ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
Back to mostly Blitz and Rapid games this month, but again, I’ve used them as templates to explore the recent theory in books and products such as Dmitry Kryakvin’s two volume French repertoire book for Chess Stars (The Modern French Defence), Wesley So’s repertoire with the Tarrasch (3 Nd2) for Chessable, as well as Pentala Harikrishna’s book with a White repertoire with 3 Nc3. This should give the reader enough to chew on in the absence of many games with classical time controls.

Download PGN of March ’21 French games

>> Previous Update >>

Advance Variation 4...Qb6 5 Nf3 Nc6 6 Be2 cxd4 7 cxd4 Nh6 [C02]

Kryvakin himself was involved in a game directly testing his own recommendation. Polivanov, A - Kryakvin, D, Bogdanovich Mem Final Blitz 2021, followed the old main line 3 e5 c5 4 c3 Nc6 5 Nf3 Qb6 6 Be2 cxd4 7 cxd4 Nh6 and tested the fashionable 8 Bxh6 Qxb2 9 Nbd2 gxh6 10 0-0:

Kryvakin played his own move 10...Bd7 and equalized, then got a winning game, and finally fell into a drawn ending.

Advance Variation 4...Qb6 5 Nf3 Bd7 6 Be2 cxd4 7 cxd4 Bb5 [C02]

One ‘real’ game from last month’s Wijk aan Zee tournament also deserves attention. Grandelius, N - Harikrishna, P, Wijk aan Zee 2021, tested 4...Qb6 5 Nf3 Bd7 6 Be2 cxd4 7 cxd4 Bb5:

Grandelius chose the simple 8 0-0 Bxe2 9 Qxe2 and Black achieved equality fairly easily. Probably 8 Nc3 Bxe2 9 Nxe2 is the most promising path for White here.

Tarrasch, Guimard Variation Mainline 4 Ngf3 Nf6 5 e5 Nfd7 6 Bb5 [C04]

Kryakvin recommends playing the Guimard Variation, 3 Nd2 Nc6, and last month we took a look at the variations 4 c3 e5 and 4 Ngf3 Nf6 5 e5 Nd7, with the old main line 6 Nb3. The game Tilicheev, V - Pigeat, A, Cappelle Online Blitz 2021, features the popular alternative 6 Bb5 instead, leading to 6...a6 7 Bxc6+ bxc6 8 Nb3 c5:

This is an older line in which 9 Na5 c6! and 9 Bg5 Be7 10 Na5 Bxg5 have been exhaustively analysed. Tilicheev chose the straightforward 9 dxc5 Nxc5 10 Bg5 and had a lead in development and central wedge after 10...Qd7. Nevertheless, Black had the bishop pair and no weaknesses and could claim equality.

In this line, 8 0-0 c5 9 dxc5 is similar and interesting, but here 9 c4?! is mistimed, because after 9...Bb7!:

White can’t prevent Black’s unopposed bishop from exerting influence on the long diagonal. Garcia Blanco, O - Quintiliano Pinto, R, Titled Tuesday 9th Feb 2021, quickly turned in Black’s favor after Black got a knight to c5 and then d3.

Winawer Poisoned Pawn 11...dxc3, 12...d4 13 h4 Bd7 14 h5 0-0-0 15 h6 Rg6!? [C18]

A few highly-rated players tried their hands in the Poisoned Pawn Variation 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e5 c5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 bxc3 Ne7 7 Qg4 Qc7 recently. Andreikin isn’t known for such adventures, and perhaps by accident tries a new move for White in the variation 8 Qxg7 Rg8 9 Qxh7 cxd4 10 Ne2 Nbc6 11 f4 dxc3 12 Qd3 d4 13 h4 Bd7 14 h5 0-0-0 15 h6 Rg6!?:

This move is Giri’s main recommendation, and may be replacing the heavily analysed 15...Kb8. Andreikin, D - Tarlabasi, E, Titled Tuesday 19th Jan 2021, continued 16 h7 Rh8 and now 17 g3!?instead of the normal 17 Nxd4. In a few moves White finds himself in terrible shape, but Black collapses tactically. It’s hard to criticize 17 g3 as a surprise weapon, since it won the point, but I don’t think we’ll see much more of it.

In Moradiabadi, E - Shimanov, A, Rilton Winners Cup 2020, White played the unusual 16 Rb1!?, which transposed to a well-known line after 16...Nf5 17 h7 Rh8:

Moradiabadi, like Andreikin, wanted to avoid main-line theory and played 18 g3. Black equalized but went astray in the early middlegame, and the players typically exchanged blunders in the time scramble. It’s fun how the Poisoned Pawn can still produce dramatic contests between strong masters.

Winawer Variation 7 Qg4 Qc7 8 Bd3 c4 9 Be2 [C18]

8 Bd3 continues to be popular as a way to dodge the more tactical main lines. Recent books are advocating the line 8...c4 9 Be2, which we’ve covered in a couple of Archives games from last year but whose theory has been rapidly expanding. Kamsky, G - Livaic, L, Titled Tuesday 29th Dec 2020 tests 9...Nf5 10 h4:

Black can play ...Qa5-a4, as in the game; but I prefer a more flexible approach, for example, beginning with Miedema’s 10...Bd7.

A similar position arises in Mishra, A - Shetty, A, CCCSA Winter GM Charlotte 2021.

I like this game because it shows several of Black’s positive ideas in these positions and demonstrates that he or she needn’t be tied to defense.

Till next month, John

>> Previous Update >>

Please post you queries on the French Forum, or subscribers can write to me at if you have any questions or queries.