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This month I examine the Advance Variation, in particular the Euwe Variation, which goes 3 e5 c5 4 c3 Nc6 5 Nf3 Bd7. This has been a weapon against the Advance for numerous high-level French players over the years, and is the recommendation of Aagaard & Ntirlis in their French book.
Then I look at variations with the Winawer, including several positional lines and two new games with Negi's anti-Poisoned Pawn remedy 8 Bd3.

Download PGN of December '14 French games

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Advance - Euwe Variation 5...Bd7 6 Be2 [C02]

The game Ni Hua-Nevednichy, Bazna 2014, featured the traditional answer to the Euwe, 6 Be2. Nevednichy's reply 6...Rc8 is certainly not the most popular one, but has been used by strong players and done reasonably well:

In the game, White played Na3 and after ...cxd4/cxd4, Black gave up the bishop pair and dark squares with ...Bxa3 in return for a big queenside positional advantage.

Volokitin - Ivanisevic, Doha 2014, examines one of the most important lines after 5...Bd7: 6 Be2 Nge7 7 0-0 Ng6:

Here White chose the plan with g3 and h4, with the very original idea of delaying h5 so that Black's knight couldn't reroute quickly to f7 after ...Nh8 and ...f6.

After 6 Be2, Black's king's knight can also go to the traditional and safer square f5:

In Ponizil - Novotny, Prague 2014, White struck out with 8 g4!?, but due to kingside weaknesses was unable to get an advantage. 8 Bd3 and 8 dxc5 (as in a recent game I cite) are doubtless preferable.

Advance Variation 5...Qb6 6 a3 Nh6 [C02]

The more popular 5...Qb6 main line got a test in Shirov - Schenk, Bundesliga 2014-2015.

White employed Sveshnikov's idea of Bxh6 and Ra2, but after allowing a promising pseudo-sacrifice that Black didn't play, he went very wrong and allowed Black an easy advantage. Not surprisingly, Shirov found a way to complicate matters and win, but his opening is not to be recommended.

Winawer Defence 7 Nf3/h4 ...b6 plan [C19]

Radovanovic - Drasko, Ulcinj 2014, saw the popular 7 h4, which quickly turned positional after 7...Qc7 8 Nf3 b6 9 h5 h6:

Here White tried 10 a4 Ba6 11 Bb5+, which ultimately led to queenside liquidation and a drawish position.

The traditional Bb5+ idea, retreating the bishop after ...Bd7, occurred in Wang Jue-Goh Weiming, Doha 2014:

After an equal opening and early middlegame, White outplayed Black and achieved a dominant position; but the former author of this column deserves credit for his daring moves in the midst of time trouble, which confused his opponent enough to turn the tide.

Winawer Hook-Portisch Variation [C18]

A major variation of the Hook-Portisch Winawer that seems to appear as often as any other includes the moves Qb1, Ne2-f4 (or Nh3-f4), g3, and Be3.

In almost all games with this setup by both sides, White plays h5 and Black plays ...h6 (usually earlier). But in David - Bruno, Boscotrecase 2014, White leaves the pawn on h4, which creates a different set of problems for Black. I rather like this idea, and it doesn't seem to cost White anything because h5 can usually be played later.

Winawer Variation 7 Qg4 Qc7 8 Bd3 main line - 11...Qxe5 12 h4 [C18]

As mentioned last month, in the main 7 Qg4 Qc7 line, the move 8 Bd3 bypasses the Poisoned Pawn Variation and is undergoing a revival due to Parimarjan Negi's recommendation in his 1 e4 repertoire book.

In Merry - Mason, Hinckley Island 2014, Black followed the main line up to 11...Qxe5 12 h4:

He then grabbed the g-pawn with 12...Rxg2?!, which is complicated but in the end appears to be just a mistake.

From the diagram, Jackson - Pert, Hinckley Island 2014, saw the normal and probably best move 12...Nd7, leading after 13 Bf4 Qf6 14 Bg5 Qh8 15 Qxh8 Rxh8 16 Nc3 to this position:

Already there have been quite a few tests of this position. Black followed a recommendation of mine from Play the French 4 and got an equal game, but there are plenty of options to be explored for both sides.

Till next month, John

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