Dennis M's Chess Site

This is a blog for chess fans by a chess fan. I enjoy winning as much as anyone else, and I've had a reasonable amount of success as a competitor, but what keeps me coming back to the game is its beauty. And that, primarily, is what this site will be about! All material copyrighted.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Something Different vs. the French: Part 2

In an earlier post, I introduced a long-time pet anti-French Defense line. The line is objectively unsound, but it's very easy for Black to go awry - sometimes, as we've seen, in a brutally quick and dramatic way. In today's post, I want to look at one important early Black deviation from the main line.

1.e4 e6 2.c4 d5 3.cxd5 exd5 4.Qb3 and now, instead of 4...dxe4, let's see what happens if Black tries 4...Nf6. My responses to this move changed over time, and we'll take a look at them in more or less the order in which I tried them.

(A) 5.e5

This isn't a bad idea; it's just that White's (now) poor queen placement and lack of development render this a blank shot. After 5...Ne4 6.Nf3 (6.d4 Nc6 [6...c5 is also good for Black] 7.Nf3 Bb4+ and Black is already at least equal) 6...c6 7.d4 Qb6 the position is balanced and, at least equally important for the fan of this line, relatively dull.

(B) 5.d3

This option has two things going for it. First, it keeps White's pawn structure more or less intact; second, it comes with a cheapo: if 5...dxe4 6.dxe4 Nxe4??, White wins the knight with 7.Qa4+ and 8.Qxe4+. Every once in a while the cheapo works, but if Black avoids it and focuses instead on rapid development and control of the d4 square, then White's position is inferior. Thus 5...dxe4 6.dxe4 Bc5! 7.Nf3 O-O 8.Bd3 Be6! (8...Nc6 is good too) 9.Qc3 (9.Qxb7? Qxd3 10.Qxa8 Nxe4 wins due to the double threat of 11...Bxf2# and the queen-trapping 11...Bd5) Nc6! gives Black a clear advantage.

(C) 5.Nc3 d4 6.e5

First of all, note that 5...dxe4 6.Bc4! justifies the delay by transposing back into the sort of position examined in the initial post. Black can also play to hold the d5 point with 5...c6; that will probably be the subject of yet another post.

Sticking to 5...d4 lines then, you might remember that I presented a game in this line in the original post, which continued 6.e5 dxc3 7.exf6 cxd2+ 8.Bxd2 gxf6?!, when White won quickly. After the obvious and natural 8...Qxf6, however, the burden is on White to prove that the compensation is sufficient.

(D) 5.Nc3 d4 6.Bc4!!

This great idea is one of my best finds in this variation, and I'm pleased to say I found it in a blitz game rather than by asking my software for its opinion. (In case you're wondering, Don Fritz and the rest of the family have since given the move their blessing.) Of course, had Black played 5...dxe4, 6.Bc4 would be the obvious rejoinder - but even here, at the potential cost of a piece, it still works out well! After 5...d4 6.Bc4!! dxc3 7.Bxf7+ Ke7, 8.e5 leaves White with more than enough compensation.

Black should probably return the knight with 8...Nc6 9.bxc3 Qd3 10.Ba3+ Kd8 11.exf6 gxf6 12.Bxf8 Rxf8 13.Qd5+ Qxd5 14.Bxd5, when White is essentially a clean pawn ahead but Black can still resist. (Another possibility is 8...cxd2+ 9.Bd2 Ne4, but White has a winning attack with 10.O-O-O.)

It's more likely that your opponents will try to hang on to the piece with 8...Ng4, and then things get fun - at least if you have the White pieces. Best now is 9.d4! (threatening 10.Bg5+), when Black has two options:

(a) 9...cxb2 10.Bg5+ Nf6 11.Rd1 and White is winning, thanks to his attack and huge leads in space and development.

(b) 9...Qxd4 10.Bg5+ Nf6 11.Nf3 cxb2 (everything loses, but this is the most entertaining option) 12.O-O! bxa1Q 13.Nxd4 Qxd4 14.exf6+ gxf6 15.Re1+ Kd6 (15...Kd8 16.Re8+ followed by 17.Qe6#) and now, as Mike Tyson might say, 16.Bxf6! sends Black to "bolivian", as 16...Qxf6 17.Qd5 is mate.

In sum, while there was a time when I didn't enjoy facing the 4...Nf6 line, those days are long gone, thanks to the 6.Bc4! idea. Further, the results back this up: in the 5.Nc3 line (playing 6.Bc4 whenever facing 5...d4), my score in ICC 3 0 blitz against players rated from 2486 to 2712 is a terrific 14-1 (and I was better in the one loss, too, against one of the lower-rated players in the bunch). Better still, many of my wins were extremely quick - in the 5...d4 6.Bc4 line, for example, my score is a clean 5-0 with the wins coming in just 21, 11, 17, 13 and 16 moves!

I have been honest and warned the reader: there are problems with this whole 4.Qb3 line for White. Speaking from a purely practical perspective, however, there are many more ways for Black to go wrong than White - and when Black takes a wrong step in this variation, it's often straight into the abyss. So give it a shot, French Defense foes!


  • At 10:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Dennis, I think there is a couple of move missing in variation "D" of your anti-French when you say:
    ...Black should probably return the knight with 8...Nc6 9.bxc3 Qd3 10.exf6 gxf6...
    (I think 11.Ba3 Kd8 is missing here)
    ...11.Bxf8 Rxf8 12.Qd5+ Qxd5 13.Bxd5 ...

  • At 11:11 PM, Blogger Dennis Monokroussos said…

    Thanks for bringing the error (which I've promptly remedied) to my attention! (Actually, it's 10.Ba3+ Kd8, because if 10.exf6+ Black's best is ...Kxf6 in reply, believe it or not. Funny how moving the king often turns out to be pretty good in this variation.)

  • At 12:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm happy to have "contributed" to your blog. By the way I have tried your antiFrench once on Playchess and won the game even though I made a few mistakes.
    Thank you for your good job with the blog and on Playchess

    Daniel Morin alias Doc44 or Danmor1

  • At 10:48 AM, Blogger David Glickman said…

    Dennis - For those of us who play the French and don't want to have to give it up, are you planning on giving any insight regarding best play for black?

  • At 11:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Dennis!

    I've discovered your page today and was immediately interested in the French analysis (as I am a fan of unorthodox openings - my current weapon against the French is the wing gambit).
    The first question I had was what happens after 1.e4 e6 2.c4 d5 ed: 4.Qb3 Nf6 5.Nc3 d4 6.Bc4! Qe7!?
    I couldn't find a convincing answer so I gave the variation to Fritz who
    gave 7.Nb5 Nc6 8.Nf3 but after 8. ... Qe4! black is probably better (9.Kd1 is answered by Kd8! 10.Re1 Qg6!, 9.Kf1 Qe7 10.d3 looks like white's best try).
    My second question was 4. ... de4: 5.Bc4 Qe7 6.Nc3 Nf6 7.d3 ed3:+ 8.Kf1 Nbd7 9.Bg5 Nc5 10.Qa3 and now after Be6 black seems to have a big advantage.
    So it's up to you to prove me wrong.
    In every case, the variation is worth a try in blitz.

  • At 2:57 PM, Blogger Dennis Monokroussos said…

    Nice analysis, Dragon! It's not my job to prove you wrong though, as I've stated on every occasion that the line is objectively bad - you're just in the process of figuring out things I've already had the disappointment of discovering.

    If you're looking to take this up, though, here are a few words of encouragment. First, Black is extremely unlikely to find and have the guts to play all the moves you've given in the 4.Qb3 Nf6 line.

    Second, White can always play 5.e5 there (instead of 5.Nc3) and have a sound position after 5...Ne4 6.Nf3; it's just that it's rather flat.

    Third, as pointed out by Rick Kennedy in another comment (I'm not sure how to produce links in the comments, but it's in reply to my post "Junk Openings and 'My' Anti-French Line"), White has 8.Be3 (instead of 8.Kf1) in the line 4...dxe4 5.Bc4 Qe7 6.Nc3 Nf6 7.d3 exd3+, and there matters are much messier.


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