French Defense - Classical Variation

Mar 2, 2009, 4:09 AM |

French Defense

White                                  Black

Spielmann                             Wahle

Vienna, 1926

1.  e4                           e6

 2.  d4                           d5

  3.  Nc3                         Nf6

   4.  exd5                             

      Many players prefer to add pressure with 4. Bg5 ( which develops a piece and render's one of an opponent's impotent) to this move which relaxes the tension.

    Spielmann, who likes wide open positions, clears away a couple of Pawns to give his pieces more room for their activities.

     4. ...                exd5

    Better than taking with the Knight.  Black keeps a Pawn in the center and frees his Queen Bishop.

5.  Bg5                           

      Pins the Knight and threatens to break up the game by  6. Bxf6  -   gxf6 (6. ...  Qxf6 loses the Queen Pawn) and Black is left with a weak doubled Pawn.

         5.  ...                          Be7  

    The simplest way of unpinning the Knight.  Moving the Bishop only one square may not seem much of a move, but it complies with the first law of rapid development:  Get your pieces of the back rank!

6.  Bd3                     

     This Bishop's stand is aggresive, especially against King-side castling.

       6.  ...                         Nc6

      This Knight's move is even more menacing as it threatens the queen Pawn.

7.  Nge2            

      After the customary development of 7. Nf3, Black pins the Knight by 8. ...  Bg4 and again threatens the Queen Pawn.  White could save the Queen Pawn say by 8. Be2, but would lose the initiative. 

      After the text move, if Black pins the Knight, 8. f3 repels the Bishop and causes it to lose time retreating. 

     7.  ...                 Nb4

      Intending to get rid of a dangerous piece and also to assure himself of a little advantage in keeping both of his Bishops.

8.  Ng3                         

      Now we see another reason for developing the Knight to e2.  White wants to anchor a piece at f5, a dominating position for a Knight or a Bishop.  A piece need do no more than just stand there and look menacing to rattle an opponent.

        8.  ...                          Nxd3+

      Mission accomplished.  Black has a slight technical superiority in retaining two long range Bishops against White's Knight and Bishop but ...

9.  Qxd3                     

      ... at a loss of time.  Black has made three moves with the Knight to exchange it for a Bishop which moved only once.  More than that the Knight came of the board completely, while the bishop left a piece in its place.  The result is that White has four active piececs in the field against two of Black's.  White is also prepared to castle on either side and mobilize both Rooks quickly.  Whatever advantage exists is therfore White's. 

        9.  ...                              g6

      The pawn move prevents White from playing his Knight at f5, but it creates an organic weakness in Black's position, one that is irremediableThe squares f6 and h6, no longer guarded by the Pawn, are weak and remain so permanently.

      Notice that the Pawn was induced but not forced to move forward.  The mere threat of an inroad by White was enough to influence Black to make a natural preventative move.  It is the sort of move many players make automatically in similar situations, which is why it is important to know how to exploit its defects.  For no move is weak unless proper advantage is taken of it. 

      This is the position with white to move.

10.  0-0                          

      Blackburne used to say, "Never start an attack until your Queen's Rook is developed."  White secures the safety of his King and gets one Rook out of hiding.

     10.  ...                            c6

      Strengthens the Pawn center and opens another avenue for the Queen.

11.  Rae1                    

      White seizes the only open file (since Rooks belong on open files or on files likely to be opened) and pins the Bishop.

      It is interesting and worth noting that a pinned piece not only is unable to move but is also powerless to capture.  It does not protect any other piece, since it is completely paralyzed.  Hence it follows that not only is the Bishop unable to move and is in danger of its life (as it may be attacked again and again) but the Knight that depends on it for protection is no longer secure.  Briefly Black is now threatened with loss of a piece by 12.  Bxf6.

       11.  ...                         0-0

      The King takes refuge in flight, incidently unpinning the Bishop and preserving the Knight.  Spielmann's strategy up to this point and the decisive combination that follows would please Morphy. (A nineteenth century Master whose games appear in many books noted for his brilliant combinations)

      This is the position with White to Move:


      A glance shows that White has achieved the requisite positional superiority.  If there is a combination to be evolved, it must be now, before Black has time to organize his pieces for defense.  Now that he has five pieces to Black's two in play.  Now, while he has an open file, enough! enough!

      Here is White's reasoning:

      Black's advance of the Knight Pawn has deprived the Knight of a stable support.  It is still guarded by two pieces, but if the Bishop were not there it would be defended only once.  In fact, if the Bishop were not there the Knight would be pinned and subject to enduring attack.  The Bishop appears in both equations.  Obviously the Bishop is the culprit and must be destroyed!  And at once before Black has time for 12.  ...  Be6.

12.  Rxe7            

      "When we know about the inspiring ideas, how simple the sacrifices appear!" says Znosko-Borovsky.

          12.  ...              Qxe7

      Black must recapture, leaving the Knight pinned and a fine target for further attack.

13.  Qf3                     

      Putting pressure on the pin, and threatening to take the knight.

                       13.  ...                  Kg7        

      The King comes to the rescue.  Against the alternative defense 13.  ... Bf5, Spielmann had this pretty continuation: 14. Nxf5, gxf5  15. Qg3 (threatening mate on the move by 16. Bxf6 mate)  Kg7 (or if 15.  ...  Kh8  16. Qh4, Kg7  17. Qh6+,  Kg8  18. Bxf6, and White wins)  16. Bxf6++,  Kxf6  17. Qh4+, Ke6,  18. Re1+,  Kd7  19. Qxe7+, and all black's pieces come off.

14.  Nce4                 

      White must keep hammering at the pinned Knight, no matter how many brilliant moves he has to find!

      Again White's immediate threat is simple:  15. Bxf6, winning instantaneously.

               14.  ...                           dxe4

      Black must take this Knight or lose his own.

15.  Nxe4             

      Three pieces now attack the helpless Knight.  White now threatens 16.  Bxf6 followed by 17. Bxe7.

                15.  ...                         Qe6

      On 15.  ...  Qxe4, White has the pleasant choice of winning the Queen by 16 Bxf6+ (removing the protector of the Queen) followed by 17. Qxe4, or forcing mate  by 16. Qxf6+, Kg8 17. Bh6, followed by 18. Qg7 mate.

      In the last line of play, notice how White screws pieces firmly into the two holes created  in Black's position, f6 and h6, the squares no longer guarded by the Knight Pawn after its advance.

      With his last move Black saves the Queen.  He is still ahead  in material but has a lost game, as White's pieces will occupy along the Black squares to get at the King.

16.  Bxf6+      

      Regains a piece and limits Black to two moves.

                   16.  ...                       Kg8

      If 16.  ...  Kh6, Qf4+ and mate next move.

17.  Qf4       

      Threatening a final invasion at f6 followed by mate at g7 - triumph on the Black squares.  At this point Black, powerless to prevent mate resigned.