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The French was quite common in the US Championship and US Womens Championship games, so much so that, in addition to the games in this column, Ill be including more examples next month. The Tarrasch Variation was popular, and gets the bulk of this months attention.

To download the May '16 French games directly in PGN form, click here: Download Games

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Advance Variation 5...Bd7 6 a3 f6 [C02]

In Zatonskih-Gorti, St Louis 2016, Black tested the rather ambitious sequence 5Bd7 6 a3 f6, landing in this position:











Here Black is probably doing well enough with 10Nh6, but gave away the e5-outpost permanently by 10...fxe5? and never recovered.



Tarrasch 3...c5 4 Ngf3 cxd4 5 Nxd4 [C07]

The variation with 3c5 4 Ngf3 cxd4 5 Nxd4 tends to be rather slow after either 5Nc6 or 5Nf6. The latter move was seen in Robson-Chandra, St Louis 2016, and led to this well-known position:











White played a modest continuation and managed to get a minor advantage, from which position he outplayed his opponent. The opening is still harmless for Black with accurate play.


Tarrasch Universal System 8...g5 [C06]

Two games this month began with 3Be7 4 Ngf3 and went into the main line of the Universal System with ...Be7:











Weve seen this many times. In Bouwmeester-Kuijf, Netherlands 2016, Black played 9Ndxe5 and equalized with no real trouble against a fairly tame continuation by White.

In Chigayev-Shubin, St Petersburg 2016, Black played the more popular 9g4, but after 10 Nd4, he captured by 10Ncxe5 rather than the usual 10Ndxe5. Perhaps White should retain a modest edge with perfect play, but the move as a whole looks perfectly sound.


Tarrasch Variation 3...h6 [C03]

In the game Yip-Abrahamyan, St Louis 2016, Black played 3h6!?, a favorite in this column, and ended up in the traditional Universal system that arises from 3Nf6 rather than 3Be7. White came up with the unusual 9 Qe2!?, a kind of Milner-Barry Gambit theme:











Black came out of the opening well and built up a huge edge, but squandered it in approaching time trouble.


Tarrasch Guimard Variation 6 c3 f6 [C04]

Yip-Gorti, St Louis 2016, saw the Guimard Variation with 6 c3 f6 7 exf6 Qxf6, and here White played the unusual but reasonable 8 Nb3:











Both sides developed normally and an equal game resulted, after which White outplayed her opponent in the middlegame.


Tarrasch Variation 6...b6 [C06]

Yet another game from the U.S. Womens Championship, Bykovtsev-Zatonskih, St Louis 2016, tested the Tarrasch 3Nf6 variation with Bd3, Black using 6b6. This move was somewhat discredited many years ago, but revived recently by some new ideas.











From this position, the game continuation goes all the way back to the training match Kan-Botvinnnik in 1952!



Classical Steinitz Variation 7 Be3 cxd4 8 Nxd4 Qb6 [C11]

We havent looked at the pawn-grabbing idea 7 Be3 cxd4 8 Nxd4 Qb6 in the Steinitz recently. Its a little mysterious that White keeps trying to squeeze something out of this, given its drawish reputation, but if you look carefully you can see that at least Black has to be careful in various positions. The game Caruana-Robson, St Louis 2016, went down the main line that weve seen so often, and Robson chose the less popular move 15Qd8:











Caruana played slowly with 16 0-0 (instead of the usual 16 Bb6). After a new move by White, play became extremely complicated, but neither side could ever claim an advantage and the tactics resolved into a draw by perpetual check.


Till next month, John

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Please post you queries on the French Forum, or subscribers can write to me at johnwatson@chesspublishing.com if you have any questions or queries.