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This month we have a number of games from the Isle of Man tournament in Douglas, where the French Defence was well represented; and a last sample from the World Cup in Baku.

Download PGN of October '15 French games

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Advance Variation 5...Qb6 6 a3 Nh6 [C02]

At the top levels of play, the following main line position from 5...Qb6 6 a3 continues to be the starting point for numerous struggles:

Jackson - Fridman, Douglas 2015, tested 12 Qc2, one of three challenging alternatives. Black's play depends upon a pawn sacrifice, but tends to hold up well. White needs a new idea here.

Tarrasch Variation 3...c5 [C09]

For many players, one of the drawbacks to 3...c5 against the Tarrasch is that after 4 Ngf3, Black can no longer enter the ...Qxd5 variation which arises from 4 exd5 Qxd5. There are a number of acceptable solutions, but they tend to leave Black with few winning chances in rather sterile positions. In G Jones-Sundararajan, Douglas 2015, Black opted for transposition to the old 4 exd5 exd5 lines to reach the following traditional position which harks back to the play of Uhlmann and Korchnoi:

As the game shows, this is a good practical choice if Black is willing to give White a static positional plus in exchange for dynamic possibilities.

Guimard Variation 6 Bd3 f6 [C04]

In the Guimard Variation, Pert - Otteson, Douglas 2015, reached a standard position:

Here 8 0-0 is normal, but White borrowed an idea from the similar variation with Be2 instead of Bd3: 8 Nf1 with the idea Ne3. It seems that this secures a small but meaningful advantage.

Universal System 7...g6 8 h4 [C06]

3...Nf6 is still the most frequent choice among masters. In Hillarp Persson-S Williams, Douglas 2015, the Universal System with 7...g6 was played, and this position arose:

Hillarp Persson played the somewhat unusual 9 Nf1, and Williams found the pointed response 9...Qa5, which should lead to equality; Black even got the better of things, but made some inaccuracies and lost an interesting struggle.

Winawer Variation 5 Bd2 Ne7 6 Nb5 [C17]

The 5 Bd2 variation is usually played because of its perceived safety. In particular, when White plays Nb5 and later 8 c3, he usually manages to maintain a central balance.

In Short - Nakar, Douglas 2015, Black played the simplest solution 8...Bd7, intending simply ...Bxb5. He misplayed the move order, however, and White was able to use his space advantage effectively.

Winawer Variation Poisoned Pawn 11...dxc3 12 h4 d4 13 h5 [C18]

The main line Poisoned Pawn Variation is always topical. A position that has been debated for some time now is the following:

The World Junior Girls game Ziasiulkina - Khomeriki, Khanty-Mansiysk 2015, saw the rare but natural-looking 17 Ng3. The game quickly lost theoretical significance as Black gained a substantial advantage. But after mistakes in the middle of tremendous complications, White emerged on top, and although the game should have been drawn, eventually she prevailed in a difficult ending.

In Maletin - Anchutin, Nizhny Tagil 2015, White tried the unusual 17 Kf2, which however transposed to a main line following 17...Bc8 18 Rb1 b6 19 a4:

Another typically wild and crazy contest resulted, with Black missing a single unlikely win but otherwise ending in a well-deserved draw.

Classical Steinitz Variation 7 Be3 Qb6 8 Na4 Qa5+ 9 c3 c4 10 b4 Qc7 [C11]

Last month we saw White win a nice attacking game in the Steinitz Variation, in the World Cup game Wei-Vok, Baku (match game 1). In the 3rd and 5th games of the same match, Vovk tried another variation of the Steinitz with success. Instead of 7...cxd4 8 Nxd4 Bc5 (see the previous update and Archives), Black played 7...Qb6 8 Na4 Qa5+ 9 c3 c4 10 b4 Qc7. White chose 11 g3, placing the bishop on g2 in one game, and on h3 in the other.

Black, presumably thoroughly prepared, played a passive waiting strategy in both games and drew one game while winning the other when his young attacking opponent overreached. See Wei - Vok, Baku (2.5) 2015.

Till next month, John

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