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I’ll look at an assortment of lines this month, including some very old main lines that we haven’t seen in a while. Black apparently has no reason to avoid these traditional variations of the Tarrasch, Steinitz, and Winawer.

Download PGN of May ’19 French games

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Tarrasch/Steinitz Variation 5 f4 c5 6 c3 Nc6 7 Ndf3 [C05]

In Rodrigue-Lemieux, S - Beaulieu, E, Quebec 2019 , there arose an old, much-tested position which can also arise via the Classical Steinitz:

Here Black entered into a well-known line with 10...0-0 11 Bh3 f6 12 Bxe6+ Kh8 and a complex back-and-forth struggle ensued. These lines are not really resolved, in spite of years of practice.

Tarrasch Variation 3...Nf6 4 e5 Nfd7 5 Bd3 c5 6 c3 Nc6 7 Ne2 f6 [C06]

An irregular variation which has never been refuted goes 3...Nf6 4 e5 Nfd7 5 Bd3 c5 6 c3 Nc6 7 Ne2 f6 (instead of the usual 7...cxd4). In Tiviakov, S - Dong Bao Nghia, St Clement Bay 2019, this led to the typical position after 8 exf6 Nxf6 9 Nf3 Bd6 10 0-0 0-0 11 Bf4:

Here Black played 11...Ng4, which has some subtle advantages over the analogous line where ..cxd4/cxd4 has already been played; this seems to equalize. The question is whether White’s earlier deviations can give him any advantage.

Tarrasch Variation 3...Nf6 Mainline, 8...f6 9 exf6 Nxf6 10 0-0 Bd6 11 Nf3 0-0, 13...Ng4 [C06]

In the normal main line after 7...cxd4 8 cxd4 f6 9 exf6 Nxf6 10 0-0 Bd6 11 Nf3 0-0 12 Bf4, Black played Volkov’s 12...Bxf4 13 Nxf4 Ng4 in Tiglon, B - Wan, J, Schaumberg 2019, and White chose 14 g3 g5 15 Ng2 Qf6 16 Be2 Qh6 17 h4 gxh4 18 Ngxh4:

This shouldn’t be too difficult for Black to handle, but he gave White extra tempi in the endgame and ended up under permanent pressure.

Tarrasch 3...c5 4 exd5 Qxd5 5 Ngf3 cxd4 6 Bc4 Qd7 [C07]

After 3 Nd2 c5 4 exd5 Qxd5 5 Ngf3 cxd4 6 Bc4 Qd7 7 0-0 Nc6, a popular setup for White is 8 Nb3 Nf6 9 Qe2 Intending Rd1. Then 9...a6 10 a4 Bd6 sets up 11 Rd1 Qe7!?:

intending to free Black’s game with ...e5. This has occurred in quite a few games, including one in the Archives. In most cases White sacrifices the exchange for adequate compensation, but no more than that. The game Arizmendi Martinez, J - Antipov, M, Skopje 2019, adds some ideas, but doesn’t change the overall verdict, which is that Black stands satisfactorily.

Classical Rubinstein, Morozevich’s line 4...dxe4 5 Nxe4 Be7 6 Bxf6 gxf6 7 Qd2 [C13]

Morozevich’s system with 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Bg5 dxe4 5 Nxe4 Be7 6 Bxf6 gxf6 continues to be played by strong players. In Vallejo Pons, F - Stankovic, M, Bundesliga 2019, White delayed Nf3 with 7 Qd2 b6 8 0-0-0 Bb7:

Here 9 Nc3 c6 intending ...Qc7 and ...Nd7 leads to a compact position in which Black can even allow White’s Qh6-g7 and give up a pawn if necessary, in order to develop quickly and utilize his bishop pair.

Steinitz Variation 7 Be3 Be7 8 Qd2 0-0 9 dxc5 Qa5 [C11]

In the Steinitz Variation with 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 e5 Nfd7 5 f4 c5 6 Nf3 Nc6 7 Be3 Be7 8 Qd2 0-0 9 dxc5, the idea 9...Qa5 10 0-0-0 b6!? was featured in a recent New in Chess Survey by Videnova.

The exciting game Firouzja, A - Lupulescu, C, Reykjavik 2019 tested one of Black’s main ideas following 11 Bb5 Nb4 12 a3 bxc5!, a piece sacrifice which creates a lot of problems for the first player. In the game, White was unable to cope with these and fell victim to a beautiful attack.

Santos Ruiz, M - Eduoard, R Skopia 2019, followed the same course and reached this position:

In the Firouzja-Lupulescu game, 16...Qa2 was played, but in Santos Ruiz-Eduoard, 16...Qa1 followed. Both lead to exciting play. Since this line is rather dangerous for White, the first player might want to look at the earlier options in both games for places to improve.

Steinitz Variation 7 Be3 Be7 8 Qd2 0-0 9 dxc5 Nxc5 [C11]

Of course Black can also play the older 9...Bxc5 or 9...Nxc5. The latter was tried in the Rapids encounter Caruana, F - Nyzhnyk, I, PRO Chess League 2019. After 10 0-0-0 a6, White tried the unusual 11 h4, thinking about tactics after Bd3 and Bxh7+. 11...b5 12 Bd3 b4 followed:

This allows various direct attacking ideas, but they are only good for a draw at best. In the game, White played slowly and Black achieved the better play.

Winawer Variation 7 Qg4 0-0 8 Bd3 Nbc6 9 Qh5 [C18]

The most complex variations in the 7 Qg4 0-0 Winawer arise after 8 Bd3 Nbc6 9 Qh5 Ng6 10 Nf3 Qc7. Of late Black has been reluctant to enter into the most critical lines, but I don’t think there’s a clear theoretical reason to reject the setup. In Abrahamyan, T - Feng, M, St Louis 2019, the players contested this classic position, which has been fought over for decades:

It’s interesting how many options are still available to both sides in these lines. They are risky, but if Black is well-prepared, he should be able to maintain equality with interesting chances.

3 Bd3 System, 3...dxe4 4 Bxe4 Nf6 5 Bf3 [C01]

3 Bd3 is a regular visitor on the tournament scene, and we’ve seen many games with the solution 3...dxe4 4 Bxe4 Nf6 5 Bf3 c5. But Black can also play for ...e5 with 5...Nbd7 6 Ne2 e5:

This is a fairly simple and adequate solution. In Beerdsen, T - Rozentalis, E, Bundesliga 2019, I examine some typical examples.

Till next month, John

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