What's New- September '01
Welcome to this month's update- that is, September's Update if you are confused. I finally decided I was going to clear the backlog of emails from subscribers. It proved quite a big task and next to impossible when my computer broke down, but anyway here it is at last. If you have sent me an email and I haven't replied, please could you send it again- apologies but I lost it when my computer had its breakdown.
First of all however, I want to introduce a quirky new way for White to avoid mainline theory:
Play like Paul Morphy!
I always used to think it odd that Paul Morphy handled the Open Games with such depth of understanding but when confronted with the French he would play the 'primitive' 3.Bd3. However, I've been looking at 3.Bd3 and see that it was a favourite of all the early masters who followed in Morphy's footsteps: Mason, Showalter, Schlechter and- in the first part of his career- Emanuel Lasker. Were they all just blindly copying the great man in adopting this unusual move? Moreover, it was also favoured by theorists such as Paulsen and the man with the famous name Winawer! Despite this by about 1900 the move 3.Bd3 had virtually died out, though the maverick Tartakower still played it in the 1920s.
Looking again with an open mind at 3 Bd3, I realise I was wrong in wondering why Morphy would play it. The reason is obvious: he loved the open game. The e4 pawn is attacked, and he didn't want 3.e5 with a closed centre; nor did he want to be pinned as occurs after 3.Nc3 Bb4 or have his bishop on c1 shut in after 3.Nd2. Nor did he want to free Black's bishop on c8 with 3.exd5. Therefore 3.Bd3 is entirely logical- it kept the most mobility for his pieces.
The Mainline after 3.Bd3
The characteristic position of the line is reached after
3...dxe4 4.Bxe4 Nf6 5.Bf3.
White's bishop aims at the b7 square. The idea is to make it hard for Black to develop his queen's bishop or, if he plays Nc6, possibly give him isolated pawns after Bxc6+ b7xc6. The position reminds me of the Catalan- indeed in the first illustrative game White wins in typical Catalan style by exploiting his pressure on the queenside, notably b7. Black's bishop on c8 spends most of the game tied to the defence of b7. Have a look at S.Ernst-Bachofner, SEP01/04.
A wonderful trap!
There is an insidious trap in this line into which Black can fall through playing very natural moves. De Jong, rated 2276, managed to catch two 2400+ players with it in the same Open tournament! Only one of them wriggled out. You can find these games in De Jong-Archangelsky, SEP01/03.
3...Nc6: Black attacks d4
3.Bd3 gained a notable scalp when Rozentalis was outplayed by the Israeli player Uritzky. Rozentalis made a positional error as early as the 12th move and seemed generally unsure of where to put his pieces. You can bet that a player of his calibre would be unlikely to mishandle a familiar set-up! In fact Uritzky, rated 2420, used 3.Bd3 three times in the 1999 Israeli Team Championships against opposition averaging 2552 and scored 2/3. It just goes to demonstrate what a big percentage of a players Elo rating depends on knowing what to do in the opening. Enjoy Uritzky-Rozentalis, SEP01/13.
Black plays 3...Nf6
Here it is a question of choosing which other system to transpose into. Thus you could try 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Bd3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Nf3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.0-0 when 7...Be7 would transpose to 3...Be7 in the Tarrasch while 7...Qb6 reaches a line normally seen via 3...Nf6- the Korchnoi Gambit if White gives up the d4 pawn. Of course, if you are happy to enter these lines as White then it is going to upset a Black player who never plays 3...Nf6 or 3...Be7 in the Tarrasch!
However, instead of this I would recommend that White play 4.Nd2!? transposing to Plaskett's treatment of the French: 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.Bd3, which you can find in the Tarrasch eBook, 3.Nd2 Nf6.
Black's best response: 3...c5
Black hasn't enjoyed playing against 3.Bd3. The only drawback I can see is Black can enter a fairly harmless variation of the Exchange with 3...c5 4.exd5 exd5. White's bishop is already committed to d3 so cannot be aggressively deployed with Bb5 without losing time. I would suggest that White consider 4.c3!? if he isn't happy witth this. Then an IQP type position could arise typical of the c3 Sicilian.
Of course, chances are that Black won't be happy in either the IQP position or the Exchange position. I'll end the survey with an example in which IM Nick Pert, when rated 2396, conceded a quick draw against a 2077 player after being tricked into a gambit line which confused him. I think French players in particular like to have their openings nicely worked out and don't like surprises! for this game and analysis on 3...c5 have a look at Kennedy-N.Pert, SEP01/09.
So there's 3 Bd3 for you. Now I'm going to look at your emails. First of all, here is a message from ChessPublishing's own Tony Kosten:
Someone was asking me about the line 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Nge7, particularly the line with 6 Bd3. So, I had a look at your site to see what the latest theory was, and in the only game, Agdestein- Bunzmann, I was flicking through when I thought doesn't 40 Nc5+ just win on the spot?
Bye, Tony K
Yep. I asked Anita Hersvik, one of the pupils at Simen Agdestein's chess school in Norway, if she could ask him- nicely!-what happened. The score of the game is correct- White really could have gone 40.Nc5+. Time trouble, of course. Have a look at Agdestein-Bunzmann, SEP01/01, for a discussion of the position at move 39.
The critical position in the mainline is reached after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Bc5 9.Qd2 0-0 10.0-0-0 a6 11.h4 Nxd4 12.Bxd4 b5 13.Rh3 b4 14.Na4 Bxd4 15.Qxd4
The recent coverage of this line has inspired two interesting responses from subscribers.
Firstly, Ron Langeveld writes:
as a new subscriber to Chesspublishing I immediately checked out your site about the French Classical for one of my correspondence chess games in the WC25 cycle. What suprised me was the rehabilitation of the 15...f6 line of Kasparov - Short. I looked at your analysis and found an improvement for white that is winning, but that is not the reason for this email; the 15...f6 line does not worry me as white, the 15...Qa5 line however does!
I quote your line from NM72/DEC99:
"Another alternative is 15...Qa5 but then 16.b3 Bb7 17.c3! an idea first seen in Nijboer-Luther, Leeuwarden 1992, has been shown to give White at least a slight positional edge, e.g. 17...Rfc8 18.Kb2 bxc3+ 19.Rxc3 Rxc3 20.Qxc3 Qxc3+ 21.Nxc3 with an unpleasant endgame for Black.""
Of course the 20...Qxc3 exchange is not a real option for black; your judgement about the endgame gets down to brass tacks. My worries however, are about 20...Qd8!
What to do if my opponent sees this as well ? The games that have been played with this move are not convincing. White can opt for either 21.Rc1 or g3 but in both cases I prefer the black side. Since the stem game is from 92 I wonder why so few players have given Qd8 a try in the last years.
First of all, Ron is absolutely right that 20...Qd8 is the critical move. However I'm not convinced it is particularly strong for Black.
I checked up the sources and in the only games I can find White has always played 21.g3. This is a very natural move as it defends h4 and completes the dark square pawn structure. However, it turns out that there is an arms race going on on the queenside and White doesn't have time for the luxury of this quiet move. Therefore 21.Rc1 looks critical: can White profit by seizing the c file? Have a look at my analysis in Fogarasi-Bricard, SEP01/05.
Ron also says he has found a refutation of the analysis on 15...f6- a win for White!
I was wondering what this could be when I got the following illuminating email from Daniel Stellwagen:
Dear mister McDonald,
In the july update of the French you said that the 15... f6 variation of the classical was still alive , based on the game wedberg-brynell.
I think this isn't true. after 15...f6 16.Qxb4 fxe5 17.Qd6 Qf6 18.f5! Qh6+ 19.Kb1 Nf6! white can play 20.Bd3! now I think white has an adventage. 20...exf5 (20...e4 21.Be2 Ne8 (21...exf5 22.Nb6 f4 23.Rhh1 and white has a clearly better position) 22.Qc6 Rb8 23.Rb3! +-) 21.Nb6 f4 22.Rhh1! Bg4 23.Nxa8 Bxd1 24.Nc7! e4 (24...Bh5 25.Nxd5 Nxd5 25.Qxd5+ ... 26.Qxe5 +-) 25.Bxa6 Bh5 26.Ne6! Re8 27.Bb5! Rc8 28.Nxf4 +-
Maybe the analysis isn't correct, but could you have a look at it?
The position and the analysis is extremely interesting. It is also important as it will decide whether this line is playable for Black. I have looked at it in some depth and I think that Black is OK! The analysis deserves its own game, so I have designated it as Analysis White- Analysis Black, Gravesend 2001, SEP01/02.
Now I was wondering if 20.Bd3 is the move that Ron was thinking of- or does he think there is another reutation of 15...f6 lurking somewhere? Time will tell!
'BC and KM' write:
Are you planning any coverage of the line that goes 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Ngf3-?
On the same theme FM Richard Palliser, who played recently for England in the World Under 20 with great success, writes:
In Kapnisis-N.Pert [at the World Under 20 in Athens] White found a very interesting way to play an f4 Tarrasch without c3 and it took a lot of prep to even find something playable. Nick's 11...d4 novelty is good I believe, but White still gains a scary initiative.
My thanks to both subscribers for bringing this line to my attention.
This is a very modern and exciting way for White to handle the Tarrasch. Basically he wants to take Black out of his favourite pawn structure. In this it reminds me of Anand's treatment of the Classical 4 e5 but in reverse. Thus Anand plays 1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 e5 Nfd7 5 Nce2 c5 6 c3 with the intention of taking players from their familiar Classical set up into the unknown Tarrasch structure-by keeping a pawn on d4. In contrast, by avoiding c2-c3 in the Tarrasch White wants to take Black from his familiar Tarrasch set up into the unknown Classical structure- with no pawn on d4!
It's no wonder that this has proved effective in practice. This month I have concentrated on the line 6...Nc6 7 Bd3!? which was the way that Nick Pert's game began. Next month I will broaden the survey of this system to look at other seventh moves for White. The general verdict is that Black is OK, but of course that means nothing- as long as White can set his opponent problems that haven't already been answered in previous games or well known analysis he is fighting for the win. Have a look at Kapnisis-Pert, SEP01/07. Incidentally, Nick has really been in the thick of action in the French as there are three of his games given this month!
Here are two rather contrasting emails. Who says the French Exchange is boring?
For crying out loud, am I to assume from your assessment of 4. Nf3 that it loses by force?? If so why bother devoting more than a sentence to it?
By the way, I see that disturbing trend everywhere on ChessPublishing. Seems every author has an axe to grind in each variation he presents. I was hoping I'd get a good background on openings I was having trouble with.
My name is Jiri Brousek, I am new subscriber of french Chesspublishing and I live in The Czech Republic, The Beskydas mountain near Slovakia border.
I play French and have problems with exchange variation. How to sharp position? Are any lines how to play against players that are thinking only about draw? What to use after moves 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.Bd3 Bd6 5.Nf3, when I want win, not draw ???
Regards, Jiri Brousek
Firstly, technically speaking, perhaps Jiri would like to look at the two game extracts given with 3.exd5 exd5 4.Bd3 c5!?- by transposition- in the notes to the game Kennedy-Pert, SEP01/09. That is the way players rated 2577 and 2575 try to beat somebody rated 2420 as Black! White held the draw in both cases, but Black seems at least equal. If 5.dxc5 Bxc5 White has nothing- the bishop isn't well placed on d3. Otherwise, Black can play c5-c4. The resulting pawn structure is imbalanced, and that is surely what you want as Black in the French Exchange if you are trying to win.
I guess Angelo's comment is based solely on the results of the games selected as I don't claim anywhere that 4 Nf3 is bad for White or that French Exchange wins by force for Black. Black does indeed make a plus score in the French Exchange section, though not a huge one. I guess that makes Jiri happy!
Good players normally beat much weaker players even if they are Black. It is just a fact that 2300 players insist on playing the French Exchange as White against the likes of Shirov, Bareev and Rogers. If Shirov or other 2700 players played it as White I would gladly give these games, as I did when Kramnik used 4 Nf3 to beat Polgar. And as for Kasparov losing as White against Sheransky in a simul'..... Maybe I'm elitist, but I believe that games by the strongest players are the most instructive- because they are the easiest to understand. You don't get wild swings of fortune caused by multiple blunders and therefore the result of the opening has a major bearing on the outcome of a game. For the same reason, one-sided games can be very instructive, when a weak player lets his opponent carry out his opening plan with no resistance. In both cases you can see clearly how the opening ideas influenced the middlegame.
As for every author having an axe to grind, well I can only speak for myself. The point of the website is to reflect trends and exciting new ideas- thus 3...Be7 for Black in the Tarrasch has received a lot of sympathetic treatment, but then so has 2 d3 for White. The reason? You can blame Morozevich in both cases for distorting the theoretical verdict as he wins all his games with 3...Be7 as Black and 2.d3 as White!
Also in the French Exchange regular correspondent Noel Aldebol sends a game from the Internet Chess Club and asks:
In this game White was playing for an onslaught, but did he underestimate Black's chances on the Q-side? We think the sacrifice should lead to a draw, but defense looked tricky. Would you shed some light?
You can see the game with comments below, but first a quick word about the opening move order. It began
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e6 3.e4 d5 4.exd5 exd5 5.Bg5
GM Demetrios Agnos once told me that one of the reasons he stopped playing the Classical French was that after 1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 Nf6 White can play 4 exd5 exd5 5 Bg5, just as happened in this game- via a different move order of course. Demetrios regards this as giving Black even fewer winning prospects than the French Exchange proper, as Black has already played ...Nf6 so can't play any counterattacking systems based on ...Bg4, ...Ne7 and ...Nbc6. It is curious that White players eager for a draw don't play like this more often against the Classical. In any case, the game Noel sent isn't any dull draw but a full blooded fighting game. Have a look at Pastpawn-Bladez, SEP01/12.
Noel also mentions that IM Chris Baker was the first to come up with the treatment of the Two Knights Variation which was analysed a couple of month's ago by Andrew Harley and others and can be found in APR01/03. I had a game with Chris about a month ago, but- perhaps wisely- I chose the Sicilian as Black!
John Watson's brilliant book 'Play the French' is often mentioned by subscribers.
Dear GM McDonald,
I play the french as black so when i play as white i always have trouble getting even the slighest advantage. Lately i have been successful with the tarrasch 5. Bd3 variation. The only thing is, is that no one has played 1.e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5. Bd3 c5 6. c3 Nc6 7. Ne2 Qb6 8. Nf3 cxd4 9. cxd4 f6 10. exf6 Nxf6 11 0-0 Bd6 when thematic would be 12. Bf4 but John Watson has shown that 12... Bxf4 followed by Qxb2 at least draws for black, what should i do against this system to get an advantage or is there just no way to claim an advantage in that line.
White has umpteen ways to handle the position. I've been looking through my database to try to find the best system. There is one line that scores 70% for White- 43 wins, 22 draws and 12 losses. That means it is either very strong or strong players choose it- in either case a high recommendation! This involves 12.b3!? followed by 13.Bf4- the thematic move you wanted to play but one move later so that Black can't take on b2. I've built a detailed analysis around two games. The first considers games in which Black tries to free himself in the centre with a quick e6-e5. Have a look at Vokarev-Prakken, SEP01/14.
In the second game Black responds quietly and is slowly constricted on the dark squares. Enjoy the beautiful game B.Lalic-N.Pert, SEP01/10.
I've also considered what happens if Black tries to avoid this line by delaying the c5xd4 exchange. Thus a recent game went 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Bd3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ne2 Qb6 8.Nf3 f6 9.exf6 Nxf6 10.0-0 Bd6
Quite a clever move order-it sidesteps the possibility after 10...cxd4 11.cxd4 Bd6 of 12.Nc3 and 12.Bf4. In the example given this month White didn't make any attempt to exploit this move order which can be done by capturing on c5 and then trying to utilise the d4 square in the style of the Classical Variation. However, this is considered in the analysis to the game. Have a look at the interesting but imperfect game Kasturi-Radziewicz, SEP01/08.
Books on Openings?
From Michael Stevenson:
l have just joined your site, but can you tell me if you know of a book(s) about the Rubinstein and/or Fort knox in the French
I can't recall any book dedicated exclusively to the Rubinstein or Fort Knox. Maybe publishers don't think it would be commercially successful- neither of these openings has the reputation of being aggressive or double edged.
If you would like to check out a list of chess books yourself, go to http://www.chess.co.uk/bookarchive.html
That's run by the Chess & Bridge Shop in London, who also fund TWIC. You can also find very detailed book reviews by John Watson there at: http://www.chess.co.uk/bookreview.html
If there is a good new French book out there it won't be missed by John Watson! Have a look at his reviews of previous books on the French.
An Unusual Gambit
I thought I was being audacious in suggesting 3. Bd3!? until I got the following email from an anonymous subscriber:
The Diemer-Duhm Gambit.
there's a interesting gambit
OK if Black take c4 it's now classical but what if they take e4?
I think this variation should be put on the site and if you want some information about this variation (but i'm pretty sure you already know it) go at :
The website mentioned above seems to be run by Jyrki Heikkinen. It is dedicated exclusively to the Diemer-Duhm Gambit. I see that Mr. Heikkinen has used it to draw against GM Bogdan Lalic. As I lost in about 20 moves the last time I played Bogdan that gives me food for thought!
My immediate impulse was to respond 3...dxe4 4 Nc3 Nf6 5.Bg5 Be7 and ask 'how do you get the pawn back?' as 6.Bxf6 Bxf6 would attack d4, but now I see that the idea is to gambit the pawn with f2-f3. Ah!
I caused a lot of irritation among Correspondence players- or at least Tim Harding author of a book on gambit lines against the French!- when I cast doubt on the Winckelmann-Reimer Gambit [1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.a3 Bxc3+ 5.bxc3 dxe4 6.f3] so this time I'm keeping my mouth shut. Have a look at the website if you fancy something off-beat. You could start by looking at the 15 best games he gives in this opening.
By the way, if any other subscribers have a favourite website they would like to see mentioned here just drop me a line.
Clark Mayo writes:
You mention in your "sidelines" that 2.Qe2 is "cutting a swath through GMs," but I don't see any games on the French site - am I missing them? (I'm currently playing a game v. Qe2, and don't like the way it is going -)
Oops. Games starting 2.d3 are under the code A08, while games with 2.Qe2 and 2.d3 d5 3.Qe2 are under C00. Though the moves d2-d3 and Qe2 are blood brothers in the King's Indian Attack- where you find one you normally find the other one coming along pretty soon. So check under both codes if you want to study either 2.d3 or 2.Qe2.
I hope you survived the game in question! Meanwhile here is a pleasant win by Morozevich. It is only a blitz game, but everything goes exactly like clock-work- Morozevich knows these type of positions inside out. Check out Morozevich-Lastin, SEP01/11.
Richard Palliser has a valuable comment to make here about the position after
1.e4 e6 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.Ngf3 Nc6 5.c3 a5 6.e5 Nd7 7.d4 f6.
'In Hersvik-Mel Buckley [at the World Under 20 Girls in Athens] 8 Bb5 instead of the feeble 8 exf6 might well cast some doubt on Black's popular anti-KIA system.'
I don't like to dwell too much on statistics- 'damn lies' or whatever- but they are certainly impressive for White after 8.Bb5! In the 19 games I can find, White scores 11 wins, 5 draws and three losses- 71% . White's average rating in these games is 2365, but performs at 2508; Black's average rating is 2315 and performs at 2216.
You can see analysis of this in Hersvik-M.Buckley, SEP01/06.
Well that's all for this month. Good luck in your chess! My thanks to all the subscribers who made this Update possible with their ideas and questions. Keep on sending them in!
As you can see this month I have used the Update section as a forum for subscribers emails. I hope you enjoyed it and please write if you have any queries!