Welcome to the November 2002 Update.
It may only be November in the world of the French Update, but that won't stop me wishing you a Happy New Year!
Anand fails to win a game against the French- shock horror! It seems that at the moment Black is in the theoretical ascendancy in the ultra-mainline after 7.Qg4 0-0: besides Anand's hard fought draw against Yusupov, Psakhis scored a notable win over the Dutch GM Van den Doel at the Olympiad. As usual, the reason for Black's success is a little refinement over previous play; once this has been investigated the pendulum will swing back to White and the business of showing Black is OK will begin all over again for French devotees.
For the latest state of play have a look at Van den Doel-Psakhis, which has the Anand game in the notes.
Winawer Mainline 7.Qg4 0-0 8.Bd3 Qa5 [C18]
In the August Update Shulman [rated 2591] lost as Black in the Rustemov system against Bluvshtein  because he didn't know the vital line of play pointed out by a subscriber to this site. Now at the Olympiad, Baklan-rated 2607, came within an ace of defeat against Cheparinov  for exactly the same reason. It's enough to give a variation a bad name! Have a look at the game Cheparinov-Baklan.
Winawer Mainline 7.a4 [C19]
Rather surprisingly, so far there have been no complete games on the site dedicated to 7.a4 in the mainline Winawer. Perhaps I have been unconsciously ignoring it because am rather confused about the motive behind it. As I say in my book on the French Winawer, the reason for 7.a4 is allegedly to clear a3 for the bishop, but after the usual reply 7...Qa5 the bishop almost always goes to d2 to defend c3-so it never gets to a3! White usually tries to justify the pawn move these days with a continuation involving 8.Bd2 and then Bb5, when the pawn on a4 defends the bishop on its aggressive square. Nonetheless I don't think there'll be a flood of games with it in the near future.
But what happens if White answers 7...Qa5 with 8.Qd2, to keep the option of the bishop going to a3? This is what happens in the selected game, but the outcome is a disaster for White. Viktor Korchnoi pounces on an instructive opening error by his opponent, who appears to become confused between two similar lines of play.
The game reminds me of vintage Korchnoi counter attacks in the French that I saw as a boy in the 1970s- the great veteran can still rise to the heights on occasion. Have a look at the model game Felgaer-Korchnoi.
Winawer 4.Qd3 [C17]
Like Korchnoi, the Cuban GM Nogueiras is a player who has won lots of model games in the French- I especially recommend a study of his games in the Winawer Poisoned Pawn Variation. Here is an excellent game in which Nogueiras adopts what I regard as the strongest response to 4.Qd3 in the Winawer. White is wiped out in double quick time. Have a look at M.Levitt-Nogueiras.
Here Michael Adams is doing a lot of damage to the reputation of the line with Qb6 recommended by John Watson in Play the French. The recipe is 12.b3!
It is the sign of a strong player that he always stays one step ahead of his opponent's opening preparation. Thus at the Olympiad in Bled Adams answered 12...0-0 with 13.Bf4 rather than 13.Bb2 as he previously played. Black tried to escape from theory but was crushed by some alert play. You can find this game, plus an overview of 12.b3 by searching out Adams-Sebenik.
Tarrasch 3...Be7 4.Ngf3 [C03]
The main battle ground at the moment is the position reached in the diagram:
And now White has had some success with the retreat 11.Nb1!? This appears rather laid-back: White gives up the d4 pawn with a move that undevelops the knight! However, the allure of the c3 square for the knight is very strong, especially as Black has weakened b5 by going a7-a5. At the Olympiad White improved on the game Rublevsky-Lputian given on ChessPub and scored a convincing win. Still, I believe that with precise play Black should be OK-check out Nedev-Bauer.
Tarrasch 3...Be7 4.e5 c5 5.Qg4 [C03]
After 5...Kf8 this can lead to highly obscure play due to the imbalanced nature of the position: either White is better because the black king is poorly placed and the rook shut in the corner on h8, or else Black is prospering because he can dispose of White's space advantage with ...f7-f6 and release the dynamism in his centre pawns. This line contains danger for Black, but equally it's difficult to talk of an opening advantage for White when everything is so messy.
There was a mindbendingly complicated game at the Women's Olympiad in this variation; not far behind in complexity were a game by Radjabov and another by Akopian that I've mentioned in the notes. Check out Pokorna-Matveeva
In addition to Movsesian, the Advance variation from the White side now has two extremely strong champions- Shirov and Grischuk. Alexander Grischuk, the young Russian 2700 player, had a couple of eventful games with it at the recent Olympiad.
The first game makes the Advance seem very loose for White when Grischuk faces French stalwart Lputian. The Armenian GM plays an improvement recommended by theory and challenges Grischuk to come up with something good. You can see the outcome, along with two games by Shirov in the notes, by checking out Grischuk-Lputian.
In contrast the second game makes the Advance look like a lethal system. GM Graf- formerly known as Nenashev- comes up with a poor idea as Black in trying to escape from theory. He gives up his dark square bishop and then finds he cannot resist the pressure on his kingside. The result is a massacre in Grischuk-Graf.
Still overall 50% for Black in the Advance against a player rated 2702 isn't that bad!
In this month's game White plays an utterly boring opening which makes no attempt to keep the advantage-and wins in 23 moves! Not only that, he mates his opponent in a style worth showing to his family and friends. Alas, that's what usually happens when Black 'overheats' against the Exchange. It's not easy, but if you are Black you just have to develop your pieces quietly and wait for a positional mistake by White. Have a look at a game between two players with the names of GMs, though actually both are unrated: Tregubov-Belov.
Well that's it until next time, when I'll answer some emails from subscribers. I hope that 2003 is a great year for everyone, chess-wise and other-wise!