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I have a good score as white against openings as Scotch, Italian or Sicilian but I find it a bit tough to crack the French or Caro-Kann (I might be doing okay against Caro but the French terrorizes me) Since I'm an e4 player I mostly like open positions and when I play e4 that's what I expect. I don't have any idea why the French is considered to be a semi-open opening because I always get in trouble when playing against it. I find myself in an uncomfortable situation against it. Can you give me some ideas or lines I can try in order to crack this opening?
Take for example the following game. I messed up in the middlegame also but I think the uncomfortable situation I found myself in the opening lead to this. Any advice?
For move 6, Bd3 would be a much stronger move. Say black continues their assault on D4 pawn. 6.Bd3 cxd4 7. cxd4 Nxd4 8.Nxd4 Qxd4 9. Bb5+ looses blacks queen, but that variation would come regardless of your bishop's movement; c4 on black's hand wouldn't do them much good as you just perform a Bc2. The real purpose is to lock down the entire right side of your board, and virtually immobilizing their undeveloped knight.In your continuation you trade your very controlling dark squared bishop for their cornered knight. A better move at 10 would be 10. h3, where most continuations lead to no-good for black. 10. h3 f5 leads to a 11. gxf5 exf5 12. ng5
If you like open games, play more for them. Playing the Advance just dives into a pawn chain, which is often the result of the French anyway, but you don't even give Black the chance to play more open or semi-open lines. Play 3 Nc3.
It also has the advantage of hiding your abject fear from Black. As one who played the French almost exclusively for nearly 20 years long ago, I can tell you when French players get together, we would have no respect for those who play the Advance. We knew they were sissies who knew nothing about the pawn chain, but were just too afraid of the Winawer or MacCutcheon to play to win. We mocked them, ridiculed their manhood, and if any of them had ever had a girlfriend, we would have stolen her away.
At move 10 I traded my bishop to inflict doubled pawns on the h file. (I am not one of those who think doubled pawns are such a great weakness but on the h file it's pretty hard to protect them and if had managed to get to a balanced endgame in material those doubled pawns would have meant trouble for black, IMO.)
Play 3. Nc3.
play 2. f3
Try this, the French Defense: Exhange Variation, Monte Carlo Variation:
I've played this line with success against the French. It has 856 games in Game Explorer (39.4% white wins, 32% draws, 28.6% black wins: not bad at all!)
4. ...Nf6 is by far the most common response (746 games), but you may see 4. ...Bb4+ (129 games) or other moves reminiscent of declining a Queen's Gambit, such as 4. ...c6 (37 games). (Count yourself lucky if your opponent tries a pseudo-QGA setup by 4. ...dxc4--I would not recommend this move to anybody playing the black pieces in this position!)
This looks like an okay variation. I'll definetely try it although the drawback if black goes dxc4 is that I'm gonna have an isolani, which is often a weakness.
The dxc4 Bxc4 results in the same position as a line from the Queen's Gambit Accepted, Old Variation. (The line is 1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 3. e3 e5 4. Bxc4 exd4 5. exd4.) There are 425 games with the position in the Game Explorer; 43.8% win rate for white, 38.8% draw rate, and a depressing 17.4% win rate for black.
Here is a crushing win for white from this position (Note: this is a QGA game, but transposed to the position in question early on)
If you're going to pursue the Advance variation with a desire to keep the center closed, look at 6.a3. This almost obligates 6...c4 from Black if he has any plans on the queenside. It becomes a positional game, and you'll need to go through master practice to see what kinds of long-term plans are used.
@Estragon I wonder what happened to the Exchange Variation people.
I've been advocating for it! Specifically, the Monte Carlo Variation: 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 exd5 4. c4
I had a similar problem a few years back. I hated playing white in the French Advanced so I started looking for new lines and came up with the following.
If you want to play a completely dubious pawn sacrfice you can get an open game by playing the Alapin Gambit
If black takes the pawn you can play 4. Nd2 with an open game (apparently 4. f3 is also playable). If black doesn't take the pawn you get a Rubinstein style French without worrying about how to develop the dark-squared bishop. Alternatively you may want to look at the Rubinstein 1. e4 e6, 2. d4 d5, 3. Nd2
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