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I look mainly at variations with 3 Nc3 this month, including the Winawer, the Alekhine-Chatard, and the irregular 3 Nc3 h6.

Download PGN of November '14 French games

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Tarrasch Variation 3...Nf6/5 Bd3 mainline with ...Qc7 [C06]

But first, an important line of the 3...Nf6 Tarrasch with ...Qc7. In Hodgson - Slade, Ron Bruce Premier 2014, White uncorked a potentially important novelty.

Here the simple move 15 Rc3!? is flexible and not easy to meet. The game is a short draw, but White misses a win. This deserves a closer look.

Winawer Variation 7 Qg4 Qc7 8 Bd3 c4 [C18]

After 7 Qg4 Qc7 in the main line, the move 8 Bd3 is undergoing a revival.

We'll probably be seeing this move a lot more after Parimarjan Negi recommended it in his 1 e4 repertoire book.

Van Haastert-Rozentalis, Bilbao 2014, saw 8...c4 9 Be2 Nf5 10 Bd1!? (Negi's main recommendation) 10...Nc6 11 Ne2:

While Negi rightly likes White after 9...0-0 10 f4 and 11 Nf3, 11...0-0 at this point (which he doesn't mention) is a much better version. As the game goes, with 11...Bd7 12 0-0 0-0-0, White achieves a standard bind and wins a convincing game when Black is impatient about getting counterplay.

Classical Alekhine-Chatard Attack 6...c5 [C13]

The Alekhine-Chatard Attack is one of a minority of gambits that holds up in modern play and is still interesting enough to be popular with strong players. What's more, the Alekhine-Chatard is played with attack in mind, as opposed to positional gambits (like the Benko). Golubov - Gadimbayli, Baku 2014, tested the line 6...c5 7 Bxe7 Kxe7 8 Nf3:

Black's position is supposed to be equal here, but it's not easy to show that.

Malik - Paulovic, Tatranske Zruby 2014, saw another variant of this line, with 8 Qd2 replacing 8 Nf3. White played dxc5 and 0-0-0 next:

This sacrifices his e-pawn in return for development and dangerous piece play. Nevertheless, Black should take on e5; instead, he went after c5 and got dominated on the kingside.

Alekhine-Chatard Attack 6...Nc6 7 Nf3 Nb6 [C13]

In Cernousek - Balog, Slovakia 2014 (another Alekhine-Chatard Attack), Black tried the rare but safe 6...Nc6 7 Nf3 Nb6:

White has a space advantage, while Black struggles to challenge the centre. Nevertheless, accuracy is necessary for White to maintain his edge, and in the game Black manages to get to a queenless middlegame with the bishop-pair and some advantage.

Variation with 3...h6 4 Nf3 Nf6 5 Bd3 Bb4 [C10]

I'm not sure what to call this irregular line, but it's been played repeatedly by a number of well-known GMs, and as far as I know no one has come up with a convincing solution. In 2007, I suggested trying this line in my book Dangerous Weapons: The French, and looking at subsequent events, it still seems a playable line. This month, two games tested the position after 4 Nf3 Nf6 5 Bd3 Bb4 (I give a lengthy note on 5...c5) 6 e5 Ne4:

In Sethuraman - Popov, St Petersburg 2014, White played the popular gambit with 7 0-0 Nxc3 8 bxc3 Bxc3 9 Rb1. He succeeded in winning the game, but Black has more than one way to equalize.

In Praneeth - Repka, Pune 2014, White defended c3 instead with 7 Bd2. The opening resulted in a dead-even position; later, White neglected to restrain Black's centre pawns and lost.

Till next month, John

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