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A big variety of openings this time around.

Download PGN of July ’20 French games

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Advance, Euwe's Variation 5...Bd7 6 Be2 Nge7 7 0-0 Ng6 [C02]

3...c5 4 c3 Nc6 5 Nf3 Bd7 6 Be2 Nge7 7 0-0 Ng6, the defensive setup that Korchnoi popularized years ago, continues to be played with respectable results. Grandelius, N - Polivanov, A, Titled Tuesday 2020, saw a traditional setup for both sides with 8 g3 Be7 9 h4 cxd4 10 cxd4 0-0 11 h5 Nh8:

White has a few options here. In the game he tried 12 Nbd2 and gained a nice advantage, but only due to inaccurate play upon Black’s part.

Tarrasch Variation 3...h6 4 Ngf3 Nf6 5 e5 Nfd7 6 Bd3 c5 7 c3 Nc6 [C03]

After the overview last month, I could resist seeing a game in which Gawain Jones extended his winning streak as White after 3 Nd2 h6 4 Ngf3 Nf6 5 e5 Nfd7 6 Bd3 c5 7 c3 Nc6. Here in Jones, G - Harvey, M, 4NCL 2020, Jones deviated from his earlier 8 Bc2 with 8 0-0 g5 9 b3:

Black swapped pawns with 9...cxd4 10 cxd4 g4 11 Ne1 Nxd4 12 Qxg4, after which White had some positional advantages, but with good defense Black’s bishops and central pawns should have left him only modestly worse with double-edged play.

Tarrasch Variation 3...Be7 4 Ngf3 Nf6 5 e5 Nfd7 6.c3 c5 7.Bd3 Nc6 8.0-0 g5 [C06]

A main-line theoretical game here involving a big name: Karjakin, S - Mammadov, Z, Titled Tuesday 2020. Too bad it’s just Blitz! Still, White seldom seems to enter this ultra-critical line any more, even though I think it still offers him a small safe edge (perhaps too small?).

The line goes 3.Nd2 Be7 4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.e5 Nfd7 6.c3 c5 7.Bd3 Nc6 8.0-0 g5 9.dxc5 g4 10.Nd4 Ndxe5 11.Bb5 Bd7 12.N2b3 h5 13.Re1 Nxd4:

White played 14.Bxd7+ (14.Nxd4 Bxb5 15.Rxe5 Bd7 16.b4 looks better) 14...Qxd7 15.cxd4 Nc6 16.Bf4, and here 16...Bf6 would have been fine.

Classical, MacCutcheon Variation 4 Bg5 Bb4 5 e5 h6 6 Bc1 Nfd7 [C12]

I’ve neglected the MacCutcheon recently, an alternative recommendation in my PTF4 book. After 1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Bg5 Bb4 5 e5 h6, White has a choice of bishop retreats to c1, d2, and e3. Here are a couple of fairly nondescript games which, however, illustrate some typical play.

In Savchenko, B - Polivanov, A, Titled Tuesday 2020, White played 6 Bc1, and instead of the nearly automatic 6...Ne4, Black tried 6...Nfd7!?:

I was surprised to see that this has been played by some strong players over the years, and to me it looks like a reasonable alternative for someone who wants to sidestep 70 years of theory.

Classical, MacCutcheon Variation 6 Bd2 Bxc3 7 bxc3 Ne4 8 Qg4 Kf8 [C12]

In Steel, H - Postny, E, Titled Tuesday 2020, the players followed the traditional line 6 Bd2 Bxc3 7 bxc3 Ne4 8 Qg4 Kf8 9 Bd3 Nxd2 10 Kxd2 c5, and here White played 11 dxc5:

This is also rare. It avoids complications and seems safe enough, but Black should equalize pretty easily.

Winawer Poisoned Pawn 12...d4 13 Nxd4 Nxd4 14 Qxd4 Bd7 15 Rg1 Nf5 16 Qf2 Qc6 [C18]

I’m presenting Yoo, C - Livaic, L, PNWCC Online Blitz 2020 as a public service announcement, to place a reference marker in the Archives. We have seen the following position before:

I’m updating (in some but not complete detail) what has been known for a few years now: that this is a drawing line. The funny thing is that for once, someone wins it, doubtless due to the exhausting task of having to make make a ton of moves in Blitz under time pressure. Both players obviously have the details memorized, and this variation surely symbolizes the potential sterility of chess if the players (or in this case White) really don’t want to play the game.

In the same main line, White can choose to grab a couple of pawns and try to create something; you may recognize this position from Lettieri, G - Livaic, L, Titled Tuesday 2020:

This position has also been overplayed, but at least both sides have many options and there could still be some scope for interpretation. For now, it looks highly drawish. Nevertheless, you have to know your theory to avoid the kind of blunder Black falls into in this game.

King’s Indian Attack 2 Qe2 c5 3 g3 [C00]

I feel like a great struggle between two elite players should be included, but there’s little terribly remarkable about the game Carlsen, M - Xiong, J, Clutch Chess Showdown Int 2020, except that Xiong gets some advantage in the early middlegame, and even after the tables turn manages to scrape out a tough draw.

The game begins with 2 Qe2 c5 3 g3 Nc6 4 Bg2 g6 5 Nf3 Bg7 6 0-0 Nge7 7 c3 e5, leading to this position:

This is an old and standard setup which is seen in the Sicilian Defense, and a useful position to understand. The back-and-forth is fun, although even these elite guys play pretty inaccurately for long stretches because of the pressure of the clock.

Till next month, John

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