Am I wasting my life away studying the French?

Flocelliere

Going through Winawer games, particularly the wild games that result from the 7. Qg4 move, gets me familiar with positions that result from that particular opening variation, but with little else, it seems.  On the other hand, when I study, say, a Tarrasch QGD game, it leads to familiarity with pawn positions that can arise from any number of openings, and educates me not only as to that opening but also how to steer games arising from any number of different openings into pawn structures that I have some idea how to play with (or against).  My question is -- does studying the Fench improve your chess generally, or just allow you to outplay opponents in particular variations you're now familiar with?

I'm interested in accomplished, experienced players' opinions, please don't fill this thread with vapid, uneducated, and downright wrong opinions that start with "The French is a passive opening, blablabla"

Thanks for your thoughts.

ThrillerFan

I have been a long time French player myself.  While I learned how to play the game in 1983, I read my first chess book, "Winning Chess Tactics", in 1995.  I knew nothing about openings, and was playing games, and asked if the opening I was playing as Black had a name (I tried different ideas and got comfortable with this one in particular).  I was informed it was called the French Defense.  Read "Winning With the French" by Wolfgang Uhlmann in 1996, probably own about 20 French books now, and while I have played almost every normal opening that exists, the French is still my primary weapon (with the Petroff as my secondary weapon) against 1.e4.

 

I have been writing for the Charlotte Chess Center blog, and one of the things I have written was a 7 part French Repertoire in 2017 (August thru November) and since then, while I have also written other random topics, I have been writing "The French Connection", which is 18 articles deep now.

 

Check out the following:

 

French Repertoire (Part 1 - The links to the rest are at the bottom):

https://charlottechesscenter.blogspot.com/2017/08/opening-preparation-french-defense.html

 

(I encourage you not to just pigeon-hole yourself to the repertoire, and many of the articles in The French Connection are other lines not covered here in the repertoire, but some also are.  Having a diverse understanding of the variations is crucial and there really aren't a lot to know in the French - Exchange, Advance, Tarrasch (Open - 3...c5, and Closed - 3...Nf6), and 3.Nc3 (Classical, Winawer, MacCutcheon, Burn, Rubinstein), and the King's Indian Attack.  That's really it, unlike the Sicilian where there are tons of lines White can play!)

 

 

The French Connection (You can navigate by month looking for the other 17 articles - same title to each except volume number).

https://charlottechesscenter.blogspot.com/2018/03/the-french-connection-volume-1.html

inkspirit
It’s true that you’re not very likely to see the Winawer structure in any other opening, but that’s not the primary concern when deciding if an opening is worth studying. You’re going to encounter unfamiliar structures all the time (until you reach, say, master level, when you have known a lot more about pawn structures). In these positions you mainly rely on your tactical and positional skills to work things out. Learning sharp openings like the 7. Qg4 Winawer will help improve your tactical skills, which means that, yes, studying the French [Winawer] does improve your chess generally.

Some ideas in the Winawer applies to positions with a similar pawn structure (notably closed positions with a white pawn on e5 and black pawns on d5, e6 and f7) as well. An example is the 2. d3 anti-French. White would like to attack on the kingside with h4 and Bg5 (Ng5), while black initiates a queenside pawn storm with a5, b5-b4 etc.
Flocelliere

I have now found a (for me) grand unifying principle for the French:  Playing 1. ... e6 instead of the natural .... e5 is like cocking a firearm.  Notwithstanding the indignities you may have to suffer early in the game, advancing the suffocating e6 pawn to e5 later on releases a tremendous amount of pent-up energy that was previously locked in.  This is most obvious in the Tarrasch variation where black plays the Nf6 back to d7, but I'm noticing that a number of famous Winawer games feature this advance as well.  And in many cases the black player gets a central pawn glom that can cause all kinds of mischief.

I hope this admittedly overly simplistic characterization helps at least one student of the French who, as I have, feels like they're blindly fishing around trying to figure out this opening.

Mikeyjc3

The French is a passive openingthumbdown.png

pfren

EVEN in the Winawer Black may steer the game to rather quiet, positional channels. An example is what used to be a Petrosian pet line, namely 3...Bb4 4.e5 b6 6.Qg4 Bf8(!), which seemed good enough to GM Marin to include it in his recent French repertoire. And there is also the Armenian variation (3...Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Ba5), which has been revived recently, and is sharp, but certainly less chaotic than the Poisoned Pawn mess,

Caesar49bc

The French Defense is absolutely a good choice to learn and play. Because it's such a closed game, the position often becomes cramped, especially for black. It's a good thing though, because it teaches how to defend in conditions where piece mobility for black is very constricted. There is a definite slow dance about moving pieces in a way that sorta reminds me of a slide puzzle.

I'm not saying I go out of my way to invite white to try and smother my position, but I'm comfortable if my game happens to go that way occasionally.

Of course, black can also do the same thing to white, especially if the opponent tries to be one of those "I'm going to win every game I play by launching a king side attack in the opening" players. 

Laskersnephew

I love playing the French as black, but if you play nothing but the French, you will go to your grave without ever learning and playing so many fascinating structures and variations. Chess is too big and full of variety to only play the Winawer for the rest of your life

EiXen
I have a soft spot for the french as it’s the first black opening I studied seriously 😊 I haven’t had the chance to play it recently (and almost nobody wants to cooperate and do the winawer with me), but I did rather well in some french themed daily tournaments here, which is personally satisfying 😊 even now, it is still my top choice against a stronger opponent in a serious match.

Things the french thought me:
- knights are awesome!
- black accepts some serious disadvantages (as in any other openings), but he has strengths too (did I mention the knights?). Be patient, maneuver with purpose, defend actively!
- its important to understand pawn structures
- its important to hold the centre (no, really!)

I hope you keep having fun with the French!
ghost_of_pushwood

And no, the Caro-Kann is passive; the French is counterattacking.

Flocelliere
IMBacon wrote:
Mikeyjc3 wrote:

The French is a passive opening

Says the 1349 player.

He doesn't mean it, he's just trolling.  Read my original post.  wink.png

ghost_of_pushwood

And I am oblivious (thus mine!). grin.png

Flocelliere
Laskersnephew wrote:

I love playing the French as black, but if you play nothing but the French, you will go to your grave without ever learning and playing so many fascinating structures and variations. Chess is too big and full of variety to only play the Winawer for the rest of your life

I've studied and played numerous openings in rated otb tourneys over the last three decades.  No idea where you get off telling people what they've never played.  Speak for yourself.

This is why I asked for accomplished players' responses -- their brains tend to have the ability to read what a prior poster actually wrote and not to respond to a bunch of sh-t that they themselves just made up.

ghost_of_pushwood

Of course, Karpov said you can't even be happy unless you play chess!

ElQueNadaNoSeAhoga

I've been playing the French almost exclusively for many years.  Its definatley worth studying and learning.  The only drawback I've had with the French is that if white knows what hes doing, then without ample theoretical knowledge of some of the more cut-throat lines (winawer & tarrasch) it's easy to get crushed.  However, your opponent wont always play 1.e4 and there are plenty of other defenses you can play to get an overall better understanding of certain positions.  I've always preferred 1.d4 (or similar variants) as white, so naturally its nice to play the French because it feels like I can play a unique defense system (almost by force) without spending time learning to play against openings I dont use.  

ghost_of_pushwood

and of course without ample theoretical knowledge it's easy to get crushed regardless wink.png

Flocelliere
ElQueNadaNoSeAhoga wrote:

its nice to play the French because it feels like I can play a unique defense system (almost by force) without spending time learning to play against openings I dont use.  

no coherent thought can have birthed that gibberish.

drmrboss
ElQueNadaNoSeAhoga wrote:

I've been playing the French almost exclusively for many years.  Its definatley worth studying and learning.  The only drawback I've had with the French is that if white knows what hes doing, then without ample theoretical knowledge of some of the more cut-throat lines (winawer & tarrasch) it's easy to get crushed.  However, your opponent wont always play 1.e4 and there are plenty of other defenses you can play to get an overall better understanding of certain positions.  I've always preferred 1.d4 (or similar variants) as white, so naturally its nice to play the French because it feels like I can play a unique defense system (almost by force) without spending time learning to play against openings I dont use.  

1. Majority of games in Winawer French is a loss for computer chess. In TCEC or Cccc Leela vs Stockfish games , SF lose approx 65- 70% of games by playing black . I mean, if Stockfish cant survive, black can barely survive in winawer theoretically. 

2. Not all french lines are bad, there are other solid  Ftench lines.

3. You can also play Caro Kan and lead white player into your prepared lines.

ghost_of_pushwood

happy.png  Yes, consciousness tends to slip away as well...

Laskersnephew
Flocelliere wrote:
Laskersnephew wrote:

I love playing the French as black, but if you play nothing but the French, you will go to your grave without ever learning and playing so many fascinating structures and variations. Chess is too big and full of variety to only play the Winawer for the rest of your life

I've studied and played numerous openings in rated otb tourneys over the last three decades.  No idea where you get off telling people what they've never played.  Speak for yourself.

This is why I asked for accomplished players' responses -- their brains tend to have the ability to read what a prior poster actually wrote and not to respond to a bunch of sh-t that they themselves just made up.

What a hysterical, hostile reaction! Hemorrhoids? or did you just get out of bed on the wrong side?