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French defense - pros and cons

  • #1

    What do you think are the pros and cons of the French Defense, the advantages, and disadvantages?

    I believe is less dangerous than other defenses and the ideas are simpler. Do you agree? I believe is easier to get a balanced position. As for disadvantages, I think it is sometimes difficult to play for a win and it is perhaps more drawish than other defenses.

  • #2

    The French is very sharp. Stategically is very difficult to play it for both colors although the most confortable side of the French is the white side. It is avery good defense to unbalance the game and play for a win. Korchnoi, Uhlmann and Short used it a sharp counter-attacking. The main drawback is that it is almost always going to be a tough fight, while with e5 equality is much easier to reach.

  • #3
    DavidFarsen wrote:

    The French is very sharp. Stategically is very difficult to play it for both colors although the most confortable side of the French is the white side. It is avery good defense to unbalance the game and play for a win. Korchnoi, Uhlmann and Short used it a sharp counter-attacking. The main drawback is that it is almost always going to be a tough fight, while with e5 equality is much easier to reach.

    I used to play the french for years until I got fed up with the exchange variation...it leads to a very symmetrical and boring game to say the least.

  • #4

    I guess the exchange is the one downside. Also to play in the positions after 3.Nc3 Bb4 or 3...Nf6 you have to really tactically aware because you may have to sac material.

  • #5

    You will find drawish lines in every opening.

         There is no perfect opening.

    Any opening you choose you will always have a line or 2 that you don't like.

        There are no drawish lines unless both players have equally deep understanding(or you have chose n a line that leads to forced draw by perpetual check or 3 fold repetition.

        It is easier to play for win in the drawish exchange variation of French defense than in other lines.Noone has spend time to study this line thoroughly.If you study it and understand it well then you will always play for win from a position you can't lose.That is why good players never really fear Exchange variation.In top level exchange variation has less draws than main lines of Najdorf that are considered very sharp and tactical.

         It is easy to explain why.When you play main line Najdorf you are fully booked up and engine prepared.How many do that in French exchange?

        In French exchange slight weaknesses are the important ones.You have to understand them and you have to know how to exploit them.

    If you afraid of that or if you can't do it , then pick another defense.

        As for the other lines , I don't think any defense gives more options for Black than French.

    You want a quite and safe position?Rubinstein it is(against both 3.Nc3 or 3.Nd2).

    You want sharp and tactical?3...Nf6 it is(against both 3.Nc3 or 3.Nd2).

    You want a surprise weapon?3...Nc6 it is((against both 3.Nc3 or 3.Nd2)

    You want something crazy?3...h6 or 3... a6 against 3.Nd2 and Petrosian's line against 3.Nc3(3...Bb4 4.e5 Qd7 5.a3 Bf8).

         It's not only that , there are always sublines in the main lines that will allow you to choose the type of game you want.You will always have the chance to go "sharp" or "safe".

        The drawback is that French defense is positionally complicated defense , even GMs don't dully understand it , and it needs excellent endgame technique.If you don't have these then more than half of the times you will end with a "bad bishop".Then you will try some lines that exchange the bishop early but none of them is fully satisfactory and you will eventually change defense.

         

  • #6
    zizgz wrote:

    What do you think are the pros and cons of the French Defense, the advantages, and disadvantages?

    I believe is less dangerous than other defenses and the ideas are simpler. Do you agree? I believe is easier to get a balanced position. As for disadvantages, I think it is sometimes difficult to play for a win and it is perhaps more drawish than other defenses.

     

    1) The French is fairly dangerous to play, unless white plays like a pansy (Yes, I'm looking at you Exchange wimps)

    2) The ideas are fairly simple and straight-forward against MAYBE the Advance line, but black still has to work to achieve equality.  The French really isn't simple.  

    3) Definitely not easier to get a balanced position, as long as white goes for advantage.  You lack space and will need to find a way to properly develop your LSB

    4) The French really isn't drawish at all, unless you're playing an Exchange wimp (again).  Even so, the drawishness is more of an indictment of white's play, which you should be happy with as black.  

  • #7

    The French is solid but I've never liked it from either side.  I never play it as black.  Playing white, I typically answer it with the Monte Carlo Exchange.

  • #8
    zizgz wrote:

    What do you think are the pros and cons of the French Defense, the advantages, and disadvantages?

    I believe is less dangerous than other defenses and the ideas are simpler. Do you agree? I believe is easier to get a balanced position. As for disadvantages, I think it is sometimes difficult to play for a win and it is perhaps more drawish than other defenses.

    It's more often unbalanced, usually a king side versus queenside struggle. NM @DavidFarsen mentions Wolfgang Ulhmann as one of its exponents, indeed his "Winning with the French" in the Batsford series is a great book. It may have dated since it was published some time ago, but the French isn't often used at top level any more (shame).

    There are sharp lines, particularly the poisoned pawn variation in the Winawer, or the Alekhine-Chatard Attack in the Classical line, both amongst my favourites ;-)

    Fischer apparently didn't like playing against it...

     

  • #9

    After 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd, all the pieces and 14 pawns are on the board. If that's not enough for you to get a fighting game, maybe you should take up checkers

  • #10
    Knight_2_Mate_You έγραψε:

    Some main ideas you must consider when you play 1... e6:

    -One, you will eventually play c5 to challenge the d4 square

    -You must accept the poor dark-square bishop

    -If you are playing anyone that is familiar with some of the opening traps (as white), expect a totally blown up position that is sloppy and filled chock-full of tactics- if you dislike these, try something easier to memorize and less theoretical like the Ruy Lopez or a standard Nadjorf Sicilian. 

    So, the Ruy Lopez and a "standard Najdorf" (I wonder which the nonstandard Najdorf is, but anyway...) are less theoretical than the French?

    And you must accept a "poor dark squared Bishop"?

    May I kindly request some of the stuff you're smoking, sir?

  • #11

    I like the French defense but it's not to everybody's taste. Except for maybe the winawer ..Bb4 it's really a defensive defense.

    In all variations, white seems to get a lot of plusses where black gets equal deficiencies. White usually gets a nice expanded center, good mobility, relatively easy castling and king safety, and often an enduring initiative. Black usually is pretty solid and can get counter play opportunities often related to c file and/ or undermining the center. But it usually takes time where white can often get something going that's more critical. Holdable? Sure, but seems hard to get winning chances if White plays decently and doesn't over reach.

    But the details are in the variation where in each the pro's and con's can vary enough to make a difference.

  • #12

    I don't agree that the French is essentially a "defensive defense." On the contrary, it's an uncompromising defense where Black accepts some serious strategic liabilities in exchange for the opportunity to launch a lethal counterattack. Nobody plays the black side of the Steinitz or MacCutcheon vaiation because they want a quiet life! We want to see teeth on the sidewalk!

  • #13
    mickynj wrote:

    I don't agree that the French is essentially a "defensive defense." On the contrary, it's an uncompromising defense where Black accepts some serious strategic liabilities in exchange for the opportunity to launch a lethal counterattack. Nobody plays the black side of the Steinitz or MacCutcheon vaiation because they want a quiet life! We want to see teeth on the sidewalk!

        I absolutely agree.There is no defense more uncompromising than French defense.

    In no other defense the "bad bishop" is so good.

    In no other defense  doubled and isolated h-pawns are actually an asset.

     

        One has to overcome conventional thinking and everything he read in Chernev's books to start appreciate French defense.As Psakhis said:

    "French is like a proud woman that doesn't give her heart easily.In order to master this difficult opening it is not enough to know a few variations.You have yo put your heart and soul into it , you have to love it and only this way will you understand it's mysteries."

  • #14

    It's interesting that in just about every example, it's White who guides the play. In the lluptian ...Nh6, White's not obligated to take. Nor was he obligated to play b4.

    It's mostly white who also decides on the Steinitz or MaCutcheon possibilities. White can even side step all this with the Tarrasch or even KIA. Not to mention the exchange, where he doesn't get much but the tempo and open lines still means black has to be careful.

    I like the French but I would never go as far as over exaggerating its uncompromising attacking abilities.

     

  • #15

    Zee French, so boring, so --how do you say in English--defensive. Here's a typical snoozefest

     

  • #16
    Nckchrls wrote:

    It's interesting that in just about every example, it's White who guides the play. In the lluptian ...Nh6, White's not obligated to take. Nor was he obligated to play b4.

    It's mostly white who also decides on the Steinitz or MaCutcheon possibilities. White can even side step all this with the Tarrasch or even KIA. Not to mention the exchange, where he doesn't get much but the tempo and open lines still means black has to be careful.

    I like the French but I would never go as far as over exaggerating its uncompromising attacking abilities.

     

     

         You obviously haven't study French defense.White has his otions but whatever  white chooses Black has a way to get a good game.

          First , no serious French defense player has a problem to play Exchange variation.Quite the contrary , they are very happy to.

        Second what McCutcheon and Steinitz?Black has Burn which is fine and at least half a dozen systems against Winawer.

        As for Tarrasch and KIA , Black has no problem in either of the 2.

    Right now white's only hope for an advantage is 3.Nc3 and hope that Black will play wrong.

       By the way Georg Meier has proved that even Rubinstein equalises.

    If Black wants to avoid all complications he simply plays 3...dxe4 and even in that simple move Black has 3 different systems to choose:

    1)Fort Knox with ...Bd7-Bc6

    2)The fast ...c5 or

    3)The later ...c5 

          If there is one thing French defense players never complain is options.There is always a move that can lead to sharp positions , another one that can lead to more strategic  positions and usually more than one unexplored for those that want to use a surprise weapon.I don't know many openings that offer that.

  • #17

    Why do so many people complain about the "dull/drawish etc." Exchange variation? If a player WANTS to make a position sharp - he will do it, "even" in the "dull" French Exchange.

  • #18
    mickynj wrote:

    Zee French, so boring, so --how do you say in English--defensive. Here's a typical snoozefest

     

    This is exactly the kind of thing I was talking about. I don't know what Black is doing if he doesn't sac a piece.

  • #19

    " I don't know what Black is doing if he doesn't sac a piece."

    But who doesn't love an opening where you get to play these kinds of dynamic sacrifices?

  • #20

    The pros are that you are winning:

     

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