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This month I've mainly analysed games arising from popular variations, although not always main lines. The emphasis is on 3 Nc3, including the Classical, Winawer, and MacCutcheon.

Download PGN of June '11 French games

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Exchange Variation [C01]

Chernyshov - Kosic, Budapest 2011, transposed to the Exchange Variation after 3 Bd3 c5 4 exd5 exd5 (the normal order is 3 exd5 exd5 4 Bd3 c5). White played 5 Qe2+:

This move is often played in such positions, but tends to be inferior. The game notes show why.

Tarrasch Defence 3...Nf6 [C06]

Against the main line system with 3...Nf6 and 11...Qc7, White sometimes tries g3 and Bf4, to oppose bishops:

S Kasparov-Lahiri, Bhubaneswar 2011 reached this basic position, and White managed to outplay his opponent. I've put a lot of material into a note about the move 13...Ng4, which offers more active play than 13...Bd7.

Winawer Portisch-Hook Variation 6...Qa5-a4 [C18]

This month's column has two instructive games in the popular Portisch-Hook (/Moskalenko?) Variation with the order 6...Qa5 7 Bd2 Qa4 8 Qb1 c4:

In Vehi Bach-Fluvia Poyatos, Sabadell 2011, White builds up slowly with Ne2/g3/Bg2 while Black organizes ...0-0-0 and ...f6, gaining equality. Still, the middlegame is a good illustration of how White can use his space advantage.

In Kosteniuk - Hoang Thanh Trang, Tbilisi 2011, White plays the popular line with h4-h5, grabbing space as a basis for kingside attack. A highly complex strategical game results.

Poisoned Pawn Winawer [C18]

As always, this past month has seen more Poisoned Pawn Winawers. I'll show one game, Taddei - Le Goff, Mulhouse 2011, to illustrate both sides' ideas.

Here Black should have been consistent and played ...Bb7. Instead he put the bishop on d7. White secured a definite advantage, but as so often, Black's tricky attacking ideas won out.

Classical/Steinitz Variation 5 Nce2 [C11]

In the Steinitz Classical Variation with 5 Nce2, White usually follows up with f4 before Nf3 because playing Nf3 first fails to sufficiently bolster the e5 point if Black attacks by ...f6. In Stopa - Kraai, Calgary 2011, White tried to prevent ...fxe5 by threatening Nxe6:

But this set him up for the standard piece sacrifice 10...Ndxe5! 11 dxe5 fxe5, by which Black won two pawns for a piece, opened lines, and set up a powerful centre with gain of time.

Classical ...cxd4 & ...Bc5 [C11]

In the main line with 7 Be3 cxd4 8 Nxd4 Bc5, the players in Zhigalko - Shirov, Lublin 2011, reached this common theoretical position:

White chose the highly unusual 13 Qf2!?. He allowed Black to double his pawns, with the idea that his bishop pair and control of the dark squares would make up for it. Shirov proceeded in his usual aggressive and sacrificial way.

MacCutcheon Variation [C12]

In two main-line MacCutcheons this month, after 5 e5 h6, White decided against the normal 6 Bd2 and played the less common retreats 6 Bc1 and 6 Be3.

The former move arose in Short - Erikson, Luanda 2011.

Here Black should play 9...Ba5 or 9...Bxc3+. But not Erikson's 9...Qa5?, allowing the standard trick 10 axb4!.

After 6 Be3, Hamdouchi - Rivas Pastor, Salou 2011, went into this normal position:

The players tested Moskalenko's solution 10...h5 11 Qf4 g5! . White came up with a tricky improvement over previous play and carried the day. Nevertheless, Black has a clear improvement which leads to full equality and produces positive chances for him.

Till next month, John

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