ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
White scores 6-2 in this month's batch, but Black holds his own overall in the opening phases. I've shown a combination of main lines and lesser but legitimate variations.

Download PGN of August '12 French games

>> Previous Update >>

Advance Variation 6 a3 [C02]

The big contest in the Advance Variation this month was Svidler - Vitiugov, Moscow (Russian Ch) 2012. In the main line with 5...Qb6 6 a3, Vitiugov's book on the French analyses 6...Nh6 and 6...Bd7; but in this game he shows admirable flexibility and plays the relatively rare 6...Nge7:

True, 7 b4 cxd4 might transpose to the 6...Nh6 line, but limiting White's options. Svidler played 7 dxc5 instead. He got in terrible trouble, but Vitiugov missed a series of immediate wins and somehow only managed to draw.

Tarrasch Variation - Guimard [C04]

I haven't paid much attention to the Guimard of late, but it continues to be used by strong players with respectable results.

Here, in Marciano - Sermier, Swiss TCh 2012, Black neglects his development by 9...Qb6?!. White wins in classic form by sacrificing a pawn for superior pawn structure and development.

Mainline 3...Nf6 Tarrasch 11...Qc7 [C06]

Przybylski - Musialkiewicz, Police 2012, follows the main 3...Nf6 Tarrasch line with 11...Qc7 that I recommend in my book, with White choosing 12 g3. Instead of exchanging on d6, White bolstered f4 with 14 Qd2:

Now Black played the thematic equaliser 14...e5 and soon got a serious advantage, but ultimately faltered.

Seger - Arun Prasad, Pardubice 2012, went into a critical main line following 12 Bg5:

As so often, Black got adequate compensation for the exchange and even stood better. In the notes I show an important suggestion from my new book.

Classical Variation with 4 e5, 7...Be7 [C11]

The Classical Variation continues to attract more top players on both sides than any other French variation. Inarkiev-M Gurevich, Konya 2012, featured the 8 dxc5 line. A standard position arose:

I'm not a big fan of the way Black plays it, but it should have been good enough for equality. As things went, White won a pawn and converted in crisp fashion.

Caruana - Meier, Dortmund 2012, is an example of how even a top player can have trouble playing in the main line of the Classical with 4 e5. After a slightly irregular move order, the players went into a position from the relatively well-known game Karjakin-Carlsen, Wijk aan Zee 2010:

Caruana improved upon Karjakin's play by choosing 13 dxc5, but Black had easy equality and even gained the better game when White mysteriously gave him the bishop pair.

Hecht-Reefschläger [C18]

Three high-level games this month featured the Hecht-Reefschläger with 3 Nc3 Nc6. The main game Volokitin - Kuzubov, Kiev (Ukranian Ch) 2012, and the games in its notes include all three, with two wins and a loss for White (and a lower-rated game won by Black as well). In the main game, Black set up a position used by Petrosian and Bronstein in the old days, although I really don't trust it completely:

White won convincingly when Black failed to get central counterplay. Nevertheless, the overall results for 3...Nc6 have been quite good recently, and no one has found a really convincing way to get the advantage against it.

Other Variations - Wing Gambit [C00]

We don't often see very strong players using the French Wing Gambit. And it's particularly strange to see it played by the French Defence expert Emmanuel Berg, in an important playoff game, no less. Well, E Berg-Tikkanen, Falun (Swedish Ch) 2012, was after all a blitz game, and for the knowledgeable player a good surprise weapon.

Here Black chose 5...f5, with which I'm not thrilled, but Berg played the anti-positional 6 exf6 and allowed his opponent free play as well as an extra pawn. After understandable mistakes by both sides, the game was drawn.

Till next month, John

>> Previous Update >>

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