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, March 01, 2005

The Anti-French Line: The Appeasement Strategy

With the players taking a rest day at Linares, it's a good time to revisit the anti-French Defense variation explored in some previous posts. (See here and here.) As often as not, Black senses something dangerous about to happen after 1.e4 e6 2.c4 d5 3.cxd5 exd5 4.Qb3 and tries to steer the ship into calmer waters. We've taken a look at 4...dxe4 and 4...Nf6; this time, we'll get some idea of how the placid 4...c6 works out.

Black's aim is to maintain the strong point on d5, making a sort of peace offering with White: "I'll let you be - I won't capture your pawn - so please let me play my game in peace too."

Now, there are cases where that sort of approach is wholly reasonable - here are two examples.

(1) 1.e4 e5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 (or 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.c3 d5 5.exd5 Qxd5 6.d4 Bg4) d5! 4.exd5 Qxd5 5.cxd4 Nc6 6.Nf3 Bg4 7.Nc3 Bb4! 8.Be2 Bxf3 9.Bxf3 Qc4, when Black's decision on move 3 not to grab the pawn leads to a position where Black is at least equal and without any difficulties whatsoever.

(2) 1.e4 c5 2.d4 (or 2.c3 Nf6 3.e5 Nd5 4.d4 cxd4) cxd4 3.c3 Nf6! (rather than 3...cxd4) 4.e5 Nd5 allows Black - who will still need to know some theory - to reach a safe, strong, dynamically balanced position while avoiding lots of traps, long-term positional pressure and her opponent's home turf in exchange for an extra pawn.

Back to the anti-French. Black is hoping for something similar, but in my experience with the line, White often gets a very comfortable advantage:

1.e4 e6 2.c4 d5 3.cxd5 exd5 4.Qb3 c6

5.exd5 cxd5 6.d4 [6.Nc3 might be a more accurate move order, as 6...d4 is well-met by 7.Bc4 6...Nf6 7.d4 Nc6 8.Bb5 a6 9.Bxc6+ bxc6 10.Nf3 Bd6 11.0-0 0-0 12.Bg5 h6 13.Bh4 Rb8 14.Qc2 Be6 (14...Be7 15.Ne5+/-) 15.Na4

with a comfortable White edge.] 6...Nf6 [6...Nc6 7.Bb5] 7.Nc3 Be7 8.Bb5+ Nc6 9.Nf3 0-0 10.Bxc6 bxc6 11.0-0 else ...Ba6, preventing castling, could prove annoying. 11...Bd6 12.Bg5 Rb8 13.Qc2 h6 14.Bh4 Be7 15.Ne5 Bb7 16.Na4+/-

offers a type of position that I've achieved quite regularly in this line: White gets a nice grip on e5 and c5, the pawn on c6 is locked in place and Black's two bishops are impotent. Granted, it's not the usual tactical melee, but I'll happily accept a positional edge like this any day!


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