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In this column I’ll resume last month’s look into recent developments in the 3...c5 Tarrasch and then discuss a few lines of the recently revived 6...Qc7 7 Qg4 f6 line of the Winawer. I then explore a Carlsen game in the 4 e5 b6 Winawer, and games with Carlsen and Duda in the Morozevich System (3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Bg5 dxe4 5 Nxe4 Be7 6 Bxf5 gxf6).

Download PGN of June ’22 French games

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Tarrasch 3...c5 4 Ngf3 cxd4 5 Nxd4 Nc6 6 Bb5 Bd7 7 Nxc6 bxc6 8 Bd3 Bd6 9 Qe2 Giri’s 9...e5 [C07]

The popularity of 3 Nd2 c5 4 Ngf3 continues. It’s hard to understate the influence of Chessable on today’s games, and after 4...cxd4 5 Nxd4 Nc6 6 Bb5 Bd7 7 Nxc6 bxc6 8 Bd3 Bd6 9 Qe2, Giri’s repertoire recommendation 9...e5 has suddenly gone from an extremely rare oddity to the move everyone is playing, and in fact a sort of main line of the 4 Ngf3 system. In Azarov, S - Nihal, S, Sharjah 2022, 10 exd5 cxd5 11 c4 Ne7 12 cxd5 Nxd5 was tested:

As shown in the notes, there are numerous recent games and considerable theory on both 13 Nc4 (as played) and 13 Be4. It appears that the position is holding up nicely for Black.

Because of this, we are seeing 10 c4 more often, when 10...d4 is almost always played.

Then the dynamic 11 c5! is probably White’s best try to get a positional advantage. This was played in Radikovic, A - Koubova, A, Mitropa Cup Corte 2022, (where we look at the dangerous but ultimately equal 11 f4 as well), followed by 11...Bxc5 12 Nc4 Bb4+ 13 Bd2 Qe7. There have been several interesting games here. Black usually ends up with an extra pawn, but White is better developed and has a bind on Black's weakened queenside. The chances are even, as shown by both the game and the numerous examples in the notes.

Instead of 12 Nc4, White has 12 0-0, played in Teclaf, P - Piorun, K, Kruszwica 2022, when 12...Ne7 followed:

White tried the tricky 13 Qh5!. This hits e5 and threatens f4 (when ...exf4 is prevented by virtue of the hanging bishop on c5). After 13...Ng6 14 f4 Qe7, both 15 g3 and 15 Nb3 (as played) are complex and produce dynamically equal play. The game was unbalanced and ultimately drawn.

Winawer Variation 7 Qg4 f6 8 Nf3 c4 [C18]

Rapport and Nihal are two big names who have been using the rather obscure line 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e5 c5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 bxc3 Qc7 7 Qg4 f6 (previously championed mainly by Ponkratov), which is probably better for Black than theory has indicated. The latest superstar struggle in this line is Caruana, F - Rapport, R, Superbet Rapid Warsaw 2022, which went 8 Nf3 (I examine the critical 8 Bb5+ briefly in a note, but this requires some serious study) 8...c4 (I’m skeptical of 8..Qf7).

The game continued 9 Qh5+ Qf7 10 Qxf7+ Kxf7 11 g4!, and White can probably claim a limited advantage, but Rapport achieved equality and even won the endgame after lengthy maneuvering by both sides.

9 Qg3 is more ambitious, fortifying the center and in some cases intending exf6. Aryan, C - Nihal, S, Menorca 2022, continued 9...Qf7 10 h4 h5:

In an earlier game versus Rapport, Anand chose 11 Be2 here. Nihal has faced 11 a4 with the idea Ba3 twice. Black’s idea is that his knights are as good as White bishops after ...Nge7 and ...Qg6. In many lines, his king is safe on the queenside following ...Bd7 and ...0-0-0. In general, this line results in fairly typical Winawer play and should be playable for Black.

Winawer with 4 e5 b6 5 a3 Bf8 6 Bb5+ [C16]

The opening in Tari, A - Carlsen, M, Chessable Masters 2022, is mainly of interest because of who is playing Black. We’ve seen 4 e5 b6 5 a3 Bf8 6 Bb5+! c6 7 Ba4 several times before, with White always gaining a nice advantage. Carlsen tried 7...Ba6 (the main alternative is 7...a5 followed by ...b5 and ...c5, which gains a little space) 8 Nce2:

And now 8...h5!?, which has little value other than confusing the opponent in a fast time control game. The idea might be to restrain a later kingside advance by White, but the weakness created isn’t worth it. Fortunately for Magnus, White just wants to draw and after establishing a bind on the kingside, foregoes opening the game on the other wing.

Classical Morozevich System with 4 Bg5 dxe4 5 Nxe4 Be7 6 Bxf6 gxf6 7 Qd2 b6 [C11]

Magnus played a sounder line with 3...Nf6 4 Bg5 dxe4 5 Nxe4 Be7 6 Bxf6 gxf6 (Morozevich’s System) in Hansen, E - Carlsen, M, Chessable Masters 2022. The game continued 7 Qd2 b6 8 0-0-0 Bb7 9 Nc3 c6 with a position we’ve seen several times before in this column. Now White chose the very unusual 10 g4:

An interesting move which prepares Bg2 and also discourages ...f5. Black responded well up to a point and equalized, but got careless and allowed his opponent what could have been a very large advantage at several points. Finally an equal ending arose until, on the verge of a draw, White blundered and missed his chance to split the point with the World Champion.

Classical Morozevich System 4 Bg5 dxe4 5 Nxe4 Be7 6 Bxf6 gxf6 7 Nf3 f5 8 Nc3 a6 9 Qe2 [C11]

In Duda, J - Gavrilescu, D, Superbet Rapid Warsaw 2022, the always well-prepared Duda tried to challenge Black in the line 7 Nf3 f5 8 Nc3 a6 9 Qe2:

We’ve seen this several times, and the game continued along the known line 9...b5 10 0-0-0 b4 11 Na4 Qd5 12 c4 Qa5 13 b3 Bd7 14 d5 with very forcing play. At the critical juncture Black has three satisfactory moves, but quickly walked into an inferior line and lost. I’m not sure what Duda had planned had Black chosen one of the equal continuations, but probably he thought that there was just enough play to go for a win regardless.

Till next month, John

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