Slaughtering the Chess Openings: The French

Wed, 2014-02-26 17:53 -- IM Max Illingworth
[Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2014.02.23"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Slaughtering Chess Openings"]
[Black "The French"]
[Result "*"]
[ECO "C06"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "2"]
[EventDate "2014.??.??"]

{Most instructional chess books are on the opening phase. Of these books, most
cover the best moves from the position, recommending variations and basing
their coverage on what the Grandmasters played in Tata Steel this year. These
writers have forgotten about the definition of an 'expert' though: someone who
has made all the possible mistakes in a given field. So it stands to reason:
if you really want to master a chess opening, you shouldn't learn what to do,
but what not to do. It's much less painful to learn from the mistakes of
others than your own; indeed it's even quite enjoyable! So I will be showing
some games where one player 'slaughtered' their position - i.e. showed exactly
what not to do.} 1. e4 e6 *
[Event "London blindfold sim"]
[Site "London"]
[Date "1859.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Morphy, Paul"]
[Black "Smyth, Samuel"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C01"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "66"]
[EventDate "1859.??.??"]
[EventRounds "1"]
[EventCountry "ENG"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2004.11.15"]

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 exd5 4. Nf3 Be6 $6 {Appalling. Black misplaces his
bishop such that it is very passive; the only reason I don't give it a full
question mark is because it stops c2-c4.} (4... Bd6 {is much better, preparing
to develop the kingside quickly with ...Nf6(e7) and ...0-0. Remember my rule
of thumb: when the e-file is open, you should castle your king as quickly as
possible.}) 5. Bd3 Nf6 6. O-O h6 $6 {This is another silly move, wasting more
time to stop Ng5 (which isn't a threat anyway). In a sense, Black is a typical
French player who avoids open positions by playing the French, and therefore
hasn't learned how to play open positions properly.} (6... Bd6 7. Ng5 O-O 8.
Nxe6 fxe6 9. c4 $1 {with the idea of c5 is better for White, but not
significantly so.}) 7. Ne5 {This plan of playing f4 and lodging the knight on
e5 is good, but} (7. Re1 Bd6 8. c4 O-O 9. c5 Be7 10. Ne5 {seems a more
effective version of the same plan.}) 7... Bd6 8. f4 Nc6 9. c3 Qe7 {This move
is another example of how not to play this opening - Black refuses to castle
his king!} (9... O-O 10. Be3 Ne7 11. f5 Bc8 {is the engine's first line, but
any human can see that White is much better after} 12. Nd2 {as none of Black's
pieces have decent squares.}) 10. Re1 (10. Nxc6 bxc6 11. f5 Bc8 12. c4 {is not
bad either, but I like Morphy's move, placing the rook on the open e-file
against Black's queen, best.}) 10... Bxe5 {Black commits the ultimate sin of
the French Defence - trading the dark-squared bishop for a knight - but the
threat of f4-f5 and Nxc6 left him little choice.} 11. fxe5 Nd7 12. b4 {This is
a dream position for White, even if Black doesn't blunder the exchange with
his next move.} O-O $2 13. b5 Na5 14. Ba3 Qg5 15. Bxf8 Rxf8 16. Nd2 Bg4 17. Nf3
Qe7 18. h3 Be6 19. Qa4 b6 20. Rad1 g5 21. Bb1 Kg7 22. Qc2 Rh8 23. Nd2 h5 24.
Nf1 h4 25. Ne3 Rh6 26. Nf5+ Bxf5 27. Qxf5 Nf8 28. Rf1 Nc4 29. Rf3 Ne6 30. Qg4
Qe8 31. Rdf1 Qxb5 32. Rxf7+ Kh8 33. Qxe6 Rxe6 1-0 
[Event "Gibraltar Masters"]
[Site "Catalan Bay"]
[Date "2003.02.05"]
[Round "9"]
[White "Jonkman, Harmen"]
[Black "Wohl, Aleksandar H"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C02"]
[WhiteElo "2436"]
[BlackElo "2415"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "67"]
[EventDate "2003.01.28"]
[EventRounds "10"]
[EventCountry "ENG"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2003.03.07"]

{In this game Black handles the opening much better, but some strategic
mistakes in the early middlegame lead to big problems.} 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5
c5 4. c3 Nc6 5. Nf3 Nge7 (5... Nh6 {is more accurate so that} 6. Na3 {can be
defanged by} cxd4 7. cxd4 Bxa3 8. bxa3 Nf5 {.}) (5... f6 {is a classic mistake
I see many club players make, attacking the front of the pawn chain (i.e. the
strongest point). Later on it can be a good move but here White will benefit
from the opening of the position after} 6. Bd3 (6. Bb5 Qb6 7. Qe2 {is the
other main option.}) 6... fxe5 7. Nxe5 Nf6 8. O-O Bd6 9. Nxc6 bxc6 10. Nd2 O-O
11. Nf3 {and White's control over the e5-square gives him an edge. If Black
liquidates the centre with} cxd4 12. cxd4 c5 13. dxc5 Bxc5 {, White then
blockades the hanging pawns with} 14. Bf4 Qb6 15. Be5 {.}) 6. Na3 cxd4 7. cxd4
Nf5 8. Nc2 {So far so good - in this structure it is very important for Black
to put pressure on White's d4-pawn.} Bd7 9. Be2 Be7 (9... Qb6 {is the main
move, continuing to attack the d4-pawn, but simple development is by no means
inferior.}) 10. O-O h5 {In this exact position this isn't a bad move, but most
of the time Black wants to avoid ...h5 as it stops Black castling kingside and
in this system Black is happy to let White play g4 as long as he can hit back
with a quick ...f6 or ...h5.} (10... O-O 11. Ne3 Nxe3 12. Bxe3 Rc8 13. Rc1 Qb6
14. Qd2 Na5 {would be a standard way to play, when White's space advantage
becomes less important with every exchange (...Bb5 for instance exchanges the
light-squared bishops, which are the bishops Black wants to exchange in the
Advance as his dark-squared bishop is better than White's).}) 11. Ne3 Nh6 $6 {
This move causes Black a lot of problems, as it releases nearly all the
pressure on the d4-pawn and gives White time to reorganise his pieces. I can
understand that Black wanted to avoid} (11... Nxe3 12. Bxe3 {when ...h5 looks
completely out of place, but}) (11... g5 12. Nxf5 exf5 {is a structure that's
a lot better than it looks - the d5-pawn can be solidified with ...Be6 and
meanwhile the kingside pawns are suddenly quite mobile. White should try to
break them down with} 13. h4 {, but} g4 14. Ng5 Qb6 15. Be3 f4 16. Bxf4 Qxd4 {
would give Black decent play as he has exchanged off part of White's centre.})
12. Ne1 (12. Bd2 Rc8 13. Bc3 {getting more pieces developed seems a simpler
way to keep an edge. If Black keeps his king in the centre, White can play Qd2,
b4-b5 and Bb4, for instance.}) 12... Qb6 13. N1c2 h4 14. b4 f5 $6 {I think
this move is a strategic mistake. Black no longer has an ...f6 pawn break to
attack the White centre, and Black's kingside pawn storm ideas aren't really a
problem, while White's b5/Ba3 idea in the game is rather strong.} (14... Nxb4 {
would really slaughter Black's position after} 15. Rb1 {and a3.}) (14... a6 {
stops b5 and Ba3, and after} 15. Qd2 O-O 16. a3 f6 {Black has put the pressure
back on White's centre and should be absolutely fine.}) 15. f4 {Black can't
really engineer a ...g5 break, which means he has no real counterplay.} Nf7 (
15... a6 {stops White's plan in the game, but} 16. a4 Nxb4 17. a5 Qc7 18. Nxb4
Bxb4 19. Bd2 Bxd2 20. Qxd2 O-O 21. Rfc1 Bc6 22. Nc2 {and Nb4 still gives White
more than enough compensation for the pawn.}) 16. b5 Na5 (16... Nb4 17. Nxb4
Bxb4 {would stop White's Ba3 plan, but I don't think he needs to prevent it.})
17. Ba3 {In general this is a favourable exchange for White, but here I think
it gives Black time to create counterplay.} (17. Bd2 Bxb5 18. Rb1 Bxe2 19. Qxe2
Qc7 20. Bxa5 Qxa5 21. Rxb7 {with a strong attack was the right way to handle
the position.}) 17... Bxa3 18. Nxa3 O-O-O $1 19. Bh5 Be8 {At first I thought
this position should just be much better for White, but actually Black is
fairly comfortable here.} 20. Rc1+ Kb8 21. Rc5 Nd6 22. exd6 (22. Bxe8 Ne4 $1
23. Bf7 Nxc5 24. dxc5 Qxc5 {is a very nice resource indeed.}) 22... Bxh5 23.
Qd2 Rxd6 (23... h3 24. g3 Qxd6 25. Qxa5 b6 26. Qb4 bxc5 27. dxc5 Qe7 {doesn't
give White anywhere near enough for the exchange.}) 24. Rfc1 Rdd8 25. Nec2 h3
26. Nb4 hxg2 (26... Nc4 27. Nxc4 dxc4 28. R1xc4 hxg2 {stops the trick White
plays in the game, and here I much prefer Black's chances because of White's
exposed king.}) 27. Nc6+ bxc6 28. bxc6 {Now there's no defence to threats of
Rb5 and the queenside attack in general.} Ka8 ({or} 28... Kc7 29. Rxa5 a6 30.
Rb1) 29. Rxa5 Bf3 30. Nb5 Rxh2 31. Kxh2 Rh8+ 32. Kg3 Qxc6 33. Rxa7+ Kb8 34. Qa5
[Event "Corus"]
[Site "Wijk aan Zee"]
[Date "2004.01.13"]
[Round "3"]
[White "Svidler, Peter"]
[Black "Bareev, Evgeny"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C10"]
[WhiteElo "2747"]
[BlackElo "2714"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "33"]
[EventDate "2004.01.10"]
[EventRounds "13"]
[EventCountry "NED"]
[EventCategory "19"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2004.03.30"]

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nd7 5. Nf3 Ngf6 6. Bd3 c5 7. O-O Nxe4 8.
Bxe4 Nf6 9. Bg5 cxd4 10. Nxd4 {White has a big lead in development here, but
if Black rushes to castle with 10...Be7 and 11...0-0, he'll only be very
slightly worse. Instead Black forgets to develop his pieces and is slaughtered
like a lamb.} h6 $2 (10... Be7) 11. Bxf6 Qxf6 (11... gxf6 12. Re1 Be7 {may
objectively be better, but also fails to inspire much confidence.}) 12. Qd3 {
The threat is Qb5+.} a6 13. Rad1 Be7 {This runs into White's next, but Black
has to develop somehow and} (13... Bd6 14. Nxe6 Bxh2+ 15. Kxh2 Bxe6 16. Bxb7 {
isn't any better.}) 14. Nc6 $1 e5 (14... O-O 15. Nxe7+ Qxe7 16. Qd6 Qxd6 17.
Rxd6 {is clearly better for White as Black is unable to develop his pieces.
Especially the c8-bishop is encased in a silk wrapping of Black pawns.}) 15.
Nxe7 Qxe7 16. f4 {Prying open the entire centre. Black is in trouble in any
case, but after the next it's over.} exf4 (16... O-O 17. f5 {was also pretty
hopeless for Black as the c8-bishop is completely stuck, but at least he'd
make it past move 25.}) 17. Bxb7 {Black loses the queen after 17...Bxb7 18.Re1,
so he resigned.} 1-0
[Event "EU-chT (Men) 19th"]
[Site "Warsaw"]
[Date "2013.11.09"]
[Round "2.7"]
[White "Naiditsch, Arkadij"]
[Black "Socko, Bartosz"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C18"]
[WhiteElo "2727"]
[BlackElo "2661"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "75"]
[EventDate "2013.11.08"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "POL"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2013.11.20"]
[WhiteTeam "Germany"]
[BlackTeam "Poland"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "GER"]
[BlackTeamCountry "POL"]

{Finally, while most members of the French Defence cult are indoctrinated with
'destroy White's centre', in a number of modern games White is quite happy to
have his central pawns exchanged or even won, as the removal of these pawns
give open lines for White's pieces (which are normally much better developed
when Black has spent five tempi winning the central pawns). While this game
isn't the clearest example of this, I've selected it because it shows why
Black generally can't get away with wasting several tempi to grab pawns in the
Winawer (despite what the engines will tell you) and also is a classic example
of how the 'French' bishop on c8 can slaughter an otherwise great game.} 1. e4
e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 (3. Nd2 Be7 4. Ngf3 Nf6 5. e5 Nfd7 6. Bd3 c5 7. c3 Nc6 8.
O-O g5 9. dxc5 {is an example of a variation where White exchanges off his
centre to attack down the resultant half-open central files. If you want to
see how this plays out, check out some GM games from this position in the
database - they explain White's ideas more clearly than I could with words
alone.}) 3... Bb4 4. e5 c5 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 {Black can get away with
exchanging his dark-squared bishop for a knight only because White's structure
is so weak and because White had to play the less than useful a3 (White often
has to play a4 to give his bishop the nice a3 square).} Ne7 7. Qg4 {If you
have a spare 100 hours to learn the Poisoned Pawn, this system can be highly
recommended.} Kf8 {This move is hardly ridiculous (Black can get away with a
lot when the centre is closed), but I think this variation will be a lot less
popular once Naiditsch's treatment catches on.} (7... cxd4 8. Qxg7 Rg8 9. Qxh7
Qc7 {is the Poisoned Pawn variation, which is very easy to slaughter if you
don't know the theory (as either colour). I'll just point out for amusement
that} 10. Kd1 {is a serious move here to get out of the ...Qxc3 fork. Feel
free to research it yourself if you're too lazy to learn the 10.Ne2 theory.})
8. a4 $1 Qc7 (8... b6 9. Ba3 Qc7 10. Nf3 Ba6 11. Bb5 Bxb5 12. axb5 {is very
comfortable for White, who has full control of the position and can consider
dxc5 and c4 later to open things up.}) 9. Qd1 cxd4 {Black has to accept the
sacrifice or he's just positionally much worse.} (9... Nbc6 {turns down the
offer, but} 10. Nf3 cxd4 11. cxd4 Nb4 12. Rb1 (12. Kd2 {with the idea of Ba3
keeps in the completely illogical spirit of the preceding moves.}) 12... Na2
13. Qd2 Nc3 14. Ra1 {(to give one non-sensical engine line) is very good for
White, who is ready to play Bd3, 0-0 and Ba3 in some order.}) 10. cxd4 Qc3+ 11.
Bd2 Qxd4 12. Nf3 Qe4+ 13. Be2 {White has tons of compensation for the pawn as
he has almost completed his development, the Black king on f8 is much weaker
now that the position has opened up, and Black's queen is out of play. No less
importantly, it is hard for Black to complete his development.} Nbc6 14. Bc3
Ng6 15. O-O Nf4 (15... Ngxe5 {claims a second pawn, but} 16. Nxe5 Nxe5 17. Re1
Nc6 18. Ra3 {with the idea of Bb2 and Rg3 is very strong. Black really suffers
from his lack of development here and in a sense this is a classic example of
the 'sacrifice the central pawns' concept, as Black has to play a number of
non-developing moves in taking those pawns.}) 16. Bd3 Nxd3 17. cxd3 Qf5 18. a5
{I think Black's already close to strategically busted here. The number of
pawns is irrelevant in middlegames where either one side has the far better
opposite-coloured bishop, or one side is unable to develop their pieces.} a6 (
18... Bd7 {seems an obvious try, but} 19. Qb3 Rb8 20. Bb4+ Nxb4 21. Qxb4+ Ke8
22. a6 {sees Black's king getting crushed in the middle with Rfc1, Rc7, Nd4
and Qd6 to follow.}) 19. Qb1 h6 20. Nd4 {This is a good exchange as it
emphasises White's superior bishop.} Nxd4 21. Bxd4 Kg8 22. Rc1 Kh7 23. Rc7 Rd8
24. Bc5 d4 (24... Qxe5 {might have been Black's one chance to save the game:}
25. Rxf7 d4 26. Qb4 (26. Qb6 Rd5 27. Bf8 Rd7 28. Bxg7 Qd5 29. Rxd7 Bxd7 30.
Qxd4 Bc6 31. Qxd5 Bxd5 32. Bb2 Rg8 {and Black is a pawn down, but will draw
very comfortably.}) 26... Qh5 27. Re7 Rd7 28. Rxd7 Bxd7 29. Qxb7 Qd5 30. Qxd5
exd5 31. Bxd4 {and while White has decent winning chances in practice, with
best play it should be a draw.}) 25. Be7 Rd5 ({Not} 25... Rd7 26. Rxd7 Bxd7 27.
Qxb7 {.}) 26. Bd6 {Black is now playing the c8-bishop and a8-rook down, and
that seals his fate.} f6 27. Re7 fxe5 28. Qb6 Qf8 (28... Qxd3 29. Qc7 Qg6 30.
Bxe5 {is no better.}) 29. Qc7 b5 30. Rf7 Qxf7 31. Qxf7 Rxd6 32. Rc1 Rd8 33. Rc7
Rg8 34. g4 e4 35. g5 e5 36. Qh5 Kh8 37. gxh6 gxh6+ 38. Kf1 {Now that you have
seen the main ways that Black can slaughter his position in the French Defence,
you should be much better placed to avoid making such mistakes yourself in the
future, not to mention punishing them when you're facing the French. Of course,
I could have shown all the ways that White can slaughter his position, but
this has already been covered thoroughly in 'My 60 Memorable French repertoire
books'.} 1-0