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The ever-resilient Guimard Variation of the Tarrasch is the main feature this month, followed by main-line Winawers. But we start with two recent Advance Variations played between famously sharp players.

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Advance Variation 6 a3 Nh6 7 b4, Sveshnikov's 10 Ra2 [C02]

The Advance main line with 6 a3 Nh6 continues to be the most popular battleground. Hikaru Nakamura defended the Black side in Shirov - Nakamura, Zurich 2016, (a tournament that has just begun). The game tested Sveshnikov's move 10 Ra2 in one of the key lines:

Black responded by playing as I had originally proposed in Play the French 4. He gained equality, and a good double-edged game resulted.

Interestingly, the inventor of the 10 Ra2 idea was challenged on his own turf in Sveshnikov - Vitiugov, Tallin 2016. Black deviated from the above game and got a playable position:

White had a brief chance for a small edge, but strayed and then blundered. Still, the opening stage is interesting and deserves study.

Tarrasch Guimard Variation 6 Bd3 Nb4 7 Be2 c5 [C04]

The Guimard Variation has recently become more popular, perhaps because someone noticed that the main lines are satisfactory for Black. Let's look at some recent examples.

In Petrov - Zlatanovic, Paracin 2016, the players contested the variation with 4 Ngf3 Nf6 5 e5 Nd7 6 Bd3 Nb4 (6...f6 is the main alternative; but this is safer) 7 Be2 c5, soon reaching this position:

Here White played the unusual 11 Re1, which is arguably as good as other lines, but shouldn't yield an advantage versus best play.

Debashis - Mammadova, Al-Ain 2016, saw the more conventional 11 exf6 Nxf6 12 b3, leading to a typical position:

This is a perfectly playable but rather passive setup for White. The game featured many of the usual themes of the main-line 3...Nf6 Tarrasch systems.

Tarrasch Guimard Variation 6 c3 f6 7 Bb5 [C04]

Long-time followers of the Guimard may recognize the following position:

In Kevlishvili - Veltman, Groningen 2015, White takes advantage of a couple of inaccuracies and wins a nice attacking game. Black's opening sequence still appears sound with accurate play. He nevertheless has a simpler road to equality, as pointed out in the notes.

Tarrasch Guimard Variation 6 Be2 f6 [C04]

Szwed - Kobo, Marienbad 2016, features a different Guimard main line that has been tested for years, but is still not resolved by any means.

As in previous contests, White exchanges on c6 and puts a knight on e5. Then Black's counterattack by ...b6 frees his bishops sufficiently to equalize matters.

Tarrasch Guimard Variation 4 c3 e5 [C04]

The variation 4 c3 e5 is one of the original 'points' behind 3...Nc6. It continues to be an important line, and the forcing continuation 5 exd5 Qxd5 6 Ngf3 cxd4 7 Bc4 is still being contested. In Savitskiy - Stupak, Minsk 2015, this typical position was reached:

From all appearances, this is about equal and playable for both sides.

In this line, we've seen the idea of ...Qh5 before. One key position that has arisen twice recently is this:

In Gharamian - du Maire, London (Superrapid) 2015, White improved upon 10 Re1 (analysed in the notes) with 10 Ne5 and gained a slight advantage. The game itself was marred by mistakes, but Black should improve early on (as in the notes) if he wants to play this line.

Winawer Variation Poisoned Pawn 11...dxc3 12 h4 [C18]

The early h4 line in the Winawer Poisoned Pawn was tested in Ganguly - Tregubov, Tallin 2016:

Here Black played 12...b6!? (instead of the normal 12...d4), which may not be optimal, but it's a playable alternative and worth looking at. A rather wild game ensues with White prevailing.

Winawer Variation Poisoned Pawn 11...dxc3 12 Qd2 d4 13 Nxd4 [C18]

Ibanez - Villasanti, Florianopolis 2016, contains a couple of recent examples of the Poisoned Pawn. In the main game, this main position arises:

White deviates from the standard 16 Qf2 by 16 Qb4!?, intending 16...0-0-0 17 Rb3, but after 17...Kb8 18 Rxc3 Bc6, Black's active pieces more than compensate for two pawns.

In Vitiugov - Zhang Zhong, Qatar 2015, a standard position from the 7 h4 line arose:

Black tried to sacrifice a pawn with 9...Qc7?!, which may not be fully sound. After White declined by 10 Bd2, Black equalized but then got too ambitious and was soundly outplayed.

Till next month, John

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