What's new in the French Defence
Welcome to this month's Update. I hope your chess is going well- here to help you are ten of the latest developments in the French Defence.
An important improvement on move ten
The recent Russian Championship was an enthralling contest which featured lots of top rate games in the French Defence. Here for example is a great win by Dolmatov in a variation which up until now was looking rather uncomfortable for Black. Check out Yemelin - Dolmatov.
The dangers of passive play
The first illustrative game is an object lesson in the dangers of playing too passively. White exchanges off pieces at every opportunity, but he always gets slightly the worse of the deal. In the end all the tiny advantages that Black accrues lead to one big advantage, which in turn leads to checkmate. Here is Abdelnabbi - Lputian.
Black has less luck in our other example of 3...Be7. After 4.e5 Farago tries to prevent the aggravation that follows 4...c5 5.Qg4, but 4...Nh6
just looks dubious. There is no passive play by White in Glek - Farago.
Latest developments in the critical Mainline
You may recall that in this life or death variation the game Todorovic-Kraai won the June game of the Month competition. Here we examine another game from the First Saturday Series in Hungary, as well as two other noteworthy ideas: one for Black, one for White. Have a look at Pilgaard - Jakab.
A new idea in Kasparov's variation
Kasparov used the surprise weapon 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Nf3 Ngf6 6.Nxf6+ Nxf6 7.c3 c5 8.Ne5!? to beat Ponomariov last year in a critical encounter at Linares. You can find this lively game on ChessPub. I wondered at the time how the World No.1 had intended to keep it sharp and interesting if Black had played 8...a6!:
as most roads lead to the quick exchange of queens. Now having seen a miniature game by one of the strongest juniors in the world I think I know what Kasparov might have planned.
Check out Murariu - Jakab.
Mixed fortunes for Black in the Topalov System
The check on b5 in the variation 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 dxe4 5.Nxe4 Nbd7 6.Nf3 h6 7.Nxf6+ Nxf6 8.Bxf6 Qxf6 9.Bb5+!?:
leads to some surprisingly dynamic play- I have designated it the Topalov System as it first became well known when the Bulgarian GM used it to beat Anand. It can also be reached via a Rubinstein move order: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Nf3 Ngf6 6.Bg5 h6 7.Nxf6+ Nxf6 8.Bxf6 Qxf6 9.Bb5+.
In the first example White wins in direct attacking style, but look out for Gurevich's interesting idea in the notes to Hracek - Mohr.
In the second game Black manages to develop a lot more counterplay thanks to his incisive action in the centre. Here is Fontaine - Vaisser.
Classical Variation 4.Bg5
Morozevich at his most violent
The Russian Super star comes up with a fresh approach to handling the Classical Variation as Black: forget putting pressure on d4, he wants to mate White! The fact that he wins in less than 30 moves is a testament to the enormous dynamism of his play. Check out Inarkiev - Morozevich.
Morozevich can win as White or Black
It is interesting to see what a razor sharp 2700 player like Alexander Morozevich comes up with against 6...Qa5:
after all this is an attempt to avoid the more double edged mainlines. At the Russian Championships we got the answer: a pawn sacrifice which directs play into the lines of the Kasparov Gambit. Check out some high class butchery in Morozevich - Shipov.
The Winawer Mainline 7.Qg4 0-0 8.Bd3 Nbc6
A decisive novelty on Move 22!
It's somehow comforting to know it's not just me who gets blown away by novelties in this variation- see my game with Rowson in the July Update. In this month's game Etienne Bacrot, the superbly prepared young French superstar, comes to the board with what Jim Plaskett calls in his book Playing to Win a D.O.I- a decisive opening innovation. Bacrot's opponent has no chance at all despite his 2571 rating. Plaskett argues that it is the possibility of being hit by a D.O.I. that stops chess being a true sport: at which point did Vaisser suddenly become a weak player?
In any case, Black has a new problem to solve in this line. Have a look at White's deliciously violent, but well rehearsed play in the game Bacrot - Vaisser.
Well that's all for this month. Good luck with your chess: I hope you manage to apply one or two ideas from this website in your own games!