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I’ll be examining some Olympiad games over the next few months, but in this column I want to complete my update of some lines in the Armenian Variation of the Winawer (5...Ba5) and the Tarrasch with 3...Nf6.

Download PGN of October ’18 French games

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

Continuing with last month’s discussion of the old main line 3 Nd2 Nf6 4 e5 Nfd7 5 Bd3 c5 6 c3 Nc6 7 Ne2 cxd4 8 cxd4 f6 9 exf6 Nxf6, Sergei Volkov finally lost a game in his favorite line 10 0-0 Bd6 11 Nf3 0-0 12 Bf4 Bxf4 13 Nxf4 Ng4. In Bocharov, I - Volkov, S, Kazan (Rapid) 2018, White chose 14 g3 g5:

and now 15 Nh3?! This is probably not a good line, but Black has to respond accurately. See the notes for details.

In Atakisi, U - Atalik, S, Kragujevac 2018, White preferred 15 Ng2 Qf6 16 Be2:

Now Black played 16...Nh6 and got decent play, but this doesn’t improve upon the previously-played 16...Qh6.

Tarrasch Variation 3...Nf6 Mainline, 8...f6 9 exf6 Nxf6 10 0-0 Bd6 11 Nf3 0-0 12 Bg5 [C06]

Sjoberg, I - Bruaset, E, Oslo 2018, saw 12 Bg5 (instead of 12 Bf4), after which 12...Qb6 transposed to a solid line of the old 7...Qb6 8 Ndf3 cxd4 9 cxd4 f6 10 exf6 variation.

The game illustrates some typical ideas. In the opening stage, Black should have equalized but slightly inaccurate play gave White a small edge.

Tarrasch Variation 3...Nf6, 8...f6 9 exf6 Qxf6 [C06]

The line with 9...Qxf6 instead of 9...Nxf6 never quite goes away. In Bocharov, I - Inozemtsev, S, Sochi 2018, White answered 10 Ndf3 h6 with 11 Qc2, trying for Bg6+. Two games this month continued 11...Bd6 12 Bg6+ Ke7:

Black can eject the bishop and come out with a reasonable position, although one feels that White should retain a small edge.

Tarrasch Variation 3...c5 4 exd5 Qxd5 5 dxc5 [C07]

After 3 Nd2 c5 4 exd5 Qxd5, the capture 5 dxc5 has always had a following. Khamrakulov, D - Sevian, S, Washington 2018, is a good example of Black’s popular setup with 5...Nf6 6 Ngf3 Qxc5 7 Bd3 Nbd7 8 Qe2 Qc7:

The engine tends to like White in such positions, but when one makes a series of natural moves for Black, it is forced to admit to equality. The structure and play are typical of a number of lines in the French.

Winawer Armenian Variation 6 b4 cxd4 7 Qg4 Kf8 [C18]

The Armenian Variation of the Winawer with 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e5 c5 5 a3 Ba5 continues to be a hot topic. An excellent treatment by White, with a few glitches along the way, was shown by ChessPublishing contributor Max Ilingworth. Illingworth, M - Lopez Azambuja, N, Batumi 2018, saw the order 6 b4 cxd4 7 Qg4 Kf8 8 Nb5 Bc7 9 Qxd4:

Here Black played the innocent-looking 9...Ne7 (rather than Carlsen’s more forcing 9...Nbc6); lacking threats, he ended up with a substantial disadvantage based upon his poor king position opposed by White’s space and bishop pair.

Winawer Armenian Variation 6 b4 cxd4 7 Nb5 Bc7 8 f4 [C18]

A high-level test of the main line with 7 Nb5 Bc7 8 f4 Bd7 9 Nxc7 Qxc7 10 Nf3 Ba4 11 Bd3 arose two months ago in Vidit, S - Vitiugov, N, Linares 2018:

Here the normal 11...Ne7 12 0-0 followed, and Black played 12...Qb6, preparing ...a6 and ...Bb5, after which equality resulted. Two later grandmaster games from the Olympiad this month are included in the notes.

The difference a slight change of move orders can make is illustrated by Salgado Lopez, I - Garza Marco, S, Linares 2018, where the players followed the Vitiugov game through 12 0-0, but then Black played 12...Nbc6?! Allowing 13 b5!:

This isn’t fatal, yet the idea of Rb1-b4 gives Black enough problems to land him with a small but permanent disadvantage.

Yi Xu - Yiye Wang, China Team Ch 2018, is an interesting game which follows the moves from Vidit-Vitiugov but then (from the diagram) deviates with 11...Qc3+ 12 Bd2 Qxd3 13 cxd3 Bxd1 14.Rxd1:

White has been thought to have a moderate advantage here, but it seems that Black has an easier time maintaining a balance than previously supposed.

Another interesting approach for Black is simply 8...Nc6:

Kosteniuk, A - Danielian, E, Batumi 2018, illustrates this rather direct strategy. White at best gains nominal advantages which are difficult or impossible to exploit.

Till next month, John

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