Uunderstanding The French Defense C01 - C19

If you take the time to study the material given here thoroughly and thoughtfully to the point that you truly understand fully the underling ideas behind the French Defense, you may become a beginning French Defense specialist, and then you may become one of those Francophiles who can become a very dangerous animal using this strategy!

1.e4 e6

52 Traps

26 Examples to examine.

13 Games

Total of 91 fine training aids to get you started on learning how to master The French Defense, plus the new g7-g5 move that will be a complete surprise to your opponents and change the game in your favor, if you put in some time to practice using it.

The French Defense has a proven reputation for adaptability and soundness and is attractive to the Black player who seeks a complex strategic fight in unbalanced positions, with healthy counterplay and many chances to decide sharp battles in his favor! Black's defensive resources are based on a sound strategic foundation, and White must be alert at all times and wiling to play forcefully and incisively in order to try to prove his advantage in positions that he may choose against Black's sound Defenses.

Although analyzed by the Italian Lucena in the fifteenth century, the French Defense was named for the Parisian players who adopted the move 1e6 in 1834 in the correspondence game against London. The contrarian temperament it takes to play the defense may also remind some of the French nature. Most young players shun the French in favor of defenses with direct counterplay such as the Sicilian or the Pirc. With the French Defense, one must first defend then counterattack. This is not for everyone, but its great exponents, Botvinnik, Korchnoi and Short, have scored well with this opening.

The French Defense is an opening, which most players either love or hate. With the very first move, Black tells the Bishop at c8 that it is going to be a long time before that piece will play a active role in the game, at least on the kingside. White will be granted an advantage in the center and an advantage in space.

Why then would anyone want to play it as Black? In particular, why should such superstars as Mikhail Botvinnik, Tigran Petrosian, Viktor Korchnoi, Nigel Short and many other top players choose to defend it? Unlike most of our FICS impatient players, these Grandmasters are very patient players. They don't feel the need to attack from the very start of the game like most FICS players do. As Black they are content to bide their time and wait for the right moment to slay their adversaries. Then they can rip open the center and close in for the kill. Francophiles can become very dangerous animals using this strategy!

It is for these reasons that I feel that the French would be a good defense for our team to adopt. We would have the advantage on our side by utilizing the style of these top players who choose the French Defense against the average FICS player who has little patients for more subtle strategic play like is in the French Defense.

For a quick less detailed synopsis of the French Defense go here first

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 (Black can slide into the St. George Defense with 2a6 instead) when White is faced with a serious decision, what to do about the vulnerable pawn at e4?

In general the most principled reply is to defend the pawn while developing a piece, and there are two possibilities here for the knight at b1. In the Classical Variation and Winawer Variation, White chooses 3.Nc3. The classical approach is to respond 3Bb4, which pins the knight at c3 and threatens to capture it. In the Tarrasch Variation White plays 3.Nd2, this temporarily blocks the bishop at c1 but does not allow the pin.

With 1e6 and 2d5 Black makes his claim to the center. The conflict between the White pawn on e4 and the Black pawn on d5 begins the central struggle. Usually before the tenth move, the pawn structure for the Middlegame is determined. White looking for the kingside initiative and Black for counter chances on the queenside. One frequent positional theme is the liberation of Black's light-squared bishop, locked inside the pawn chain by Black's first move. This problem bishop may even cause difficulties even in the endgame if Black does not find a way to free it. One way might be to fianchetto it on b7 or to place it on a6.

The French Defense

White's most common four choices after 2...d5

The French Defense

The Exchange Variation C01

The exchange variation at first sight looks rather boring, but White always has a slight edge that Black has to neutralize. Remember it's a symmetrical position with White's move.
Quite obviously, the moves by Black (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5) represent a counter attack in the center. If White decides that he wants to avoid some of the sharp lines listed on this page, he can opt for a small advantage by playing the Exchange Variation.

White players should note that the line 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 4.Nf3 Nf6 offers a way to meet the Petroff as well, to which it transposes directly after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d3 Nf6 6.d4 d5. The Exchange Variation, particularly in conjunction with 4.Nf3 or 4.c4 as played by Kasparov offers White players a possibility to meet the French Defense without having to immerse themselves in the study of the highly complicated variations characteristic of the Winawer and other sharp systems. Although the Exchange Variation is of course equal from a theoretical perspective, in practice White's results are not encouraging. The reason for Black's success is probably due to the psychological advantage he enjoys after White voluntarily relinquishes the advantage of the first move so early in the game.

For many years the Exchange Variation was thought to be highly drawish, and White players looking for an early peaceful conclusion often found what they were looking for in the symmetrical positions that can result. However, while White enjoys the advantage of an extra move, it is often Black who has the option of breaking the symmetry and steering the game into more complex waters. Of particular interest is the possibility of castling on opposite sides, when the resulting mutual pawn storms can quickly lead to sharp confrontations. In essence, the Exchange Variation is dull only if both player are content with nothing more than equality, but offers many opportunities for the stronger or more ambitious player to unbalance the position and out-maneuver his opponent.
Exchange Variation

3.Nc3 Variation C10

3.Nc3 Variation

3.Nc3 Rubinstein Variation C10
One of Black's most consequent decisions in the 3.Nc3 French Defense is to employ the Rubinstein Variation. The Rubinstein Variation can be used by Black whether White chooses 3.Nc3 or 3.Nd2. Black immediately gives up the center with 3dxe4 and will have to deal with the problem of the bishop at c8, but if these can be overcome then Black's life is easy indeed. On the other hand, (No, not that hand, the other hand!) if White can develop a serious initiative, Black's position can quickly go down in firry flames. This opening appeals to players who have read my page "The Art of Defense" and players who have developed strong defensive skills, but none of the top Grandmaster stars use it.

When Black captures on e4 he gives White a space advantage, but Black is very solid and can counter attack with the move c5. Its very difficult to prove an advantage for White here now.

Rubinstein Variations Overview

An often overlooked system, several strong players have taken up the idea of giving up Black's center with dxe4 in recent years, and now without success. White has not had much success in proving even a small advantage here, and it is possible for Black to assert certain chances based on his superior pawn structure, or those of a more dynamic nature arising in cases where gxf6 is involved.
The line in which Black exchanges on e4 on move three, sometimes called the Rubinstein Variation, is closely related to the Burn Variation, in which Black captures on e4 only after White has played 4.Bg5. Note that in the Rubinstein Variation with 4Nd7 5.Nf3 Ngf6 6.Nxf6+ Nxf6 7.Bd3 White can transpose to the Burn Variation with 6.Bg5 or 7.Bg5. Generally speaking Black has fewer winning chances here than in positions with the White pawn advance e4-e5. However, he also has a safe position with fewer weaknesses. White in turn is allowed smooth development of his pieces and sometimes significant space advantage. However, with unambitious play these positions can easily evaporate into sterile equality.

Rubinstein Variation

The Winawer Variation C01 - C19
At present, if you have Black, most French Defense Players prefer to play the Winawer Variation.

If Black seeks direct counteplay and positional imbalances, his choice should be the Winawer Variation, 3.Nc3 Bb4. The battle of space vs. structure, bishops vs. Knights and initiative vs. material ensure a lively complex struggle. After 4.e5 c5 5.a3 B xc3 6.bxc3 Ne7, White has the choice of immediate tactical play or positional play.

7.Qg4 (Poison Pawn Variation) is the sharpest try for White against the Winawer. He tries to exploit the absence of the Bishop on Black's King side by attacking g7 immediately.
If White plays 7.Qg4, the very aggressive ultra complicated Poisoned Pawn Variation. Black obtains positional compensation for the pawn in the lines following 7Qc7 8.Qxg7, but more recent practice has shown that 70-0 should also be satisfactory.
The positional way for White against the Winawer is for White to use his two Bishops.

In the main line of the Winawer, White plays positionally with 7.Nf3 or 7.a4, intending to use the advantage of his bishop pair and kingside pawn wedge. Play can be very difficult. For years, Bobby Fischer had trouble with these positions, yet with best play, White should obtain some advantage, at least with 7.Nf3.

The players of the Black pieces hardly deserve full credit for the Winawer Variation. The ideas of the system were not worked out properly until well into the next century. The opening has also been named for Aron Nimzovich, who dabbled in it. The real heroes of the line are Mikhail Botvinnik and Wolfgang Uhlmann. The latter has built an entire career on the variation. Still, the designation of the defense as the Winawer Variation is too firmly entrenched to be changed.

Black's basic idea is to put pressure on the White center, usually with c5, giving up the bishop for the knight at c3, as in the Nimzo-Indian. Black is often forced to defend against a kingside attack for a long time, seeking counterplay in the center or simply waiting and playing defensively until the attack is exhausted and then preying on the weaknesses created by White. It takes a certain kind of kinky personality, someone who may make sharp departures from the traditional or usual line of play to be willing to defend the Winawer. (Do you wish to learn how to become a good defensive Player? My page "The Art of Defense" in the Cat 4 training module may be just the ticket for you in this line if you seek to be a good French Defense Winawer defensive playeer. Remember what we said about how the top GM's play the French? "As Black these GM's are content to bide their time and wait for the right moment to slay their adversaries. Then they can rip open the CENTER and close in for the kill.") Professionals either love it or abhor it, and no World Champion since Botvinnik has relied on it for important encounters. Still, on the other hand, (no not that hand, the other hand) many challengers for the crown have used it extensively, for example, Viktor Korchnoi considers it to be a dynamic opening which is unlikely to ever disappear from the tournament scene.

In the Winawer playing 3Bb4 is Black's most combative response. The only dangerous reply is 4.e5, when Black has a major choice. One plan is to aim for b6 and Ba6 to exchange his "bad" Bishop, a plan which can be introduced by either 4Qd7 or 4b6. Although Black usually manages to achieve his aim, the time lost enables White to maintain a alight edge. The alternative is 4c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ (5Ba5 is a important sideline) 6bxc3 Ne7. Black damages White's pawn structure, but at the cost of dark-squared weaknesses. The resulting play is very double-edged, especially if White chooses the aggressive 7.Qg4. Black can respond in three ways: One, the super ultra complex, "French Poisoned Pawn", 7Qc7. Two, the relatively more solid 70-0 or Three, the odd-looking but playable 7Kf8. In order to avoid the complications of the French Poisoned Pawn, many white players prefer the positional 7.Nf3 (or 7.a4). These lines, although less overtly tactical than 7.Qg4, also lead to very tricky positions with chances for both sides, but usually the player who has more experience and is better prepared and more aggressive will invariably prevail.

Playing the Winawer Variation could bring great rewards for the Black player, but only if he is willing to put in the time to become thoroughly familiar with the Basic Ideas of the French Defense Winawer Variation and make it a part of his opening repertoire for further study and experience.

The Winawer Overview

The Winawer after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 leads to some of the most interesting and volatile systems of all of chess opening theory, and its popularity seems to continue unabated into the next millennium Extremely tactical and sharp systems exist next to heavy-blooded strategical positions that exact a high degree of skill from both players to play successfully. The main line Poisoned Pawn Variation alone provides enough reason to take up playing the French Defense, although it has to be said in all honesty that the extreme sharpness of this system has at times actually contributed to an increase in other French Defense systems, such as the Classical Variation. The reason for this is, as is true for any other exceedingly sharp opening systems is that many say they are unplayable. It is however also true that thus far Black player have always been able to put the ball back in White's court with the introduction of suitable improvements.

When playing the Winawer it is therefore important to remember that a large amount of theoretical knowledge is absolutely essential for surviving the many dangers inherent in its complexities. Black and White player alike need to arrive at every contest heavily armed with the latest innovations and improvements.

The recorded history of the Winawer Variation begins in 1861 when the variation was employed twice in the London match between Louis Paulsen and Kolisch, viz. Paulsen,L - Kolisch,l - The variation's namesake, Simon Winawer (1838-1920), a strong Polish master born in Warsaw, does not appear until he played 3Bb4 against Wilhelm Steinitz at eh Paris Exhibition of 1867, viz Steinitz,W Winawer,S 1-0 Paris 1867. Mikhail Botvinnik wrote in 1975 "to be quit3e frank, the real history of the French Defense starts with Aaron Nimzovich. "Nimzovich's original analyses and practical experiments with both the Winawer and the Advance Variations in 1920s brought the French Defense into maturity as a formidable weapon for the second player. His research set the stage for further discoveries by Alexander Alekhine, Mikhail Botvinnik and other Soviet player in the 1940s.

The Winawer Variation, or Nimzovich Variation as it is known in Europe, is a controversial opening. The highly complex, sharp and unbalanced positions that result appeal to many styles of play, offer Black real winning chances, and provide one of the main reasons for playing the French Defense! Throughout history the Winawer Variation has been associated with uncompromising player like Robert Fischer, Vasily Smyslov, Mikhail Tal, Boris Spassky, Ljubomir Ljubojevic and Jonn Nunn, who have scored many stunning victories from the White side; while Wolfgang Uhlmann, Aron Nimzovich, Mikhail Botvinnik, Viktor Korchnoi, Lajos Portisch and Rafael Vaganian have played the Black side with great success. There is even a short but distinguished list of exceptionally fearless competitors who are willing to play the Winawer from either side, including David Bronstein, Nigel Short, Boris Ivkov, Alexander Alekhine, Jan Timman and Sergey Doimatov.

Perhaps the words of former World Champion Robert Fischer, written in 1969, sum up the controversy best: "I may yet be forced to admit that the Winawer is sound, But I doubt it! The defense is anti-positional and weakens the kingside." In spite of his advantage in terrain, White often finds it difficult to locate a point at which he can attack in the complicated positions that are typical for many of the Winawer lines. White theoretically has the superior position, but in practice his advantage often evaporates. If he does not succeed in quickly developing an initiative, then the weaknesses in his position sooner or late become decisive targets for his opponent.

With 3Bb4 black transfers his dark squared bishop from his kingside with the idea of exchanging it on c3, disrupting White's queenside by doubling his c-pawns, but concedes the bishop pair. This results in an unbalanced position characterized by long term strategic tension and immediate tactical complexity. White seeks to capitalize on the absence of Black's dark squared bishop by attacking the kingside, immediately with Qg4 or later following a deployment of forces. Black's kingside, especially the dark squares, suffer a troublesome long term weakness, his light squared bishop finds itself blocked by pawns, and yet Black' position has a definite resiliency both in attack and defense. Black generally operates on the queenside, but he may also have the possibility of blockading the queenside and counter attacking in the center. White is plagued by a certain urgency to commence offensive operations because of his vulnerable queenside and the disunity between the two fronts, which typically results from his doubled and immobilizeds c-pawns.

After White's main reply 3Bb4 4.e5 the position takes on a semi-closed character, which does not appeal to all White players. Several 4th move alternatives exist, namely 4.a3, 4.Qg4, 4.Bd2, 4.Bd3, 4.exd5 and 4.Qd3. Although none of them threaten the soundness of the Winawer, each enjoys periodic popularity and requires accurate treatment by both players. The fundamental starting position of the Winawer arises after the natural 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bd4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7. White has acquired the bishop pair, secured a space advantage and fortified point d4, in exchange for incurring significant structural weaknesses on the queenside and a division of his force. While other 5th moves such as 5.Nf3, 5Bd2, 5dxc5 and 5.Qg4 are terribly popular they are once again logical and dangerous enough to test both player. In the main variation White now has a choice between the ultra-sharp and critical 7.Qg4, and the positional continuations 7.Nf3, 7a4 and 7.h4. The latter treatments allow White to try to defend his center, as opposed to allowing cxd4 and dxc3 in the former. From a position of central strength, White then has a number of ways to attack on both sides of the board, viz. h4-h5-h6, Bd3 with Nf3-g5, a4 and Ba3, or even with dxc5 with Nd4. Black in turn puts pressure down the c-file, blockades the queenside by Bd7-a4 or Qa5-a4 - with or with out c4 - or turn his attention ot the center by f6 with a subsequent attack along the f-and f-files. The extreme flexibility of both side's strategies has made this fertile ground for endless new idea and refinements.

Winawer Variation

Steinitz - Winawer

Bronstein - Uhlmann

Viacheslav - Botvinnik

Bogdanovic - Uhlmann

Winawer Variation French Defense Opening Reference Book

French Winawer by GM Neil McDonald.
This book takes a modern look at the highly fashionable French Winawer, which remains the sharpest variation of the French Defense. It leads to the kind of dynamic positions in which the better prepared and more aggressive player will invariably prevail. Leading expert Neil McDonald explains the strategy and tactics of this exciting opening in a clear and concise manner.
FAN, 144 pages. List price $19.95 Retail $17.95.

The Classical Variation C11 - C14

In the Classical Variation of the French Defense, Black's plan is to firmly defend the light squares in the center, and then try to undermine the e4-square with moves such as c5. White now chooses between 4.Bg5 and 4.e5. For many years 4.Bg5 was considered more popular, but not anymore.

The Classical Variation is enjoying a renaissance these days and World Championship challenger Nigel Short is leading the charge. Now White can play 4.Bg5, which allows either a pure Classical with 4Be7, or a MacCutcheon with 4Bb4. Often White avoids both by putting the question to the knight immediately with 4.e5.

Classical Variation Overview

The classical Variation has been eclipsed in popularity by the Winawer Variation for some fifty years. However, it is currently experiencing a revival, and many of the nearly forgotten lines have come under considerable theoretical scrutiny, and received much needed revision and updating in recent years. Players like Victor Korchnoi, Nunn, Kortschnoj, Short and Jan Timman, for example have done much to energize certain lines with new ideas, and a number of systems in the Classical Variation can now be employed by ambitious second players looking for more than equality. It can also be said that much of the material has undergone quite a exploration offering an attractive practical opportunities for well prepared players.

While most of the systems are not as unbalanced as some of the extremely chaotic main Winawer lines involving Qg4xg7, they still offer a variety of interesting and rather difficult problems for both player. Black aims to combat White's central space advantage with more traditional means than he does in the critical Winawer main lines, but he does so without incurring the severe penalty of giving up his kingside. White generally enjoys a small edge due to his space advantage in the center and on the kingside, but Black is able to develop comfortably and can exert sufficient pressure on White's central position provided he plays energetically enough. Some lines, particularly in the Alekhine-Chatard Attack and the MacCutcheon Variation, require detailed and up-to-date knowledge of the latest theoretical discoveries to meet successfully in class tourneys.

The Classical Variation

Glek - Short

Classical French Defense Opening Reference Books

Classical French by GM Eduard Gufeld and Oleg Stetsko.
Detailed coverage of one of the most important opening lines. A comprehensive guide to one of the most respected defenses to 1.e4 in which the game can suddenly explode into action. The Classical French is played regularly by such top flight GM's as Evgeny Bareev, Mikhail Gurevich and Alexander Chernin.
160 diagrams, FAN, 176 Pages List Price. $20.95 Retail $18.95

French Classical by IM Byron Jacobs.
The Classical is going through a real boom in top-level chess, with Korchnoi, Morozevich and Bareev its main adherents. A solid opening with plenty of scope for Black to dictate the play. This book offers a fresh look at the Classical variation of the French Defense
Fan, 144 pages. List $19.95 Retail $17.95

The MacCutcheon Variation C12

The MacCutcheon Variation is a sharp weapon which must be taken into account by anyone who dares to play 4.Bg5 against the French.

The MacCutcheon Variation

The Richter Attack C13

The Richter Attack is a lesser-known variation which is easy to play for White but which can be quite dangerous for Black.

The Richter Attack

The Steinitz Variation C11

Most Grandmasters prefer to hoard their Bishops, hoping that as the opening moves unfold and the position is opened, their Bishops will powerfully rake the open diagonals. While the Winawer Variation means parting with the f8-Bishop, the Steinitz Variation holds onto the Bishop and intensifies the pressure on the e4-pawn.

The Steinitz Variation is White's alternative to the Classical Variation, with similar chances for the advantage. The difference is that White's dark-squared bishop develops inside the pawn chain to e3 instead of outside the pawn chain at g5. Black should avoid the old line in which he sacrifices a piece for three pawns. The pawn grab is sharp but very risky for Black against a good attacking player who has read our page for Cat 4 players, "The Art of Attack".

The Steinitz Variation

Steinitz - Sellman with annotation by Kasparov

Steinitz - Golmayo

The Seirawan Variation C10

A relatively modern twist is this variation

There is only one variation in the French Defense where theorists do not suggest that White has a advantage, (however slight) and this is the Seirawan Variation. Maybe this is because the Seirawan Variation is not so well known. I cannot find the Seirawan Variation listed in either the MCO (Modern Chess Opening's), the NCO (Nunn's Chess Openings) or Standard Chess Openings by Eric Schiller. I don't have the set of ECO books (Encyclopedia of Chess Openings) because it would cost me about $132 for the four books. And I don't have the set of Informants books because it would cost about $130, so I'm sure it is listed in one of them because in my Mega Data Base it lists this variation as a C10 ECO.

Maybe masters don't use it because they believe they have better chances with variations that there is a lot of material written about them that they can study and lots of games to analyze in these other variations. But I did find four games that Seirawan played the Seirawan Variation in my Chessbase Mega Database 2002 and all four ended in a draw against other GM's. However Seirawan claims that in his tournaments his score is "quite favorable" with black, using his idea of 3Be7 that he devised and championed as the Seirawan Variation. However, he claims that this variation "requires careful study!"

In his game as Black with Larry Mark Christiansen in June 1997 he did play 4dxe4 to 4.Bd3 as he suggested in his example shown here. But alas, that game played out in 55 moves as a drawn game. To bad Seirawan. Maybe playing this variation against strong GM's is not a good idea?

In his game with GM Hracek, Z he did not follow through with his advice in the example he gave in 1998 that you can see here on how to play the Seirawan Variation. Seirawan says that the best test of the Seirawan Variation is if White plays 4.Bd3! because then Black can now play 4dxe4. When Hiracek did play this move of 4.Bd3 with Seirawan in 1998, Seirawan instead played Nc6?. So is he saying don't do as I do but instead play as I say to play? Did he forget what he advised on how to play against 4.Bd3!? or as he says "I've played this position in a provocative style as Black on several occasions" and this time against this GM he did not feel that against this GM his chances with this move would prove to be a good choice ? or maybe it was because in 1997 when he played against Larry Christiansen using his Seirawan Variation idea that game resulted in a drawn game?

We will never know but only that since he said it is indeed a good move that we should indeed try it out to see if transposing into the Rubinstein Variation is a good move. But then on the other hand in the Rubinstein although Black will aim to trade pieces for a solid position, White has superior Bishops and greater flexibility with his King position, (he can castle on either side of the board) and opening theorists believe that White has a slight advantage.

Should you choose to adopt this Seirawan Variation to use in your French Defense Repertoire you would be well advised to first study the given example and his four games with this variation given here well and when you play it win or lose be sure to analyze the games afterwards and put notes in a spiral ring notebook that you have put aside just for this purpose of correcting your mistakes and making improvements in your play, only then would you have any chance of any significant improvement with this variation.

The Seirawan Variation

Christiansen - Seirawan, June 4.Bd3 dxe4

Christiansen - Seirawan, April 4.Nf3 Nf6

Hracek - Seirawan

De Firmian - Seirawan

The Tarrasch Variation C05 - C09

The Tarrasch Variation 3.Nd2, is considered to be White's soundest response to the French Defense!

How White avoids the Bishop pin on his Knight.
The Tarrasch Variation

The Tarrasch Variation Plans

If White chooses the Advance Variation of the Tarrasch, White's fundamental long-term plan in an Advance center is to achieve the f4-f5 breakthrough, which could be the prelude to a violent attack on Black's king, or it could be part of a sustained campaign of constricting Black's pieces. Black in turn does everything he can to prevent the f5 advance, either through fortifying square-f5 itself, or by diversionary tactics such as pressuring pawn-d4 or counterattacking on the queenside, In the pawn structure of 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.c3 c5 6.f4, the key factor that allows White to seize space with 6.f4 rather than address his development is that Black's knight-d7 can no longer easily be used to attack pawn-d4. White is now ready to complete his development, and aims to fortify his center and avoid weaknesses in his position. If successful, in time his space advantage would allow him to further pressure and restrict his opponent's game. Black in turn tries to make use of his temporary development advantage to immediately challenge White's central expansion, particularly by pressuring White's key pawn-d4 and thus hindering his opponent's natural development.

The Tarrasch Advanced Variation
If you do choose to use the Advance Variation be prepared for a chaotic and violent game, with Black often playing 3c5 a quick counterattack in the center to undermine the d4-pawn that supports the e5-pawn and to destroy White's pawn chain from b2-e5.
Black may bring a hail of attacks on your center pawns, trying to destroy your key pawn d4 to prevent a center space advantage and central expansion. Black will most probably hurl everything he can on the Queenside and give a violent attack on your king as well as black tries to destroy your development and prevent the f5 advance on his king. Because Black has the better development he will try to employ sharp plans to seize the initiative and prevent your expansion on the king side and allow you to successfully gain a space advantage to restrict Black's game.
If you choose the Tarrasch Advance Variation you may have a lot of ground to cover if you intend to adopt this line of play against a aggressive attacking player.

Tarrasch Advanced Var. Themes and Plans

French Tarrasch Variation Opening Reference Book

The French Tarrasch and Other Lines by IM Steffen Pedersen.
The Tarrasch Variation provides a stern test for the French Defense and has always been a favorite of strategically minded players, such as Michael Adams and Anatoly Karpov. By putting his Knight on d2, White gives his opponent little scope for counterplay and in many lines ends up with a slight positional advantage that can prove extremely difficult to neutralize. This has led to Black developing various sharper approaches, which complicate the play considerably, but also expose him to greater risk.
256 Pages. List $24.95 Retail $22.95

Tarrasch Leningrad Variation C05
If Black meets the Tarrasch Variation with 3Nf6. This more or less forces the reply e5. After 4Nfd7 White has to make a choice, he can attack more with pawns by playing f4 or he can develop his pieces by Bd3. In both cases, his chances lie more on the Kingside.

Tarrasch Leningrad Variation

Tarrasch Seirawan Variation C10

Tarrasch Seirawan Variation

Tarrasch Seirawan Variation 2 C03

Tarrasch Seirawan Variation 2

Advance Variation C02 (Nimzovich Variation)
In the advance variation White claims his space advantage immediately by pushing his pawn to e5. Black then should attack the d4 pawn to destroy White's grip on the center.
Black must counter attack in the center with c5 at some point, sooner rather than later.

Advance Variation: Themes and Plans.

Black can pressure pawn-d4 directly by bringing his knights to c6 and f5, and his queen to b6. White normally defends with his queen on d1, king's knight on f3, and frequently the queen's knight by Nb1-a3-c2. His queen's bishop may assist via Be3, Bd2-c3 or (after b3, or a3 and b4) Bd2 White needs to consider Black's possible response Qb6xb2 vs Be3, and thus prepare it with a2 and b4. Instead b3 could be inconsistent because it weakens the dark squares on the queenside, in particular the diagonals a5-e1 and a3-f8. In response to Be3 the exchange Nf5xe3 tends to play into White's hands by supporting the d-pawn and opening the f-file after fxe3.

A further strategical motif for White is to exchange Black's knight while en route to f5 via Bxh6. In theory he exchanges his bad bishop and weakens Black's kingside pawn structure. However, in practice White may find that Black's kingside weaknesses are extremely difficult to exploit, and that he has in fact given Black additional possibilities to exert pressure against pawn-d4 with Bg7 and f6. Critical for the soundness of Bxh6 as well is the evaluation of Black's Zwischenzug Qxb2, instead of the immediate recapture with g7xh6. Depending on circumstances, White may be able to TRAP Black's queen at a1 or simply find himself down an exchange!
Advance Variation

French Advance Variation Opening Reference Book
The Advance variation is one of the most logical and popular ways for White to combat the popular French Defense. Here Koesten explains the strategy and tactics of this dynamic opening.
Fan, 144 Pages. List $19.95 Retail $17.95

The Ideas Behind The French, Current Strategy

The French Defense, 1.e4 e6 is a sound positional response to 1.e4, which aims to construct a firm foothold in the center with 2d5. There are many replies, but the only one of any significance is 2.d4 d5 3.cxd5 exd5. However, this line presents Black with a few problems; indeed, White often uses it if he is specifically aiming for a draw.
Also Black usually has somewhat of a cramped position but he has chances to counter attack against the White center with moves like c5 or f6.

The French Defense allows White to gain space in the center with the move e4 to e5. The pawn structure is then fixed and the strategy then revolves around the pawn breaks for either side. Black plays c5 or f6, White plays f4 to f5 or occasionally c4.

If White meets the French with 3.Nc3, Black has a choice, he can play Nf6 the Classical variation, Bishop b4, the popular Winawer Variation or he can play the sound dxe4.

The Advance Variation, 3.e5 is more dangerous to Black and can lead to complex play, but again Black should be satisfied with his prospects with correct play against it often playing 3...c5! a quick counterattack in the center to undermine the d4-pawn which supports the e5-pawn.
In the Advance Variation Black often tries to attack the square d4 as much as possible to prevent White having time to expand on the king side.

The Tarrasch Variation 3.Nd2, is considered to be White's soundest response to the French Defense and it is especially favored by players who like to start from a solid positional base. The challenging 3Nf6 continues to be very popular at club level. After 4.e5 Nfd7 White can play ambitiously by erecting a impressive center with 5.f4, but most players prefer more classical development with 5.Bd3. Play in the main line can become very sharp especially if Black opts for the well known 14Rxf3 sacrifice.

3.c5 is Black's other main move against the Tarrasch, White's normal reply is 4.exd5, after which Black can recapture with the queen or pawn. 4Qxd5 has steadily risen in the popularity stakes, and is nowadays the more common move. White tries to make use of his slight lead in development in order to drum up an initiative, while Black can rely on his extremely solid pawn structure to rebuff any premature attacks. 4cxd5 is still Black's most reliable way of meeting the Tarrasch, but many players are put off by the lack of real winning chances it offers.

3.Nc3 The most common replies are 3Nf6 and 3Bb4. But, 3dxe4 deserves attention (this can also be played against 3.Nd2). 3dxe4 is a solid option which may not offer Black many winning chances, but it certainly dampens White's attacking ambitions.

3Nf6 gives White the choice between 4.e5 and 4.Bg5. The former is currently the most popular choice, but the resulting positions have strategic depth and offer chances to both sides. The latter has a long pedigree, but the wide range of reasonable replies for Black, 4Bb4, 4dxd4, and 4Bc7, means that white players have a lot of ground to cover if they intend adopting this line.


Chess Base Opening Report for C00, French Defense 1.e2 e6 2.d4 d5

Earliest game: Szen,J - Boncourt 0-1, Paris 1836
Latest Grandmaster Game: Degraeve, J - Hertneck, G 0-1 2001
Games played: 111,296 with 95% of games played since 1985

Strong Grandmasters who used this line as Black:

              Result    Lost     Won	% 

Kortschnoj,V 195 317 62% Gurevich,M 106 185 57% Bareev,E 93 182 51% Petrosian,T 84 130 65% Portisch,L 40 71 56% Jussupow,A 39 69 56% Morozevich,A 33 59 56% Beliavsky,A 22 37 59% Shirov,A 17 31 55% Ivanchuk,V 16 32 50%

Statistics: Black scores averagely at 46%

Moves and Plans

a) 3.Nc3 You should play 3Bb4 b) 3.Nd2 You should play 3Nf6 c) 3.e5 You should play 3c5 d) 3.exd5 You should play 3exd5 e) 3.Bd3 You should play 3dxe4 f) 3.Be3 You should play 3dxe4 g) 3.c3 You should play 3dxe4 h) 3.c4 You should play 3dxe4 i) 3.f3 You should play 3dxe4 j) 3.Qe2 You should play 3dxe4 k) 3.Ne2 You should play 3Nf6

Could "Trapology" be your new secret weapon?

Learning how to use traps properly can lead to a completely new way to play chess! You can develop a system of using traps just as you learn how to develop a system in a new chess opening. Consider why and when does a trap become successful? Usually it's because your opponent provided the opportunity by making a mistake or blunder.

Look at the trap Ivanov - Martinov. If Black had not moved his pawn to g6, Nf6 mate would not have been possible. Black made a serious blunder and provided that opportunity. In almost every trap that is successful there has been some imbalance, mistake, blunder or violation of some principle of chess basics that allowed the trap to succeed. Go back over these traps and find out why the trap was successful. Many times, it was because the player violated basic opening principles that we teach here. In others, he failed to calculate his opponents reply to his intended move before he moved, or maybe he just did not see it because of his impatients to look more thoroughly. Or maybe time pressure caused him to just move quickly with out even looking at what the reply to his move might be. This is the price you must pay for playing quick games. If you ever intend to learn how to master an opening like the French Defense, then you must resolve your self to playing only long games that give you the time to consider the possibilities of a good combination or plan a trap.

Whenever that opportunity comes for you to spring a trap you must be alert to see that opportunity or it will be missed. How many missed opportunities do you make in a game? May be its because you are not really being focused on this new way to play chess. This new way can be your secret weapon or new system in trapology! The system of looking for opportunities to spring a trap must be learned and planed for just as much as developing new openings.

In fact your new approach to playing chess could be one of a waiting game. Instead of playing like many who think that one must be aggressive and attack, attack, attack to win the game you can play defensively developing all your pieces and wait for your opponent to simply make a mistake or blunder to cash in on it with a vicious trap!

The beserker attacker is probably going to be your best bet for finding many opportunities to spring a trap because he plays so impatiently and aggressively not really calculating very far ahead and consequently making many mistakes and outright terrible blunders. He flagrantly violates opening principles that he either doesn't know or brushes aside if he does. He fails to castle quickly because he is hell bent on attacking your king as early as he can. He fails to mobilize his entire army and develop his pieces for an attack and frequently tries to win the game with just his queen alone. If you're lucky he may not even survive the opening against your mounting threats. You can hound his king until real concessions are made or you win material or you get the big prize, a traping checkmate.

You strategy is to bring out all your pieces in the opening and then try to set problems for this opponent on each turn. The goal is to prevent him from completing his own development and from safely castling his King. Don't let him get away, Keep on hounding his King and keeping him occupied with mounting threats till he makes that serious blunder or mistake to provide you with the golden opportunity for a trap. This strategy is bound to work against a opponent who flagrantly violates every opening principle in the book.

In fact, there cannot be a more rewarding chess lesson to teach your inapt opponent, than refuting your opponent's illogical errors and winning the game with some vicious trap!

Outstanding Traps

Most of these traps have annotations to explain why the trap was able to be successful.

Going through all of the traps shown here will give you a good understanding behind the ideas of the French Defense. There is no better way to learn how to master it.

One eternal question in chess is whether a player is better advised to play a wide variety of openings, or to stick to just one line. The advantage of one approach over the other are not so obvious to the average player. The player with a wide variety of systems is less likely to play routinely, whereas the player who studies, and prepares for just a few systems gains experience and if he sticks to his few lines he can build up a tremendous depth of understanding of his chosen lines which the part-time practitioner can never do.

In recent years, maybe as a result of the increasing use of computer databases, the pendulum has definitely swung in favor of the first approach but for many years most players tended to stick to a narrow repertoire. Of course many factors may be the cause of this approach. The short attention span of many young players do not permit them to spend long hours in study to become a specialist in any one line. There are more demands on people's time today than there were years ago. Years ago people did not have TV and with radio you can listen to music and read as well. Today people feel the need to have almost every modern connivance that man has invented. Cell-phones make it easy to spend untold hours in talking to friends that no one every dreamed would be possible some years back. People go out for entertainment and eating out more now than before and they spend a lot more time in their cars today. The tremendous amount of distractions that a average person today experiences is going to take its toll on his time for any endeavor that he may want to engage in for any reason that he may want to pursue.

To be able to have the tenacity to engage in a regular routine of study and stick to becoming proficient in just a few lines of some openings is what is going to make the difference in whether one becomes successful or mediocre. Mediocrity is commonplace in todays society. To excel does not really take a lot of extra effort. You may become surprised on just how far you may progress in just spending a few minutes each day to study an opening.

Perhaps the best example of this is the German GM Uhlmann, whose 40 plus years of exclusive devotion to the French Defense has brought him so much great success. The following game was one of his easier victories in his beloved opening.

(Note: The color Black or White indicates either a mate or a win of material by that color)

1. Pavlov - Uhlmann - Black Wins

The following game sees an apparent refutation of an anti-French Defense line which has long been regarded as very good for White.
2. Almeida - Romero - Black

Although there are many examples of well known names falling for opening traps, there are naturally very few examples of a really world-class GM doing so. Unfortunately, for him, the Russian GM Jussupow makes three appearances in falling for traps. In this one, he falls for one of the oldest of French Defense traps.
3. Illescas - Jussupow -Black
4. Ivanov - Martinov - Black
5. Clech - Tyrant - White
6. Dake - Pauli
7.Velimirovie - Ristovie
8. Diemer - Buerger
9. Durao - Horta
10. Mate 1
11. Pin 1
12. Fork 1
13. Fork 2
14. Traping 1
15. Mate 2
16. Fork 3
17. Trapping 2
18. Trapping 3
19. Fork 4
20. Discovery 1
21. Discovery 2
22. Unpin 1
23. Trapping 4
24. Fork 5
25. Trapping 5
26. Mate 3
27. Mate 4
28. Fork 6
29. Trapping 7
30. Galileo - Fritz
31. Trapping 6
32. DoubleThreat 1
33. Jettison 1
34. Unpin 2
35. Fork 7
36. Trapping 8
37. Fork 8
38. Discovery 3
39. Pin 2
40. Trapping 9
41. Trapping 10
42. Skewer 1
43. Mate 6
44. Trapping 11
45. Trapping 12
46. Trapping 13
47. Trapping 14
48. Skewer 2
49. Discover 5
50. Fork 9
51. Trapping 15
52. Discovery 4

The Games

1. McConnell -Morphy
2. Poisoned Pawn Variation
3. Fritz - DeSaint
4. Geller - Petrosian
5. Nielseen - Portisch
6. Rublevsky - Beliavsky
7. Mitkov - Shirov
8. Zapata - Ivanchuk
9. Papaloannou - Gurevich
10. Kristiansen - Chernin
11. Stefansson - Morozevich
12. Berthoiee - Kortschoj
13. French Sicilian

French Defense Training CD's

Here is two Chessbase French Defense CD's. by Knut Neven. These CD's are standalone products that can be used in combination with Chessbase or Fritz and come with Chessbase lite for easy viewing. List $24.95 Retail $22.95 ea.

This is one of the easiest and best ways to really learn how to use the French Defense because of their thoroughness with numerous games, training exercises with quizzes, questions, examples and elaborate text to complete your understanding. Unlike books that the reader usually has to use a chessboard with, these CD's allow you to easily move through the games, examples and training exercises with ease and allow you to even back up to review sharp moves, analyze positions and see sub variations with out getting lost in its complexity.

The first CD, is Bobby Fischer's favorite, "French with 3.Nc3" covers all variations arising after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3. Covering the Classical, Winawer, and Rubinstein. The main database contains more than 44,000 games, about 1,000 of which with annotations in 15 database texts the author explains not only the most important variations but also themes and plans, with links allowing you to immediately play through the relevant sample games. Furthermore, the CD features a theme key granting specific access to all motifs and games, a large variation tree as well as a special database with 23 training tasks with quizzes and questions.

The 2nd CD "French without 3.Nc3" covers all variation after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 without 3.Nc3. Covering the Advance, Exchange and Tarrasch. The three main databases contain more than 70,000 games more than 1000 with annotations in 12 database texts the author explains not only the more important variations but also themes and plans, with links allowing you to immediately play through the relevant sample games. The CD feathers a theme key granting specific access to all motifs and games, a large variation tree as well as a special database with 37 training tasks with quizzes and questions.

Black's New Secret Weapon!

How can a chessplayer study a variation for its improvement?

Views on chess strategy in general and opening theory in particular are rapidly changing, In recent years, systems formerly considered unpromising have come into fashion, for example the Dutch Defense and the Giuoco Piano are having new directions in its theory being pioneered by innovative players. Fifty years ago, the Sicilian Sveshnikov (Pelikan) Variation would simply have been rejected as a anathema, a solemn curse and intensely disliked, Black simply doesn't have a position. He just has a conglomeration of weaknesses. It looks anti-positional as Black immediately creates a backward pawn. Even worse looking are the doubled f-pawns Black is forced to accept in the main line. For this reason, the variation saw little use until Sveshnikov showed the dynamic potential of Black's position in the 1970s and 80s.

In the Benko Gambit, Black sacrifices a pawn in the opening, then dreams about the endgame. Yet both systems are at present highly popular. At times, in fact, White looks for ways to avoid them now days

Major changes are also taking place within particular Classic opening systems; players are approaching them differently, altering the methods of playing them and assessing them.

The French Defense is one of those Classic old defenses that has seen many changes in its numerous variations and is still being transformed. One way to make any improvements may be to look to the classic presuppositions about the French positions, which arise after White's pawn has advanced to e5? Black's plans have always been associated with pressurizing the pawn on d4 and working up a queenside initiative. Some times Black also plays f7-f6, after which a struggle develops around the e5 point. White meanwhile, fortifies his center and tries to organize an attack (with pawns or pieces) on the kingside.

However, modern chess has become a matter of "Total War!" The battle is fought with all the pieces on any part of the board. And so in the French Defense, a kingside counter attack is just as normal a weapon for Black as a counter-attack on the queenside.

I came upon this unique move for Black to attack on White's Kingside in my research for French Defense traps in the trap, French Wing Gambit and will proceed to show why this can be such a significant factor and key idea in many positions, changing the game in favor for Black such that a whole new opening variation may be built around it, because to my knowledge no refutation has come to light. This is not surprising because this move is positionally well founded and wholly in keeping with the modern attitude of "Total War!"

!The ...g7-g5 Variation

1. French Wing Gambit
2. Sakharov - Petrosian
3. Tumenok - Kosikov

It appears to be essential to try to fix the enemy king in the center and then break the center open at any price. Nearly all Black's forces are grouped on the Queenside; yet he begins tactical operations on the kingside where his opponent's pieces are more numerous. Anti-positional? Not entirely, because Black does have the better development, and it is very important for him to open lines. Furthermore, it is on the kingside that the white king is hiding. So in the French Defense together with the classical methods of play, Black can and should employ sharp plans for seizing the initiative. The start of hostilities in the opponent's territory is frequently signaled by the counterstroke, g7-g5!