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A little of everything this month. As a whole, I'd say that players of White are playing cautiously against the French these days, hoping to limit counterplay. This is illustrated in most of our games this month.

Download PGN of June '15 French games

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Advance Variation 5 Nf3 Qb6 6 a3 Nge7 [C06]

We have seen only one game before with the unusual move 6...Nge7 after 5 Nf3 Qb6 6 a3. After 7 dxc5 Qc7, we reach this position:

In Shirov - Steinle, Rabat 2015, White tried 8 b4!? and achieved a small advantage. Black has to choose an exact order if he expects to maintain the balance.

Tarrasch Variation 3...Nf6/5 Bd3 mainline with ...Qc7 [C06]

The 3...Nf6 main line with ...Qc7 remains the most popular.

Mammadzada - Khomeriki, Chakvi 2015, followed a recently fashionable development in which White tries for a very limited advantage without risk.

Black played 13...Ng4!?, a move that we've seen before, but which I don't think is the most accurate one. The game features some standard ideas that players on both sides should know.

Another safe setup involves h3, Be3, and Rc1.

Socko - Heinert, Maastricht 2015, continued 14...Rea8 intending ...Ree7, but I prefer 14...Be8 with the standard idea of transfer to the kingside.

Winawer Exchange 5 Bd3 Nc6 6 a3 [C01]

White often turns to 3...Bb4 4 exd5 exd5 in order to avoid the lengthy theoretical battles 4 e5 and other alternatives produce.

Occasionally after 5...Nc6 6 a3, Black avoids the main lines with 6...Bxc3+ and decides to retain his bishop and potentially use it to attack White's d-pawn:

Speckner - Mischustov, Bundesliga 2015, saw the tradeoff between an immobile bishop on b6 and piece pressure on White's centre.

The normal 6...Bxc3+ was played in Nataf - Apicella, Montpellier 2015, but after 7 bxc3, Black chose the somewhat unusual 7...Nf6 instead of 7...Nge7 or 7...Be6.

I was surprised to find that a number of strong players had used this move, and I don't see any way for White to achieve anything against it. Perhaps that's just the nature of these exchange variations in general.

Winawer Variation 7 Qg4 0-0 8 Bd3 f5, 12...Qa5 [C18]

In the 7 Qg4 0-0 8 Bd3 f5 variation, Berg's book has helped to revive the older move 12...Qa5

White usually plays 13 Bd2 here, and occasionally 13 Qd2. In Daulyte - Unuk, Chakvi 2015, White tried to mix things up with 13 Nf3!?. After 13...Rxf3 14 gxf3 Qxc3+ 15 Kf1 c4, Black has just enough compensation, and the game drifted towards a draw.

Winawer Poisoned Pawn 11...dxc3 12 Qd3 d4 [C18]

Erdogdu - Kravtsiv, Petrovac 2015, is our main-line Winawer Poisoned Pawn of the month. We've seen this position before:

White has two extra pawns, but Black has beautifully-placed pieces and White's king is somewhat exposed. A short but tough battle ensues.

Classical Hecht-Reefschlaeger 4 Nf3 Nf6 5 Bd3 Nb4 [C10]

3...Nc6 will probably never be a frequent response to 3 Nc3 on the top levels, but some very strong grandmasters have used it (including several 2700+ players), and it stubbornly hangs on in theoretical terms. A few recent games have featured 4 Nf3 Nf6 5 Bd3 Nb4, and Edouard - Bauer, Montpellier 2015, continued 6 e5 Nd7 7 Bg5 Be7:

White tried 8 h4!? and got what seemed to be a very small advantage, but Black soon equalized and went on to win.

Till next month, John

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