Sunday, September 24, 2017

Opening Preparation: The French Defense - King's Indian Attack

Thus far, we have covered a side line for Black against the Advance Variation in the Introduction article, and we've covered the lines where Black should have no problems equalizing, namely the Exchange Variation (Part 1) and the Tarrasch Variation (Part 2), with ideas of how to gain the advantage if White doesn't play perfectly. The articles that follow this one will cover the most critical lines where I feel White can gain a slight advantage with best play from both sides, namely 3.Nc3 and 3.e5, the latter of which will be an article for those of you looking for a line to play as White against the French Defense.

So where does the King's Indian Attack (from here on out referred to as the "KIA") fit into all of this? Well, the KIA is that annoying line that is loaded with tricks and traps. In no way do I believe that White can get an advantage with best play from both sides in the KIA, but Black cannot get away with just understanding concepts like he can against the Exchange and the Tarrasch. It's important to know the theory of White's side lines and various move order tricks in the main line.

Now you might be asking yourself "Is there really a main line in the KIA?". Technically, no! However, there are lines that fit more in line with the Sicilian Defense where Black fianchettos his King's Bishop and develops the King's Knight to e7, and some KIA lines favored by those that don't play the Sicilian or the French, and then there is what some sources have referenced as the "KIA vs French", which involves putting the pawns on e6, d5, and c5, the Knights to c6 and f6, the Bishop to e7, and castling, not advancing any of the pawns on the Kingside and giving White a "hook". This is the line most commonly played by advocates of the French Defense. The diagram below shows what a typical KIA vs French looks like.

A typical KIA vs French

So rather than separate into sections by variation, I am going to start with covering the various move order tricks and why you might face them, and how to deal with each one, concluding with what specific order moves should be played in the main line. I will then go through four games, three of which will be wins by Black, and the other will show a win by White, showing what Black must watch out for. With that, let's take a look at White's move order tricks and what variations we need to account for.

1.e4 e6 2.d3

White also has the option to play 2.Qe2. The point here is to discourage 2...d5 by Black as then White could play 3.exd5 and Black would have to recapture with the Queen rather than the pawn. In this case, I recommend that Black play the move 2...c5! The reason for this is simple. Sure it looks enticing to play 2...Be7, looking to play 3.e5 on the very next move, but this allows White the big center with 3.d4. After 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Qe2, it would be Black's move, after which taking on e4 would be recommended as White would be forced to either gambit a pawn or else recapture with the Queen on e4, giving Black developing moves for free as something like 3...dxe4 4.Qxe4 Nf6 develops a Black piece and makes White move the Queen again. However, here, Black is not pressuring e4 yet, and so after 3.d4 d5, White can protect e4 with his Knight or advance the pawn. Particularly in the case of advancing the pawn, often times Black needs that e7-square to get his Knight out, and now the Bishop is in the way. Therefore, I recommend slightly adjusting the move order to 2...c5 followed by either 3...Nc6, 4...Be7, and only then play the moves like ...d5 and ...Nf6. Most of the time, this will directly transpose to the KIA, but there is one alternative in White playing an early f4. A prime example of this, where the game goes 2...c5 3.f4, can be found in my article on the 2017 Charlottesville Open if you go to Round 5 at the bottom of the article. Black reaches a won position before blundering late into a draw.

2...d5 3.Nd2

This move is often played in order to avoid a Queen trade should Black decide to ever trade on e4, and especially if Black plays an early ...Nf6. If White attempts to avoid the Queen trade after something like 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.g3 dxe4, he's out of luck and the Queens will come off whether White likes it or not. The primary alternative is once again 3.Qe2. This move, instead of 3.Nd2, can have the advantage of a theoretically strong line for White via transposition should Black choose to play the KIA vs Sicilian line, but this won't impact us as it should directly transpose to passive 13.Qe2 in the main line, which we will see later in the second game. By the way, that line that White is keeping available to himself by playing 3.Qe2 is 3...c5 4.g3 Nc6 5.Bg2 g6 6.Nf3 Bg7 7.O-O Nge7 8.c3 b6 9.Na3, with ideas of either Nb5 or else Nc2 and b4. This is typically the main reason behind delaying moving the Knight to the passive d2 square. Again, this won't impact us as we don't fianchetto the dark-squared Bishop.

3...c5 4.Ngf3 Nc6 5.g3

White fianchettoing his Bishop is the critical line here. Passive moves like 5.Be2 can be easily defended by using common sense and well known middle game concepts. White's position is totally passive and there is no pressure on the Black position at all here.


If you are not going to fianchetto the Bishop, as is the case here, then this is the better square for the King's Knight so that the e7-square is available for the Bishop.

6.Bg2 Be7 7.O-O O-O

We have now reached the diagram above.

8.Re1 b5 9.e5

This is a key move in this variation. White forces the Black Knight away from the f6-square where it would normally be a key defensive piece for the Black King. White's plan is fairly obvious. He's going for a direct attack at the Black King.

9...Nd7 10.Nf1 a5 11.h4 b4 12.Bf4

And now, some players as Black will play 12...a4 here and others will play 12...Ba6. I am going to recommend the latter as it will allow us to see one more move by White to determine what we want to do. No matter what happens, this is the one line where the move ...f6 is rarely a good idea because White can attack the weak e6 pawn via taking on f6 with his heavy pieces sitting on the e-file along with moving his Light-Squared Bishop to h3 to hit e6. Theerefore, if we never intend to play ...f6 unless we reach an endgame, then e5 won't move, and hence e6 won't move, and so there is no real point in keeping our Bishop on c8. Therefore, we pretty much want to play ...Ba6 no matter what White does, but the move ...a4 may be more effective against certain moves by White versus other moves. Therefore, we will play the move we want to play no matter what first.


And this takes us to what the games will cover. The first game will show what happens when Black plays 12...a4 and doesn't capture on a3 when it's advanced by White, causing Black's play to be a bit slower. The other three games will show what to do based on White's 13th move, whether that be a slow move like 13.N1h2 or 13.Qe2 (Game 2), which can often arise from the lines with Qe2 played on move 2, 3, or 8-onward or on move 13 itself, or whether that be the aggressive 13.Ng5 (Game 3). The other thing that White can try is to avoid the 12.Bf4 move and try to accelerate the Knight tour with 12.N1h2 and 13.Ng4 (Game 4). The main thing to keep in mind is that in the majority of cases, this turns into a race, and so slow, passive play will get you nowhere in this line.

Game 1: Black Plays 12...a4 and Doesn't Take on a3

W: Kaidanov,G (2625)
B: Nijober,F (2525)
Elista RUS(Round 5), 1998

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d3 Nc6 4.g3 d5 5.Nbd2 Nf6 6.Bg2 Be7 7.O-O b5 8.Re1 O-O

This specific game may have started with a Sicilian move order, but notice that after 8 moves, we are back in the KIA vs French territory. A word of note that the KIA, like some other openings such as the English or various Queen Pawn openings, can transpose at a high frequency, so make sure that you know and understand piece location in addition to various move orders by White. Via our normal move order, this game would have gone 1.e4 e6 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.Ngf3 Nc6 5.g3 Nf6 6.Bg2 Be7 7.O-O O-O 8.Re1 b5.

9.e5 Nd7 10.Nf1 a5 11.h4 b4 12.Bf4


I think this is a move too soon for Black to push the a-pawn again. A better move is 12...Ba6, since he wants to play that move anyway, and wait and see what White does. This will be covered in the final three games.


The normal rule of thumb is not to advance pawns on the side of the board in which you are weak. That said, sometimes it's a necessary evil. In this case, White cannot allow Black to play 13...a3 as it will weaken the c3-square and a Black Knight will head into that square via b5 and threaten the a2 pawn, which will be hard to guard except to waste a whole Rook on a1 to baby the pawn as the c2-pawn blocks any lateral guarding of the pawn. If the a-pawn falls, Black has a massive pawn on a3 that is protected, passed, and only two squares away from promotion!

13...Ba6 14.N1h2

I would play 14.Ng5 here instead and take advantage to Black's early commitment to go for a4 and use it against him. Game 3 will show what Black should do against an early Ng5. It turns out, White plays this move three moves later, and it ends up killing Black as he fails to respond properly.


Black should instead take on a3, opening up the b-file immediately. Instead, this approach takes Black longer to open up the b-file and shuts down the c-file, slowing down Black's attack.

15.d4 c3 16.bxc3 bxc3 17.Ng5

So let's take a look at the position. Black has an open b-file, but otherwise the a-file, c-file, and d-file are all shut down, and the c3-pawn isn't even protected by the d-pawn, and so even if Black does manage to somehow win the c2-pawn, White can go after the c3-pawn. In the mean time, on the Kingside, it appears as though White's Bishops are blocked by the pawns, and the only slight threat is Qh5, making Black advance the h-pawn and creating a hook for White, but not the end of the world, right? We just get that Knight down to c4 to attack a3 and all is good?


Wrong! White's attack may appear dormant, but looks can be very deceiving, and once he gets the attack started, it's full speed ahead for White! Black had to knock the Knight back immediately with 17...h6.

18.Qh5 Bxg5

A sad necessity as 18...h6 doesn't work now. White just ignores the threat to the Knight and plays 19.Ng4!. Kaidanov himself gives the following analysis: After 19...hxg5 20.hxg5 g6 (20...Nxd4 21.Nf6+ gxf6 22.gxf6 Bxf6 23.exf6 Qxf6 24.Be5 and White wins the Queen as any movement by the Queen results in mate on h8 with the White Queen) 21.Qh6 Nxd4 22.Nf6+ Bxf6 23.gxf6 Nf5 24.Qh3 and Black has no way to stop 25.g4 and then 26.Qh6 once the Knight goes away. Black must always watch out for sacrifices on g5 and f6 in these lines.

19.Bxg5 Qe8

Black is looking to answer 20.Ng4 with 20...f5, using a trick that we will be seeing in Game 3. However, this position is totally different, and White has a move that stops Black's defensive idea immediately.


Forcing the Black Pawn to remain on f7, and hence Blocking Black from being able to trade Queens or guard the g7 and h7 squares.


The lesser evil was 20...gxf6 21.Ng4 Nd7 (to stop 22.Nxf6+ followed by mate) 22.Bxd5 exd5 23.exf6 Kh8 (White threatened mate with 23.Qg5+ and 24.Qg7#, and therefore Black must give up the Queen.) 24.Rxe8 Raxe8 25.Qxd5 Ncb8. White has a Queen and three Pawns for a Rook, Bishop, and Knight, but White's pieces are much stronger than Black's and the advantage clearly belongs to White.

With the game move, Black loses almost immediately.

21.Ng4 Nf5 22.Qg5 Kh8 23.Bxg7+

Black is about to be forced to give up his Queen just to avoid mate.

23...Nxg7 24.Nf6 Qd8 25.Qh6 Qxf6

The only move that stops immediate mate.

26.Qxf6 Rae8 27.g4 Nd7 28.Qf4 Bc4 29.h5 Rc8 30.Rab1 f5 31.exf6 1-0

Black threw in the towel. This game should illustrate how deceptively quiet the KIA can be and yet Black can still get blasted. That Knight that was going after the a-pawn never even made it to c4!

Game 2: Black Plays 12...Ba6 and White Responds Passively

W: Sebastien Maze (2412)
B: Martin Zumsande (2499)
EU-ch Internet Qualifier, 2003

1.e4 e6 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.Ngf3 Be7 5.g3 c5 6.Bg2 O-O 7.O-O Nc6 8.Re1 b5 9.e5 Nd7 10.Qe2

As mentioned previously, this passive line with 13.Qe2 can easily come via transposition where White plays this Queen move at some point earlier in the opening, including move 2 or 3.

10...b4 11.Nf1 a5 12.h4 Ba6 13.Bf4

With a slight change in move order, we end up in the main line where White answers 12...Ba6 with 13.Qe2. If White has intention to play Ng5 and Qh5 to go after the Black King in rapid fire, he is going to end up spending an extra tempo to do it as the Queen will have moved twice. This slower approach gives Black time to expand and open the Queenside without having to worry about defensive moves on the Kingside yet.


And so now is the time to play this move! I would also recommend this move against the line with 12.Bf4 and 13.N1h2, where the Queen still sits on d1.


As mentioned before, this move is necessary for White in order to avoid Black from being able to play ...a3 and bring a Knight into c3 and attack the a2-pawn. The c3-square will still be somewhat soft, and the a-pawn still won't be completely safe, but a Knight on c3 won't attack the isolated pawn, and if it is ever captured, Black's pawn is a rank further back from promotion. Just this one move alone can sometimes be enough for White to finally go all in and ignore his Queenside weaknesses while banking on his Kingside attack being quicker.


Immediately opening one file on the Queenside, and not locking all of the other files up, keeping files like the c-file fluid compared to the first game.

15.bxa3 Rb8 16.N1h2 Rb2


Here is a prime example of the "tricks" in the KIA. White can't afford to not contest the invading Rook, but there is one way for Black to win, and many other ways not to! 17.Ng4 c4 18.d4 Qa5 19.Rec1 (19.Bd2?? c3 20.Bxc3 Bxe2 21.Bxa5 Bxf3 22.Bxf3 Nxa5 -+) 19...Rfb8 (19...Nb6 20.h5 c3 21.Qe1 Re8 22.h6 g6 23.Nf6+ Bxf6 24.exf6 Nc4 25.Qd1 is equal) 20.h5 Qc3!! (20...R8b3? 21.h6 g6 22.Bd2 c3 [22...Nxd4? 23.Nxd4 c3 24.Qe3 cxd2 25.cxb3 dxc1=Q+ 26.Rxc1 Bxa3 27.b4 Bxb4 28.Nc6 and now it's White with the big advantage] 23.cxb3 cxd2 24.Qe3 dxc1=Q+ 25.Qxc1 Rxb3 26.Qxc6 Bb5 27.Qc8+ Qd8 28.Rc1 Bc4 29.Qxd8+ Bxc8 30.Nd2 Rxa3 31.Nxc4 dxc4 32.Rxc4 is equal) 21.h6 g6 22.Bd2 Rxc2 23.Bxc3 Rxe2 24.Ne3 Bf8 25.Bf1 Reb2 26.Bxb2 Rxb2 27.Ng4 Rb3 28.Be2 Rxf3 29.Bxf3 Nxd4 30.Rc3 Nb3 31.Rd1 d4 32.Rc2 d3 33.Rc3 Bb5 and despite being down two Rooks for a Bishop, Knight, and two Pawns, Black's winning.

17...Rxb1 18.Rxb1 c4 19.Ng5 cxd3 20.cxd3

20.Qh5 h6 gives White nothing in this case.

20...Nc5 21.Rd1 Nd4 22.Qb2

Clearly things have gone horribly wrong for White.

22...Ndb3 23.d4 Nd3 24.Qb1 h6 25.Nh3 Nxf4 26.Nxf4 Bxa3

White's position continues to fall apart.

27.Ng4 Be7 28.Bf1 Bxf1 29.Kxf1 Qb6 30.Nh5??

Completely overlooking a tactical shot by Black that abruptly ends the game.

30...Nd2+ 0-1

Passive play by White is not the answer and Black has nothing to worry about. Even so, Black must remain on his toes at all times as shown in the notes to White's 17th move.

Game 3: Black Plays 12...Ba6 and White Responds With the Aggressive 13.Ng5

W: Walter Browne
B: Wolfgang Uhlmann
Amsterdam, 1972

1.e4 e6 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.Ngf3 c5 5.g3 Nc6 6.Bg2 Be7 7.O-O O-O 8.e5 Nd7 9.Re1 b5 10.Nf1 a5 11.h4 b4 12.Bf4 Ba6 13.Ng5

White's most aggressive idea. The idea is to play the immediate Qh5 and force a concession from Black, whether that be advancement of the h-pawn, creating a hook for White, or else a parting of ways with his Dark Squared Bishop.


This is why we want to hold off on a4. If White goes for this crude approach, this defensive move will tactically stop White in his tracks, and the Bishop being developed to a6 is more useful than the pawn push to a4 as it connects Black's heavy pieces along the back rank and the Bishop eyes d3, which prevents the advancement of the c-pawn by White since the Queen has abandoned ship and has gone hunting for the Black King.


White continues his aggressive approach on the Black King. If Black wants to, he could play 14...h6 right now when 15.Nf3 can be answered by 15...f5, plugging up the center as White's Queen is hanging, and so he doesn't have time to En Passant, and the center is locked up. If the Queen is not hanging on h5, this trick is not possible as, for the same reason that ...f6 is unplayable in the KIA, White can play En Passant and the e6-pawn is fatally weak.


So why does Black take the Knight instead? Black is looking to take advantage of the e5-pawn. He removes the Knight off the board at a time that White can't recapture with the Bishop, and if plays 15.hxg5, his attack is non-existent. If he sacrifices the g-pawn to try to open the pieces up, Black can take with the f-pawn to open up the Rook as the Queen covers e6, and White is unable to put any real pressure on e6 with the resulting setup. If he doesn't sacrifice, where's the attack? The h-file? It will take for ever for White to stir up an attack on the h-file, giving Black time to proceed on the Queenside and making limited defensive moves when necessary. Therefore, White recaptures the way that makes the most sense, which is with the Queen. And based on that, Black will still be able to use the f5-trick in a few moves.

15.Qxg5 a4

Again, Black balances the act between defending his King and proceeding to attack on the Queenside.

16.Ne3 Kh8

A precautionary move, not allowing any tricks with the Knight entering the position on f6 or h6 via g4.


White bypasses the a3-push and completely ignores the Queenside, thinking that he'll be able to push through with his attack in the center and on the Kingside.


Not so fast says Black as he takes advantage of the Knight sitting on e3, blocking the Rook from e5. Therefore, White's next move is forced to hold on to the e-pawn, and this puts the Queen back on the square that allows Black the trick of plugging up the center.


18.Qg4 fails to 18...Ndxe5, which not only wins a pawn, but gains time on the White Queen as well.


The center is locked. The Queens are going away. White's attack will be non-existent, and the Black Knights in the closed position are going to cause White a lot more problems than anything that White's Bishop pair can do to Black.

19.Qxe8 Raxe8 20.Nc4

White uses the pin of the d5-pawn to get the Knight to the d6 outpost. However, Black will attack the loose White Queenside rather than react to White's Knight maneuver.

20...Nd4 21.Nd6


Once again, reacting to a threat in a manner that is typical of the KIA, countering the threat with a threat of our own rather than reacting to the Knight.

22.Nxe8 Rxe8

Removing White's best piece is more important than keeping the material balance. White can respond to 22...Nxe1 with 23.Nd6, preserving the annoying knight, rather than recapturing on e1.

23.Re2 b3

Black's advancement on the Queenside is going to be a major problem for White.

24.axb3 axb3 25.Red2 Bb5 26.Rc1 Ra8 27.Bf3 Ra2 28.Bd1 Ba4

This is stronger than 28...Rxb2, which simply leads to a massive tradedown after 29.Bxc2 bxc2 30.Rdxc2 Rxc2 31.Rxc2 with an equal position.

29.Rb1 Kg8 30.g4 fxg4 31.Bxg4 Kf7 32.Kg2 Bb5 33.Bg3 Nb6


This move allows a tactical shot by Black. A move like 34.Kh3 was better, though Black still maintains the advantage.

34...Bxd3 35.Rxd3

There is no better move for White as the discovery on the Rook on b1 was just as much a threat as the Knight fork on e1.

35...Ne1+ 36.Kf1 Nxd3 37.Bxb3 Rxb2 38.Rxb2 Nxb2 39.Ke2

The trade down has occurred, and Black is winning as he has a series of threats on the White Bishop that allows him to advance his pawns.

39...c4 40.Bc2 d4 41.Be4 d3+ 42.Kd2 Na4

With the deadly threat of 43...c3+.

43.Ke3 Nc5 44.Bf3 Nb3 0-1

There is no stopping promotion.

Game 4: White Plays a Quick Ng4, Leaves the Bishop Home

W: Bojkov (2475)
B: Potkin (2523)
Germany, 2004

1.e4 e6 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.Ngf3 c5 5.g3 Nc6 6.Bg2 Be7 7.O-O O-O 8.Re1 b5 9.e5 Nd7 10.Nf1 a5 11.h4 b4 12.N1h2 a4

Again, I'm going to say that I think 12...Ba6 is a better move here, and in the game Lau - Uhlmann, Potsdam 1988, White played 13.Ng4 to which Black immediately responded with 13...Nd4, the move I am recommending when White commits to an early Ng4. With the Knight already moved from h2 to g4, contesting the f3-Knight makes sense. For White to recapture on f3 with a Knight, White would have to lose time, retreating the g4-Knight back to h2. Otherwise, Black has no objection to capturing on f3 if White has to take back with a piece other than the Knight. The immediate 14.Ng5 is too early, especially with the g4-Knight blocking the Queen from getting to h5 quickly. Taking on d4 via 14.Nxd4 does double Black's pawns, but it opens up the c-file for Black to attack the weak c2-pawn. The other thing to keep in mind is that if White doesn't trade on d4, Black may also have the option of going ...Nf5, which can act as a strong defensive piece that is difficult to dislodge, rather than trading on f3. For example, the Knight occupies g4, and even if it moves, advancing g4 to attack the f5-Knight will often leave the h-pawn hanging.

In that game Lau - Uhlmann, Potsdam 1988, after 12...Ba6 13.Ng4 Nd4, the game went 14.c3 Nxf3+ 15.Bxf3 Rb8 16.Bf4 a4 17.Qd2 a3 18.b3 bxc3 19.Qxc3 Rb4 20.Rab1 Bxh4 21.Bc1 Be7 22.Bxa3 Bb7 23.Qc2 d4 24.Be4 Rb6 25.Bc1 Bxe4 26.Rxe4 Ra6 27.Qe2 Re8 28.Kg2 Nf8 29.Rh1 Ng6 30.Rh5 Qa8 31.a3 Rb6 32.Kh2 Rxb3 33.Bh6 Qa6 34.Bxg7 Qxd3 35.Qxd3 Rxd3 36.Bf6 Bf8 37.Re1 Rf3 38.Kg2 Rf5 39.Rh3 h5 40.Reh1 c4 41.Rxh5 Rxh5 42.Rxh5 c3 43.Kf3 d3 44.Bg5 Bg7 45.Ke3 d2 46.Ke2 Rc8 47.Rh1 Nxe5 48.Nf6+ Kf8 49.Nh7+ Ke8 50.Nf6+ Bxf6 51.Bxf6 Rc5 52.f4 Nf3 0-1.

13.a3 bxa3 14.bxa3 Ba6 15.Ng4


Again we see the same idea as what we saw in Lau - Uhlmann.

16.h5 Rb8

And nothing says that we can't combine ideas. Here we see Black occupying the open b-file, similar to what we saw in Maze - Zumsande in Game 2. White's last move assures us no early Qh5 ideas like we saw in Game 3. Therefore, Black can proceed with his usually Queenside play.

17.h6 g6 18.Be3 Nf5

Now that the Bishop attacked the Knight, the Knight moves to the aforementioned f5-square, where it keeps an eye on the dark squares around the King, particularly h6 and g7.

19.Bf4 Rb2 20.Qd2 Nd4

And now that the Bishop has moved away and the Queen moved to d2, no longer covering the f3-square, the Black Knight returns to d4 with ideas of trading on f3.

21.Nxd4 cxd4

So White decided to trade on d4 instead, which does double Black's pawns, but it comes with many pluses for Black. Again, the c2-pawn is very weak, but there is also a sudden nasty threat by Black and that is the move 22...g5, which would trap the White Bishop and win a piece, and so White must spend time creating an opening for the Bishop.

22.Qc1 Qb6 23.Bg5 Bc5 24.Qf4 Rc8


White's best try here. Note that White gets absolutely nothing after 25.Nf6+? Nxf6 26.Qxf6 Bf8. With no White Knight on the board, the f6-square is the only way in for any of the White pieces, and it's such a bottle neck for White that all Black needs to defend his position is the Bishop on f8 and the rest of the pieces are free to roam. Black would be winning here. The move played in the game maintains equality for the time being, and Black actually has to be careful here.


25...Rxc2 is also fine for Black, but not 25...exd5? 26.e6 fxe6 27.Nf6+ Nxf6 28.Qxf6 and with the dual threats at g7 and e6, White's advantage would be significant!


26.Bg2 was probably a better move, not allowing the trick Black executes a few moves from now.

26...Rcxc2 27.Re4 Bb7!

Trying to protect the d4-pawn via 27...Bc5 has it's problems. After 28.Nf6+ Nxf6 29.Qxf6 Bf8 30.Rf4, the attack on f7 is annoying and Black is forced to play 30...Rc7 and he has no real attack. The position is roughly equal. The game move keeps Black's advantage.


White should probably admit that Black is better and play 28.Ree1. Note that 28.Rxd4 loses to 28...Bxf3!

28...Bxe4 29.Rxe4 Bxa3 30.Rxd4


Black uses the fact that the White King is on the same diagonal as the Black Queen to tactically trade everything down to a winning endgame.

31.Nxf2 Rxf2 32.Kxf2 Bb2 33.Be7 Qxd4+ 34.Qxd4 Bxd4+ 35.Ke1 Bc5 36.Bg5 a3 37.Bc1 Nxe5 38.Be2 Nc6 39.Bd1 a2 0-1

40.Bb2 would be answered by 40...Bd4 and so White resigned.

So we have seen four very exciting and at the same time very complicated games with a couple of other games embedded in the article. Hopefully a very careful study of these games, you can get a better understanding of when to take White's attack seriously, like in Game 1, and when it looks scary but really amounts to nothing, like Game 4. Also, hopefully these games will make you more aware of the potential tricks in the position, like the Queen maneuver we saw in the notes to White's 17th move in Game 2, the importance of eliminating White's best piece rather than counting material like we saw in Game 3, and both the potential traps and opportunities that lie in the position as we saw in Game 4 where Black had to avoid being tempted into taking the Bishop on d5 and finding the tactical opportunity on f2 to seal the win.

Links to the rest of the articles.
Introduction and facing the Advance Variation
Part One: The Exchange Variation
Part Two: The Tarrasch Variation
Part Four: The MacCutcheon Variation
Part Five: The Steinitz Variation
Part Six: Beating the French with the Advance Variation

Saturday, September 23, 2017

September G/60 Action!

50 players competed in CCCSA's G/60 Action tournament on Saturday, September 23.  The tournament was divided into 3 sections - Top, Under 1700, and Under 1200.  The prize fund was increased from the advertised amount to over $800 - each section had cash prizes for first place ($150), second place ($70), and a rating class prize ($50).

The Top section had 15 players, including two masters - Daniel "9:59am" Cremisi (2362) and South Carolina's Klaus Pohl (2200), who enjoyed free entry for being over 2200.

Round 3 battle between the top seeds - Daniel Cremisi vs Klaus Pohl, 1-0

They were joined by many Experts and Class A players, including CCCSA employees Dominique "NM" Myers (2099) and Alex "the new guy" Velasquez (1816).

FM (Former Master) Dominique Myers vs. Ali Shirzad, 1-0

More games from the Top Section

Cremisi defeated Myers in the final round to win 4.0/4 and win clear first ($150).  Klaus Pohl and Adharsh Rajagopal (1921) tied for second place, winning $35 each.  Aditya "draw?" Shivapooja (1784) won $50 for the highest score Under 2000 (2.5/4).

G/60 Action

Final Standings - G/60 Action: TOP

#PlaceNameRtngRd 1Rd 2Rd 3Rd 4TotPrize
11Daniel Cremisi2362W11W10W2W4 4.0$150
22-3Klaus Pohl2200W7W3L1W9 3.0$35
3 Adharsh Rajagopal1921W15L2W6W10 3.0$35
44-5Dominique Myers2099H---W6W8L1 2.5 
5 Aditya Shivapooja1784L10D9W15W13 2.5$50
66-8Ernest Nix1899W13L4L3W11 2.0 
7 Luke Harris1788L2W15D10D8 2.0 
8 Ali Shirzad1671H---W14L4D7 2.0 
99-10Sulia Mason2031L12D5W11L2 1.5 
10 Vishnu Vanapalli1941W5L1D7L3 1.5 
1111-13Pradhyumna Kothapalli1830L1W13L9L6 1.0 
12 Xiaodong Jin1785W9 --- --- --- 1.0 
13 Robert Moore1700L6L11B---L5 1.0 
1414Alex Velasquez1816H---L8 --- --- 0.5 
1515Mike Eberhardinger1700L3L7L5 --- 0.0 

Under 1700
The U1700 section was the largest of the day, featuring 19 players.  CCCSA regulars David Richards (1653) and Danny Cropper (1628) were the top seeds.

Round 3 face-off between the 2-0 scores: Sam Fuerstman vs Donald Johnson (U1700)

In the end, Danny Cropper (1653) and Sam Fuerstman (1489) took a draw in their round 4 encounter to tie for first place, each receiving $110 for their 3.5/4 result.

Ojas Panda (1467) and Arjun Rawal (1272) scored 2.5/4 and received $25 each for the Under 1500 prize.

G/60 Action

Final Standings - G/60 Action: Under 1700

#PlaceNameRtngRd 1Rd 2Rd 3Rd 4TotPrize
11-2Danny Cropper1628W16W11W7D2 3.5$110
2 Sam Fuerstman1489W14W13W9D1 3.5$110
33Benjamin Webb1598L13W17W10W9 3.0 
44-8David Richards1653L9W12W11D7 2.5 
5 Spencer Singleton1541W17L9D13W12 2.5 
6 Rithvik Prakki1539L10W14D8W13 2.5 
7 Ojas Panda1467W8W10L1D4 2.5$25
8 Arjun Rawal1272L7W19D6W17 2.5$25
99-10Donald Johnson1420W4W5L2L3 2.0 
10 Paige Cook1298W6L7L3W18 2.0 
1111-14Nishanth Gaddam1453W18L1L4D14 1.5 
12 Hassan Hashemloo1419H---L4W18L5 1.5 
13 Gautam Kapur1358W3L2D5L6 1.5 
14 Nikhil Kamisetty1276L2L6B---D11 1.5 
1515-17Ali Shirzad1671W19 --- --- --- 1.0 
16 Debs Pedigo1405L1D18L17H--- 1.0 
17 Pranav Swarna1302L5L3W16L8 1.0 
1818Henry Chen1145L11D16L12L10 0.5 
1919Byron Butler1438L15L8 --- --- 0.0 

Under 1200
17 players entered the U1200 section.  Amidst many upsets in every round, Siddharth Aravind (862) scored 4.0/4 to win $150.  Tied for second and the top Under 1000 prize with 3.0/4 were Dhyey Shah (877), Shreeshiva Raja (655), and Bhavani Dhulipalla (unrated), who received $40 each.

September's G/60 Action Tournament

G/60 Action

Final Standings - G/60 Action: Under 1200

#PlaceNameRtngRd 1Rd 2Rd 3Rd 4TotPrize
11Siddharth Aravind862W16W10W5W4 4.0$150
22-4Dhyey Shah877W15L4W8W9 3.0$40
3 Shreeshiva Raja655W9L6W14W11 3.0$40
4 Bhavani Dhulipallaunr.W7W2W6L1 3.0$40
55-8Akshay Rajagopal1019W17D8L1W12 2.5 
6 Nikolai Webb971W13W3L4D7 2.5 
7 Jesse Mindel849L4W15W10D6 2.5 
8 Athul Vikas778W11D5L2W14 2.5 
99-10Sarvajith Nalaneelan989L3W13W15L2 2.0 
10 Dean Creech541W14L1L7W16 2.0 
1111-13Sanchit Shah1114L8W12D13L3 1.5 
12 Raamcharan Puttagunta774H---L11W17L5 1.5 
13 Sreenidhi Prakki603L6L9D11W17 1.5 
1414-17Ellen Rosenfeld955L10W16L3L8 1.0 
15 Rishi Narayanan536L2L7L9B--- 1.0 
16 Kavin Michael Raj456L1L14B---L10 1.0 
17 Andrew Zhang213L5B---L12L13 1.0 

UPSETS - 150 points or more
U1200, Round 4 - Shreeshiva Raja (655) def. Sanchit Shah (1114) - 459 points
U1200, Round 1 - Dean Creech (541) def. Ellen Rosenfeld (955) - 414 points
U1200, Round 1 - Athul Vikas (778) def. Sanchit Shah (1114) - 336 points
U1200, Round 1 - Shreeshvia Raja (655) def. Sarvajith Nalaneelan (989) - 334 points
U1200, Round 3 - Shreeshiva Raja (655) def. Ellen Rosenfeld (955) - 300 points
TOP, Round 1 - Xiaodong Jin (1785) def. Sulia Mason (2031) - 246 points
U1700, Round 1 - Paige Cook (1298) def. Rithvik Prakki (1539) - 241 points
U1700, Round 1 - Gautam Kapur (1358) def. Benjamin Webb (1598) - 240 points
U1700, Round 1 - Donald Johnson (1420) def. Danny Cropper (1628) - 208 points
U1200, Round 4 - Athul Vikas (778) def. Ellen Rosenfeld (955) - 177 points
U1700, Round 2 - Arjun Rawal (1272) def. Byron Butler (1438) - 166 points
U1200, Round 3 - Siddharth Aravind (862) def. Akshay Rajagopal (1019) - 157 points

Bhavani Dhulipalla (unrated) defeated Nikolai Webb (971), Dhyey Shah (877), and Jesse Mindel (849).

USCF Rated Results

On Thursday, October 5 we will host our first Thursday Monthly Blitz event, followed by Reverse Angle 77 on Saturday, October 7.  Other Charlotte Chess Center events to look forward to include the NC Closed Championship, GM/IM Norm Invitational, CCCSA Junior Invitational, and the 4th Annual Southeastern FIDE Championship - please see our events calendar for details.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Opening Preparation: The French Defense - Tarrasch Variation

The Tarrasch Varation of the French Defense is said to be the second most popular response by White, behind only 3.Nc3. Well, let me summarize what a specialist of the Advance French, Evgeny Sveshnikov, had to say about it. Sveshnikov pointed out that 3.Nd2 does not fight for the center as d4 has been weakened. He brings up the fact that it blocks the development of the other White Queenside pieces, particularly the Bishop on c1, which in turn hems in the Rook on a1. Lastly, he makes the point that the only true plus to this line is defensive in nature. With no pin on the Knight (Any ...Bb4 idea will be answered with c3), Black is unable to weaken White's pawn structure. That said, why is White defending? White goes first. White should be the one doing the attacking. For these reasons, Sveshnikov is of the belief that 3.Nd2 is an error from the perspective that Black can gain immediate equality with 3...c5!, and argues that the games of Bareev prove his point. Under normal circumstances, this early advancement of the c-pawn would be a mistake until White has locked the center. This is why a line like 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 c5 is a mistake. White can now trade on d5, and with the Knight on c3 pressuring d5, the attack on what will shortly become an isolated pawn would be too much for Black. However, with the Knight on d2 instead of c3, there is no pressure on d5 at all. In fact, as we will see in the first part of the article, White's Knights typically end up on b3 and f3. From both of those squares, it would take four moves to get the Knight to d5. So in this case, with the pressure on d5 being minimal, Black can play like this and use his piece activity to offset the structural weakness. For this reason, I will be covering 3...c5 as the response to 3.Nd2.

A brief word on one of the other main lines against the Tarrasch, 3...Nf6. I used to play this back in the late 90s and early 2000s when I first played the French Defense because the moves and ideas appeared simple. That said, after 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Bd3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ne2 with the idea of putting the d2-Knight on f3, White's development is harmonious.

His pieces are all able to find good squares as his Knight will go to f3, opening up the Bishop on c1, and he can usually stir up an attack on the e6-pawn, after Black plays ...f6 to chip away at White's center, or go for a direct attack on the Black King. All of this while avoiding weaknesses in the position, unlike variations like the Winawer where in return for the attack, White is saddled with immobile doubled c-pawns So to me, 3...Nf6 is simply playing into White's plan, and is why I will cover 3...c5 instead.

This article will be split into two parts:
  • Part One will cover 4.exd5.
  • Part Two will cover 4.Ngf3 along with move order tricks and transpositions that Black must watch out for.

Part One: White plays 4.exd5

After 4.exd5, we see White trying to take advantage of the fact that Black did not wait for White to resolve the tension with his e-pawn prior to playing 3...c5, and force Black to either deal with an Isolated Queen Pawn, or else recapture on d5 with his Queen, which enables White to gain time via hitting the Black Queen while developing his pieces. I am going to suggest going with the Isolated Queen Pawn position via 4...exd5.

After the moves 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.exd5 exd5 5.Ngf3, Black has two ways to handle the position. Back in the days of Viktor Korchnoi and Wolfgang Uhlmann, the main line of the Tarrasch ran 5...Nc6 6.Bb5 Bd6 7.dxc5 Bxc5 8.O-O Nge7 9.Nb3 Bd6 was often played, leading to the position below.

And now let's look at the more modern approach. After the moves 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.exd5 exd5 5.Ngf3 Nf6 6.Bb5+ Bd7 7.Bxd7+ Nxd7 8.O-O Be7 9.dxc5 Nxc5 10.Nb3 Nce4, we get the following position.

So let's compare the two positions and assess what we have. In both cases, Black is looking at an Isolated Queeen Pawn (IQP), and in today's generation, this is enough to lower the popularity of this variation in favor of the Closed Tarrasch (3...Nf6) or the Queen recapture in the Open Tarrasch (4...Qxd5). That said, this IQP in some ways is a strength for Black. Neither White Knight is anywhere near attacking it. White can block it all he wants by moving one of the Knights to d4. However, this doesn't prevent Black from having outposts on e4 and c4. This is one case for the argument in favor of the more modern approach (which happens to be the line I play when White does play the main line). In the lines with 5...Nc6, both Knights are very far away from these outposts on c4 and e4. There is no quick way for the c6-Knight to get to c4 as their paths are guarded, and the Knight on e7 is busy covering d5 since the Bishop on d6, while active, is blocking the Queen from guarding the isolated pawn. So Black is succeeding in not trading off pieces as in the case of IQP positions, the last thing Black wants to do is trade down to an endgame unless something has changed in the position, like a trade occurs that makes the d-pawn no longer isolated, or Black wins material. In the lines with 5...Nf6, one of the Knights is already on the outpost on e4 and can easily be transferred to c4 via d6, and the other Knight is more active on f6 than in the old main line on e7. The Bishop is slightly more passive on e7 than d6 in the older line, but the Bishop is easier to make active. Just move the Bishop again. Lastly, notice how the only difference in White's position is in the former line, he has his Bishop on b5. In the latter line, this Bishop and the one on c8 are gone. This makes getting the Rook onto the open c-file easier for Black than in the old main line. Now there is one downside to the more modern approach compared to the old approach. With the Bishop on c8, which may get moved to a square like e6, along with the Knight on e7, the square f5 is well covered. This square can be another soft spot in Black's position to go along with the IQP and the weak d4 square in front of it. With the Knight on f6 instead of e7 and the Light-Squared Bishops traded off, f5 can be weak, and the Knight on d4 blocking the pawn can easily see itself on f5, a very annoying square with which to deal with a White Knight if you are Black. The automatic thought is that Black can easily play ...g6 and cover the weak f5-square. This may be possible in some cases, but Black must also be on the lookout for his dark squares around his King, especially if the Dark-Squared Bishops and Queens are still on the board.

Given that our goal is to come up with a Repertoire where Black has the best chance at achieving equality, but also have the ability to play for a win against anybody below the GM level, the line we will be following here is the 5...Nf6 variation rather than the older 5...Nc6 variation. For those of you that prefer the older 5...Nc6 variation, I would suggest going through the games of Viktor Korchnoi and Wolfgang Uhlmann, both of whom were major advocates of the 5...Nc6 variation. As for 5...Nf6, two major advocates are Mikhail Gurevich and Rafael Vaganian, and I would suggest studying their games heavily. The feature game here is one that was won by Gurevich, and features White's best line against this system by Black.

W: Pawel Blehm (2380)
B: Mikhail Gurevich (2635)
Cappelle la Grande open 1998

(A word of note about this game. The majority of the games I am covering in this 7-article series on the French are games from databases where all annotations are completely mine. However, this particular game was first covered in Lev Psakhis's book "French Defence 3 Nd2", and the annotations of this game are a combination of Lev's and mine. So why am I using this game? This was the first game I saw that exposed me to the 5...Nf6 line, and is still to this day the best example I have seen, and so I figured it was only right that this be the game that exposes the readers to the 5... Nf6 variation as well. This game is why I agree with Sveshnikov's assessment of the Tarrasch Variation. We will see in this game that White had a couple of chances to equalize, but there was never any opportunity for White to gain an advantage barring a serious error by Black.)

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.exd5 exd5 5.Nfg3 Nf6 6.Bb5+ Bd7 7.Bxd7+ Nbxd7 8.O-O Be7 9.dxc5 Nxc5 10.Nb3 Nce4

We now have the position shown in the last diagram above.


The correct Knight to use to block the d-pawn, keeping the b3-Knight there to maintain the ability to play Nc5. Black has no problems after 11.Nbd4 Qc8 (Because 12.Ne5 is possible in this case, 11...Qd7 is inferior after 12.Ne5 Qc8 13.f3 Nc5 14.Re1 O-O 15.Ng6 hxg6 16.Rxe7 Qd8 17.Re2) 12.c3 O-O 13.Be3 Re8 14.Nc2 Bd6 15.Bd4 Nh5 16.Ng5 Nf4 17.Nxe4 dxe4 18.Bxg7 Re6 and it's Black with the attack!


Now you might be wondering why Black should play 11...Qc8 against 11.Nbd4, but instead play 11...Qd7 against 11.Nfd4. The reason is fairly simple. The first thing that Black is trying to achieve is keeping an eye on f5, which both Queen moves do. What's different is the position of the White Knights. With a Knight on f3, he can move it to e5 and attack the Queen. Because the Queen needs to continue to cover f5, he would need to move the Queen to c8 and White will have gained a free tempo. Trying to attack the Knight by going to a square like c7 completely abandons the fight for f5. With a Knight on b3 instead, White might appear to have the potential threat of gaining a tempo with an eventual Nc5, but it turns out, as we will see, that White doesn't gain much as the Knight will be under attack when the Queen goes to c8. So it becomes very important to understand the slight difference in the position, and when a move that attacks your Queen is a complete gain of tempo versus when it is more a case of enticement, where you actually want to encourage an opponent's piece to enter a less desirable square.


White continues his strategy of trying to get the Knight to f5. The only other move that makes sense is 12.f3, but after 12...Nd6 13.Nc5 Qc8 14.Nd3 O-O 15.b3 Nf5 16.Nxf5 Qxf5 17.Be3 Rfe8 18.Qd2 a6 19.Rae1 Rac8 20.Rf2 Bd6 21.Rfe2 Nd7, the position is equal.

12...O-O 13.Nf5 Bd8

Black cannot allow White to trade his Knight for the Bishop.

14.Be3 Rc8

The alternative for Black is 14...g6, White has two options that both lead to unclear play. He can give the check with 15.Nh6+ Kg7 16.Rad1 Rc8 17.Nd4 Re8 18.h3 b5 19.c3 a5 20.Ng4 h5 21.Nxf6 Bxf6 22.Ne2 b4 (Berelovich - Gurevich, Hoogeveen Open 1999) or he can retreat the Knight via 15.Ng3 Re8 16.Rfd1 Qc8 17.c3 a5 18.a4 Ra6 19.Nxe4 dxe4 20.Qe2 Bc7 21.h3 Bb8 22.Rd4 Qe6 (Godena - Bareev, Aosta Open 1989)

15.c3 g6 16.Ng3 Re8 17.Rfe1 a5 18.a4

It probably would have been a wiser move to play 18.Nd4 b5 and accept an equal position.


This cannot be what White was hoping for. Black has the initiative, particularly on the Queenside. As we will see, White's position will continue to get worse.

19.Nxe4 dxe4

Black gets a slight advantage after 19...Nxe4 20.Nd2 bxa4 21.Nxe4 Rxe4.

20.Qd1 Qb7 21.Nc5 Qc6 22.Nb3

And here White can equalize with 22.b4! The game basically goes downhill from here for White.

22...bxa4 23.Nd4 Qb7 24.Qxa4 Bb6 25.Nb5 Bxe3 26.fxe3 Qb8 27.h3 Re5 28.Nd4 Qxb2 29.Re2 Qxc3 30.Rf1 Nh5 31.Qd7 Rf8 32.Qd6 Qc5

Black also wins after 32...Ng3 33.Qxe5 Nxe2+ 34.Kh2 Qxe3.

33.Qxc5 Rxc5 34.Ra1 Ra8 35.Nb3 Rb5 36.Nd4 Rd5 37.Ra4 Nf6 38.Rea2 Rc5 39.Rc2 Rac8 40.Re2 Nd5 0-1

This game made me into a believer of the 5...Nf6 variation. Since then, that is all I have played here, and no amateur player (Under 2200) that has played 4.exd5 has even survived against me, and I have yet to be beaten by anybody since taking up this line. This comes after many hardships with 3...Nf6 or 3...c5 4.exd5 exd5 5.Ngf3 Nc6. Through careful study of this game and many of Gurevich's other games with this 5...Nf6 line, the move 4.exd5 should cause you no problems either!

Part Two: White plays 4.Ngf3

This move is becoming increasingly popular. The main motivation behind it is that after 4.exd5, Black not only has the option to take with the e-pawn, but he can also take with the Queen via 4...Qxd5. This move is by no means better for Black, and many of the highly theoretical lines lead to a draw. However, given its high amount of theory, often times White is not prepared for such a theoretical battle, and plays this move to sidestep the problem. Now Black has a number of options that lead to independent lines, like 4...a6, 4...c4, or 4...cxd4. The two main responses are 4...Nc6 and 4...Nf6. The one thing that Black must watch out for is direct transpositions. Those of you that decided to take the 5...Nc6 approach in Part 1, studying the games of Korchnoi and Uhlmann, will also need to play 4...Nc6 or one of the independent lines. White has side lines that he can play, like 5.Bb5. That said, 5.exd5 exd5 transposes directly to the 5...Nc6 line. If you are one that plays 5...Nf6, as recommended above in section 1, then you would need to avoid 4...Nc6 and instead play 4...Nf6 so that any trade on d5 will lead to a direct transposition to the 4.exd5 variation with 5...Nf6. So what you play against 4.exd5 matters when deciding what to play against 4.Ngf3. Since we looked at 4.exd5 exd5 5.Ngf3 Nf6, we are going to look at 4...Nf6 here.

So as mentioned prior, trading pawns now on d5 leads to a direct transposition. The alternative for White is 5.e5, and after 5...Nfd7 6.c3 c5 7.Bd3, we have a direct transposition to a line called the Korchnoi Gambit.

This position looks similar to the first diagram that comes from the 3...Nf6 line, and actually, this position can arrive from that variation as well via 3...Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Bd3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ngf3. If White didn't have 7.Ne2 available, I would have suggested 3...Nf6. However, via the 3...c5 move order, the only way to get a Closed Tarrasch is via the Korchnoi Gambit, and so this will be the only line of the Closed Tarrasch that we have to worry about. The difference between the Knight being on f3 and e2 is significant. With the Knight on e2, the d2-Knight has the f3-square available and White's development is smooth. Here, the Knight on f3 is occupying the square that the Knight on d2 wants to go to. The d2-Knight can't go to b3 due to a pawn fork. And so therefore, after a move like 7...Qb6, White has no real way to hold on to the d-pawn, and after 8.O-O, Black can capture 3 times on d4, netting a pawn. That said, I am not going to suggest this line as it gives White all the play. He will be chasing the exposed Black Queen around the board and establishing a substantial lead in development. For those of you that enjoy defending such positions just for a pawn, I suggest you study the theory of that line with a fine tooth comb before even attempting to play the position over the board.

Instead, I am going to suggest that Black instead play 7...Be7, which leads to a very aggressive line based on the White Knights tripping over themselves. In addition to the 3...Nf6 or 3...c5 line, this position can also come from the 3...Be7 variation of the Tarrasch. We'll use a game from 2004 to look at Black's ideas in this line.

W: Pavel Kolar (2280)
B: Petr Boukal (2415)
Czechia, 2004

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.e5

5.exd5 exd5 transposes back to Part One.

5...Nfd7 6.c3 Nc6 7.Bd3 Be7 8.O-O g5

What? This has got to be a typo, right? No, what you see in the diagram is correct. Black's idea with 8...g5 is to pose threats on the d4-pawn. Unlike the line of the Closed Tarrasch where the White Knight goes to e2 so that the other can go to f3, in this case, the Knights get in each other's way, and there is no good place for the d2-Knight to go. He can't go to b3 to guard d4 because of a pawn fork. So Black's idea is to follow up with 9...g4 and then capture the d-pawn once the f3-Knight moves away.


This is White's best move, giving the Knight on f3 the d4-square when Black advances the g-pawn. The move 9.h3?! is ineffective, and in the game Tong - McCartney, NC Open 2017, the game followed 9...h5 10.Re1 g4 11.hxg3 hxg3 12.Nh2 g3 13.fxg3 cxd4 14.cxd4 and now 14...Nxd4 would have given Black a significant advantage.

9...g4 10.Nd4 Ndxe5 11.Bb5 Bd7 12.N2b3 h5 13.Re1 Nxd4 14.Nxd4 Bxb5 15.Rxe5


In Emms-Lalic, Southend 2001, Black instead played 15...Bd7 16.b4 Bf6 17.Re1 Qc7 with an unclear position. With the move played in the game, Black will win a pawn.

16.Bf4 Qxc5 17.Be3 Qc4 18.b3 Qd3 19.Nxb5

The only move! Trading Queens is not a good idea being down a pawn, and 19.Qe1 just doesn't work. After 19...Bd7, White has a couple of tries, but with correct defense, they simply don't work:

  A) 20.Bg5 should be answered by 20...Bxg5 21.Rxg5 O-O-O and Black is simply a pawn up.

  B) 20.Nf5 is trickier because of discoveries on the e-file. After 20...f6 21.Rd1 Qc2 22.Rd2 Qxc3 23.Rexd5 exd5 24.Nxe7 Kf7! (24...Kxe7?? 25.Bd3+ wins for White) 25.Nxd5 Qe5 26.Nf4 Bc6 and the smoke has cleared. Black is an exchange up with a significant advantage. White has nothing better than 27.Qb1 Qe4 28.Rd7+ Ke8 29.Qxe4+ Bxe4 30.Rg7 b6 31.f3 (31.Ne6 Bf5 32.Nc7+ Kf8 and Black holds the material) 31...gxf3 32.gxf3 Rh7 33.Rxh7 (33.Rg8+ Kf7 -+) 33...Bxh7 34.Nxh5 Kf7 and Black has a winning endgame.

19...Qxb5 20.Bd4 Qd7 21.Qd3

Another option for White is to regain the pawn with 21.Rxe6 Qxe6! (21...fxe6?! 22.Bxh8 O-O-O 23.Bd4 gives White an advantage) 22.Bxh8 f6 23.Bg7 Kf7 24.Bh6 and just about any reasonable move by Black, such as 24...Rc8, 24...Qf5, or 24...h4, leads to an equal position with chances for both sides.

21...h4 22.f4

Now, because White has less control over e1, 22.Rxe6 isn't as good. After 22...Qxe6 23.Bxh8 f6, 24.Qd2 can be answered by 24...Qf5 while 24.Rd1 or 24.Bg7 can both be answered by 24...O-O-O, all of which lead to a slight edge for Black.

22...gxf3 23.Qxf3 f6 24.Rh5 O-O-O 25.Rxh8 Rxh8 26.Bxh7 h3 27.g3 Qc6 28.Bf2 Kb8


And after a long sequence of moves where the position hovered around equality, White makes an error. 29.g4 should be played here, opening up access to the diagonal of the Black King, and the Rook belongs on a different square so that White can position himself to cover all weaknesses. After 29...Rg8 30.Rd1 Bd6 31.Bg3 Ka8 32.Bxd6 Qxd6 33.Kh1 Qe5 34.Qxh3 f5 35.Qg3 Qe4+ 36.Qg2, any advantage that Black may have is extremely minimal. More than likely, either the sides will repeat with White continuing to offer the Queen trade, or else Black will trade Queens and the Rook ending should be drawn.

29...e5 30.Kf1

And once again, 30.g4 =/+ is relatively best.

30...Rc8 31.g4

Too Late!

31...Qxc3 32.Qxd5 Qc2 33.Qf3 Bb4 0-1

The resignation may appear to be pre-mature, but it turns out that Black does win a pawn, and White must have felt that was enough to throw in the towel. 34.Re2 Qd1+ and 34.Qd1 Qc6 both lose instantly, and so that leaves 34.Rd1. After 34...e4! 35.Bg3+ Ka8 36.Qe2 (All other legal moves lead to mate in 6 or quicker for Black) 36...Qc6 and now the only move that doesn't lose on the spot is 37.Qc4 when 37...Qxc4 38.bxc4 Rxc4 wins Black a pawn. The position is clearly better for Black, but it's hard to believe that Black is just completely winning despite the extra pawn as the Black pawns are scattered. That said, Black is the only one pushing, and White apparently decided that it wasn't worth the energy to defend this position.

This variation of declining the Korchnoi Gambit has only recently (within the last 25 or 30 years) become popular, and while the Black King might look a little airy, nobody has been able to bust it from the White side. Therefore, this aggressive system, questioning White's piece development and trying to prove that the White pieces are tripping over themselves, is alive and well, and especially at the amateur level, it might surprise some White players that were expecting a calm, positional game with no real weaknesses. This will make them think again!

Well, that concludes this article on the Tarrasch Variation. Whether you study the games of Bareev or those of Gurevich, along with this fairly new aggressive system against 4.Ngf3 with the 8...g5 idea, you'll eventually become a believer, just like Sveshnikov and myself, that the Tarrasch Variation gives Black equality just as easily as the Exchange Variation does.

The next article will cover what to do when White plays the tricky King's Indian Attack.

Links to the rest of the articles.
Introduction and facing the Advance Variation
Part One: The Exchange Variation
Part Three: The King's Indian Attack
Part Four: The MacCutcheon Variation
Part Five: The Steinitz Variation
Part Six: Beating the French with the Advance Variation

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Simple Chess: To Sac or Not To Sac?

It is not often that I get to play a piece sacrifice and it actually be the best move. Usually it is a sacrifice that works against opponents around my rating or lower yet it would never work against a much stronger player.

This time it was different. My move was the best. It was also instinctively my first choice. I had to calculate to make sure. As you will see, I needed to calculate further as I spent only 3 minutes on this move. For as critical as this move was I should have forced myself to see deeper.

If you are going to attack a king that hasn't castled it is important to keep these ideas in mind:

  • Prevent the king from leaving the center.
  • Open as many lines towards the king as you can, files and diagonals. 
  • Bring all of your pieces into the attack. 
  • Keep the opponent's pieces uncoordinated. 

Key Takeaways:

-Trust but verify your instincts when playing chess.
-When calculating a piece sacrifice force yourself to go deeper in your calculations as there could be a defensive resource you didn't expect.
-Tactics do really grow on strategy. Try not to create weak points in your position that your opponent can take advantage of. If your opponent has weaknesses then attack them.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Simple Chess: Principles of Opening Play

I have found in my time playing chess that more players worry about specific openings rather than applying the general principles of opening play to their game. This is mainly seen more with kids than with adults. However, even adults don't always follow the principles of opening player either. The biggest principle that is always missed seems to be the lack of development. 

I have picked a recent online blitz game to showcase what a lag in development can do to your game. Then as true to this new format I have included my video as I go through the "Principles of Opening Play" using's Lesson tool. 

Here is the video on opening principles:

Friday, September 1, 2017

Opening Preparation: The French Defense - Exchange Variation

The Exchange Variation of the French Defense is well known to be one of the most drawish openings in all of chess. I hear two reasons why many hate the French Defense. One of those two reasons is the blatantly bad Bishop that Black gets via his first move, combined with the fact that his pawns become blocked on light squares. The second is the symmetrical position that many attacking players loathe is exactly what results from the Exchange Variation.

After the moves 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5, we have the following position:

A few observations about the starting position of the Exchange French that makes it vastly different than any other line of the French Defense:
  • As already mentioned, the position is completely symmetrical. Many argue that White is better in symmetrical positions because White goes first. That is not always the case. If Black continues to mimic White's moves to the end of eternity, then eventually, if both sides actually pose the same threat, White's threat will win because White goes first. However, as long as there are no direct threats, symmetry does not harm Black one bit.
  • Black's Light-Squared Bishop is no longer hemmed in by his own pawns. That said, with the Black pawn stuck on the d5-square, a light square, Black's Light-Squared Bishop is still considered his "bad Bishop", though it's not as bad as it is in say, the Advance Variation, which would probably be considered the opposite extreme from the perspective of the bad Bishop. Black should still be very happy to trade it off for the White counterpart.
  • Anand once made the statement that "If White wants a draw, White has a draw!", implying that if White is going to put no effort into winning and is simply looking for half a point, there isn't much that Black can do about it. That said, despite the drawish nature of the Exchange Variation, most players as White are not looking for a draw, and are often banking on Black to self-capitulate in an effort to make the position exciting, expecting Black to take the risk in order to try to score the full point.
And the third bullet is a very important one. The French Defense is normally thought to be the second most aggressive defense against 1.e4, the Sicilian being the one that is more aggressive. That said, the best way to succeed in the French Defense is to be willing to play different positions. Some of your games will be wild and full of tactics and takes on the nature of a full-fledged blood bath. Other games will be more calm in nature, and the Exchange Variation falls in this category, and what I am going to recommend is that Black takes White's idea and throws it right back at him, looking for White to self-capitulate. This will often mean a lot of symmetrical positions deep into the opening.

Before we start on the theory, I shall mention that this article will only be covering the lines where White advances his c-pawn, whether that be pushing the pawn to c4 (Section 1), often leading to an isolated Queen pawn for White, or pushing the pawn to c3 (Section 2), which leads to the symmetrical positions based on the line I will recommend. Lines where the c-pawn remains at home on c2 and White plays Nc3 early on will be covered in Part Four when we talk about the MacCutcheon Variation and other lines where White plays 3.Nc3 without 4.e5 as those lines will typically transpose.

It should also be noted that if there is any one thing that is important for Black to know when it comes to the Exchange Variation, it is the general rules about move order. White can play the moves he plans to play in the opening in almost any order, and if your responses don't mesh well together, you can be move-ordered into a line you'd rather not play. More on this when we get to Section 2. Let's start with the c4 lines.

Section 1: White Plays 4.c4

In the lines with 4.c4, White is looking for a more dynamic game at the cost of his pawn pawn structure in that he is willing to deal with an isolated Queen pawn (IQP) in order to have more active pieces. One general rule of thumb when it comes to IQP positions is that the player going against the IQP wants to trade pieces without straightening out White's IQP. If Black can achieve this without losing any material, most endgames will be better for him as the IQP will become more of a liability than a potential strength. That said, Black does not want White to be able to advance that isolated pawn, whether it be to try to shove the pawn down Black's throat and is looking for another Queen, or if it is merely to trade off the weakness. The second thing that Black wants to avoid is symmetrical IQPs. If White ever takes on d5, Black should take back with a piece. Therefore, Black's fourth move is determined, just in case White decides to take on d5 immediately..

4...Nf6 5.Nc3 Bb4

And here we see a dark-squared Bishop directly impact d5, a light square, by pinning the Knight to the King. Black should not be so hasty that he takes on c3, but for now, until White castles, his Knight will have no impact on the critical d5-square that Black wants to blockade and White wants to advance his pawn to. Another word of note is that Black should not take on c4 until he is both castled and White has moved his light-squared Bishop off of f1, losing a tempo before being able to recapture on c4, which is very similar to Black's idea in the Queen's Gambit Declined where he waits for White to move his Bishop before taking on c4. That said, White doesn't have a lot of moves that he can play without developing the light-squared Bishop, and so White will normally develop it now.

6.Bd3 O-O 7.Ne2 dxc4 8.Bxc4 Nc6 9.O-O Bd6

Now that White has castled and the c3-Knight is not worth a Bishop, Black retreats to his most active diagonal.

10.h3 Bf5

And the position is roughly equal. Let's take a look at what happened in a game that was played in 2010 in Haifa. It started off as an English Opening, but it directly transposed to the line in discussion after Black's 6th move.

W: Arie Axelrod (2386)
B: Vitali Golod (2582)
Haifa ISR, 2010

1.c4 e5 2.e3 Nf6 3.d4 exd4 4.exd4 Bb4+ 5.Nc3 O-O 6.Bd3 d5 7.Ne2 dxc4 8.Bxc4 Nc6 9.O-O Bd6 10.h3 Bf5 11.Bg5

This is actually a problem piece for White. He doesn't actually want to trade the Bishop as he wants to keep pieces on the board given his isolated pawn, but there aren't many places to put the Bishop. 11.Be3 is very passive and also blocks the open e-file, 11.Bd2 can get in the Queen's way of covering the isolated pawn and potentially help it advance to d5, and 11.Bf4? drops a pawn on the spot.

11...h6 12.Bh4 Be7

Black wants to trade a set of minor pieces. He can force the issue with 12...g5, but then his King ends up becoming very weak with the Queens still on the board.

13.Bg3 Bd6 14.Bh4 Be7 15.Bg3 Na5

Black has no interest in a draw, and so he deviates and avoids the repetition.

16.Bd3 Bxd3 17.Qxd3

Part of succeeding in these lines of the Exchange French is to understand well known general concepts that aren't even specific to the French. For example, when one side has an Isolated Queen Pawn (IQP), often times the diagonal behind the isolated pawn is one that the player with the IQP would like to control and attack down. However, with the Black Bishop already on f5, White is unable to create the battery, and Black eliminates White's better Bishop for what is still considered his bad Bishop, despite the fact that it's not nearly as bad as it often is in other lines, like the Advance Variation.

17...Nc6 18.Rfd1 Bd6 19.Bh4 Re8 20.Rac1 a6 21.Qf3 Be7 22.Bg3 Bd6 23.Na4

White caves in and lets Black trade off the other set of Bishops. White is probably best off continuing to resist and playing 23.Bh4, forcing Black to weaken his Kingside via ...g5 if he wants to eliminate the Bishops.

23...Bxg3 24.Nxg3 Qd5

Taking advantage of White's 23rd move. White now has to trade Queens or else lose his a-pawn.

25.Qxd5 Nxd5 26.Nc5 b6

Leaving White with an ugly decision to make. Trade off yet another piece, or retreat with 27.Na4 when Black is slightly better after 27...Re6. White goes for the former.

27.Nxa6 Rxa6 28.Rxc6 Rxa2

Slowly but surely White's position gets weaker. Now, instead of one isolated pawn, White has two of them. Digging back to the basics again, if material is equal, typically it is better to have fewer pawn islands. Black has two pawn islands while White has three.

29.Rc2 g6 30.Ne2 Kg7 31.g3 Re7

Black has no reason to rush, and he covers all bases before pushing on. The Rook actively attacks down the e-file and at the same time, guards Black's only potential weakness, the pawn on c7. White, on the other hand, has multiple weaknesses, the most obvious of which are the pawns on b2 and d4.

32.Kg2 h5 33.Kf3 g5 34.Rdd2 Ra1 35.Rc6 f5 36.g4 fxg4+ 37.hxg4 h4 38.Nc3

White has managed to hold on to both the weak pawns, but now there are problems with the White King, and Black's next move wins. Do you see it?


This wins at minimum a piece, but White's next move allows mate.


This allows mate in 5, but 49.Nd1 wasn't much better as after 39...h2 40.Kg2 Re1, the Knight falls as White must play 41.Kxh2 to prevent Black from Queening.

39...Rg1+ 0-1

All three of White's legal moves lead to mate. 40.Kh2 Rg2+ 41.Kxh3 Nf4 Mate, 40.Kxh3 Nf4+ 41.Kh2 Rg2+ 42.Kh1 Re1 Mate, or 40.Kf3 h2 and White can't stop promotion, and even there, he can only prolong the mate by a couple of moves via 41.Re6 Rxe6 42.Ne4 h1=Q+ 43.Ke2 Qxe4 Mate.

Black won this game via basic knowledge of middlegame concepts. When facing an IQP, block the pawn, trade pieces down to an endgame, and try to create a second weakness. Lastly, use those two weaknesses to overwork your opponent's pieces. This basic knowledge will get you far in these Exchange French lines with c4, and even better yet, these same ideas can be used against IQP positions from other openings.

Section 2: Lines Where White Plays c3.

Here is where things can get tricky for the second player if he doesn't understand the small details of what is going on. One reason some players might play the Exchange Variation is because then White has numerous options of what to do next, and can often get Black in a crossfire if he can trick Black with all the various move order tricks. Therefore, we are going to take a rock solid approach to this, and throw the ball right back in White's court, and wait for White to implode, rather than do it for him. One thing about the lines with c3 instead of c4 is that White doesn't have to play 4.c3 immediately. He can wait. See what Black does. Make Black commit to moves that he will later regret. This is one case where symmetry is a very good thing. Now before you go on saying that symmetrical positions slightly favor White and are otherwise a draw, let's not forget that there is a difference between equal and drawn. The positions end up equal. Below the 2400 level, they rarely end up drawn! One side or the other is going to not play the endgame properly, and make a move that they will later regret making.

Therefore, long story short, with the exception of Nc3, the approach I am going to advocate is the copy cat approach until White makes a move that is undesirable. Against 4.Nc3, I am going to cover what Black should play in the section on the MacCutcheon (Part 4). If White plays Nc3 at a later time, after various other moves have been committed, then a simple ...c6 push works out really well. The Knight on c3 will often be misplaced.

So after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5, White has a number of options that will eventually lead to the lines with c3 played. Here are a few rules for Black that he should follow:
  • Wherever White's King's Knight goes, Black's will almost always mimic.
  • The Queen's Knight will almost always land on d7 and is typically the last minor piece developed.
  • Do not develop the Dark Squared Bishop to d6 too early. White must either have already developed his Light Squared Bishop, or else have already played c3. More on that later.
  • Always get the Light Squared Bishop out, whether it be to pin a Knight developed on f3 or to oppose the Bishop on d3 via going to f5 if it's protected, or getting to g6 via Bc8-g4-h5-g6.
  • Black's most favorable diagonal for a battery is the h2-b8 diagonal. The Queen is most often better placed on c7 than e7.
  • Don't be surprised if the Rooks all get traded off on the e-file.
So before we get into the game that we are going to analyze, I am going to show you a couple of positions that you specifically want to avoid, and why we want to take the symmetrical approach, and then also a secondary line by White that we will again mimic and reference a game that illustrates what to do against it.

Below are two examples of positions that we specifically want to avoid:

This is the position that would arise after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.Nf3 Bd6. The problem with this move is that White has not developed his Light-Squared Bishop, and he has not moved his c-pawn yet. Therefore, White can now play 5.c4! and Black has to give in one way or another. If Black plays 5...c6, then after 6.cxd5, we are stuck with the dual isolated pawns that we mentioned earlier should be avoided in the 4.c4 lines. If we take the pawn with 5...dxc4, then we lost a tempo compared to had White developed his Bishop, and then has to move it again to recapture on c4. This is the exact same idea as the battle for the tempo in the Queen's Gambit Declined, where Black doesn't want to take on c4 until White has moved his Bishop already. This is why 4...Bd6 is perfectly fine after 4.Bd3. Now if 5.c4, then we take on c4 and we are back to the IQP position and White spent two moves on the Bishop. If we don't play 5...c6 or 5...dxc4, then our Bishop is going to bet pushed back to the more passive e7-square when White advances his c-pawn. So nothing good can come out of this. This is why Black should simply mimic White, as the first bullet above indicates, and play 4...Nf6.

Here is another position that we want to avoid. White can now easily contest our good Bishop on d6, but Black can't do the same to White because of the location of the Knights. Once again, any King side Knight development should be mimicked in the Exchange Variation.

Now I should note that neither of these lines are totally losing for Black by any stretch of the imagination. They are playable, but they are less desirable in what we are trying to achieve, which is to let White implode, and if White never implodes, we take the draw. Players below 2400 will almost always implode. Our goal is to make them pay for it! If you are, say, and 1800 player, and someone rated 2500 wants to play an Exchange French out to a draw, and takes the draw, let him have it. You should be ecstatic for drawing someone of that strength.

So now let's take a brief look at what is probably the most boring line of all. Please try to stay awake! After 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.Bd3 Bd6 5.Ne2, once again Black should mimic and play 5...Ne7, answering 6.O-O O-O 7.Bf4 with 7...Bf5.

In the game Plater - Kholmov, Chigorin Memorial 1947, Black managed to win after 8.Nbc3 c6 9.Bxf5 Nxf5 10.Qd3 Qf6 11.Bxd6 Nxd6 12.Ng3 Nd7 13.Rae1 Rae8 14.Nd1 Re6 15.Re3 Rxe3 16.Nxe3 Re8 17.c3 Re6 18.Nc2 Qf4 19.Re1 Ne4 20.Nxe4 dxe4 21.Qe3 Qd6 22.Qg3 Qxg3 23.hxg3 Kf8 24.Kf1 Ke7 25.Ke2 c5 26.d5 Rb6 27.b3 Ra6 28.Kd2 Rxa2 29.Rxe4+ Kd6 30.c4 b5 31.f4 bxc4 32.bxc4 Nb6 33.Kc3 Na4+ 34.Kd2 Rb2 35.Re3 Nb6 36.Rc3 Rb1 37.Na3 Rg1 38.Nb5+ Kd7 39.Nxa7 Rxg2+ 40.Kc1 Nc8 41.Nc6 Nd6 42.Ra3 Kc7 43.Ra7+ Kb6 44.Rd7 Nxc4 45.Ne5 Ne3 46.Rxf7 c4 47.Nxc4+ Nxc4 48.Rxg7 h5 49.Rh7 Rh2 50.f5 Kc5 51.f6 Kd4 52.Kb1 Kc3 53.d6 Na3+ 54.Ka1 Nc2+ 55.Ka2 Nb4+ 0-1

So this now brings us to what I call the "Super-Symmetrical" main line. The game I am going to show actually starts out as a Petroff, but will directly transpose to the Exchange French.

W: Zane Eisen (2165)
B: Patrick McCartney (1993)
2014 US Open, Round 5

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d3 Nf6 6.d4 d5

We are now back to the Exchange French with 4.Nf3 Nf6, once again, mimicking development with the King's Knight.

7.Bd3 Bd6 8.O-O O-O 9.Bg5 Bg4 10.Nbd2 Nbd7 11.c3 c6 12.Qc2 Qc7 13.h3

So here is where we finally draw the line and quit mimicking. White has now committed to a slight weakness. Notice how after this move, there is only one pawn remaining to cover the g3-square, and so White no longer has the opportunity to counter the battery Black has with Bg5-h4-g3 because he would drop a pawn. The same cannot be said for Black as he still has both his f-pawn and h-pawn on their original squares, covering g6, and so Black will be able to break up the battery. Again, not enough to claim Black is winning by any stretch, but it's these small middle game nuances that lead to eventual victory in the Exchange French, not blow the White King off the board with flashy tactics like that which could happen in variations like the Winawer.

13...Bh5 14.Rae1 Rfe8 15.Nh4

White's attempt to prevent Black from liquidating the battery. If Black now plays 15...Bg6, White will trade his Knight, not his Bishop, for the Black Light Squared Bishop.

15...Bh2+ 16.Kh1 Bf4 17.Bxf4 Qxf4 18.g3

Playing 18.Nf3 would allow Black to play 18...Bg6 and trading off the Bishops, but the move played in the game is loosening on the White King. Just another small thing to keep in mind. Small things do add up!

18...Qc7 19.f4

White now threatens to trap the Bishop with 20.g4 and 21.f5, and so Black allows White to trade his Knight for the Black Bishop, but White won't have enough of an attack on the light squares to get at the Black King while the White King has been opened up even further with White's last move.

19...Bg6 20.Nxg6

Attempting to trap the Bishop with 20.f5 doesn't work because of 20...Qxg3! Just goes to show how badly loose the area around White's King is getting.

20...hxg6 21.Nf3 Nf8 22.Ne5 Re7 23.Re3 Rae8 24.Rfe1 N6d7 25.Qf2 Qd6 26.Kg2 a6

An important move for Black. Black would like to break in the center with ...c5, but he must prevent Bb5 with the a-pawn before doing so.

27.h4 c5 28.dxc5 Nxc5 29.Bc2 Nfd7 30.b4 Ne4 31.Bxe4 dxe4


This is the first real sign of White starting to slip. He should instead accept a drawn Queen ending with 32.Rxe4 Nxe5 33.fxe5 Rxe5 34.Rxe5 Rxe5 35.Rxe5 Qxe5.

32...Qxd7 33.Qc2 f5

Black's majority now features a protected passed pawn. White's does not. The advantage belongs to Black with this pawn combined with the fact that the Rook on e3 is poorly placed as it can't easily get to the d-file, which is now the open file rather than the e-file.

34.Rd1 Qc6 35.Kh2 Rd7 36.Ree1 Red8 37.Rxd7 Qxd7

The file now belongs to Black. Combine this with the passed pawn and the fact that the White King is far away, the game ends shortly in Black's favor.

38.Re2 Qd1 39.Qb2 e3 40.Kg2 Rd2

White can safely resign here. There is no stopping the pawn.

41.Qxd2 exd2 42.Kf2 Qc2 0-1

So once again, Black gains the victory through the use of small nuances in the middlegame and endgame, and doesn't try to get fancy out of the opening, always looking for asymmetry. Sometimes simply mimicking White's moves in dull openings, putting the ball back in White's court and waiting for him to implode, is the way to go. We saw in the game weakening of the g3 square, weakening of the King, superior major piece placement, domination of the open file, and invasion with the defending King too far away, as the mechanism to winning a game when faced with a dull opening.

This concludes the coverage of the Exchange Variation. The next article I will be covering what Black should do against the Tarrasch Variation, 3.Nd2.

ADDENDUM:  Literally the day after publication of this article, a French Exchange occurred in round 1 of the Louisiana State Championship. As practice, take the following, and try to annotate it without the use of a computer. This includes not only identifying errors made, but also identifying threats, as many times a move that doesn't appear to make a lot of sense might make sense after all threats are identified, and not just threats of our own. Make note about the rules listed above and observe how they have been followed as far as Black is concerned. White is a B-Player and Black is an Expert, so there are bound to be many errors. See how many of them you can find when trying to annotate. Once you are done annotating the game, run the game through a computer and see how your assessment compares to that of the bot.

Louisiana State Championship, Round 1
W: David Webster (1609)
B: Patrick McCartney (2046)

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.Bg5 Bg4 6.Be2 Bd6 7.O-O O-O 8.Re1 Nbd7 9.Nbd2 c6 10.c4 Qc7 11.h3 Bh5 12.Rc1 Rfe8 13.Qb3 Rab8 14.cxd5 Nxd5 15.Bc4 N7b6 16.Bxd5 Nxd5 17.Ne4 Bf4 18.Bxf4 Qxf4 19.Ne5 f6 20.Nd3 Qf5 21.Nd6 Rxe1+ 22.Nxe1 Qd7 23.Ne4 Bf7 24.Qg3 Rd8 25.Rc5 Qe7 26.f3 Re8 27.Nc2 Bg6 28.Nc3 Ne3 29.Nxe3 Qxe3+ 30.Qf2 Qc1+ 31.Kh2 Re1 32.Kg3 h5 33.Ne2 Qd2 34.Nf4 h4+ 0-1

Links to the rest of the articles.
Introduction and facing the Advance Variation
Part Two: The Tarrasch Variation
Part Three: The King's Indian Attack
Part Four: The MacCutcheon Variation
Part Five: The Steinitz Variation
Part Six: Beating the French with the Advance Variation