ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
Back to main lines this month, or at any rate variations with a long history which deserve a new look.

Download PGN of August ’19 French games

>> Previous Update >>

Advance Variation 5...Qb6 6 a3 c4 7 Nbd2 Na5 8 Be2 [C18]

A few months ago we looked at some games in the main line with 3 e5 c5 4 c3 Nc6 5 Nf3 Qb6 6 a3 c4 7 Nbd2 Na5 , with Black’s main idea consisting of ...Bd7/...Qc7/...Ne7-c8-b6, an idea that worked well for Black in many contests. In Apicella, M - Ludvig, Re, Brest 2019, play continued 8 Be2 Bd7 9 Rb1:

In both the main game and the embedded one, White eventually gained an advantage and won. Although that was hardly the inevitable result of the opening, I thought it good to show that White as well as Black has chances in this line and that it remains an interesting line for both sides.

Tarrasch Variation 3...c5 4 Ngf3 cxd4 5 Nxd4 Nc6 6 Bb5 [C07]

We’ve seen a number of games with 3 Nd2 c5 4 Ngf3 cxd4 5 Nxd4 Nc6 6 Bb5 Bd7 7 Nxc6 bxc6 8 Bd3:

Largely these games have gone well for Black’s center, but if White plays well there are chances for both sides, as illustrated by White’s win in Navarra, D - Vitiugov, N, Riga 2019.

Tarrasch 3...c5 4 exd5 Qxd5 mainline, 10...a6 11 Re1 Qc7 [C07]

Svane, F - Berg, K, Aarhus 2019, follows the main 3 Nd2 c5 4 exd5 Qxd5 5 Ngf3 cxd4 6 Bc4 Qd6 main line through 10...a6 11 Re1 Qc7, and now White played the slightly unusual 12 Bd3:

This is not even mentioned in several well-known sources; but the move has been around for a while and has done reasonably well, attracting the interest of players such as Harikrishna, Mamedov, and Fedoseev. In the game, both players miss an early elementary tactic for White, and then White wins anyway without much resistance.

Winawer Poisoned Pawn Variation 11...dxc3 12 Qd3 d4 13 Rb1 [C18]

The main lines of the Poisoned Pawn Winawer can still produce superbly exciting chess. Turgut, A - Wan.J, Orlando 2019, tested Black’s queenside Fianchetto in response to an early Rb1, arriving at this position:

A wild game with extended back-and-forth complications ensued, ultimately winning the brilliancy prize for the tournament.

Winawer Defence 4 a3 Bxc3+ 5 bxc3 dxe4 6 Qg4 Nf6 7 Qxg7 Rg8 8 Qh6 [C15]

The variation with 4 a3 Bxc3+ 5 bxc3 dxe4 6 Qg4 Nf6 7 Qxg7 Rg8 8 Qh6 is never fully resolved and serves as an occasional weapon for some players of White. One of the main lines begins 8...c5:

I give a limited survey of games and ideas from this position, but there is much more to investigate. In the game Shabalov, A - Shibut, M, Orlando 2019, a rather modest plan by White yields great dividends.

Winawer Defence 4...b6 5 a3 Bf8 6 Bb5+ c6 7 a4 [C16]

There are two recent French repertoires that recommend lines with 4...b6 (after 1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e5) and 4...Qd7. These moves were investigated extensively a few decades ago and Black gradually lost interest, so it’s natural that players are looking at them anew with increased computer power. So far, however, I haven’t seen convincing improvements upon the remedies that I grew up with.

One of the most direct replies to 4...b6 is 5 a3 Bf8 6 Bb5+. In Martins, C - Roselli Mailhe, B, Sao Paulo 2019, Black played 6...c6 (I also examine 6...Bd7) 7 a4 a5!?:

with ideas of queenside expansion. In the game this works out reasonably well, but White should have tried to achieve the ideal French structure with a pawn on c3 and bishop on c2 or b1, which is more testing.

The alternative 7...Ba6 with the idea ...Bb5 and ...c5 hasn’t worked out much better. In Martic, I - Zlatanovic, B, Kragujevac 2019, White played 8 Nf3 Ne7:

and now 9 Ne2 Bb5 10 Bb3 followed by c3, 0-0, and Bc2 with a long-term advantage. White won quite smoothly.

Winawer Defence 4...b6 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 bxc3 Qd7 7 Qg4 f5 8 Qg3 [C16]

4...b6 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 bxc3 Qd7 and 4...Qd7 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 bxc3 b6 are the same line. Jacobson, B - Abrahamyan, T, St Louis 2019, tested the traditional main line 7 Qg4 f5 8 Qg3 Ba6 9 Bxa6 Nxa6:

10 Ne2 is arguably the most challenging move here (but see the notes), when Abrahamyan played what might be a new move: 10...h6!?. In the notes, I also discuss 10...Kf7 and 10...Nb8 11 Nf4 Kf7. In the game, Black achieves a reasonable position out of the opening, but I’m not convinced that White can’t do better.

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.