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In compiling this column, I kept running across games from December or early January that best represented the line I was looking at, so you'll see a number of main games from that time. There are always far more important games than can be reported, of course. This time, along with some of the usual suspects, I've tackled a few lines that have been neglected in previous columns.

Download PGN of February '13 French games

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Advance Variation 5...Nh6 [C02]

I am very pleased to receive a contribution of two annotated games from our erstwhile French columnist on ChessPublishing, Kevin Goh. Kevin continues to play some of the most instructive and/or exciting French Defences that are out there, and these are no exception. He is listed under Goh Wei Ming in the Archives as a player, and 'Wei Ming' as an annotator.

Yap Ki -Goh Wei Ming, Singapore 64th National Championships 2012, tests the move 5...Nh6 after 4 c3 Nc6 5 Nf3:

I have undoubtedly overexposed this move to the readers, since I have advocated it in books, first in Dangerous Weapons: the French and then in Play the French 4. Kevin plays a slightly strange interpretation, but reaches a fairly typical French position and outplays his opponent. His notes are excellent, and I've made a few brief comments.

Advance Variation 4...Qb6 planning ...Bb5 [C02]

The line 3...c5 4 c3 Qb6 5 Nf3 Bd7 (actually 4...Bd7 5 Nf3 Qb6 in this case) was tested in Motylev - Kovalev, Warsaw 2012. After 6 Bd3 cxd4, White chose 7 Nxd4:

This is probably the most challenging idea, preventing ...Bb5, and has scored well over the years. It does so here, although I think White misses the correct move order for an opening advantage.

Winawer Variation 7 h4 [C18]

The positional Winawer with 7 h4 continues to fascinate. Steel - Goh Wei Ming, Istanbul 2012, is another nice game by Kevin, which I've given with his notes.

Here Kevin tries 8...f6!?, a move I suggest in PTF4. A nice sacrificial battle results.

Portisch-Hook 6...Qa5 [C18]

Another 7 h4 line is seen in Andriasian - Movsisian, Yerevan 2013. It turns into a Portisch-Hook Variation:

This type of position has proven playable for Black, who outplays his opponent. A miniature huge upset appears in the notes.

Sipila - Socko, Stockholm 2013, comes directly from the Portisch-Hook move order 6...Qa5 7 Bd2 Qa4. After 8 Qg4 Kf8, White foregoes the traditional 9 Qd1 for the more adventurous 9 Nf3:

After 9...Ne7, this has transposed into the fairly well-known line 6...Ne7 7 Qg4 Kf8 8 Nf3 Qa5 9 Bd2 Qa4. I think White has chances for a slight advantage in the variations which follow, but rich and complicated positions abound in any case, and all three results are possible.

Classical Variation with 4 e5, 7...Qb6 [C11]

Jakovenko - Nepomniachtchi, Moscow (Blitz) 2012, is another game from last month which I've decided to use to illustrate a line I've neglected, namely, the Steinitz with 7...Qb6 8 Na4 Qa5+ 9 c3, and now 9...b6, which has become a very important alternative to 9...c4 and 9...cxd4.

There's an awful lot going on in this position; as far as I can tell, Black is holding his own. The notes are arguably more important than the game.

7...cxd4 8 Nxd4 Qb6 [C11]

Another line for Black that has periodically looked to be refuted is 7...cxd4 8 Nxd4 Qb6, leading to the following well-known sacrificial position:

I haven't paid attention to the theory of this line in this column. In spite of years of experience and analysis, theory hasn't settled upon a verdict, but it appears to me that White can no longer count upon any advantage. The super-grandmaster game Anand - Nakamura, Wijk aan Zee 2013, followed a main line that seems to be equal, and has even given White a few more difficulties than Black. I've tried to cover an overview of the theory by citing a number of games, especially from the past year.

Till next month, John

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