French Defence: Key Variations for Young Players
Edition 2.8, January, 96
1. e4 e6, French Defence Introduction
 White avoids 2.d4
 2. d4
 White avoids 3. Nc3
 The main line 3. Nc3
Introduction
The French is a solid and safe defence which you will certainly meet and may like to play yourself as a reply to 1. e4. In these notes I will give a quick rundown on the main variations of the French, and give an example line for each variation so you can get some idea of how to play for each side.Variations I recommend for White include the AlekhinChatard Attack and the Alekhin Gambit against the Winawer. Black's best line is certainly the Winawer, but there are safer alternatives like the Classical or Burn Variations. The Tarrasch is a line for later on in your chess life, in my opinion.
White avoids 2.d4
2. d3 The King's Indian Attack

2... d5
3. Nd2
Prevents the exchange of Queens after 3...dxe4
3... Nf6 4. Ngf3

4... c5 (Variation A)

5. g3 Nc6 6. Bg2 Be7 7. OO OO 8. Re1 b5 9. e5 Nd7 10. Nf1 a5 11. h4 b4 12. Bf4 a4 13. a3 bxa3 14. bxa3 Nd4

4... b6 (Variation B)

5. g3 Bb7 6. Bg2 Be7 7. OO c5 8. Re1 Nc6

Other ways of avoiding 2. d4 include the Tchigorin variation 2. Qe2, and the Two Knights' Variation with 2. Nf3.
2. Qe2, Tchigorin variation
Against the Tchigorin Black can play 2...c5 or even 2...e5. Play is often like the King's Indian Attack.
2. Nf3, Two Knights' Variation
The Two Knights' often transposes into Advance lines after2...d5, 3. Nc3 Nf6, 4. e5 Nd7, 5. d4 c5
The main lines of the French start with
2. d4
When Black should reply2... d5
White avoids 3. Nc3

3. Nd2 (Tarrasch Variation)
3. exd5 (Exchange Variation)
3. e5 (Advance Variation)
3. Nd2 The Tarrasch Variation
This avoids the pin ...Bb4 and keeps c3 open for a pawn. Black has two approaches  one open (3...c5), one closed (3...Nf6).
3... c5 (Variation A)

4. exd5 exd5
4... Qxd5 has been tried
And now White has two choices: to continue normal development, or to aim for immediate exchanges in the hope of a better endgame.
5.Ngf3 (Variation A1)

5... Nc6 6. Bb5 Bd6 7. OO Nge7 8. dxc5 Bxc5 9. Nb3 Bd6 10. Nbd4 OO 11. c3 Bg4 12. Qa4 Qd7 13. Be3 a6

5.Bb5+ Bd7 6. Qe2+ (Variation A2)

3... Nf6 (Variation B)

4. e5 Nfd7

5.Bd3 (Variation B1)
5... c5 6. c3 Nc6 7. Ne2 cxd4 8. cxd4 Qb68... Nb6 is the Leningrad variation
9. Nf3 f6 10. exf6 Nxf6 11. OO Bd6 12. Nc3 OO 13. Re1 Bd7

5. f4 (Variation B2)
This is a much sharper try5... c5 6. c3 Nc6 7. Ndf3 Qb6 8. g3 cxd4 9. cxd4 Bb4+ 10. Kf2 f5 11. Kg2

The Advance Variation 3. e5

3... c5
The key counterblow in the French
4. c3 Nc6 5. Nf3

5... Qb6 (Variation A)

Bd3 (risky), Be2 (safe), or a3 (best).
6. Bd3 (A1, The MilnerBarry
Gambit )

6... cxd4 7. cxd4 Bd7
An ancient trap is 7...Nxd4 8 Nxd4 Qxd4 9. Bb5+ (DIAGRAM)
Diagram (trap)

8. OO Nxd4 9. Nxd4 Qxd4 10. Nc3

(10... Qxe5 is risky but playable)
Now 11. Qe2 with the idea of following up with Rd1; White has some pressure but Black has prospects of a win with the extra pawn
6. Be2 (Variation A2)
6...cxd4 7. cxd4 Nge7

8. Na3 (Try 1)
this is perhaps the most logical way toplay
8... Nf5 9. Nc2 Bb4+ 10. Kf1

(i) 10... h5 securing the position of the Nf5
(ii) 10... Be7 so if 11. g4, 11...Nh4 keeps the balance of attack and defence of d4
8. Nc3 (Try 2 )
A simple approach.
8... Nf5 9. Na4 Qa5+ 10. Bd2 Bb4 11. Bc3 Bxc3+ 12. Nxc3 Qb6 13. Bb5 Bd7

6. a3 (Variation A3)

6... c4 7. g3
7. Nbd2 Na5 (better 7... f6) 8. b4 cxb3 9. c4 is a dangerous gambit  Keres.
7... f6

5... Bd7 (Variation B)
6. Be2 Rc8

3. exd5 The Exchange
Variation
3...exd5


The main line 3. Nc3

Section I: Black avoids the Winawer
These are the older lines with 3...dxe4 and 3...Nf6.3... dxe4 The Rubinstein Variation

4. Nxe4 Nd7
4... Bd7 5. Bd3
5. Nf3 Ngf6 6. Nxf6+ Nxf6 7. Bd3 Be7 8. Qe2 OO 9. Bg5 c5 10. dxc5 Qa5+

The Classical French 3...
Nf6
This safe and solid line has always been a reliable way of holding
White's initiative, but it is not as easy to play for a win.
4. e5 The Steinitz
Variation
This has recently become more fashionable. An example line goes:


This difficult piece sacrifice has become very topical.
11. cxb4 Bxb4+ 12. Bd2 Bxd2+ 13. Nxd2 b6 14. Rb1 Ba6 15. Qb3

4. Bg5 The Classical Variation

4... dxe4, The Burn Variation

5. Nxe4 Be7 6. Bxf6
And Black has tried both recaptures:
6...Bxf6 (Variation 1)


6... gxf6 (Variation 2)

After 7. Nf3 Black hopes the two bishops and
open d and gfiles will give active play.
4... Bb4, The MacCutcheon Variation

5. e5 h6 6. Bd2 Bxc3 7. bxc3 Ne4 8. Qg4 g6 9. Bd3 Nxd2 10. Kxd2 c5 11. Qf4 Nc6 12. Nf3

4... Be7 The Classical Variation


6. Bxe7, the safe Classical line.
6. h4, the aggressive AlekhinChatard attack.
6. Bxe7 Main Line Classical Variation
6...Qxe7


6. h4 The AlekhinChatard Attack
White offers a pawn for chances of attack.6... Bxg5 7. hxg5 Qxg5 8. Nh3 Qe7 9. Qg4

Section II: The Winawer Variation 3... Bb4

4. Nge2 The Alekhin Gambit

4... dxe4 5. a3 Be7 6. Nxe4 Nf6

4. a3 Pawn snatch variation


4. exd5 Winawer Exchange

The Winawer Exchange Variation is harmless for Black
5. Bd3 Nc6 6. Nge2 Nge7
Equal game.
4. e5, Main line Winawer

4... c5 (Variation A)

5. a3

5... Ba5 has been tried: 6. b4 cxd4 7. Qg4 Ne7 8. bxa5 dxc3 9. Qxg7 Rg8 10. Qxh7 Nbc6 11. Nf3 Qc7 12. Bf4 Bd7 13. Bd3
Variation

6. bxc3

6... Ne7

7. a4 positional line

7... Qa5 8. Qd2 Nbc6 9. Nf3 Bd7 10. Be2 Rc8 11. dxc5 Ng6 12. OO OO

7. Qg4, Winawer 'Poisoned Pawn'

7... Qc7 8. Qxg7 Rg8 9. Qxh7 cxd4 10. Ne2 Nbc6

4... Qd7 (Variation B)

This is a slower way to play but offers fewer chances for Black to win