the very main positions of the Advance Variation has become this one, which can arise by a number of different moves orders:

Perhaps the appeal is that both sides have a safe position with little chance of being attacked. Cori - Gleizerov, La Laguna 2010, is a fairly typical example.

Tarrasch Variation

In the 3 Nd2 a6 4 Ngf3 variation, the move 4...Nf6 will very often lead to this position:

You may recognise that White is playing the 'Universal System'. Black has 4 versions of this defence, with a pawn on a6 (as in this case), a pawn on h6 (from 3 Nd2 h6, the Eingorn variation), a bishop on e7 (from 3 Nd2 Be7), or a queen on b6 (from 3 Nd2 Nf6). White has no less than 7 moves here. In the game Savic - Sedlak, Kragujevac 2010, White employs the main line and Black comes out with a good game.

However, White players should look into note 'f' to move 9, for a new and promising approach which involves sacrificing a piece. It may even threaten the viability of 8...g5 in this precise position.

Winawer Variation

We haven't looked at 7 Qg4 0-0 in a while. The main line theory has become so deep and intricate that many players of both colours have shied away from it. In the following position, 12 Bxg6 has been almost automatic:

But in the search for ways to avoid Black's preparation, White played 12 Be2 in Munguntuul - Mkrtchian, Nalchik 2010. It's a very interesting way to keep things complicated and although Black could probably have equalised, White had the better chances throughout. The game itself is a lengthy, difficult battle with a wild finish.

The Poisoned Pawn Winawer with an early ...dxc3 instead of ...Bd7 (or sometimes without ...Nbc6) has been part of many updates on ChessPublishing. In both of this month's games Kosintseva - Hou Yifan, Nalchik 2010, and Shirov - Dvirnny, Arvier 2010, White played the simplest response of all, simply capturing the pawn by 12 Nxc3!?

This old move, extremely rare but used by Nijboer on several occasions, looks pretty weak in the face of ...Nxe5 or ...Nd4, but in fact Black has some difficulties truly equalising and in fact White won both games (although Shirov was close to lost). It will be interesting to see more tests.

Classical Variation

The MacCutcheon rolls on with decent results. I thought I'd show a game from two months ago with a solution that was analysed in depth 40 years ago, but is barely mentioned in the books.

You will recognize this as a main line in which White has played 6 Bd2 and then 9 Bc1, saving his bishop pair and keeping open the idea of Ba3, but at the cost of development and protection of c3. It's an interesting tradeoff which has no definite assessment as of yet. White used the move to good advantage in TL Petrosian- Swiercz, Rijeka 2010, and I've added a lot of notes and analysis to try to make sense of the variations.

In Solomon - Xie, Canberra 2010, I take another look at the main line MacCutcheon with 8...Kf8:

Much as ...Kf8 is looking as good (or in some lines better) than ...g6 in certain Winawer variations, it has been doing fairly well in the MacCutcheon. The game and notes show ways in which both sides can gain an advantage or go wrong.

ChessPublishing is the outlet which has most faithfully investigated the Hecht-Reefschlaeger Variation, so allow me to continue that by citing an example from this month's batch.

We've looked at this main line a lot, but mainly with the move 8...f6, whereas here Black has played 8...Bd7. In Mantovani - Bentivegna, Arvier 2010, he follows that with ...Ba5-b6 and gets a good game. In general, I think that White should be looking elsewhere for an effective counter to 3...Nc6.

Till next month, John

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