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Welcome to the March Update.

Sorry about the delay with the Update. My thanks to everyone who has emailed me. I plan to answer correspondence in my next update, which should be online around the 6th May. Meanwhile let's see what's been happening in the chess world.

Download PGN of March '06 French games

Unusual 3rd moves - 3.Bd3

Winawer's other move

It has been a couple of years since we looked at 3.Bd3:

We seem to spend a lot of time looking at opening novelties on move 12 or beyond, but another way to upset our opponent is to make him start thinking from the third move. In this month's game, a player rated 2343 never gets going as Black and loses in 16 moves. That would probably never happen in the Poison Pawn 3.Nc3 Nc6 as we'd still be in theory! In fact, the old master Simon 3.Nc3 Nc6 himself liked 3.Bd3, as did Emanuel Lasker, so it can't be all bad. Here is Rudolf - Rausch.


Milner-Barry Variation in crisis

For some years, White has been struggling to show he has enough for the pawn in the Milner-Barry after 6.Bd3 cxd4 7.cxd4 Qb6 8.0-0 Nxd4 9.Nxd4 Qxd4 10.Nc3 a6!:

The Turkish GM Suat Atalik drills another nail in White's coffin in Korkmaz - Atalik.

However, there might be some hope. In the above sequence, I have spent a couple of hours musing on 9.Nbd2!?:

This has enjoyed some success of late in the hands of the young Australian IM David Smerdon. However, there is a stumbling block which needs to be overcome, as you can see in Smerdon - Zhao Zong Yuan.

Advance 5.Nf3 Bd7 6.Be2

The rewards of bad play

Looking at the next game got me thinking along the following lines:
Players react badly when they are surprised in the opening
Unfortunately, everyone knows what to do against good moves.
Therefore we must surprise our opponents with 'bad but interesting' moves.

Of course, bad moves come naturally to some of us, but in the following game it seems to me that Black allowed himself one inferior move to confuse his opponent, and then played an exemplary game thereafter. Here is Olafsson - Sanchez Castillo.

Advance 5.Nf3 Qb6 6.a3

Bad play mercilessly punished

In the next game Schneider tests out the theory above by surprising his opponent with a 'bad but interesting move' in a well known position. Unfortunately, his opponent is one of the best young players in the country, and the consequences are rather predictable. Here is Schneider - Nakamura.

Tarrasch 3.Nd2 Be7

The Erenburg Variation?

In one of the previous updates, I wondered what would happen if White played the Universal System with Be2 rather than Bd3. Well, this month we get to look at 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Be7 4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.e5 Nfd7 6.c3 c5 7.Be2:

The quiet bishop move has been used with great success by Sergei Erenburg, the young Russian Grandmaster. It is a radical departure from White's usual strategy, as he doesn't intend to sacrifice the d4 pawn. As well as causing problems for 3...Be7, could this idea work against other Universal lines? You can find out the answer by clicking on Erenburg - Timman.

Fort Knox

What Black always has to fear in the Fort Knox

The Fort Knox is a great opening for blunting White's attacking aspirations. However, Black has to be careful to avoid a sucker punch on f7 or e6. Every Caro-Kann player knows about the vulnerability of the f7 square, and most of us remember what happened to Kasparov versus Deep Blue after 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Ng5 Ngf6 6.Bd3 e6 7.N1f3 h6?? 8.Nxe6! etc. and that was the end for humankind.

So when the knight goes to g5, watch out, or you may suffer the same fate as Black in Sutovsky-D'Costa!

Rubinstein with 4...Nf6

In the style of Botvinnik and Smyslov

The young English Super GM Luke McShane plays in a manner that twenty years ago would have earned him a diploma from the Soviet School of Chess. With the motto 'not the slightest winning chances for the opponent!' he proceeds to grind down poor Rogers, whose only crime is to leave his queen slightly out of things. Enjoy the awesome technique of McShane - Rogers.

3.Nc3 Nc6

A sharp pawn sacrifice

One of the advantages of 3.Nc3 Nc6 for Black over the Guimard [3.Nd2 Nc6] is that Black has the option of pinning the knight on c3 after 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.e5 Ne4 6.Bd3 Bb4. It appears that White will have to slow down his attack to defend c3 with 7.Bd2; but in fact he could ignore the threat with 7.0-0 Nxc3 8.bxc3 Bxc3 9.Rb1:

A critical position: does White have enough for the pawn? What should Black do? For analysis, check out Becerra Rivero-Sarkar.

That's all for now. I hope you enjoyed the update. Let me know if you have any success or heroic failures with the French as White or Black! Good luck! Neil

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