ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
This month I respond to some reader questions and take a look at a few interesting recent games in main lines.

Download PGN of July ’19 French games

>> Previous Update >>

Winawer 7 Qg4 0-0 8 Bd3 Nbc6 9 Bg5 [C18]

In the Forum (which I’m afraid I haven’t been visiting often enough) there’s a serious discussion of the Winawer Main Line with 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e5 c5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 bxc3 Ne7 7 Qg4 0-0 8 Bd3 Nbc6, and now the very dangerous move 9 Bg5:

This has always been a sideline compared to 9 Qh5, but as far as I can tell Black has no established path that guarantees equality. After 9....Qa5 10 Ne2 Ng6 11 0-0, I give considerable attention to in the notes to 11...c4, which I think is best. For lack of recent examples, I’ve chosen Schmid, P - Haller, P, correspondence 2018, which features the oft-played but somewhat dubious 11...Qa4, including a number of other contests from the past year. Players on both sides of 7...0-0 should know something about this line.

Winawer 7 Bd3 Nbc6 8 Qg4 [C18]

Instead of 7 Qg4, 7 Bd3 Nbc6 8 Qg4 would transpose to a main line after 8...0-0. Instead, in Corrales Jimenez, F - Abrahamyan, T, Las Vegas 2019, Black tried 8...Qa5 9 Bd2 Qa4:

This unusual variation has scored very well for White, and the course of the game strengthens that tendency. It is nevertheless interesting to see how White proceeds, and how Black might have improved earlier.

Classical, Morozevich Variation 7 Nf3 f5 8 Nc3 [C13]

The Morozevich variation with 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Bg5 dxe4 5 Nxe4 Be7 6 Bxf6 gxf6 continues to enjoy popularity among strong players. In Katz, A - Nyzhnyk, I, Las Vegas 2019, Black followed the main line moves 7 Nf3 f5 8 Nc3 with the unusual 8...c5:

The game was fairly even throughout. More importantly, I see no problems with playing this way, in either theory or practice.

Classical, Steinitz Variation 5 Nce2 c5 6 c3 Nc6 7 Nf3 Qb6 8 a3 [C11]

The powerful and creative GM Pentala Harikrishna has recently proposed a repertoire for White with 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 e5 Nfd7 5 Nce2 c5 6 c3 Nc6 7 Nf3 (instead of the traditional 7 f4). I covered this superficially in three games last month but have been asked to look at it in the light of his recommendations.

The move 7...Qb6 is normal and popular. After 8 a3, Harikrishna’s recommendation, Black has a variety of options; see, for example, Delgado Ramirez, N - Romais, R, Cuiaba 2019, features 8...Be7. The game is an example of rating mismatch, but it illustrates how careful Black must be not to fall behind in development, as well as showing how Black might still be able to make this line playable.

Black can also play 8...a5:

The games Potapov, P - Sankalp, G, Moscow 2019, and Mastrovasilis, D - Godart, F, Tirana 2018, are fun miniatures which show how treacherous Black’s life can be in these lines. Nevertheless, 8...a5 is fully playable if you’re prepared.

Another interesting line begins with 8...f6:

I’ve used Nisipeanu, L - Kindermann, S, Bundesliga 2019, which began 8...cxd4 9 cxd4 f6, as a base game and tried to indicate some important recent directions in the notes.

Classical, Steinitz Variation 5 Nce2 c5 6 c3 Nc6 7 Nf3 b5 [C11]

Another setup begins with 7...b5 (or 6...b5 7 Nf3 Nc6, transposing):

In Vogel, R - Schmidt, T, Teplice 2019, White played too many pawn moves and allowed Black to win squares on the queenside. Black returned the favour by neglecting to develop, but White allowed the exchange of queens and the game was eventually drawn. My impression is that these ...b5 ideas are probably just good enough to retain a balance in the position.

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

In the 3 Nd2 c5 line with 4 exd5 Qxd5 5 Ngf3 cxd4 6 Bc4 Qd7, White often faces the question of whether to place his bishop on b3 or d3. In Neiksans, A - Abrahamyan, T, Las Vegas 2019, this position was tested:

Black avoided transposition to traditional main lines by playing 11...Bd6, and White got ambitious with 12 Qh5. In general this variation looks equal.

Tarrasch Variation 3...c5 4 exd5 Qxd5 5 Ngf3 cxd4 6 Bc4 Qd6, 10...a6 11 Re1 Qc7 12 Bf1 [C07]

After the traditional 6...Qd6, a popular approach by White has been the old main line 7 0-0 Nf6 8 Nb3 Nc6 9 Nbxd4 Nxd4 10 Nxd4 a6 11 Re1 Qc7, and now the positional 12 Bf1:

Antal, G - Shetty, A, Las Vegas 2019 follows one of the main lines and covers the basic ideas.

Till next month, John

>> Previous Update >>

Please post you queries on the French Forum, or subscribers can write to me at if you have any questions or queries.