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Welcome to the March 2009 French Update. Over the past 11 years I've done no less than 114 French updates here at chesspublishing, so after this month I'm going to take a break. Thanks to everyone who has subscribed to the site over the years, and also thanks to everyone who has sent me analysis and mainly positive comments. I hope you've picked up one or two useful ideas, or at least enjoyed the games.

To download the March '09 French games directly in PGN form, click here: Download Games

Tarrasch 3.Nd2 Be7 4.Bd3

A delayed Greek Gift

First up is 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Be7 4.Bd3 c5 5.dxc5 Nf6 6.Qe2 0-0 7.Ngf3 a5 8.h4!?:

White's play is based on the principle that the threat is stronger than the execution. Instead he could introduce the idea of a Greek Gift Sacrifice at once with 8.e5 Nfd7 9.h4, but Berbatov hopes to make better use of the e4-e5 move by keeping it hanging over Black's head. You can see how it works out- and an amazing brainstorm by Black- by clicking on Berbatov-Rusev.

Guimard 3.Nd2 Nc6

The Guimard, Chinese version

Here after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nc6 4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.e5 Nd7 we look at both 6.Be2 and 6.Bb5. It's great to see that the young superstar Hou Yifan is championing the French as Black. An interesting moment was reached in her Guimard game after 15 moves:

White had played impeccably according to text books on positional play, which no doubt would accuse Hou Yifan of treachery towards the e5 square. However, there are many openings in which Black is willing to endure a centre weak point in return for an otherwise solid structure and healthy development. You can see how it unfolded in Fierro Baquero-Hou Yifan.

In our second game, German GM Florian Handke plays a brilliant attack as White after his opponent fiddles around with his knights more than is permissible even in the Guimard. Here is Handke-Hoffmann.

Tarrasch 3.Nd2 c5 4.exd5 Qxd5

One slip is fatal in modern chess

The next game demonstrates once again that modern openings systems are so sophisticated that you can't afford to get a single detail wrong. Arik Braun is a strong and solid young GM, but he never has a chance after his opening slip up in Bijaoui-Braun.

In general, Black has been having some problems in the mainline here, so we'll take a look at the sideshow 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.exd5 Qxd5 5.Ngf3 cxd4 6.Bc4 Qd8!?:

A very solid queen retreat. Classically speaking, Black is three tempi down, as White has three pieces developed and has the move to boot. However, there are no weaknesses in the black pawn structure and White has no centre pawns left to charge forwards.

In the event it is Black's pawns that hurl themselves at the white king in Szabo-Lysyj.

Classical 4.e5

The perils of slow play in a sharp system

Let's take a look at 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Bc5 9.Qd2 0-0 10.0-0-0 a6 11.Nb3 b6!?:

The black bishop stands its ground on c5. It isn't often that a player rated 2388 beats a player rated 2606 with Black, unless the stronger player makes a serious mistake [or the 2388 is in fact a little child, when it becomes an almost normal result]. However, in this example the black attack quickly becomes irresistible after some inappropriately slow play by White in Berg-Marinkovic.

Kasparov's opening ideas are still being used in the chess world: indeed they have become an intrinsic part of theory. Here is one example which leads to a slugfest in Georgiadis-Berczes.

Winawer Mainline 7.Qg4

The French-killer goes about his business

In all the years I've been doing the updates on this site, Anand has stood out as the French-killer par excellence. All the top French Defence players in the world have been soundly trounced by him, usually in more than one encounter. Here we see him add Super GM scalp to his record in Anand-Ivanchuk.

Finally, GM Sulskis has played sharply with 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 Ne7 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 c5 7.Qg4 0-0 8.Bd3 Nbc6 9.Qh5 Ng6 10.Nf3 Qc7 11.h4?:

Some years ago the inventive Jonathan Rowson surprised your author with this aggressive move and won in attractive style. You can find the game in the archives. It was a good weapon for that game, but forewarned is forearmed, and a sacrifice of this type cannot hope to succeed against an opponent who has had the chance to analyse it on a computer. It involves an unsound double pawn sacrifice of a forcing, rather than positional nature, and if Black avoids the pitfalls he has at the very least a draw.

You will see what I mean if you check out Sulskis- Apicella.

Well that's all for now. I hope you enjoyed the update but above all remember to have fun with your chess!

All the best, Neil

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