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Hi everyone,

Welcome to this month's update. Here you will find improvements on move 2 and 23.

Download PGN of September '04 French games

We'll start with something not altogether serious.


How to draw as Black versus a Grandmaster

1 e4 e6 2 d4 b5!?:

I am indebted for this idea to M.Herbold, rated 2129, who dared to play this unbelievably bad looking move against Grandmaster Plachetka rated 2455, and had the GM fighting for a draw! Looking up 2...b5 on my database I was amazed when a game by Bent Larsen flashed before my eyes, but I calmed down when I realised that the position in his game had been reached after 1.e4 e6 2.d3 b5 3.d4- it was Black to move.

Well here is a weapon that you can use in blitz games and against the odd GM if you are feeling lucky. Check out Plachetka - Herbold.

French Advance

More problems for Black in the Wade Variation

It's down to Earth in the second game. If Black meets the Advance with Qb6 and an early Bd7 and Bb5 he had better be careful, as he is seriously delaying his development. There is a useful warning in Shabalov - Privman.

Tarrasch 3...Be7

The Romanishin System is alive and kicking.

Here my former chess pupil Thomas Rendle has kindly sent me some analysis on one of the most crucial lines in this System. You can check it out in Adams - Rendle.

Tarrasch Universal System with Ngf3

A difficult line for Black

After 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.c3 c5 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.Ngf3 Black would like to fianchetto with 7...g6, but then 8.h4! has caused him a lot of problems:

It is possible that Mikhail Gurevich has found the best antidote, which you can find in the notes to Hutchinson - Bigg.


Haldane Hack Revisited.

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Qh5

The chief practitioner of this line, Andrew Smith, has written an article for the UK magazine Chess. He included some interesting/amusing experiences he has had with the Haldane, though no deep analysis. Here are a few more of my thoughts on the Haldane in Smith - Hanley.

McCutcheon Variation

An offbeat variation becomes trendy

Ten years ago this was regarded as an offbeat, rather dubious variation: all you had to do was turn to the relevant page of BCO or MCO, learn a paragraph of opening theory, and then you were guaranteed the advantage as White.

When Ivanchuk tried it as Black against Anand at Linares in 1992 it was considered an eccentric opening choice, and the result of the game- a crushing win for Anand- seemed to confirm that you can't play like this at the highest levels of chess.

Then, around five or so years ago, some Russians with Elos around the 2550 mark started adopting this 'inferior' opening and scored some excellent fighting wins with it. Indeed, it seems to have overtaken its blood brother the Winawer Poison Pawn Variation in popularity, at least at international level. Such a state of affairs would have been unthinkable when I wrote Mastering the French with Andrew Harley back in 1997.

Logically speaking, there is no reason why the McCutcheon shouldn't be as effective as the Winawer Variation. But the question of course is whether it stands up to analytical scrutiny. The latest attempt by White to bash it is with 6.Be3!:

White is contemptuous of the pin on c3 and invites Black to hit the knight again with 6...Ne4, when White already appears to be facing disaster. But the counterattack against g7 with 7.Qg4! leads to a very tense game. I have included three examples from top class chess: Zontakh - Volkov, Kurnosov - Volkov and Smirnov - Alavkin.

Winawer Mainline: 7.Qg4 0-0

Yet another attempt to mate the black king

Theory stretches ever deeper in the Winawer mainline, but as a consolation long theoretical lines often lead to more fighting games than off beat variations. Perhaps the players don't start thinking until move 20, but when they do, they usually have a lot to think about.

This month Magnus Carlsen is involved in a short but exciting tussle in the Norwegian Championship. Here is Carlsen - Ostenstad.

Winawer Mainline: 7.Qg4 Qc7

An improvement on move 23

Here an attempt has been made to inject new life into what has been considered a 'played out' variation. Have a look at Paramonov - Neelotpal.

Well it's goodbye again until next month. Have fun with your chess!!

Best Wishes, Neil