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The french is one of the top choices against 1 e4 and certainly isnt " horrible " . Many black openings have problems with the black queens bishop , such as the QGD for example . If the french is horrible then so is the caro kann as it scores about the same % and 1... e5 is worse than horrible as it scores even less . I have used the french for decades and have even drawn a GM here and there with it . GMs that have specialised in the french have done very well with it , Uhlmann and Korchnoi come to mind ...
Unless it loses immediately you can't judge an opening by a single move. You have to judge it by the middle game you're getting. Rules like blocking your bishop and knights on the rim help beginners avoid junk openings until their general knowledge allows them to judge on their own.
Ive never been comfortable playing the frendh, or very much liked it.
At the same time, that doesn't mean it's bad. I've never been comfortable playing with the Sicilian--but I can assure you, it's powerful when used properly.
Since the question is what kind of opening you would like to try out, and not IF you should focus on openings I'll just answer the question:) As Black against e4 I highly recommend to play the Modern Line of the Sicilian defense, against d4 My personal favourite is the Kings Indian Defense and the Queens Indian Defense (it's a bit passive as opening, but does offer some nice counterplay:) against c4 play the Caro-Kann. As white I highly recommend to find an opening or two and stuck with it:) My favourite openings as white is the Ruy Lopez and the Italian Game sometimes I play the English and Kings Indian Attack but its rarely successful. I'm not a strong player myself, but the way that I see it Is that basic opening theory never hurts:P Since I learned the most played openings I rarely loose games before the midgame:)
You said you're new so you might not have found these yet. Check these out: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLE9B976B483DB4C68
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