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This month we return to the 3...Be7 Tarrasch and some different tries by White. Then we look at a couple of irregular but important Winawer lines, and finish with an update on the Rubinstein.

Download PGN of April ’19 French games

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Tarrasch Variation 3...Be7 4 Ngf3 Nf6 5 e5 Nfd7 6 c3 c5 7 Be2 [C03]

Versus 3 Nd2, 3...Be7 remains a regular choice on the chess circuit. In the Universal System with 4 Ngf3 Nf6 5 e5 Nfd7 6 c3 (6 Bd3 Nc6 7 0-0!? Is examined in the notes to the main game) 6...c5, 7 Be2!? is interesting because, as opposed to 7 Bd3, it keeps the queen defending the d4 pawn and means that the handy move Nb3 won't lose a piece to ...c4. In Demchenko, A - Kindermann, S, Solingen 2019, the natural 7...Nc6 8 0-0 0-0 9 Re1 followed:

Here Black played 9...f6 (9..cxd4 10 cxd4 f6 is given in the notes), and a fairly thematic Tarrasch Defense position followed 10 exf6 Nxf6 11 Bd3 Qb6. There are a surprising number of games in this 7 Be2 line and I’ve cited ones that lead to original play.

Tarrasch Universal System 8...g5 [C06]

The main line Universal System with 7 Bd3 Nc6 8 0-0 g5!? Was tested (by transposition via 3...Nf6) in Guo, A - Thangavel, G, Schaumburg 2019. After 9 dxc5, Black chose 9...Nxc5 over the somewhat more popular 9...g4 and 9...Ndxe5.

There followed 10 Bb5 and after the slow move 10...a6?! 11 Bxc6 bxc6, White got space and superior development in return for Black’s center. I analyse better options for Black in the notes.

Tarrasch Variation 3...Be7 4 e5 c5 5 Qg4 Kf8 6 Ndf3 [C03]

After 3...Be7, 4 e5 continues to be important. A rather rare but dangerous setup for White goes 4...c5 5 Qg4 Kf8 6 Ndf3 Nc6 7 Bd3:

In Yip, C - Feng, M, St Louis 2019, White gets an early advantage and soon, a crushing position. Black has a number of ways to avoid falling into such trouble.

Tarrasch Variation 3...Be7 4 Ngf3 Nf6 5 e5 Nfd7 6 Bd3 c5 7 c3 b6 [C03]

The fianchetto system with 3...Be7 4 Ngf3 Nf6 5 e5 Nfd7 6 Bd3 c5 7 c3 b6 continues to be tested in master play. In Zelbel, P - Werle, J, Berlin 2019, White met 8 0-0 Ba6 with 9 Ne1:

This has become a fairly popular move, used by Adams, Howell, and Navarra, among others and it’s past time that I covered it here. White frees his f-pawn to move and feels that a centralized knight on d3 will be a strong piece. Arguably the drawback is that by not playing Bxa6, White hasn’t diverted Black’s knight to a6, so it can be centralized without loss of time.

Winawer Variation, Poisoned Pawn 8 Qxg7 Rg8 9 Qxh7 cxd4 10 Rb1 [C18]

I’m always surprised that in the Winawer Poisoned Pawn after 7 Qg4 Qc7 8 Qxg7 Rg8 9 Qxh7 cxd4, the move 10 Rb1!? isn’t played more often:

There’s no agreed-upon solution and very little theory compared to other continuations. Vokhidov, S - Pourramezanali, A, Tashkent 2019, explores the theory of this line.

Exchange Winawer Variation 5 Bd3 Nf6 6 a3 [C01]

After 4 exd5 exd5 5 Bd3 Nf6, 6 a3 isn’t played as often as 6 Nge2, but several players have used it to try to get Black to commit. Apart from 6..Be7, examined in the notes, the main line has been 6...Bxc3+ 7 bxc3 0-0 8 Nge2, and now 8...Nbd7 was played in Onischuk, V - Stupak, K, Skopje 2019:

This is solid and has held up well in practice. In most cases ...c5 will follow.

Rubinstein Variation 3...dxe4 4 Nxe4 Nd7 5 Nf3 Ngf6 6 Nxf6+ Nxf6 7 c3 [C10]

It’s always good to see what Georg Meier plays in the Rubinstein, and all the more so when White is Vachier Lagrave. Black is the first to deviate after 3 Nc3 dxe4 4 Nxe4 Nd7 5 Nf3 Ngf6 6 Nxf6+ Nxf6 7 c3 c5 8 Ne5 a6 9 Be3 with 9...cxd4 10 Bxd4 Qc7

This appears to be a very practical line, in which White may gain small edges in a theoretical sense, but nothing that can’t be neutralized over the board. See Vachier Lagrave, M - Meier, G, PRO Chess League 2019.

Another approach for White in the same line was seen in Aronian, L - Meier, G, Berlin 2019, where White deviated with 8 Bf4:

Objectively this might not lead to much against accurate defense, but in the game Black’s king got caught in the center and a nice miniature ensued.

Rubinstein Variation 3...dxe4 4 Nxe4 Nd7 5 Nf3 Ngf6 6 Nxf6+ Nxf6 7 Bd3 c5 8 0-0 [C10]

A position that has been reached periodically over many years can stem from 6 Nxf6+ Nxf6 7 Bd3 c5 8 0-0 cxd4 9 Nxd4 Bc5:

In Schmittdiel, E - Harff, M, Berlin 2019, this came about via 6 Bd3 c5 7 0-0 Nxe4 8 Bxe4 Nf6 9 Bd3 cxd4 10 Nxd4 Bc5:. The line is considered harmless, but I haven’t covered it before, and in view of its frequency I will do so here.

Till next month, John

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