A clear attacking plan against the Rubinstein Variation

11/4/2021 – The Rubinstein Variation of the French Defence (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4) often proves difficult for White to crack. Sure, you have a lot of space, but Black's position is very solid. After the main moves 4...Nd7 5.Nf3 Ngf6 6.Nxf6+ Nxf6, White has so far mostly tried 7.c3 or 7.Bd3. In the new ChessBase Magazine #204 Martin Lorenzini presents a new idea with 7.Be3!? which could prove to be a worthwhile alternative to the well-known theoretical variations. Curious? Here's an excerpt of his article.

ChessBase Magazine 204 ChessBase Magazine 204

"Special" on Judit Polgar with analyses and videos on strategy and endgame. Demchenko, Sarana, Erdos, Grandelius, Saric et al. comment on games from the European Individual Championship. Opening videos by Ragger, King and Marin. Plus 11 opening articles

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7.Be3!? vs. the French Rubinstein

Martin Lorenzini checks out an aggressive system

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Nf3 Ngf6 6.Nxf6+ Nxf6 7.Be3

Looking for an alternative system to face the Rubinstein Variation of the French Defence, we (Salvador Alonso and I) came across the interesting game Tomashevsky,E - Kramnik,V 0-1 (2020), which after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nbd7 5.Nf3 Ngf6 6.Nxf6+ Nxf6 saw the first player leaving the main lines with 7.Be3!?. Although the experiment was not a success, investigating White's play we discovered promising improvements and attractive attacking ideas - here are our findings.

In the above position after 7.Be3!?, Black can choose between A) 7...Nd5, B) 7...Bd6 and the secondary C) 7...Be7.

A) 7... Nd5 

is met by 8.Bd2.

White's plan is very straightforward: he wants to follow up with Bd3/Qe2/0-0-0/Ne5 and launch a pawn attack on Black's kingside castling while controlling the centre. Faced with Black's typical central reaction ...c5, he simply gets ready to play dxc5 and continue development as quickly as possible.

After 8...c5 9.dxc5 Bxc5 10.Bd3 Qc7 (for 10... 0-0 see Fressinet,L - Vaisser,A 1-0 - after 11.Qe2 Nb4 12.Bxb4 Bxb4+ 13.c3 Be7 14.0-0-0 Qa5 15.Kb1 Black had problems with his Bc8) 11.Qe2

there are three continuations for Black:

A1) 11... 0-0 (12.0-0-0)

and now in Nijboer,F - Dambacher,M 1-0 Black had different posibilities, among them the interesting novelty 12...b5!?.

A2) 11...Bd7!?  The most solid move for Black, which makes it most difficult for White to aspire to gain an advantage.

Following 12.0-0-0 Nf4 13.Bxf4 Qxf4+ in Stellwagen,D - Meier,G ½-½, the Dutch player opted for 14.Rd2 and did not get an advantage. The path for White must focus on the move 14.Kb1.

A3) 11. ... a6 was tried in Predojevic,B - Stojanovic,D 1-0 - a great model game on how to conduct White's attack.

Position after 16.Ne5!

B) 7....Bd6

The other main alternative and the move chosen by Vladimir Kramnik. Following 8.Bd3 b6 9.Qe2 Bb7 10.Ne5 0-0 11.0-0-0

the way splits for Black:

B1) 11... c5 happened in the aforementioned game Tomashevsky,E - Kramnik,V 0-1 where instead of, as played, 12.h4?! we recommend 12.Nc4!

as an improvement for White.

B2) 11...Nd5 was seen in Fressinet,L - Marzolo,C 1-0, an important game where after 12.Bd2

instead of 12...Nb4? Black should have continued with 12...Qh4!?.

C) 7...Be7

This minor continuation doesn't pose special problems. After 8.Bd3 0-0 9.Qe2 c5 10.dxc5 Qc7 11.0-0-0! Bxc5 12.Bxc5 Qxc5 13.Ne5!

White gets his attacking setup again, see Spraggett,K - Pogorelov,R 1-0.

Conclusion: 7.Be3!? introduces an aggressive scheme, with a clear intention to attack and a game plan behind it. It's an interesting alternative to the more hackneyed and theoretical lines starting with 7.c3 or 7.Bd3, worthy of being put into practice. Black has the resources to try and even the game, but at the slightest imprecision he can fall into a delicate position.

You can find the complete article with all gsames and analyses in the new ChessBase Magazine #204!

All opening articles from ChessBase Magazine #204 

Spyridon Kapnisis: Larsen Opening 1.b3 e5 2.Bb2 Nc6
Krisztian Szabo: English Botvinnik System with 6.e4 f5
Petra Papp: Caro-Kann Advance Variation 8...Qxb2
Andrey Sumets: Sicilian Paulsen 6...Qb6 7.Nf3 (Part III)
Robert Ris: Sicilian Four Knights with 9.Bd3
Imre Hera: Sicilian Najdorf 6.Be2 e5 7.Nf3 Be7 8.Bg5
Martin Lorenzini: French Rubinstein Variation 7.Be3
Evgeny Postny: Vienna Game 3.Bc4 Nxe4 4.Qh5 Nd6
Alexey Kuzmin: Queen's Gambit 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 h6!?
Sergey Grigoriants: Gruenfeld with 5.Na4 e5
Roven Vogel: King's Indian Fianchetto Variation 8.Na3

ChessBase Magazine #204

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