What do super-GMs Wesley So, Ding Liren and Alexander Grischuk have in common? They all frequently rely on the French Defense!
This flexible reply to 1.e4 is one of the most trusted chess openings of all time, popular from beginner level right up to the top.
Not only is the French Defense considered one of the most successful openings for Black, it is an opening that does not force you to learn an endless amount of theory. You can play it if you understand the key strategic ideas and plans.
This video is a free preview of GM Damian Lemos’ brand new 7-hour Deep Dive. Damian is here to give you the crucial knowledge you need in order to play the French Defense with confidence.
This is an opening you can use for the rest of your chess life with good results, and it is flexible enough that you can play it in the style you prefer – solid and resilient, or dangerous and attacking!
White Plays 3.Bd3
In this video, GM Damian Lemos starts by looking at what happens when Black plays 3.Bd3. 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Bd3 (diagram, left).
Black needs to play precise moves to equalize, or to take the initiative. GM Lemos recommends 3…dxe4, taking advantage of the placement of the bishop in order to gain a tempo.
White has to take with 4.Bxe4, and he wastes time moving the bishop for the second time in the opening – this is generally not sound opening practice.
Black can also play 3…c5 challenging White for space in the centre since the White knight is not on c3 or f3 yet.
A bad move would be 4…Nf6 as this loses a tempo to 5.e5 and White establishes a strong centre.
A key concept to be noted is that the move …Nf6 should not be played by Black unless White has already committed his knight or his bishop to f3. This is because White’s ideal situation is for Black to play 4…Nf6 to which he responds 5.e5 Nfd7 6.f4 and his centre is solid and the e5 square has extra protection.
If Black intends to play …Nf6 at any point, he needs to wait for White to play either his bishop or his knight to f3, so that after White plays e5 and the knight retreats, White cannot follow up with f4.
After 3…dxe4 4.Bxe4 Nf6, White can try 5.Bf5, pinning the knight. In this case, GM Lemos recommends the simple move 5…Be7 unpinning the knight and giving support towards the centre.
If 6.Bxf6 then 6…Bxf6 and Black should be happy with this situation. (Diagram, right).
The most common response to 4…Nf6 is 5.Bf3. In the game Carlsen-Grischuk, Grischuk continued with 5…c5. If 6.dxc5 then Black can simply play 6…Qxd1 and whichever way White recaptures Black will be ahead. Either 7.Kxd1 and he loses his castling rights or 7.Bxd1 and the Bishop moves yet again in the opening, losing valuable tempo.
French Defense – Deep Dive
Understanding the French Defense not only gives you a solid opening repertoire for Black, the various pawn structures that arise also helps you to become a better overall strategic player.
No need to fear 1.e4 anymore; add the French Defense to your repertoire and you’ll soon be dominating the whole board.
GM Damian Lemos 7+ hour course on the French Defense introduces you to the main ideas and concepts behind this chess opening for Black, allowing you to play it over the board, confident of picking up some excellent results.