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In general, there’s little else but Blitz and Rapid games coming in, so I thought I’d select the more interesting French defenses from the recent World Open Game/60+10 online tournament on ICC to get some quality games. I’ve supplemented these with Blitz fodder containing instructive openings, regardless of whether the players start blundering under time pressure.

Download PGN of August ’20 French games

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Tarrasch 3...c5 4 exd5 Qxd5 5 Nf3 cxd4 6 Bc4 Qd6, 10...a6 [C07]

Mist, A - Hempstapat, A, World Open ICC 2020, followed the old main line of the 5 Nf3 cxd4 6 Bc4 Qd6 variation, until White deviated with the relatively rare move 12 Bd3:

This creates some unique problems and is probably just as good as 12 Bb3 or 12 Qe2. Black reacts poorly, and in a back-and-forth game White misses several winning opportunities but ultimately fails to convert.

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

After 4 Ngf3 Nf6 5 e5 Nfd7 6 c3 c5, White played 7 Be2 (instead of the usual 7 Bd3) 7...Nc6 8 0-0 in Demchenko, A - Shlyakhtenko, R, PNWCC Masters 2020:

One point is that if Black plays ...Qb6, White can defend the center with Nb3, since there’s no ...c4 fork on a bishop on d3. White got a little something from the opening, but not much, and then opened up a large advantage after some inaccuracies by his opponent.

Positional Winawer Variation 7 Nf3 b6 8 Bb5+ Bd7 [C19]

A traditional line was tested in Murzin, V -Checa, N, World Open 2020, after 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e5 c5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 bxc3 Ne7 7 Nf3 b6 8 Bb5+ Bd7 9 Bd3 Ba4 (I’ve put thematically-related games with 9...c4 in the notes) 10 0-0 Nbc6 11 Be3 c4 12 Be2:

Here Black initiated the well-known reorganization 12....h6 13 Nd2 (not the best move; the notes show alternate setups) 13...Kd7, intending ...Qg8-h7. This works to a charm but the game is spoiled by a blunder.

Ismagambetov, A - Krjukova, I, Titled Tuesday 2020, saw 9 Be2 instead, and in spite of not winning a tempo, Black played the same idea of ...c4 and ...Bd7:

Here White played 11 Ng5!? h6 12 Nh3, and Black continued with the plan above following 12...Kd7. This should have been equal, although this fighting game went back-and-forth until the usual disaster occurred at the end.

Positional Winawer Variation 7 Nf3 Qc7 8 a4 b6 9 Bb5+ Bd7 [C19]

Chandra, A - Lugovskoy, M, PNWCC Online Blitz 2020, went 7...Qc7 8 a4 b6 9 Bb5+ Bd7 10 Bd3:

Lugovskoy, who has several of the most important games in this line, played his specialty idea 10...Bc8!? here, simply intending to play ...Ba6 anyway. I’ve cited two other games in which he played this way.

Winawer Variation 6...Qc7 7 Qg4 f5 8 Qg3 [C18]

Kett, T - Grabinsky, J, Titled Tuesday 2020, is a reminder that one has to pay attention to direct tactics in every opening. After the moves 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e5 c5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 bxc3 Qc7 7 Qg4 f5 8 Qg3 Nc6 9 Nf3 cxd4 10 cxd4 Nge7, we have transposed to a normal position where White usually plays 11 Bd2, but perhaps hastily dashed off 11 Bd3!?:

This allows 11...Nxd4! 12 Nxd4 Qc3+, but for some reason White didn’t slow down to think here, and lost massive material following 13 Bd2?? Qxa1+ 14 Ke2 Qxd4. Instead, 13 Ke2! Would have been interesting and unclear.

Winawer 4 e5 Ne7 5 Qg4 c5 [C17]

Chasin, N - Metpally, J, World Open ICC 2020, provides a cautionary tale. After 4 e5 Ne7 5 Qg4 c5, White played 6 a3? and allowed 6...Qa5:

The position is already nearly lost for White, who has to try 7 Bd2. Instead, 7 Rb1? Bxc3+ 8 bxc3 Qxc3+ 9 Bd2 Qxc2 10 Rc1 Qg6 (or 10...Qe4+!) was just about hopeless.

Winawer Main 6...Qc7 7 Qg4 f6 [C18]

The Winawer main line with 6...Qc7 7 Qg4 f6 has never had a great reputation, but has also never been refuted.

In Cornejo, D - Borrego Estupinan, L, Rio Grande Domingo 2020, I try to give an overview of the state of theory by showing games and analysis from the diagrammed position. In the game itself, White played the rare 8 Bd3 (threatening Bxh7!), which shouldn’t lead to anything, but the game went off on a tangent until some major blunders decided the game in typical Blitz fashion.

2 Qe2 Variation [C00]

Peng, D - Checa, N, World Open ICC 2020, tested 2 Qe2 Be7 3 g3 d5 4 e5 c5 5 Bg2 Nc6, leading in some moves to this setup:

A fairly standard-looking position. White lashed out with 10 g4!?, which shouldn’t have achieved anything, but did provoke Black into an early error and produced positive chances for the first player.

Till next month, John

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