A Dozen Good Responses to My Anti-French Line
In fact, twelve cures. As I insisted from day one, the line, while dangerous, is objectively innocuous at best. Finding the antidote in the heat of battle is tough for most of us, especially when faced with something brand-new. So here, in the comfort of your own home, is the answer to your 1.e4 e6 2.c4 problems - and then some.
Response 1 - Head for the Sicilian with 1.e4 e6 2.c4 c5! One possible continuation, transposing to one of GM Rublevsky's pet lines, is 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.Be2 d5 6.exd5 exd5 7.d4 with a position that's playable for both sides.
Response 2 - Head for the English Defense with 1.e4 e6 2.c4 b6!
Response 3: 1.e4 e6 2.c4 c6 - head for a Caro-Kann or an Exchange French. After 3.d4 d5, White can choose between 4.e5 c5, 4.Nc3 dxe4 5.Nxe4 Bb4+ 6.Bd2 Qxd4 7.Bxb4 Qxe4+, and 4.exd5 exd5 5.Nc3 Nf6. The first isn't particularly theoretical and seems fine for Black; the second is a sharp gambit line which is fine for Black IF he or she is up on the theory, but foolhardy otherwise, while the last is a version of the Exchange French acceptable to the second player.
Response 4: 1.e4 e6 2.c4 e5 - head for a double-king pawn position where the pawn on c4 is strategically double-edged. Interestingly, after the plausible 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.Nc3 g6 5.d4 exd4 6.Nxd4 Bg7 7.Be3 d6 8.Be2 Nge7 9.O-O O-O 10.Qd2 f5 11.Nxc6 Nxc6 12.exf5 Bxf5, we have transposed into a position from the Modern Defense, albeit one in which it's generally (but not always) Black to move. Even so, Black seems fine here too, though I'd probably recommend this line the least of the 12.
Response 5: 1.e4 e6 2.c4 d5 3.cxd5 exd5 4.Qb3 Bc5 - collecting on d5 leaves White with two weak d-pawns, and everything else leaves Black to capture or continue developing.
Response 6: 1.e4 e6 2.c4 d5 3.cxd5 exd5 4.Qb3 Bd6!? - Black now threatens to take on e4, as Bc4 Qe7 won't block in the bishop any longer. White should try 5.Qxd5 if the goal is to punish Black, but then 5...Nf6 followed by 6...O-O leaves Black with a big development advantage in return for the pawn.
Response 7: 1.e4 e6 2.c4 d5 3.cxd5 exd5 4.Qb3 Nf6 5.Nc3 Bc5 - this is similar to response 5, but with Black closer to castling it's just so much the better.
Response 8: 1.e4 e6 2.c4 d5 3.cxd4 exd4 4.Qb3 dxe4 5.Bc4 Bc5 laughs at White's threat - yes, you want the f-pawn? Take it! After 6.Bxf7+ Kf8, Black threatens ...Qf6, and if White retreats with 7.Bd5, Qh4 8.Qg3 Qxg3 9.hxg3 Nf6 gives Black an edge. Best is 6.Nc3, when one reasonable possibility is 6...Qh4 7.Bxf7+ Kf8 8.g3 Qe7 9.Bd5 c6 10.Bxe4 Nf6 11.d3 Be6, when Black has sufficient compensation for the pawn.
Response 9: 1.e4 e6 2.c4 d5 3.cxd5 exd5 4.Qb3 dxe4 5.Bc4 Qe7 6.Nc3 c6 7.d3 b5 8.Nxb5 cxb5 9.Bd5 Be6 10.Qxb5+ Bd7 11.Qb7 Qb4+ 12.Kf1 Qxb7 13.Bxb7 Bc6 14.Bxa8 Bxa8 15.Bf4 Nd7 16.dxe4 Bc5. Here the material situation is nominally in White's favor, but here the pawns cannot make their presence felt while the minors will start to coordinate and swarm very soon.
Response 10: 1.e4 e6 2.c4 d5 3.cxd5 exd5 4.Qb3 dxe4 5.Bc4 Qe7 6.Nc3 Nf6 7.d3 exd3+ 8.Kf1 Nbd7 9.Bg5 Nc5 10.Qa3 Be6 11.Nd5 (11.Re1 d2 wins) Bxd5 (11...Qd7 might be even better, but it's needlessly sharp) 12.Bxd5 O-O-O 13.Bf3 Kb8 and White has no attack to compensate for the two pawns or his bottled-up kingside.
Response 11: 1.e4 e6 2.c4 d5 3.cxd5 exd5 4.Qb3 dxe4 5.Bc4 Qe7 6.Nc3 Nf6 7.d3 exd3+ 8.Be3 Nbd7 9.O-O-O Ne5 10.Nf3 Nxc4 11.Qxc4 Qb4 12.Qxd3 Bd6 13.Ng5 Be6 14.Kb1 O-O-O 15.Nxe6 fxe6 leaves White down a pawn and without an attack.
Response 12: 1.e4 e6 2.c4 d5 3.cxd5 exd5 4.Qb3 dxe4 5.Bc4 Qd7 6.Nc3 Nc6 7.Nxe4 Na5 8.Qe3 (8.Qb5 Nxc4 9.Qxc4 Qe6 trades the queens, leaving Black with a better position and the two bishops) Nxc4 9.Nd6+ Kd8 10.Nxc4 Qd5 11.Ne5 Bd6 and Black, ironically enough, has a winning attack likely to be crowned by a rook move to the e-file, exploiting the king's losing the right to castle.