If you want to know an opening, you should be familiar with its typical positional ideas and remember the most important theoretical lines. But this is not enough.
Every opening has its own stock of tactical motifs. Therefore, you also have to know the typical tactical patterns which frequently occur in your opening.
The French Defense is one of the most trusted openings in chess, popular at all levels from beginners to strong grandmasters. It is a strategically and dynamically complex opening full of rich possibilities.
Both sides have a multitude of tactical shots and ideas at their disposal thanks to the different asymmetrical pawn structures and imbalances which occur from the different variations.
It is a perfect opening for players who prefer to understand key strategical and tactical ideas rather than memorize an endless amount of theoretical variations.
The French Defense is a chess opening for Black against 1.e4. It is a semi-closed opening and has the reputation of being resilient and solid. It occurs after the moves 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5.
White’s Thematic f5 Break in the French Defense
One of the most characteristic pawn structures of the French Defense arises after the moves 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3. See the diagram on the left.
We’ve reached a pawn structure where the position is closed. White has a space advantage in the center of the board due to his advanced e5-pawn. However, Black’s pawn structure is solid and without any weaknesses. Both sides have their own pawn chains, White’s being c3-d4-e5 and Black’s being f7-e6-d5.
White’s pawn chain points towards the kingside, which indicates on which side of the board he should play. White often gets good attacking prospects on the kingside.
A typical idea for White is to carry out the advance of the f-pawn with f2-f4-f5, putting pressure on the Black pawn chain. It should be noted that the advance of the f-pawn is not always easy to realize. It not only takes time to go for this plan, but White also needs to be careful not to lose control over the center, especially his key pawn on d4. In this video, a free preview of his new 8-hour course on tactics in the French Defense, GM Mihail Marin takes a close look at this thematic f5 break.
Yet, if White manages to play f4-f5, he needs to think of a good plan with which to continue. According to GM Mihail Marin, there are four main strategic operations White can opt for with a pawn on f5:
- White can play g2-g3 followed by bringing the light-squared bishop to h3 putting more pressure on Black’s e6-pawn
- White can move the light-squared bishop to d3, eyeing the pawn on h7 which is usually a weakness in Black’s camp.
- White can play h2-h4, gaining even more space on the kingside. If Black reacts with …h6, then White can exchange pawns on e6 with and play h4-h5, creating weaknesses on the Black light-squares which can be occupied by the White pieces.
- White can aim for f5-f6 to open the position on the kingside and to start an attack against the castled Black king.
White always needs to evaluate which of these plans works best in each situation, as GM Marin explains in the video, with practical examples. Don’t miss it!
Tactics in the French Defense
Need a solid and reliable opening for Black? The French Defense is one of the best openings for club players.
It is a perfect opening for players who prefer to understand key strategical and tactical ideas rather than memorize an endless amount of theoretical variations. Many great players of the past and present have used the French Defense with great success. It has been a favorite of many of the world’s top players, including former World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik and the legendary Viktor Korchnoi.
Nowadays, the biggest experts in the French Defense are most probably Alexander Morozevich, Wesley So and Hikaru Nakamura who frequently play it against all the best players in the world.
Learn all the tactical themes you need to play this opening confidently with GM Mihail Marin’s new 8-hour 80/20 Tactics Multiplier course. Click here to get instant access with 35% off.