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This month I continue our examination of the Advance Variation and Tarrasch French, along with some odds and ends.

Download PGN of February ’19 French games

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Advance Variation 5...Bd7 6 Be2 Nge7 [C02]

In the previous column we looked mainly at the main line with 3 e5 c5 4 c3 Nc6 5 Nf3 and then 5...Qb6 6 a3. Black’s other popular defense is 5...Bd7 6 Be2, when 6...Nge7 with the idea ...Ng6 is a dynamic way to meet White’s most solid line. Gomez Munoz, R - Cornette, D, Gibraltar 2019, continued 7 0-0 Ng6 8 Bd3:

This is a slightly unusual but logical move, now that Black has decided not to pressure d4 by ...Nf5. After 8...Rc8 9 a3 cxd4 10 cxd4 Qb6 11 Bc2, the play was balanced, but White subsequently weakened his queenside unnecessarily.

Advance Variation 5...Bd7 6 Be2 Nh6 [C02]

In Maghsoodloo, P - L'Ami, E, Wijk aan Zee 2019, Black played an unusual but perfectly playable order with 6...Nh6:

This is a standard setup, although it more often goes with 5...Qb6 6 Be2 Nh6. In the diagram, 7 Bxh6 is important, but rarely played; I give a few possibilities in the notes. The game’s 7 0-0 is more common, and the resulting position gives both sides roughly equal chances.

Advance Variation 5...Qb6 6 a3 Bd7 [C02]

In the main line with 5...Qb6 6 a3, 6...Bd7 has become a reliable response. In Yu, Y - Werle, J, Gibraltar 2019, 7 b4 cxd4 8 cxd4 Rc8 9 Be3 Nh6 followed:

The play is balanced here, with a key idea for Black being the exchange of light-squared bishops by ...Bb5.

Rubinstein Variation 5...Bd7 6 Be2 Rc8 7 0-0 Nge7 [C02]

I read that the game Jones, G - Ramirez, A, Gibraltar 2019, won a brilliancy prize, presumably shared between the opponents. It has some theoretical value to boot. After 3 Nd2 dxe4 4 Nxe4 Nbd7 5 Nf3 Ngf6 6 Nxf6+ Nxf6, White tried 7 g3, a move that we’ve examined a few times:

In this position, White had proceeded with Ne5 in a couple of games. Here Black prevented that by 11...Nd7, the only drawback being that White was able to enforce an early d5. He soon followed that up with a piece sacrifice, which led to some crazy play and a peaceful result.

Tarrasch Variation 3...c5 4 exd5 Qxd5 5 Ngf3 cxd4 6 Bc4 Qd7 [C07]

After 3 Nd2 c5 4 exd5 Qxd5 5 Ngf3 cxd4 6 Bc4, the fashionable 6...Qd7 continues to be the most popular choice. The game Osmanodja, F - Svane, R, Gibraltar 2019, illustrates a very dynamic variation that has appeared several times recently. After 7 Nb3 Nbc6 8 Nbxd4 Nxd4 9 Nxd4 a6 10 0-0 Qc7 11 Qe2, Black chose 11...Bd6, allowing 11 Nf5:

In most games White hasn’t chosen this move, but it’s quite critical and worth knowing from both sides.

Tarrasch Variation 3...Be7 4 e5 c5 5 c3 [C03]

Versus 3...Be7, 4 e5 c5 5 c3 is increasingly popular. In Gukesh, D - Sharma, DK, Delhi 2019, Black went into the familiar position after 5...Nc6 6 Bd3 cxd4 7 cxd4 Qb6 8 Ndf3:

We’ve seen 8...Bb4+ here, and Sharma’s 8...Nh6 is okay, but after 9 Ne2, 9...f6? Is too loosening. A nice attacking game follows.

In Tan, Ju - So, W, PRO League 2019, So skipped 5...Nc6 with 5...cxd4 6 cxd4 Qb6 7 Ndf3 Bd7 (here 7...Bb4+ is more popular and I’ve included some recent games in the notes), 8 Bd3 Bb5:

I doubt that exchanging bishops achieves full equality, but in the game, White got overambitious by 9 Bc2 Nc6 10 a3?! , and got in trouble on the light squares after 10...Qa6!.

Exchange Variation [C18]

After 3 exd5 exd5 4 Nf3, 4...Nf6 is safe but makes it difficult to break the symmetry, so a number of strong players use 4...Bd6, with the temporary pawn sacrifice 5 c4 Nf6 6 Nc3 0-0 7 cxd5 Nbd7:

This setup has proven satisfactory over some years now. In Andrijevic, M - Kovacevic, Bosnjaci 2019, White tried 8 Bg5 h6 9 Bh4, when 9...Nb6 10 Be2 Be7 equalized and left plenty of play in the position.

Till next month, John

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