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This month I'll begin by focusing on the Tarrasch Variation. First, we wrap up last month's discussion of the Guimard Variation. Then we see a critical line of the 3...c5 4 exd5 Qxd5 Tarrasch, and a nice demonstration of a key White idea in the 3...Be7 variation. Finally, we look at a number of games with Morozevich's 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Bg5 dxe4 5 Nxe4 Be7 6 Bxf6 gxf6.

Download PGN of March ’16 French games

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Tarrasch Guimard Variation 6 Nb3 [C04]

Last month we looked at a variety of lines in the Guimard Variation, but skipped some of the main lines. Let's examine two of those:

Estrada Nieto-Battaglini, Cappelle la Grande 2016, tests the 6 Nb3 main line.

Here White played 10 Bd2 to discourage 10...c5, when Black could play 10...c5 anyway, but chooses to simply develop. The opening is equal, but Black slips up in the middlegame, only to have White fail in a very promising position.

Another game, from the end of last year, illustrates the way in which 6...Be7 can vary from 6..a5 (they sometimes transpose).

Here in Granda Zuniga-Matsenko, Sitges 2015, White essayed upon the interesting move 7 g3. I also discuss some unique White alternatives at this point.

Tarrasch Guimard Variation 6 Bd3 Nb4 7 Be2 c5 [C04]

In Pogonina - Galinsky, Gibraltar 2016, White plays one of the important lines from last month, 6 Bd3 Nb4 7 Be2, but deviates by putting a knight on b3:

The idea is to provoke 10...c4, which Black duly played with the idea of ...b5-b4. I generally dislike releasing the pressure on White's center, but there seem to be an increasing number of lines in the French where a primitive expansion on the queenside is playable, and this is apparently one of them.

Tarrasch Guimard Variation 5 Bd3 Nb4 6 e5 [C04]

In Sztokbant - Vargas, Florianopolis 2016, White leaves his bishop on d3 to be captured.

This position has arisen periodically over the years. White hopes that his space advantage and development will give him an edge. His doubled pawns cover extra squares in the center. Black on the other hand has two bishops and no weaknesses; it turns out that he has nothing to worry about.

Tarrasch Variation 3...Be7, 8...0-0!? [C06]

In Potkin - Pourramezanali, Moscow 2016, White demonstrates nicely why Black has to play carefully and actively in the 3...Be7 Tarrasch.

Here 13 b4 cxd4 14 c4! Leads to a large advantage for White. Well worth playing over.

Tarrasch 3...c5 4 exd5 Qxd5, 10...a6 11 Re1 [C07]

The main line with 3...c5 4 exd5 Qxd5 was tested in Azarov - Grachev, Moscow 2016. White played the popular idea of 11 Re1 followed by 12 Qe2 (before moves like Bb3 or c3), and instead of the older 12...Bc5, which I analyse in the notes), Black defended with 12...h6:

This move has simply taken over practice, with dozens of master games in the past 18 months. Black hasn't run into any serious problems, and in this game White plays too ambitiously and gets a lost game very quickly.

Classical Variation 4 Bg5 de4 5 Nxe4 Be7 6 Bxf6 gxf6 7 Nf3 f5 [C11]

The line 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Bg5 de4 5 Nxe4 Be7 6 Bxf6 gxf6 has been popular for many years and seems to be more successful in recent years than ever.

Libiszewski - Harikrishna, Gibraltar 2016, tests a frequently-seen line in which White tries to go queenside.

Here there have been quite a few games with 9 Qe2, and I briefly discuss the main move 9 Qd2 in the notes.

White will often play g3 and Bg2 to counter the influence of Black's bishop on b7. Fernandez Romero-Satyapragyan, Seville 2016, arrived at this position:

It may not lead to more than a small advantage versus careful play, but 15 d5! Was the best and most thematic try here.

Becerro Rivera-Sadorra, Fort Myers 2016, was a fairly dull contest, albeit very accurately played. I only include it because it shows how Black can equalize straightaway in one of the main lines.

Here instead of 11..0-0 as in Fernandez Romero-Satyapragyan, Black played 11...c5 and equalized rather easily. The main drawback is that after the game's 12 dxc5, neither side had real winning chances.

Classical Variation 4 Bg5 de4 5 Nxe4 Be7 6 Bxf6 gxf6 7 Qd3 [C11]

The unusual 7 Qd3 is seen in Jovanovic - Saric, Porec 2016:

This has the idea of meeting ...b5 with Qf3. A double-edged game results.

Till next month, John

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