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I've presented fewer games this month. All of them are Tarrasch Defences except for one Hecht-Reefschlaeger game, to which my attention was drawn by a fan. The Tarrasch is still a popular opening at the top levels, and much of the theory has been solidifying. White had good success this last month in games with the Tarrasch (when you include those in the notes), but there have been no blockbuster improvements in the main lines.

Download PGN of February '11 French games

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Tarrasch Variation 3...c5 [C07]

We've looked before at White's 4 Ngf3 line versus the 3...c5 Tarrasch, played in part to avoid the 4 exd5 Qxd5 lines. This move won a set of four high-level games this month, although that may have had more to do with the quality of Black's play than the status of theory. In Vallejo Pons - Zhu Chen, Gibraltar Masters Caleta 2011, the players tested 3.Nd2 c5 4.Ngf3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Nc6 6.Bb5 Bd7 7.Nxc6 Bxc6 8.Bxc6+ bxc6 9.c4 dxe4:

Here Vallejo Pons made the mysterious decision to enter the line with 10 Qa4, which theory rates favourably for Black. His play did nothing to dispel that notion, although Black miscalculated horribly at one point and lost. In another game this month, White played the modest but correct 10 Nxe4, and Black equalised.

Instead of 5...Nc6, D Howell-Ledger, 4NCL Hinckley Island 2011, saw the move 5...Nf6:

The game went 6.exd5 (I give some notes on 6.Bb5+) 6...Qxd5 7.Nb5 Na6. This has been popular recently.

Tarrasch Variation 3...Nf6 with 9. Nf4 [C06]

A highly theoretical line that won't go away is 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Bd3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ne2 cxd4 8.cxd4 f6 9.Nf4 Nxd4. In Illner - Suez Panama, Gibraltar Masters Caleta 2011, the next 14 moves were theory, beginning with the standard 10.Qh5+ Ke7 11.exf6+ Nxf6 12.Ng6+ hxg6 13.Qxh8 Kf7:

In spite of going into a main line, Black didn't seem to know the details of the opening and lost quickly.

Instead of 9...Nxd4, Black tried the little-used 9...fxe5 in Lanzani - Sengupta, Seville 2011:

This doesn't seem sufficient for equality, although perhaps it might throw the opponent off. Indeed, White didn't react optimally. In general, the first player should expect a small but persistent advantage.

Tarrasch Variation 3...Nf6 mainline [C06]

Black's most popular line in the 3...Nf6 Tarrasch has been 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Bd3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ne2 cxd4 8.cxd4 f6 9.exf6 Nxf6 10.Nf3 Bd6 11.0-0 Qc7:

I'm not going to review these lines again in depth, but in Oleksienko - Gupta, New Delhi 2011, I'll point to a few recent games of interest.

In Simacek - Soucek, Prague 2011, Black chooses a slightly unusual sideline in the 'long' variation beginning with 11...0-0 (instead of 11...Qc7) 12.Bf4 Bxf4 13.Nxf4 Ne4:

The moves 14.Ne2 and 14.Qc1 are both tested. The former move leads to a famous exchange sacrifice by Black, who makes a rare move soon thereafter.

Hecht-Reefschlaeger Variation [C10]

I was asked about a line in the Hecht-Reefschaeger which begins 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.Bd3. Now Black can play 5...Nb4 (as opposed to 5...Bb4 6.0-0 Bxc3 7.exd5!) 6.Bg5:

In Polzin - Zaragatski, Bundesliga, Mulheim 2011, Black played 6...dxe4!?, allowing White to maintain a space advantage. In the notes, I consider 6...Be7 as an alternative.

Till next month, John

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