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After looking at an irregular Advance Variation order, this month's column concentrates upon Winawer lines, including a somewhat neglected variation that many great players of the past have used.

Download PGN of July '15 French games

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Advance Variation 2 Nf3 d5 3 e5 Nh6 [C00]

White's usual idea with 2 Nf3 d5 3 e5 is to play a Wing Gambit following 3...c5 4 b4. In Vekemans - Van der Lende, Lille 2015, Black developed his knight with 3...Nh6 instead:

Complex and original play followed, and this is a reasonable way to avoid the gambit.

Advance Variation delayed d4 [C00]

Another odd Advance order was seen in Picard - Brunner, Montpellier 2015. In this case 2 c3 d5 3 e5 was tried, and after 3...c5, White went his own way with 4 f4 Nc6 5 Nf3:

Here 5...Nh6 6 Na3 Qb6 was played, yielding an original position in which Black has a comfortable game.

Winawer Variation 6...Qc7 [C18]

The old 6...Qc7 variation was a favorite of Botvinnik and a generation of French players, but has fallen dramatically in popularity:

Still, it has its advocates today, in part inspired by Viktor Moskalenko's analysis (and victories). Because of the paucity of instructive games, I've picked a couple of games from the past month, but also from the rest of this year. These seemed the most relevant, in addition to the ones merged with the notes.

After 7 Qg4, occasionally 7...f6 is tried, but the main line is still 7 Qg4 f5 8 Qg3, keeping an eye on the g-pawn. Heineman - Rosenburger, Bad Homburg 2015, got to a position from an old main line:

In fact, 7...Ne7 might even deserve a '?!', because as far as I can see, Black is experiencing serious problems here.

7...Nc6 is solid and more popular than the alternatives these days. In Nilsson - Fransson, Swedish Teams 2015, the players reached what has become a main line:

White has some attacking chances, but Black can defend carefully and hope that his queenside advantage means something.

In Radovanovic - Stanojevic, Kraljevo 2015, White played the other traditional line 7 Qg4 f5 8 Qh5+ g6 (8...Qf7 and even 8...Kf8 are playable) 9 Qd1:

Black responded by grabbing a pawn with 9...cxd4!? 10 cxd4 Qc3+ 11 Bd2 Qxd4 12 Nf3, but he has lost a lot of time and White has at least enough compensation, probably more.

In the 'positional' line with 7 Nf3, Black tends to play 7...b6. After the legitimate option 7...Nc6, Danielyan - Nikologorsky, Moscow 2015, saw 8 a4 Nge7 9 Ba3, when 9...b6 is normal, but Black played 9..c4!?:

This looks worse than it is, because Black will still get ...f6 in with decent activity. Still, White will maintain a theoretical advantage even in that case. The game was full of content.

Winawer Poisoned Pawn ...dxc3 12 h4 d4 [C18]

Finally, back to a couple of Poisoned Pawn games. The following position comes from the delayed retreat of White's queen from h7, previously almost unknown and now practically routine! The idea is to get the h-pawn moving and limit Black's options.

Berg covers this well in his 3-volume masterpiece, but new ideas are appearing. In Valles Moreno-Serra Canals, Montcada 2015, Black played the reorganization with 15...Kb8 and ...Bc8:

White played the move 18 g4, and in the notes we see the other new move 18 Ng3. The positions are extremely difficult to asses, but Black's play looks adequate for equality, with play that might appeal to both sides.

In Mekhitarian - Valerga, Buenos Aires 2015, Black tried 15...Be8, a standard idea preparing moves like ...Nd5 and ...f6. This position arose:

Black is about to play ...f6 and has plenty of play.

Till next month, John

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