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In some ways this column resembles that from the last few months, in that I've mainly discussed variations with the Classical Steinitz (because the top players are using it more than any other line), and I've continued to discuss some lines with ...dxe4. But there's also a Hecht-Reefschlaeger game played at the highest levels, and a nice contribution from a reader in the 2 Qe2 variation.

Download PGN of September '13 French games

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Rubinstein 4 Bg5 dxe4, 5...Nbd7 [C11]

Variations with ...dxe4 continue to be used at the top to secure equal, not to say boring, games which give good drawing chances without risking too much. One such line is 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Bg5 dxe4 5 Nxe4 Nbd7 6 Nf3 h6, a transposition to the Rubinstein Variation, which can lead to this position:

White hasn't gotten more than equality from this position of late. In Duda - Ivanchuk, FIDE World Cup Tromso 2013, Black slowly but surely outplayed his opponent and ultimately took the full point.

Rubinstein 6 Bxf6 gxf6 [C11]

In Akash - Caruana, FIDE World Cup Tromso 2013, Black tried out Morozevich's favourite 4...dxe4 5 Nxe4 Be7 6 Bxf6 gxf6, and by an unusual move order arrived at a fairly normal-looking position:

From another even position with the queens off, Black was able to outplay his opponent in fine positional style.

Fort Knox 8 Ng3 Bd6 [C10]

We've seen Black struggle in the Fort Knox recently, and it may be that the variation has seen its heyday. In the main lines Black seems to be cramped with no counterplay. In 23 games this month, White scored over 80% with nearly a 400-point performance rating advantage! Naturally that's not typical, but in general Black's results have been declining over the past few years.

Oparin - Rozentalis, Trieste 2013, reached this position and Black resorted to the rather depressing 9...Bxg3 10 hxg3, leaving his opponent with the bishop pair and more space. After some inaccuracies by White, Black worked his way back into the game, but ultimately faltered.

Fort Knox 8 Ned2 [C10]

Fedorov - Mateuta, Mamaia 2013, saw the promising Ned2 plan that we've examined previously:

Black played 10...Bxf3 11 Nxf3 and, instead of the usual idea 11...c6, played 11...c5. White retained a small but definite edge with his bishop pair, and although he attacked a little prematurely, Black only had one chance to equalize, which he missed.

Classical Steinitz 7...cxd4 8 Nxd4 Bc5 [C11]

The Classical Steinitz continues to be a primary battleground for the world's best players. This month saw many theoretical battles, of which I've chosen just a few.

Karjakin - Andreikin, FIDE World Cup Tromso 2013, reached this standard position. In a later theoretical position Andreiken tried a new move that led to a minor disadvantage. Karjakin pressed too hard for a win, however, and ultimately lost control of the game.

There were several other games with 7...cxd4 8 Nxd4 Bc5, including Perunovic - Antic, Kragujevac 2013. Antic's book recommends 7....Be7 and 7...a6, so this was a bit of a surprise.

With 10 g3 White played a safe move in a standard position, simply developing and hoping to keep control of the centre. Black had little trouble equalizing, but miscalculated at one point, dropped a pawn and never recovered.

The following position has arisen in numerous contests over the years:

In Yemelin - Zvjaginsev, St Petersburg 2013, the play turned wild as each side pursued attacks on the king. This should have been roughly equal, but when Black played too slowly, White could have obtained a crushing position with simple moves. As things happened, he let Black slip out and the game was eventually drawn.

7...cxd4 8 Nxd4 Qb6 [C11]

Since we've been following it for several months, I have to report on a major game in the forcing line that Nakamura has had success with. We have seen this position more than once:

Here 19...Ba3, as played in Kamsky - Shimanov, FIDE World Cup Tromso 2013, is the move that analysts have been most happy with, and it was Nakamura's choice in an earlier contest. So Kamsky's decision to play White is definitely of interest. He succeeds in grinding down his opponent, but with accurate play by Black I think White's advantage is so insignificant that he can't exert meaningful pressure, much less claim serious winning chances.

Hecht-Reefschlaeger 4 e5 f6 [C10]

As well as it's done on an international level, it's still a bit surprising to see the Hecht-Reefschlaeger employed at the highest levels. But it was, and in a tournament with World Championship Candidates implications!

In Karjakin - Andreikin, FIDE World Cup Tromso 2013, one of their two French Defense games from the World Cup, Andreikin deviated from the conventional approaches (see their Classical game above), and was rewarded with a needed draw.

King's Indian Attack 2 Qe2 Nf6 [C00]

Here's a fun game of some theoretical interest submitted by Noel Jose Blades Aldebol (screen name ' Bladezii').

This comes from 1 e4 e6 2 Qe2 Nf6 3 e5 Nd5, etc. In this position I had recommended 6...exd5, but in Creatchy - Bladezii, ICS 2013, Noel played the dynamic 6...b5!? with wild play to follow. I've used his notes without any editing except to shorten some extremely long analyses.

Till next month, John

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