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This month I’ll look at some recent games in the Rubinstein Variation and then examine developments in a couple of important lines of the Tarrasch.

Download PGN of September ’18 French games

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Rubinstein Variation 4...Nd7 5 Ngf3 Ngf6 6 Nxf6+ Nxf6 7 Be3 [C10]

The Rubinstein Variation 3 Nc3/3 Nd2 dxe4 4 Nxe4 Nd7 continues to be used at high levels with satisfactory results. With the recent appearance of the second edition of Hans Langrock’s Rubinstein Variation book, it might be of interest to look at a few recent games. One quick-developing setup used by Caruana has undergone several recent tests: 5 Ngf3 Ngf6 6 Nxf6+ Nxf6 7 Be3 with the idea Bd3/Qe2/0-0-0. In Sutovsky, E - Gorodetzky, D, Ramat Gan 2018, Black played 7...Be7 8 Bd3 b6, allowing White certain tactical opportunities in order to get his bishop to b7 as soon as possible. This led to a standard type of position:

In two games this month Black chose 11...Qc8 here and equalized . The Sutovsky game was irrational in that White got a very large advantage, then blundered, and finally was given a draw in a totally lost position. Nevertheless, this opening setup appears to be satisfactory for Black.

Rubinstein Variation 4...Nd7 5 Ngf3 Ngf6 6 Nxf6+ Nxf6 7 Bg5 Be7 [C10]

In Alonso Moyano, J - Alonso Alvarez, A, Linares 2018, Black played 8...0-0 before ...b6, when White opted to put his queen on d2 and reached this position:

Here White tried to attack via Bxf6 and Ng5, which came up short; the position was balanced in any case.

Rubinstein Variation 4...Nd7 5 g4!? [C10]

Alexei Shirov tends to go his own way, and has played the eccentric 5 g4!? no less than four times this year:

White grabs space, and intends to answer ...Ngf6 with an exchange and tempo-winning g5. As Shirov, A - Mirzoev, A, Linares 2018, and the other games cited indicate, this requires careful treatment on Black’s part.

Tarrasch Variation 3...c5 4 Ngf3 cxd4 5 Nxd4 Nc6 6 Bb5 Bd7 [C07]

We’ve looked at the sequence 3 Nd2 c5 4 Ngf3 cxd4 5 Nxd4 Nc6 6 Bb5 Bd7 7 Nxc6 bxc6 8 Bd3 before. It continues to be one of the most popular continuations after 3...c5, probably because both sides retain plenty of chances in an unbalanced position. Perez Candelario, M - Forcen Esteban, D, Linares 2018, tested the move 8...Qc7:

This is a flexible position in which White’s slight lead in development is balanced by Black’s central majority.

The less common capture 7 Bxc6 of Smirin, I - Merry, B, Riga 2018, led to 7...bxc6 8 0-0:

White is counting upon a lead in development, which in the game did indeed give him some advantage. In the notes I suggest ways in which Black can keep things level.

Tarrasch Variation 3...c5 4 exd5 exd5 5 Bb5+ Nc6 6 Ngf3 Qe7+ [C09]

When White plays 4 exd5, Black’s main response is 4...Qxd5, but the traditional 4...exd5, featured in a recent Marin repertoire, is becoming increasingly popular. After 5 Bb5+ Nc6 6 Ngf3, 6...Bd6 has been the main line for many years, but two other alternatives are receiving attention: 6...cxd4 and the related move 6...Qe7+, which often leads to 7 Be2 Qc7 8 0-0 Nf6 9 Re1:

Here Kokoszczynski, J - Kashlinskaya, A, Suwalki 2018, continued 9...Be6 10 dxc5 Bxc5 11 Nb3 Bb6 with an active position for Black which has held up in numerous games. Probably 10 Bd3 was a better try.

The game Gara, A - Farago, I, Budapest 2018, saw 9...cxd4, simply allowing a discovered check:

In two of Farago’s games this month Black achieved easy equality from this position.

Tarrasch Variation 3...Nf6 Mainline 8...f6 9 exf6 Nxf6 10 0-0 Bd6 11 Nf3 0-0 12 Bf4, 13...Ng4 [C06]

The most-played of all lines following 3 Nd2 Nf6 4 e5 Nfd7 is 5 c3 c5 6 Bd3 Nc6 7 Ne2 cxd4 8 cxd4 f6 9 exf6 Nxf6 10 0-0 Bd6 11 Nf3. We haven’t spent as much time on 11...0-0 as 11...Qc7 recently, but I notice that Sergei Volkov has been playing 11...0-0 12 Bf4 Bxf4 13 Nxf4 Ng4 consistently this year versus strong opposition:

That includes three games this month, each of which continued 14 Qd2 Qf6. In Barbero Senidic, A - Volkov, S, Barcelona 2018, White tried 15 Nh5 Qh6 16 Qxh6 Nxh6:

Volkov has won 3 games from this harmless-looking position! Naturally White doesn't stand badly, but neither is the position drawish.

Cruz, J - Volkov, S, Barcelona 2018 saw the main line with 15 Ne2 e5 16 dxe5 Ngxe5 17 Nxe5:

Here Black answered with 17...Nxe5, which I think is the most accurate reply and the one generating the most positive chances. Volkov chose 17...Qxe5 in the game Jones, G - Volkov, S, Linares 2018. That is also playable, but as the game notes show, White has more chance to retain a modest edge.

Finally, in Garcia Romero, B - Gomez Sanjuan, H, Linares 2018, White played 14 g3 instead of 14 Qd2 and ran into 14...g5:

This has long been considered equal after 15 Ng2 Qf6, and the game notes seem to confirm that impression. In this particular contest, White quickly went wrong and allowed a nice tactic.

Till next month, John

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