French Defense Pawn Structure

French Defense Pawn StructureMany openings have their own unique positions and formations that set them apart from any other opening. These structures really focus on the pawn structure and piece placements within the opening.

For example, the French Defense will result in many different types of positions than the Sicilian Defense. The pawn structures are very different, the piece placements are not similar and the plans within the position are unique to each opening.

When you are learning how to play a specific opening, the most important thing to learn and understand first is the pawn structure that the opening revolves around. A good understanding of the opening’s pawn structure will then help you to understand the reason behind the piece placements on the board and also help you to appreciate the plans for both sides in the positions that arise. In this article, we are going to talk about the French Defense pawn structure and also briefly see how this pawn structure relates to the opening’s piece placements and plans.

I learned a lot about the French Defense pawn structure by watching the “Crushing White – The French Defense” DVD by GM Damian Lemos and would highly recommend it if you want to learn more about the topic!

French Defense Pawn StructureThe position to the right shows the basic pawn structure of the French Defense that can be seen after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5. White has a space advantage in the center of the board due to his advanced e5 pawn. However, Black’s pawn structure is solid, without any weaknesses. Both sides have their own pawn chains, White’s being d4-e5 and Black’s being f7-e6-d5.

Because the base of White’s pawn chain (d4) is closer to Black’s side of the board, Black will have an easier time attacking it than White will have attacking Black’s base (f7).

Black can actually immediately begin an assault on White’s pawn d4 base with the move c5. This can be coupled with Nc6, Qb6, and Nf5. White will be forced to defend his d4 pawn with the moves c3 (which will then extend White’s pawn chain from b2-e5), Ne2, Nf3, Be3, and Qd2.

Eventually, the d4 pawn will reach a critical point between being attacked a lot and defended a lot. Once Black has weakened the d4 pawn enough and can no longer add attackers to it, he can then switch to attacking the front of the pawn chain (e5) with the move f6.

White is going to be forced to constantly defend his pawn center if he wants to keep his space advantage. If he loses his center pawns, his space advantage will also disappear and Black will be the one with a space advantage and will also free up space to move his pieces around.

On the bright side for White, because of his e5 pawn taking up extra space and his pawn chain pointing towards the kingside, he can start an early attack on Black’s kingside that may distract Black from his attack on White’s center.

The French Defense opening revolves around the pawn structure in the center of the board throughout the entire game. Many games have been won and lost depending on the status quo in the center of the board. If White can defend everything well, then he can eventually crush Black with his space advantage. If Black can attack the center effectively and destroy White’s pawn chain, then he can expect to have a great position.

“Crushing White – The French Defense” – GM Damian Lemos
“Secrets to Mastering the Chess Opening” (Beginner DVD) – GM Damian Lemos

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