Let's Bughouse! The French Advanced, Part 1
Hello again! I hope everyone had a good holidays. And now, back to bughouse!
During a recent game, a partner of mine asked about strategies for black when playing the French Advanced, so I thought I'd write some articles. I’m drawing on some points made by @MiniGreat in a conversation we had a while back, and looking through his blog can help with the concepts as well. Go check them out!
The French Advanced Pawn Structure
The French Advanced starts with 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5:
There are three salient points about this pawn structure, especially with no pieces developed. Black’s dark squares are weak, because the d4-e5 pawn chain supports a drop on f6. White has a kingside space advantage, again due to the pawn chain. As a result, Black’s kingside pieces are better placed defensively on their initial squares.
This gives black two opening objectives: find a way to develop that does not expose any weaknesses, then counterattack along the light squares. The mainline move to achieve this is 3…Ne7 followed by 4…Nf5.
Key Square Alert – f5
In French Advanced pawn structures, f5 is the key square. A piece here defends most of black’s weaknesses, and creates outposts from which to generate a kingside attack on white’s position.
After 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Ne7 4. Bd3 Nf5, while black’s moved the same piece twice in a row, she’s made good progress toward her goals.
The knight on f5 protects g7 through capture, and h7 by blocking the line of sight of the Bd3. This allows the dark-squared bishop to develop, and the h8 rook to develop to g8 to defend g7 if white gets pieces and plays aggressively, as in 5. Be3 Be7 6. N@h5 Rg8. Objective accomplished!
Without a piece on f5, white can play Bxh7, after which black has a losing game. With the knight there, black can weather most storms (assuming equal trades on her partner’s board, and no heavy). After white’s attack loses steam, snaking in along the light squares (e4-f3-g2) offers black counterplay.
7. p@f6 Bf8 9. fxg7 Bxg7 10. N@f6+ Bxf6 11. Nxf6+ Qxf6 (required) 12. exf6 N@h4 (threatens to take g2 with check, as well as allow Nxf5 in case white has a queen in hand and plays Bxf5) 13. B@f1 p@e4 (counterattacks along the light squares, defends the knight on f5, and sets up p@f3 to further attack g2)
7. p@h6 p@g6 8. Nxg7+ Nxg7 9. hxg7 p@e4 10. Bf1 N@h4 11. p@f6 p@f3
Black intends to sacrifice the Q after 12. fxe7 Qxe7 13. N@f6+, with an attack as compensation. 13…Qxf6+ 14. exf6 pxg2:
One this to note is that with the pawn on g7, heavy pieces typically cause problems. Black should let her partner know after N@h5 to not trade rooks or queens, so that her partner has time to plan. Otherwise, black is nearly smothered, as in…
7. p@h6 p@g6 8. Nxg7+ Nxg7 9. hxg7 Nc6?! 10. R@h8 Kd7
11. N@f6+ Bxf6 12. N@c5+ Ke7 13. exf6+ Kxf6
Even playing 9. …c6 to try for an escape square doesn’t help. Position after 9…c6 10. R@h8 Kd7 11. p@d6:
Attempting to relieve the back-rank pressure with 11. …Rxh8 falls to 12. N@c5 Ke8 13. gxh8=Q+, and protecting c5 with 11. …b6 falls to 12. dxe7 Kxe7 (12. …Qxe7 13. Rxg8) 13. p@d6+ Ke7 14. Rxg8 Qxg8
Followed by 15. Q@e7# or 15. N@f6+ Kd8 p@e7# or 15. R@e7+ d8 16. p@c7#
But white won’t always get pieces to drop, and sitting for pieces will often give black enough time advantage that the defensive effort is easier, so white will move instead. Black’s plan is to develop, and attack along the light squares.
Position after: 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Ne7 4. Bd3 Nf5 5. Be3 Be7 (5...Nxe3 6. fxe3 p@f2 7. Kxf2 is not such a big deal. e4 and g4 are both covered, so the immediate knight drop is not a threat, and after 7...Qh4+ 8. p@g3 N@g4+ 9. Qxg4 Qxg4 10. p@f3 white will develop the b1 knight to protect her back rank, and the use her kingside space advantage to squeeze) 6. Nh3 (avoids the fork with p@e4, as well as defends f2 if necessary) Nc6
Many times, the attack on d4 can goad white into playing something like c3, in which case her light squares become very weak. Black can penetrate with drops…
7. c3 p@e4 8. Bb5 p@f3 9. gxf3 N@g2+ 10. Ke2
Or play for a positional squeeze…
7. c3 p@e4 8. Bb5 p@d3 9. Bxd3 exd3 10. Qxd3 B@e4
Either way, she has a comfortable game.
Pawn on f5 Instead
If white plays Bd3 lines, she’ll often trade the bishop for the knight on f5 to relieve pressure on d4. This also removes a defender of g7.
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Ne7 4. Bd3 Nf5 5. Bxf5 exf5
Black doesn’t need to worry just yet. By trading the Bd3, white’s accepted weaknesses along the light squares, and also gifted black the e4 square for drops. Black continues to attack along e4/f3/g2. Black does need to be aware of the weakness of g7. Leaving the f8 bishop where it is, is often the best choice.
Play might continue a number of ways:
6. Nh3 Be6 (a waiting move that gives the black king c8 as an escape square, as well as preventing an e6 push from white after Ng5) 7. N@h5? B@g4
6. Nc3 Nc6 7. Nf3 p@e4 8. Ng5 p@f6 (blunts the power of Nxf7 because both e5 and g5 are covered twice, and white’s pawn structure is set up for dark-square attacks).
Very aggressive play by white can also be rebuffed with fast play:
6. Nh3 Be6 7. Ng5 p@f6 8. Nxe6 fxe6 9. p@f7+ Kxf7 10. exf6 gxf6
Because of the black’s bishop on f8, white needs two more knights to continue the attack.
11. N@g5+ fxg5
Black plays quickly, dropping pieces to consolidate holes.
And Now Some Fun!!
If white does have another knight, but no heavy, Black can sidestep and, whenever she gets a spare tempo, start to fight back along the e4/g3/f2 squares:
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Ne7 4. Bd3 Nf5 5. Bxf5 exf5 6. Nh3 Be6 7. Ng5 p@f6 8. Nxe6 fxe6 9. p@f7+ Kxf7 10. exf6 gxf6 11. N@g5+ Ke7
12. B@c5+ p@d6 13. p@e5 Kd7 14. Nf7!? (aggressive, but loosens white's kingside)
The fork looks worse than it is. The tempo it takes white to take either the rook or queen is a tempo black can use to seek counterplay.
14…N@h4 15. B@f1?! p@f3 16. Rg1 p@e2
17. Bxe2?! (17. Qxe2 fxe2 18. Bxe2 p@f3 19. Bxf3 Nxf3 20. gxf3 is more resilient) fxe2 18. Qxe2 Nxg2+ 19. Rxg2 p@f3
After 20. Qxf3, 20…B@e4, 20. …p@e4 and 20. …N@h4
Even with a scarier line, black still has chances. An important part of bughouse is not being intimidated by aggression. You’ll usually have a way to fight back, but need to keep your cool to find it.
A Parting Line
One last bit of craziness
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Ne7 4. Bd3 Nf5 5. Bxf5 exf5 6. Nh3 Be6 7. Ng5 p@f6 8. Nxe6 fxe6 9. p@f7+ Kxf7 10. exf6 gxf6 11. N@g5+ Ke7 12. B@c5+ p@d6 13. p@e5 dxc5 14. gxf6+ Kd7 15. N@e5+ Kc8 16. Ngf7
Again, this looks worse than it is. Black is protected from forcing checks for 2 to 3 moves, which gives her time to counterattack. With everything white’s been dropping, black probably has several pieces in hand by now. Black hunts counterplay and lets white attack herself to death.
16… N@h4 17. Nxd8 (greedy, but black’s king is still safe) Nxg2+ 18. Ke2 B@h5+ (also protects e8 and f7, if needed)
19. p@f3 p@e4 20. p@d7+ Nxd7 21. p@a6 (with both sides swinging for the fences.)
But white just gave black another move. 21… B@b5+ helps black defend, or black can go all out.
21…exf3+ 22. Kd2 (22. Nxf3 Bxf3+ 23. Kxf3 B@e4+ 24. Ke2 p@f3+) N@e4+ 23. Kd3
23…N@f4+ 24. Bxf4 Nxf4+ 25. Ke3 Ng2+ 26. Ke3
This gives black a 3-time repetition draw (if enabled) or the possibility to wait for the N to come back and checkmate.
Also, 23. …c4+ 24. Nxc4 dxc4+ 25. Kxc4 Nb6+ forces white’s king into the open, where checkmate soon follows.
Stay tuned for Part 2, where I’ll show ways white can try to use black’s biggest disadvantage—lack of space—against her.