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I've noticed a trend lately where players on neither side of the board know how to play the French Exchange. With the white pieces players seem to think they can play anything, and with the black pieces they seem to think it's an easy automatic draw. I was looking over my notes on the exchange today and just thought I'd share. Granted, these notes are of games where black generally does well, but perhaps players with the white pieces might benefit from seeing more serious attempts at winning from the exchange.
(I know topics like these get buried fast, but I still keep trying. Maybe one day the masses will actually be interested in more serious opening discussion.)
(This is mostly a collection of GM games. Source is cited in the comment of the last move. If you have a database viewer you may want to copy the pgn rather then trying to view everything here. Some of these games really deserve study)
after 4.Bd3, black could play 4..c5, i mean the normal setup with Nc6/Bd6/Nge7/Bg4(Bf5)/Qd7/O-O-O is fine and all, but black is just doing well after this.
In Antic's book, "The Modern French", he recommends after 5.c4 (as pointed out in the main line of the OP's diagram) 5..nf6!? in which black arrives at similiar setups as with 5..dxc4, it is all the same, but black may want to pull of some QG stuff where he wants white to commit white's LSB to e2 or d3 before taking on c4, making sure its a waste of tempo.
Very nice copy+paste of vituugov's writing. A very good refresher for me.
A few of those sources are updated from when I read vitiugov, you may want to look closely (and he's mentioned a few times in my comments, it's not totally plagarism).
I like the idea of 4...c5, but honestly I've always been a little shakey on IQP when the e file is open like that. Are there any especially important games you can recommend I study?
I am embarrassed to say, the Exchange gives me fits from the black side. Guilty as charged in your first sentence, pellik. Keep hammering this topic.
Here's more detailed notes on one of the games I included in that big file before. The comments walk through a critical three move idea black plays in the opening, and it may proove instructive for beginner/intermediate players to at least look through the first 10 moves or so.
The Be6 idea was one i found in an independent study and through games. Although the example im thinking about is a bit different.
1.e4 e6 2.c4!? d5 3.exd5 exd5 4. cxd5 nf6 5.Nc3 Nxd5 6.Bc4 Nb6 7.Bb3 Nc6, followed by Be6!? when black takes on a very interesting double IQP game (white's d pawn & black's e pawn), where black is fully = in my opinion.
Ever since i learned the ideas of what to play against the french exchange, i must say that, i have hardly been drawing games so easily. It just sucks going for basically going for a symmetrical position in which its white to move.
All in all, the game pellik posted above my previous comment, looks like a good model game of what black needs to achiege against the IQP and hanging pawns.
I like that game a lot, but I personally wouldn't play the Be6 line under less favorable circumstances. There are other very reasonable ways to play for black when white is not so cooperative with granting a tempo on Re8+.
This is why I play the c4 stuff. Most likely Black will equalize but there is a game to be played. And there's going to be an obvious advantage against players that can't handle isolated pawns since deviations for both sides make opening prep useless for anyone under master.
There's a book called mastering the French (or something like that) which goes over 4...c5 stuff pretty well. It's like the flip side for White in those Bb4 games so it's good to look at.
I usually resent players that play 3.exd5 for being too afraid to try and play any sort of real game against me, but I forgive them the moment I see 4.c4 or 5.c4.
I agree with you completely that while it may be equal, it's a game. White is doing some things which are at least a little bit interesting.
After just 5.Qf3 Nc6 white is already making concessions whether he stops Nb4 or allows it. f3 may be an active square for your queen, but the coordination of the rest of your pieces suffers when you commit them to a specific development plan before you even develop them.
I understand the statement and generally speaking I think you are right. You mean that bringing out the queen early requires white in all his further plans on all different reactions from black to take into account the safety of his queen. Now he should not only be thinking about the safety of his king, but his queen as well. That might lessen his freedom to respond.
Well, in above situation black can not develop his knight to f6, hence is Ng4 more difficult to accomplish and is the move Qf3 restricting development plans for the black pieces. Is the development of the queen in this particular situation bad?
Nonsense: after 5. Qf3 Nc6 6. c3 is part of White's plan: his d4 pawn needs protecting (it just so happens it rules out ...Nb4 as well). Indeed had Black played the immediate 4...Nc6 (before Qf3) then White also plays 5. c3 since his Bd3 blocks his Queen's protection of his d-pawn.
...Nc6 gives Black a quick developing move that seems to gain a tempo by forcing c3 by White, but it has the disadvantage of blocking Black's c-pawn thereby (temporarily) ruling out counterplay by ...c5, so there are tradeoffs. And Qf3 *is* a developing move, putting pressure on *black's* d-pawn, and preparing the possibility of castling long.
Qf3 to put pressure on d5, which is already defended by the queen, and then c3 making it difficult to get more pressure on d5, work against each other. White's development plan lacks harmony, so black should have no problem earn back a tempo worth of development and being at least fully equal. You may get a lot of idiot opponents who don't understand opening strategy, but that doesn't make your idea correct.
White's position is actually somewhat more fragile there then you might think. Ne4 connected with a pawn sacrifice puts white under immediate pressure, and black has full compensation for the pawn.
Or black can just stay calm and develop, reaching a position where white pressing usually backfires.
There are no top GMs playing Qf3. None of them think it's good enough to try.
Back to my orinial idea of spamming analysis of french exchange games. Here's one in the c4 line where black doesn't do anything super fancy and just plays typical solid chess, winning the d pawn and earning a nice point.
Here a much lower rated player on the black pieces gets in serious trouble against a very strong 9th move from white. Black only holds a draw because white failed to find the winning moves on multiple occasions. Move 10... alternative suggests a more reasonable way for black to proceed.
try this out
"There are no top GMs playing Qf3. None of them think it's good enough to try." I like how you provide games where White is rated 100+ points lower than Black. My coach is an IM with a GM norm and has me playing this, and it's appropriate at *our* level. That's right, you're just a patzer too.
That's because there aren't games between strong grandmasters of equal strength in many of these lines. I like to see what the strong well known players do in these positions, and unfortunately one of the things they don't do is play an early Qf3 with the white pieces to provide such games.
Anyway, I don't really care that your coach told you to play something. There are all sorts of reasons to tell students to play a certain way besides it being objectively best. Does he play an early Qf3 against the french? If so I'd be more interested and please point to a few of his games in such a line in the database.
I admit I'm not a master yet, but I do take this game quite seriously. I've only been playing chess for a year and a half or so and I'm already an expert. I have a solidly plus score with the french at master level. If we were at the same level you wouldn't be making this argument for Qf3.
One of the general rules you'll see referenced in many french repertoire books is for black to break symmetry by deploying his king's knight differently then white does. This is why Bd6 usually comes before the knight deployment even though this slightly violates standard opening principles.
Here's the way I would play against that development scheme from white-
"Reykjavik Open, Round 8 | Commentary by FM Ingvar Johannesson & Fiona Steil-Antoni"
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