French Defense Rubinstein Variation Made Easy

Akiba Rubinstein was one of the strongest chess players in the world in the early 1900s. The French Defense Rubinstein Variation was introduced at the Karlsbad tournament in 1907.

Win With the French Defense Rubinstein Variation

When you face players like Maroczy, Nimzowitch, Chigorin, and Tartakower, having a solid opening you can depend on is a must. This opening served Akiba Rubinstein well because he won the tournament. Here is GM Ron Henley to introduce you to the Rubinstein Variation:

Now it is your turn to use the Rubinstein Variation to wrack up wins!

The French Defense Rubinstein Variation gives you a straightforward path to equalizing as Black in the opening or early middlegame.

Among the top players who include this in their opening repertoire are Anand and Ivanchuk. Learn what attracted these great players to this opening.

Ideas In the French Defense Rubinstein Variation

The defining move of the Rubinstein Variation is 3…dxe4. We reach the following position after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4

French Defense Rubinstein 3...dxe4
French Defense Rubinstein 3…dxe4

Play usually continues in simple fashion with 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Nf3 Ngf6 6.Nxf6+ Nxf6 7.Bd3 c5 8.dxc5 Bxc5 9.0-0 0-0

Rubinstein Variation 9...0 0
French Defense Rubinstein 9…0 0

Playing the Rubinstein Variation allows you to use one system against 3.Nc3 and 3.Nd2.

The theory of this opening is focused on a small number of variations, which saves you more time learning the opening. There is seldom any reason to deviate from the mainline with either color in the French Defense Rubinstein Variation.

The …c5 pawn break is an essential part of Black’s strategy. Another vital pawn move is the capture …gxf6; getting White’s dark-squared bishop off the board is worth the broken pawn structure.

Improving your chess endgame technique will allow you to outplay your opponent as the French Defense Rubinstein Variation often leads straight into the endgame. Although the position might be theoretically equal, there is an excellent chance your opponent will misplay it.

French Defense Rubinstein Variation With 10.Bg5

This is the variation you are most likely to face against an unprepared opponent. All the moves are simple developing moves, but Black can respond in kind and achieve easy equality.

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Nf3 Ngf6 6.Nxf6 Nxf6 7.Bd3 c5 8.dxc5 Bxc5 9.0-0 0-0 10.Bg5

Rubinstein Variation 10.Bg5
French Defense Rubinstein Variation 10.Bg5

Black continues with his plans without concern for White capturing on f6 since it will give him the bishop pair in an open position. Black can meet 10.Bg5 with 10…b6 11.Qe2 Bb7 12.Rad1 Qc7 13.Bxf6 gxf6

French Defense Rubinstein Variation 13...gxf6
French Defense Rubinstein Variation 13…gxf6

The exposed position of Black’s king matters little since White cannot generate a dangerous attack against it. Tigran Petrosian shows us how Black can hold his own with ease in this position even against a 2600-rated grandmaster.

Balashov, Yuri S – Petrosian, Tigran V, 1/2-1/2, URS, 1980

Since the capture 8.dxc5 helps Black develop his dark-squared bishop, it makes sense for White to defend it with 8.Be3. This was the move played by Anand against Milov. 

Milov played an excellent game against Anand and emerged with a win despite being rated 136 Elo lower than the former world champion.

Anand, Viswanathan (2788) – Milov, Vadim (2652), 2017.01.01, 0-1

Kasparov’s Dangerous 7.c3

This is a line where Black finds knowing the theory extremely helpful even though you can still see the right moves by applying prophylaxis. White intends to put a lot of pressure on d7, so many of Black’s moves are designed to deal with these plans.

Always give a lot of respect to the variations chosen by Garry Kasparov against your opening repertoire.

When an opening can hold its own against moves favored by Garry Kasparov you know it’s rock-solid.

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Nf3 Ngf6 6.Nxf6 Nxf6 7.c3

French Defense Rubinstein 7.c3
French Defense Rubinstein 7.c3

8.Ne5 a6 9.Be3 Qc7 10.Qa4+ Nd7 11.Bb5 cxd4 12.Bxd7+ Bxd7 13.Qd4 f6 14.Nxd7 Qxd7 15.Qxd7+ Kxd7 16.0-0-0+ Kc7

French Defense Rubinstein 16...Kc7
French Defense Rubinstein 16…Kc7

Black has absolutely nothing to fear in this position. Ding Liren held this position with ease against a much higher-rated opponent. 

Ni, Hua (2692) – Ding, Liren (2530), 1/2-1/2, Maotai Prince Cup Kings, 2009

Final Thoughts

The French Defense has always been an excellent opening for beginners because you can continue to play it against stronger opponents. The Rubinstein Variation offers you the same benefits while cutting down on the theoretical workload of the French Defense.

As you can see, the Rubinstein Variation features in many games with players rated above 2500 Elo. When such strong grandmasters cannot prove an advantage against it, you know it will work very well at club and beginner levels.

Instead of spending a lot of your training time learning the opening, you can focus on your middlegame and endgame skills. The French Defense Rubinstein Variation will help you reach an equal middlegame and endgame position where you can outplay your opponents.

There are not many must-know variations in the Rubinstein French, so you need not fear being taken by surprise.

Click here for instant access and 50% off The Henley Files: The French Defense Rubinstein Variation. This is a comprehensive 17 hours of grandmaster training in the French Defense with the main focus on the Rubinstein Variation. GM Henley also gives you a strategy to play against White’s other popular tries against the French Defense. You will soon be playing the French Defense confidently and successfully.

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