Rustam Kasimdzhanov: The new McCutcheon

by ChessBase
3/2/2015 – Wilhelm Steinitz was proud on his defensive skills but they did not help him when he faced the McCutcheon variation in the French Defence for the first time. One example that shows how dangerous the whole line is for White. Rustam Kasimdzhanov has many more and more modern examples to offer - and an exciting repertoire for players who like to play for a win.

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Rustam Kasimdzhanov: The new McCutcheon - A Review

By GM Hedinn Steingrimsson

The McCutcheon Variation is named after John Lindsay McCutcheon, who after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 played the new move 4…Bb4 and won convincingly against World Champion Wilhelm Steinitz, in a simul in New York back in 1885. It is a sharp, counterattacking variation, which often leads to unbalanced positions with chances for both sides. In recent times, it has been chosen by combative players, who are willing to take some risk like GM Nepomniachtchi, GM Pons Vallejo and GM Nakamura.

Former FIDE-World Champion GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov plays for the OSG Baden Baden in the Bundesliga and is the top player of Uzbekistan. Apart from his success over the board, he also worked successfully as a coach and opening theoretician. He was one of Anand’s seconds in two World Championship matches and with his ideas in the Meran variation he contributed substantially to Anand’s win over Kramnik in their World Championship in Bonn 2008.

In this DVD, GM Kasimdzhanov presents a complete repertoire for black, based on the McCutcheon variation in the French Defense. The McCutcheon is a comparably little explored opening and in some cases a sound path for black had yet to be established. As an example, in the rare line 5.e5 h6 6.Bh4 g5 7.Bg3 line, black needs to be very careful and find sufficient counter play quickly, because white threatens to create long-term weaknesses on the black kingside with h4. The Russian GM Sergey Volkov, one of the main specialists in the McCutcheon, recently lost a game after choosing one of the continuations which Kasimdzhanov thinks are less favorable here for black.

But Kasimdzhanov manages to find decent, sometimes rarely played, options for black in this and other lines. He has an excellent feel for the initiative and his recommendations usually lead to comparably safe positions for black. However, he usually does not go into much detail in his analysis, preferring to point out the right direction, the main ideas and plans, which options he considers to be playable and what you should avoid. He leaves it to the audience to figure out the details.

Wilhelm Steinitz - First victim of the McCutcheon variation (Photo: Wikipedia)

But it helps that Kasimdzhanov’s assessments are usually right. And even though he presents a repertoire for Black, he is neutral in his assessments. Thus, this DVD is also very useful if you play against the McCutcheon with White. In fact, in one of the key games of the DVD, played at the Olympiad 2014, we see Kasimdzhanov playing with White against GM David Smerdon from Australia.

A position that gives black chances to unbalance the game and play for a win

The McCutcheon suits GM Kasimdzhanov’s active style and his thoughts on the different lines are of high quality and he shows a large amount of original analysis. The line he recommends resembles the strategically risky and offbeat counterattacking variation in the Meran, with which Anand won two games against Kramnik in the World Championship match mentioned above, and which Kasimdzhanov analysed to perfection. In both cases White cannot rely on general principles and is forced to dive into concrete and sharp variations with ample chances to go wrong.

It would not be surprising if the McCutcheon gets more popular after this DVD is out, because Kasimdzhanov’s shows the pitfalls and sheds light on the dark, unexplored corners of the variation. At least on some of the unexplored corners, leaving the viewers ample room for own research.

I can recommend this DVD to players who prefer to play unbalanced positions with chances for both sides. Kasimdzhanov’s presentation and analyses are well accessible to club players but professionals will without doubt also benefit from them. If you play the French the McCutcheon is an excellent way to expand your repertoire with a sharp variation, which gives Black good chances to fight for the full point. Rustam Kasimdzhanov shows the way.

Sample video


Rustam Kasimdzhanov: The new McCutcheon

• Video running time: 4 hours 42 minutes
• With interactive training including video feedback
• Full analysis of the variation by Kasimdzhanov
• Exclusive database with 78 Grandmaster games
• Including CB 12 Reader

€25.13 without VAT (for Customers outside the EU)
$28.52 (without VAT)

This DVD can be purchased as a hard copy or it can be downloaded directly from the Internet.

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