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I've seriously neglected the Classical Variation (3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Bg5 Be7) in this column, so this month I'm going to investigate it by means of various recent games. Black seems to have a theoretically adequate game in the old main line with 5 e5 Nfd7 6 Bxe7, even if some players will probably find it easier to play for White in practice (as statistics indicate). That leads into the Alekhine-Chatard Attack with 6 h4, which remains a fascinating byline.

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Classical Variation 4 Bg5 Be7 - Anderssen's 5 Bxf6 [C13]

5 e5 is played in the great majority of games. Instead, 5 Bxf6 Bxf6 6 Nf3 is Anderssen's old line:

This direct attacking plan contains some venom, but Losev - Nikolenko, Moscow 2012, and the notes illustrate an easy way to handle it.

6 Bxe7 Qxe7 7 f4 [C14]

The main line with 6 Bxe7 Qxe7 7 f4 appeared numerous times, of course:

There are two main move here. With 7...a6 Black prevents Nb5 (which is probably not necessary), but more importantly, he sets up ...c5 and ...Nc6 followed by ...b5 as early as possible, trying to disturb the queenside without spending a tempo on ...0-0. Horvath - Karthikeyan, Canberra 2012, shows some typical play.

In Guseinov - Nakhbayeva, Tashkent 2012, Black played 7...0-0 and the game went directly into a main line:

I've given some theoretical background here. Black seems to stand okay, but check out the Sutovsky game with 12 Bd3 and 13 Qe3.

Ramnath - Ulibin, New Delhi 2012, went a different direction with an early ...f5 (...f6 is the same thing, since White plays exf6) and 0-0:

An even game throughout, until a major blunder and some mistakes (transcription errors?) at the end.

Alekhine-Chatard Attack 6 h4 Bxg5 [C13]

This brings us to the Alekhine-Chatard Attack (6 h4), which remains very popular. We've seen it extensively in ChessPublishing, but neglected some important moves. Acceptance of the pawn by 6...Bxg5 is still considered sound, but has declined in popularity due to the difficulty of defence and more attractive alternatives.

In Sychev - Obolenskikh, Moscow 2012, White played the traditional 8 Nh3 (instead of 8 Qd3) 8...Qe7, and now 9 Qg4 (instead of 9 Nf4, when 9...Nc6 can be answered by either 10 Qg4 or 10 Qd3). He stands better throughout, finds a sacrificial idea, and has success against his higher-rated opponent.

Alekhine-Chatard Attack 6...0-0 [C13]

6...0-0 is another important way to meet the A-C Attack:

As Wei Ming points out, this is recommended by both Ziegler and Moskalenko, which in and of itself suggests that it's worthwhile. I do wonder if Black gets enough winning chances, and on the other side of the ledger, whether White can scare up enough play even if he cedes Black counterplay.

The first game, Van Riemsdijk-Liu, Queenstown 2012, is a brave attempt by White to establish an attacking position without many pieces yet in play by means of 7 f4!?:

This has been tried only a few times before. The problem seems to be that after ...f6 within the next few moves, Black gains too many open lines to be in any trouble, and can even gain an advantage if White isn't careful. In the game, however, Black allows a tactic and his position collapses.

A wild position, already fairly well-known, arises in Bezzubenkov - Yuzhakov, Satka 2012:

Wei Ming analysed this line at some length in Vorobiev-Rychagov in the Archives, and this game confirms its drawish character in the most tactical lines. In fact, nothing terribly critical is added here. He suggested a possible improvement for White (which I've reproduced here), and the game itself is an example of what happens when Black himself gets too ambitious.

Alekhine-Chatard Attack 6...h6 [C13]

Another move which hasn't been featured on ChessPublishing but is played relatively often is 6...h6. In Van den Doel-Hovhanisian, Prinsenstad 2012, White played the 7 Bxe7 Qxe7 main line:

I've imbedded some games and analysis to get you started. Overall, I see Black achieving equality or something very close to it, but without many positive prospects. Perhaps something similar could be said about the Classical Variation as a whole.

There haven't been any recent games with 6...h6 7 Be3, which I consider very important. So I've gone back to last year's Kogan - Gleizerov, Alghero 2011, in which this basic position was reached:

White has three main moves here and I've tried to give some analysis to each. Either White is very slightly better or it's dead equal; but in general Black has more to be careful about.

Till next month, John

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