French vs. The Sicilian


Clearly the Sicilian is the opening of choice of most World Champions. However it is very complex and at the club level you will more often be fighting against the many anti Sicilian lines.

The French was the preferred defense of Botvinnik. 

Petrosian played the Sicilian and French equally so the French was an important part of his repertoire. 

Other world champions played the French occasionally which shows it's soundness. 

Fischer struggled against the French. 

Vaganian, Korchnoi, and Farago have played the French in nearly 300 games each with great success.

The German GM Wolfgang Uhlmann has played only the French for nearly 500 games and done well.

Off topic but similar is the almost exclusive use of the Nimzo and Queen's Indian defences vs 1.d4 by World Champions. Only Fischer and Kasparov preferred the King's Indian. 

FYI, I have played the French most of my life but recently switched to the Sicilian Hyper Accelerated Dragon and was enjoying it. I got very good results. The problem I ran into was that 60% of my games never reached this line as my opponents played anti Sicilian lines e.g Alapin, Smith Morra, Grand Prix, Closed Sicilian, KIA, etc. 





SchaakVoorAlles wrote:

The lazy reason for learning the Rubinstein French is to get by with a minimum of preparation.  A better reason is to have a good surprise weapon for when you are happy with a draw.  But to get that it is not enough to know the opening well.  You have to be an excellent endgame player as well. The drawbacks are huge. It makes you easy to prepare against, the Rubinstein gives you few winning chances if White is not trying to win, your chess education remains narrow ... and then  there is the difficult variation with c3, simply supporting d4 and opening a route to a4 for the Queen, as popularised by Kasparov.

In chess, laziness is not the route to success.

French or Sicilian?  They give the game a different character, so may suit different temperaments. In either case you have to know how to play chess, as well as learning the theory (and WHY it is theory). I think most top players could handle either opening well, and on either side ... at least they could do that in their encounters with lesser players. Of course against other super-GMs they play what they think gives them the best chance of the result they are after.


I don't even think that a "minimum of preparation" is an attraction of the Rubinstein, because even though it collapses the Tarrasch and Classical variations into one, white's choices are rather wide. I don't find the Rubinstein to be a particularly practical opening choice given this and the factors you mentioned but there are others who disagree I am sure.


"I'm not using it as an excuse for laziness, the Rubinstein has a lot of theory since there are many attempts by white to gain an advantage. I just like the simplified positions that result and want to get better in the endgame"

That is a good reason for playing it.  When I played the Rubinstein I was only able to grind out wins against players so much weaker than myself that I'd have won whatever I opened with.  Against players close to my rating I found myself fighting for a draw in nearly every game, and not always getting it.  As for what happened when I played it against 2300+ players ... sad.png. Things improved when I switched to a French repertoire based on the McCutcheon, Classical and Steinitz variations against 3 Nc3,  and 3. ... Nf6 v, the Tarrasch.  I like my centre pawns!

he Rubinstein does indeed have a lot of theory, but it avoids most of the systems White can play against the French so it is still  lot less to master than if you don't play 3. ... dxe4.


I tried the Rubinstein and was surprised by how many lines white can choose from. The amount of preparation is much more than you might think. After all of that you are faced with struggling for equality deep into the game and small mistakes can lead to losing games. If you want to play that way then 1.e4 e5 may be better all around.