Smerdon D. (2463) - Lukey S. (2247)
Queenstown op/Queenstown (6) 2009
An English player of master strength,Chris Baker,used to play this line all the time and as I used to meet him regularly around the English weekend circuit,I thought it would be a good idea to devise a decent response. I never had the chance to show what I prepared, so this is a good opportunity. Before one can combat the enemy successfully,one has to understand what he is trying to do. With the system under discussion, White gets relatively easy development,but the position that he reaches is not that flexible. It seems to me he depends on Black to play ...f7-f6 for most of his ideas. White then focusses on the e file and in particular the e5 square. Behind a piece lodged on e5,he may then start an attack. First let's see this idea in operation.
I am really not keen on this move,although I am sure Black gets a decent position with it. I think 8...f6 plays into White's hands.
There has been plenty of excellent discussion about this and alternatives so far. I dont want to intrude on that.
An option White rarely takes in the French.
Here we go! White has cleared the e5 square and gives himself attacking chances by so doing.
Tactics arise favouring White after 13... Nxe5 14. Bxe5 b5? (14... Bd7 15. f4 b5 16. g4) 15. Bxf6 Rxf6 (15... gxf6 16. Qg4+ Kh8 17. Bxh7 Kxh7 (17... Ra7 18. Bg6) 18. Rd3) 16. Ne4!! dxe4 17. Qxe4 Rb8 18. Qxh7+ Kf7 19. Qh5+ g6 20. Qxc5
15... Nd7 16. Nxd7 Bxd7 17. Be3 b4 18. Ne2 Nxe2 19. Qxe2 Bxe3 20. Qxe3 Rf6 is reasonable for Black, although it is hard to see him winning. I think this points up another defect of the earlier ...f7-f6. White can often steer for exchanges thanks to the newly-opened lines and take a lot of the fun out of the game for Black.
Crunch! This is possible thanks to the powerful Knight on e5
Black's King is looking airy!
Smerdon assessed his opponent rather well and conducted the attack with skill. Black was drawn away from sharper variation of the French into a line he probably only had an outline in his head about what to do and got blown away.1-0
Otchiyev A. (2225) - Pavlov S. (2443)
Kiev-ch/Kiev (3) 2009
There are many games like the Smerdon effort, so this led me to thinking whether Black could delay or even OMIT ...f7-f6 . I didn't see any worrying pawn breaks for White such as f2-f4 or c2-c4 on the horizon, just clumsy White pieces in the way. Moreover, Black's position is still very flexible and crucially, Black has not yet committed his King.
So in the modern style of the French, I believe this to be a much better way of tackling the line. Black could equally play 8...a6 and follow up with ...h7-h6. Should White castle short, Black can easily launch a pawn-storm on the kingside.
8... a6 9. Qe2 h6 sees the alternative move-order in action; it doesn't make much difference. 10. h4 Qb6 11. Nd1 Qc7 12.
Quite so! This is the type of thing I was looking forward to playing against Baker. Of course this type of idea is common in the French, but whilst not original here, it is certainly not very well documented in the thoretical manuals. It is the perception that Black can play successfully without ...f7-f6 that is important.
I would not want to be in White's shoes now.
Stefan Bucker suggested that 15. Ng5 was a little better for White. I am not sure I believe that, as after 15... Ncxe5! 16. Bc2 (16. Nd4 Qf6)
(16. Nf4 Qf6 17. Bc2
Black is a pawn up,well developed, has a safe King and is nicely centralized. White is more or less forced to play for tricks. I am not sure what more one could want.
It had to come to this. White makes a spirited try to save the game.
23... Bc8! is a better defence under the circumstances.
Normal service has just been resumed.
To summarize Black's approach 1) Black omits ...f7-f6 2) He tries to demonstrate the White piece set-up is inflxible, lacking pawn breaks to bring his pieces to life. 3) With ...a7-a6 and ...h7-h6 Black does not commit himself to anything, but he would very much like to start a kingside attack, using ...h7-h6 as the starting point. But he can still castle short. I'm not a fan of this inelastic line for White.0-1