08 December 2014

Problem in the French

The Exchange variation of the French is reputed to give Black easy equality, but it remains a popular choice among amateur players. In a recent online game played at fifteen minutes for the whole game, I quickly found myself in trouble because I was fixing breakfast rather than attending to the game.

Internet Opponent -- Stripes,J [C01]

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5

The Exchange variation

3...exd5 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.Be2

An unusual move. White's best chance for advantage in the Exchange variation results from vigorous play. This seemingly natural developing move seems too slow.

5.Bb5 and 5.c4 both seem better. Despite my seeming disdain for the Exchange variation, I play it with some frequency. 5.c4 is nearly always my choice here. (See "French Perfume" for harsh criticism of the Exchange variation.)


Black proceeds with his normal approach to the Exchange variation.

6.0–0 Nge7 7.c4!?

Black to move

This forcing move appears in a mere nine games in the ChessBase database. I have faced it four times in online play. My only loss came as a result of an elementary blunder in the endgame.


Although nothing else makes any sense, I played 7...Bxh2+ in a blitz game once.


Black to move

Black has an important decision to make here.


Playing by rote, I blundered.

8...0–0 seems best 9.Nc3 Bg4 10.Be3 Nf5 11.h3 Bxf3 12.Qxf3 Nfxd4 13.Bxd4 Nxd4 14.Qxb7 Rb8 15.Qd5 c6 16.Qe4 (16.Qxd4 Bh2+ 17.Kxh2 Qxd4) 16...Rxb2 with a slight advantage for Black 0–1 Antonov,A (2055) -- Akhmetov,A (2373) Izhevsk 2014 (Black won in 27 moves)

8...Bf5 9.Nc3 a6 10.Re1 b5 11.Bd3 0–0 with a slight advantage for White 0–1 Cook,M (2039) -- Scott,D (2017) England 2013 (Black won in 44 moves)

8...h6 9.h3 0–0 10.Nc3 Ng6 11.Qc2 Nh4 12.Nxh4 Qxh4 13.Qe4 Qxe4 14.Nxe4 and it seems that both players have equal chances 1–0 Kharakhinov,A (2024) -- Radnaev,A (2052) Ulan Ude 2011 (White won in 47 moves)

9.Bxf7++- Kf8

9...Kxf7 loses quickly 10.Ng5+

Black to move
Analysis Diagram

a) 10...Ke8 11.Qxg4 Nxd4 12.Be3+-

b) 10...Kf8 11.Qxg4 Qe8 (11...Nd5 12.Ne6+) 12.Qf3+ Kg8 13.Qb3+ Kf8 14.Ne6+ Kg8 15.Nxc7+ Qf7 16.Nxa8+-

c) 10...Kg8 11.Qb3+ Nd5 12.Qxd5+ Be6 13.Qxe6+ Kf8 14.Qf7#


White has a clear advantage that should prove decisive. I suffered many moves before my opponent finally offered me chances through a blunder.

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