How to Play The French Defense – GM Damian Lemos
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, but it is also 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.
GM Damian Lemos is here to give you that crucial knowledge in this 7-hour Deep Dive into the French Defense.
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!
And that’s not all – 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.
About the Author:
Damian Lemos is a grandmaster from Argentina with a peak rating of 2559 Elo.
In his lessons, Damian works closely with students to first identify the flaws and weaknesses in their games so that they can be properly evaluated and corrected.
By developing specifically-tailored training regimens for every one of his students, Grandmaster Lemos is able to achieve results that other chess coaches dream of.
Is this course for me?
If you’re looking for a reliable chess opening for Black against 1.e4, here are several reasons why you should consider playing the French Defense:
First of all, the French Defense is considered to be one of the most successful openings and has an excellent score in chess databases. That means that by playing it, you are automatically maximizing your winning chances statistically.
Secondly, playing the French Defense can be a vital alternative for all Black players who are tired of repeatedly entering the highly theoretical terrain of all the absolute main lines such as the sharp Open Sicilians or the Ruy Lopez.
Playing the French Defense does not force you to learn an endless amount of theory. It’s much more important to know the key strategic ideas and plans.
Here’s part of what this course is going to teach you:
The French Defense – Exchange Variation
In the Exchange Variation of the French Defense, White trades the pawns with 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5.
White has three main continuations from this position: 4.Bd3, 4.Nf3and 4.c4.
4.c4 is known as the Panov-Botvinnik attack where White is willing to play with an isolated pawn on the d-file.
The recommendation here is to play 4…Nf6 supporting the d5 pawn.
The normal response to this is 5.Nc3 Bb4. If White does not play 5.Nc3 and instead plays something like 5.Nf3, then Black can take advantage and play 5…Bb4+ intending to castle after 6.Bd2 Bxd2+ 7.Nbxd2 0-0.
Black is encouraged to trade pieces off beginning with 5…Bb4 since White is likely going to end up with an isolated d-pawn – an early transition into endgame will favor Black.
The Exchange Variation leads to asymmetrical pawn structure. This decision from White may simplify things, but White can’t now hope for an opening advantage. At the same time, it is also not easy to play for a win with Black.
The Advance Variation in The French Defense
This is one of the main lines where white opts to advance his e-pawn with 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5.
In doing this, White gets a little more space, takes away the f6 square from the knight and closes the center. White will hope to keep his strong center but Black will look to disrupt this with moves like …f6 and …c5.
Damian recommends an immediate 3…c5, which doesn’t leave White with a lot of options. If he takes with 4.dxc5, Black will simply reply with 4…Bxc5 with a slight lead in development and an eye on the weak f2 square.
The best move for White is to support the center with 4.c3. To take away some of White’s options, GM Lemos advises Black to play an early 4…Qb6. This takes away the option from White to play 5.Be3as this would leave b2 hanging.
After 5.Nf3 Nc6 we arrive at the main position of the advance variation.
If White does not support the d4 pawn after …Qb6 and plays something like f4 then Black should just take with 5…cxd4 6.cxd4 Nc6 7.Nf3. Eventually Black will play Ne7-f5 and the pressure on d4 will be too much. The c1 bishop cannot come to aid as it would leave b2 hanging.
The Advance Variation is a popular line for White against the French Defense and usually leads to a complex strategic battle.
The Tarrasch Variation
This variation occurs after the moves 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2. Also optional is 3. Nc3 but this is met by Bb4 from black and this is not so good for white.
In this line, GM Lemos recommends playing 3…c5. White has moved his knight to the “wrong” square without support to the center so black can afford to push this pawn without his center being at risk.
Taking on c5 with 4. dxc5 Bxc5 is not sound at all from white. Black gets to bring his bishop out quickly and occupy an important diagonal.
If exd5 Black should retake with the queen. If then 5. dxc5 then best for black would be 5…Nf6 with the intention to take on c5 later with the queen. If the knight moves to b3, then black should happily trade queens with 6. Nb3 Qxd1+ 7. Kxd1 with ideas like Ne4 and Nd7 following to take the pawn.
Trying to protect the pawn with 6. b4 loses to 6…Qe5+ and the rook falls.
Thanks to the asymmetrical pawn structure which arises from most variations, the French Defense is an excellent opening to play when you’re looking for a win with the black pieces.
GM Damian Lemos will show you everything you need to know in order to play the French Defense like an expert and dominate your opponents.