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This month I’ll concentrate upon slower and slightly unusual lines, beginning with the oddly popular 3 Bd3. Then I take a look at some King’s Indian Attacks and a couple of Hecht-Reefschlaeger games. Finally, I return to one game with 3 Nd2 Be7 that takes an original course and could open up some new paths in this variation.

Download PGN of June ’17 French games

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Irregular Moves, 3 Bd3 Variation 3...dxe4 4 Bxe4 Nf6 5 Bf3 [C01]

There’s been a strange surge of interest in the move 3 Bd3, perhaps because it requires so little preparation and is sound, if rather passive. This month saw two super-grandmasters join the new movement, albeit only in Blitz games. First we have Kramnik, V - Caruana, F, Stavanger 2017. After 3...dxe4 4 Bxe4 Nf6 5 Bf3 c5 6 Ne2 Nc6 7 Be3, the game went 7...Nd5 8 Bxd5 Qxd5:

Here the sacrifice 9 Nbc3! Qxg2 10 Rg1 was fully sound, and White got a clear advantage. With both players in massive time trouble, however, Black exploited White’s mistakes and came out with a win.

In Vachier LaGrave, M - So, W Stavanger 2017, Black played the equalizing line 7...cxd4 8 Nxd4 Ne5 instead:

This defangs White’s position, although Black’s inaccurate followup led to an interesting game in which White ultimately outplayed his opponent.

In Onischuk, V - Sumets, A, Lviv 2017, Black played another sound defensive setup beginning with 5...Nbd7:

The idea is to play ...e5, perhaps supported by ..Bd6. It’s highly unlikely that White can count upon even a small advantage here.

King’s Indian Attack 4...Bc5 [C00]

It’s been a while since we took a look at the King’s Indian Attack. After 1 e4 e6 2 d3 d5 3 Nd2 Nf6 4 Ngf3, Black still uses the classic setup with 4...c5, 5...Nc6, 6...Be7, etc.; but playing without ...c5 can have the advantage of speeding Black’s development. One way to do this is with 4...Bc5, when the most critical line is 5 e5 Nfd7 6 d4, and now 6...Be7 transposes to the 3...Be7 Tarrasch, but Black can also play 6...Bb6:

Klyuner, V - Schaefer, M, Germany (Bundesliga) 2017, saw the relatively rare move 7 c4, and Black responded correctly with 7...c5. This should lead to equal play in various ways, although in the game White managed to gain the edge and keep it.

King’s Indian Attack 4...b6 [C00]

Another standard approach is 4...b6, when 5 e5 Nfd7 6 d4 is again critical, very often leading to this position:

Here 8...0-0 and 8...Nc6 are well-known, but Black can also try to exchange bishops with an immediate 8...Ba6 9 Bxa6 Nxa6. This should equalize, but in Peters, J - Wang, A, Ontario 2017, White exploited Black’s inaccurate move order to gain a modest advantage, and went on to win nicely.

Hecht-Reefschlaeger Variation 4 e5 f6 [C10]

ChessPublishing has a long history of original analysis about 3 Nc3 Nc6 (the Hecht-Reefschlaeger). The variation 4 e5 f6 has been around a while, as exemplified in the Archives. In Savchenko, B - Stupak, K, Budapest 2017, played a few months ago, White played the natural but surprisingly rare move 5 Nf3, which we haven’t dealt with before:

After 5...dxe5 6 dxe5, 6...g6!? was quite risky, but produced an entertaining, back-and-forth game. Black has safer options.

Hecht-Reefschlaeger Mainline 4 Nf3 Nf6 5 e5 Ne4 6 Bd3 [C10]

In the main line 4 Nf3 Nf6 5 e5 Ne4 6 Bd3 Bb4 7 Bd2 Nxd2 8 Qxd2 f6, White usually plays 9 a3, but 9 exf6 Qxf6 10 0-0 and 9 Bb5 are logical moves discussed in Ding, Y - Dong, Q, Shenzen 2017:

Black’s bishop pair compensates for any structural inferiority.

Tarrasch 3...Be7, 8...a5 [C06]

Two highly theoretical Grandmasters contested the main line of 3 Nd2 Be7 4 Ngf3 Nf6 5 e5 in Kotronias, V - Sutovsky, E, Minsk 2017. White deviated from the well-trodden paths first, choosing 9 a3!?:

I find this interesting; as it can lead to any number of possibilities and is less forcing than the conventional lines. In the game White sacrificed a pawn for somewhat dubious compensation, but there are several other ideas.

Till next month, John

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