Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Little Fun During The Holidays

NOTE: Do not scroll down quickly. Below the diagram are two hints of varying degrees and the very bottom shows the solution!

As all the locals know, the Charlotte Chess Center is closed for two weeks for the holiday break (December 20th through January 1st). The Christmas celebration has passed and the new year is coming. While the chess center takes a break, all the blog readers should get a break as well. And so in order to rest everyone's mind for next Tuesday, instead of brain grinding deep analysis, I'm giving you guys something a little different to solve.

Below is an 8x8 diagram, just like a chess board, filled with letters. Within the diagram is 8 famous chess players, both past and present, each with 8 letters in their name (narrows the possibilities tremendously!) You job is to find the 8 chess players.

Sounds simple, right? Try again! This is not your ordinary word search. You actually have to make chess moves to find the 8 players. Here is a list of the rules that must be followed:
  • No letter in the diagram can be used more than once! When all 8 players are found, all 64 letters in the diagram will be used.
  • Two of the players will require Queen moves to go from letter to letter, two of the players will require Rook moves to go from letter to letter, two of the players will require Bishop moves to go from letter to letter, and two of the players will require Knight moves to go from letter to letter.
  • For all of the entries that use pieces that move in a straight line (Queen, Rook, Bishop), a turn must be made after every letter, and no U-turns will be made. So, for the case of the Rooks, if you move horizontally to go from the first letter to the second letter, you will have to go vertical to the next letter, then horizontal to the next, etc. In the case of Bishops, all moves will also be a 90 degree turn since no U-Turns are allowed. Knights have no restrictions and may continue to hop in the same direction as the previous letter.
  • To distinguish Queen entries from Rook or Bishop entries, both Queen entries will have at least one diagonal move and at least one horizontal or vertical move.

A few things to watch out for. Some names may have more than one way to be reached in the diagram. If you see that happening, you might want to hold off to determine which one is correct by finding another name in the diagram and seeing which letters are needed for other names.

Also, it might help copy the diagram on a piece of paper to keep track of letters used. This is probably better than printing as the diagram may not fit on one page, and you may accidentally expose yourself to the solution.


If you want a starting hint, scroll down slowly. If you want the solution, scroll all the way to the bottom.

Starting Hint: One of the entries starts on the square c3 and continues with Knight moves. Also, since every letter must be used, think about how few players with 8 letter have a Z in their name - you might want to work backwards to find this one! If you want a bigger hint (the starting squares for all 8 entries), continue to scroll slowly but not all the way to the bottom.

Bigger Hint: The starting squares for the 8 entries are a4, b1, b8, c2, c3, d3, e6, and h8. Scroll down further and you'll expose the entire solution.


Korchnoi - Queen Moves - b8-b4-d4-e5-g5-g1-c1-c6
Nakamura - Queen Moves - e6-f6-f5-d7-d8-e8-b5-c5
Marshall - Rook Moves - a4-a7-f7-f2-e2-e1-h1-h3
Steinitz - Rook Moves - b1-b6-g6-g4-h4-h2-a2-a8
Alekhine - Bishop Moves - d3-h7-g8-c4-a6-b7-f3-d1
Ivanchuk - Bishop Moves - h8-b2-a3-f8-h6-f4-c7-a5
Kasparov - Knight Moves - c3-e4-d6-c8-e7-d5-e3-g2
Gligoric - Knight Moves - c2-a1-b3-d2-f1-g3-h5-g7

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Endgame Analysis: OCB Endings Are Not Drawn!

It's been a while since I've done an endgame article, dating back to the early summer when I did an article on corresponding squares in king and pawn endgames. In this article, I'm going to talk about the case of Opposite Colored Bishops (from here on out, referred to as OCB) and Pawns. Many amateurs often view this kind of endgame as an automatic draw. While the draw ratio is significantly higher than the vast majority of other endgames, the draw is not automatic. Here I am going to show you a game featuring the Petroff where Black uses the principles of what to do in an OCB endgame and proceeds to win. Many people would see the Petroff and see the OCB ending and just write off the game as a dull draw. Hopefully this game will make you rethink before you just assume that a position is drawn because it's an OCB ending.

Tuesday Night Action 38, Round 4
W: Vishnu Vanapalli (2008)
B: Patrick McCartney (2090)
Petroff Defense

After the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.Nc3 Nxc3 6.dxc3 Be7 7.Bd3 O-O 8.O-O Nd7 9.Be3 Ne5 10.Be2 Be6 11.Nd4 Nc4 12.Nxe6 Nxe3 13.Nxd8 Nxd1 14.Raxd1 Raxd8 15.Rfe1 Rfe8 16.Bf3 c6 17.Kf1 Kf8 18.Rd2 Bg5 19.Rxe8+ Kxe8 20.Rd1 Kd7 21.c4 Kc7 22.Ke2 Re8+ 23.Kf1 Bf6 24.b3 Bc3 25.g3 f5 26.Rd3 Re1+ 27.Kg2 Bf6 28.Rd1, we have the following position:

Let's take a look at some of the features of the position, particularly from Black's perspective.

First off, the pawn structure favors Black. Both sides have three pawns on the kingside and 4 pawns on the queenside. However, none of Black's pawns are doubled or isolated while White's queenside pawns are compromised. That said, Black does have one slight problem. The d-pawn. The black king is the only thing protecting it, and it is very difficult for Black to make progress as long as this pressure is placed on the pawn. What does Black do about that?

On the flip side, we see that Black already has firm control over the dark squares on the queenside. If White ever tries to advance one of his pawns to a dark square, Black can move his Bishop, attacking the pawn immediately, and make him advance it again to a light square. This gives White two major problems. The first is that with his crippled pawn structure and complete lack of control on the dark squares, White will never have any winning chances on that side of the board. The absolute best he can do is force the Black pawns onto dark squares to form a gridlock and make the position unwinnable for both players on that side of the board. Over on the kingside, Black already has a pawn on f5, and still has his h-pawn on h7, and can play the move ...g6 at any time if necessary. Therefore, White currently has no control over the light squares, and the only way to force them forward is to attack the pawn chain at the base, and getting the Bishop to g8 to attack h7 will take a long time because Black controls d5 with his c6-pawn and White's own pawns block him from getting to g8 by other means. Therefore, White has no real shot at all on the kingside. So what does this mean for White?

Therefore, we see now what both sides should be shooting for. Black should be trying to win while White should be trying to draw.

With Black to move, he has a major decision to make. Should he trade off the rooks based on what we've looked at for both sides or should he keep the rooks on figuring they will be necessary to avoid the draw? We have already determined that Black has total control of the dark squares on the queenside. With the location of the kings, White's king is far enough away that Black can at minimum get his king to either a3, which will likely win the a-pawn for Black and he can force through a passed a-pawn, or if White advances the a-pawn to a4 (going to a3 Black will simply force it to a4 with his bishop), then the Black king will get in on c3 and virtually force the White bishop to be immobile and stuck on d1 and Black then can advance the kingside pawns to create a second weakness and overload the White bishop. The only thing holding the Black king back is the rook on d1 by hitting d6, and with two very encouraging ideas based on Black's total control of the dark squares on the queenside and White's lack of ability to control the light squares on the kingside, Black sees the rooks as a distraction, not a help, and so Black's decision is simple.


Black trades the rooks and enters the OCB ending.

29.Bxd1 Kb6 30.Kf3 Kc5 31.Ke2

White should probably have thought about 31.g4, attempting to trade a set of pawns. The fewer pawns there are on the board, the more likely White can hold the draw.


White now has to choose between two evils. Does he play 32.a4 to avoid the immediate dropping of a pawn? Or does he play 32.Kd3 to keep the Black king out of c3, tying down the bishop to d1 pretty much permanently.


White decides to jettison the a-pawn in order to be able to keep the bishop active. The problem with this is given that it is the rook pawn, Black can create a passer on the a-file, whether does voluntarily by White as in the game, or via Black advancing the a- and b-pawns to create the passer. This passed pawn will cause Black to not have time to counter by attacking the Black pawns on the kingside.

32...Ka3 33.Bf3

Once again, 33.g4 is probably better. After the game move, White's idea is to attempt to pressure the Black pawn chain on b7 and c6 by advancing the b-pawn once the Black king takes on a2, and therefore opening up an entry point on d5 for the White bishop to get to g8. The problem is, this gives Black an uncontested a-pawn and it creates a major distraction for White.

33...Kxa2 34.b4


Black uses the fact that White can't stop everything to either create a majority for himself on the kingside or else make White spend time on the kingside and execute on the queenside. White decides that breaking up the pawn chain on the light squares is more important than trying to save the f-pawn.

35.b5 Bc6 36.bxc6 bxc6 37.Bxc6 Bxf2 38.Bd7


White was probably banking on Black playing 38...g6 and then trying to play 39.Be6 intending to go to g8 to make Black put his pawns on dark squares, and use his King to stop the a-pawn. Instead, Black leaves the f5 pawn hanging. As it turns out, White has no time to take the f-pawn.


After 39.Kc3, Black can play 39...g6 and it would take White too long to attack the pawn chain. Note that 39.Bxf5? doesn't work. After 39...a4, White has no way to stop the a-pawn without giving up his bishop once the pawn gets to a2. If Black wins White's bishop, the rest is easy. After the game move, Black puts his king on the ideal square for it, and then relocates the bishop to pressure the White pawns on the kingside.

39...Kb2 40.Bb5 Bd4 41.Bd7 Be5 42.Kd3 f4 43.gxf4 Bxf4 44.h3


Black completely immobilizes the h-pawn. Black's idea now, with White's pawn immobilized, is to start advancing the majority on the kingside and overwork the bishop.


White desperately tries giving up a pawn to make the king more mobile. Of course, it won't work with correct play by Black.

45...dxc5 46.Kc4 h6

The idea here is to be able to take on c2 without dropping the h-pawn as the result of a fork. If White protects his c-pawn, Black can protect his.

47.Ba4 Ka3 48.Be8

Or 48.Kb5 Be1 winning.

48...Bf2 49.Kb5


An important point that Black had to see in advance in order for the line of play selected to work. The king blocks the bishop from covering a4 and therefore allows Black to advance his passer.


The other critical factor that must be seen is that 50.Ka5 fails to win the a-pawn because of 50...Be1+!

50...g5 51.Kc3 Bd4+ 52.Kc4 h5

Played on the basis that if White takes the pawn via 53.Bxh5, then 53...Kb2 wins.

53.Kb5 g4 54.hxg4 hxg4 55.Bc6 Kb2 56.Be4

If 56.Kxa4, then 56...Kxc2 and the Black king will run to the kingside so that it can force White to give up his bishop for the g-pawn, and then coming back to win the game with the c-pawn. Instead, the game move creates another problem.

56...a3 0-1

White can't stop both the a-pawn and the g-pawn, and so he resigned.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Game Analysis: NC Closed Championship - Round 5

And then there were four, and it is now Judgment Day! Going into the final round, Mark Biernacki lead the pack with a perfect score of 4, and he was assigned Black on board 1 against Tianqi Wang, who along with Daniel Cremisi and myself, the game shown below from board two, were the only others in contention for the title with 3.5 each. From our perspective at board 2, we both needed to win, and we needed either a win from White or a draw on board 1.

Let's see what happened on board 2!

NC Closed CHampionship, Round 5
W: Patrick McCartney (2090)
B: Daniel Cremisi (2367)
Slav Defense

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 c6 4.c4

A direct transposition to the Slow Slav, which normally arises from 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3. Note that continuing in Colle style here with a move like 4.Bd3 or 4.c3 is ineffective. The success of the Colle System is reliant on Black blocking in his light-squared Bishop, and so after a move like 3...e6, then 4.Bd3 comes into play, but with 3...c6 played, White needs to strike at the Black center, and if Black does indeed bring the Bishop out, go for the Queenside weaknesses created by Black as a result of his Bishop abandoning the Queenside.

4...Bf5 5.cxd5

The "main line" is 5.Nc3 e6 6.Nh4 Bg6 7.Nxg6 hxg6, but the move played also has its venom, especially if Black doesn't know what he's doing. Even if he does, this move is no worse.

5...cxd5 6.Qb3 Qb6

Black's strongest response is thought to be 6...Qc7 7.Bd2 e6 8.Bb5+ and then he can block the check with either Knight move. White's advantage is minimal.

7.Qxb6 axb6 8.Nc3

Quoting GM Aaron Summerscale from his book A Killer Chess Opening Repertoire, "6...Qb6 7.Qxb6 axb6 8.Nc3 is a bit better for White due to Black's weak doubled b-pawns."

8...e6 9.Nh4 Bg6 10.Nxg6 hxg6 11.Bb5+ Nbd7 12.Bd2 Bd6 13.h3 O-O 14.O-O Rfd8 15.Rfc1 Ne4 16.Be1

The alternative would be for White to take on e4, saddling Black with doubled pawns, advance the a-pawn, and then double-up on the c-file with an advantage. For example, 16.Nxe4 dxe4 17.a3 Nf6 18.Rc2 g5 19.Rac1 +/=. The game move is also good.

16...Nxc3 17.bxc3 Nf6 Or 17...Ra3 18.c4 Nf6 19.cxd5 exd5 20.Rab1 Rda8 21.Bf1 Rxa2 22.Rxb6 Ra1 23.Rbb1 Rxb1 24.Rxb1 g5 25.Be2 Ra3 26.Bf3 Ra2 27.Kf1 Ne4 28.Rxb7 Ra1 with an advantage to White.


This is not a good move for White. Instead the immediate 18.a4 should have been preferred. For example, after 18...Ra7 19.f3 Ne8 20.Rcb1 Rda8 21.e4 Nc7 22.Bd3 b5 23.e5 Be7 24.Bxb5 Nxb5 25.Rxb5 Bg5 26.Rab1 Be3+ 27.Kf1 Rxa4, White has a clear advantage. Black's weakness on b7 is easier to access and attack than White's weakness on c3.


Black returns the favor by not playing 18...Ra3! first, and then pretty much proceeding with what he did in the game.

19.a4 Ne4 20.c4

White is anticipating Black's next few moves, and is going for pawn structure weaknesses in the Black camp. This is ok, but 20.Bd3 is stronger, holding on to the Bishop pair. The cost of saddling Black with weak pawns is White will lose the Bishop pair.

20...Nd6 21.cxd5 Nxb5 22.Rxb5 Rxd5 23.Rxd5 exd5

The fact that the position has been reduced to pieces that are not in White's best interest, such as the dark-squared Bishops, offsets the fact that Black's pawn structure is worse. White's advantage is minimal, and we see why now that 20.Bd3 would have been preferred.

24.Bb4 f6 25.Be7

With the idea of 26.Rc1 in response to a move like 25...Kf7.


Black wants nothing to do with that!

26.Bb4 Re6 27.Rc1 Rc6 28.Rxc6?

This move does White in as his advantage is gone. White is still better after 28.Bd2 or 28.Rc3. Now the game is drawn.

28...bxc6 29.Kf1 Kf7 30.Ke2 Ke6 31.Kd3 Bd6 32.a5

This was White's whole idea, but it's nothing more than a trick shot. Black of course can't take the Bishop. The rest of the game is nothing more than a feeble attempt by both sides to look for a few trick plays, but outside of a couple of feeble traps, such as Black making the wrong capture on move 33 or White playing the wrong move at move 57, there is nothing here for either side.


32...Bxb4?? 33.a6 +-

33.dxc5 bxa5 24.Bxa5 Bxc5 35.Bc3 Bd6 36.Bd4 Be5 37.Kc3 Kf5 38.Kb4 Bb8 39.Kc5 Ke6 40.Kc6 Bh2 41.f4 Bg3 42.Kc5 Be1 43.g4 Ba5 44.Kc6 Bd8 45.Bc3 Be7 46.Bd4 Bb4 47.Bc5 Ba5 48.Bd4 Be1 49.Bc5 Bg3 50.Bd4 Bh2 51.Kc5 Bg3 52.Kc6 Be1 53.Kc5 Bd2 54.Kc6 Bb4 55.Bc5 Bxc5 56.Kxc5 g5 57.fxg5

This move followed by immediately forcing off the central pawns seals the draw.

57...fxg5 58.Kd4 Kd6 59.e4 dxe4 60.Kxe4 Ke6 61.Kd4 Kd6 62.Ke4 g6 63.Kd4 Ke6 64.Ke4 Kd6 65.Kd4 Ke6 66.Ke4 Kd6 67.Kd4 1/2-1/2

So the game ended in a draw a board 2, but as it turns out, Biernacki had won at board 1 anyway, giving him the state title at a perfect 5 points. With board 3 being decisive, Daniel, myself, and one other tied for second with a final score of 4.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Reverse Angle 79

Author: Grant Oen, CCCSA Assistant Director

A sumptuous turnout of 64 players from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia competed in Reverse Angle 79.  The $850 prize fund was divided into three sections, Top, Under 1800, and Under 1400.

The top section of Reverse Angle is always strong, this time with 22 players, with the top seeds being National Masters Joshua "cows go" Mu (2250) and the newly crowned NC State Champion Mark "re-entry" Biernacki (2209).  There were also six experts in the event, including Dominique "NM" Myers (2115), NCSU student Benjamin Snodgrass (2060), and David Stamper (2004), whose last rated tournament was Reverse Angle 28 in 2012!

In the end, Vishnu "Vishy" Vanapalli (2027) and David Stamper, who is staging a big return to chess, each scored 3-0, earning $125 each.  Adharsh Rajagopal (1986), Henry Hopson (1873), Garret Allen (1828), and Carson Cook (1819) split the Under 2000 prize, good for $12.50 each.

Under 1800
The U1800 section featured 21 players rated 1300-1800, including Chessstream's Chacha Dejava (1781) and frequent CCCSA prize winner Michael Miller (1746).

Chacha Dejava and Connor Liu (1719) each won $112.50 for their perfect scores, and Ian MacNair (1584) and Grisham Paimagam (1559) split the $50 Under 1600 prize.

Under 1400
The 21 player U1400 section was led by top seeds and perennial U1400 powerhouses Gautam "got em" Kapur (1370), Paige Cook (1369), and Bhavani "did I win a prize" Dhulipalla (1336).

Nikhil "I have a question" Deshpande (1005) performed a clean sweep of the section, winning $150.  Gautam Kapur and Andrew Bouman (1065) tied for second place and the Under 1200 prize, earning $62.50 each.

UPSETS - 150 points or more
Under 1400, Round 1 - Nikhil Deshpande (1005) def. Pranav Swarna (1316) - 311 points
Under 1400, Round 1 - Adhith Srikanth (1086) def. Paige Cook (1369) - 283 points
Under 1400, Round 1 - Andrew Bouman (1065) def. Bhavani Dhulipalla (1336) - 271 points
Under 1400, Round 1 - Smayan Ammansani (979) def. Matthew Odom (1243) - 264 points
Top, Round 3 - David Stamper (2004) def. Joshua Mu (2250) - 246 points
Under 1400, Round 1 - Sarvajith Nalaneelan (870) def. Senthil Muthusamy (1105) - 235 points
Under 1800, Round 2 - Sampath Kumar (1487) def. Andrew Chen (1721) - 234 points
Under 1400, Round 3 - Henry Nguyen (877) def. Senthil Muthusamy (1105) - 228 points
Under 1400, Round 2 - Andrew Bouman (1065) def. Allan Miller (1285) - 220 points
Under 1400, Round 2 - Nikhil Deshpande (1005) def. Robert Murray-Gramlich (1218) - 213 points
Top, Round 1 - Austin Chuang (1841) def. Sulia Mason (2023) - 182 points
Top, Round 3 - Vishnu Vanapalli (2027) def. Mark Biernacki (2209) - 182 points
Under 1400, Round 3 - Nikhil Deshpande (1005) def. Akshay Rajagopal (1176) - 171 points
Top, Round 3 - Henry Hopson (1873) def. Sulia Mason (2023) - 150 points

USCF Rated Results

Upcoming Tournaments:

Until next time,
NM (not master) Grant "black shoes" Oen

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Game Analysis: NC Closed Championship - Round 4

After two fairly simple wins on Saturday, I am headed into the final day of the tournament amongst the top six in the standings. Three players had a perfect score while three others, one of them myself, were a half point behind. For the fourth round, I am Black once again, this time against James Dill, another 2000 player. This is the fourth time that we have faced, and the fourth time that I have had Black against him, with myself having a perfect 3 and 0 record. All three of those games started with the line of the French that I recommend for Black against the Advance Variation in the Introduction article of the French Repertoire that I wrote over the course of Mid-August to Mid-November, namely 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Bd7 5.Nf3 a6. Given the fact that with this being board 3, the match up was figured out the night before, and having played the same variation of the same opening three times, I didn't want to risk potential preparation from the night before, despite having won all three times. Therefore, instead of executing a French Defense for the fourth straight time against him, despite how beautiful my Round 3 game was executing the French Defense, I decided to go in the direction of the Petroff. Needless to say, it turned out to work in my favor as White's Queenside, outside of the Knight, never gets into the game, and White ends up playing, for all intents and purposes, down a Rook!

NC Closed Championship, Round 4
W: James Dill (2011)
B: Patrick McCartney (2090)
Petroff Defense

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.O-O Be7 8.Re1 Bg4 9.c3

The game move and 9.c4 are White's main options in this line. Note that trying to grab a pawn via 9.Bxe4? dxe4 10.Rxe4 Bxf3 11.gxf3 (or 11.Qxf3 Nxd4, giving the pawn back) is bad for White. The structural damage that White suffers is not worth the pawn.



Stronger and more normal are 10.Nbd2 or 10.Qb3. The move played in the game is actually weakening to White's position. It gives Black a hook, and it also weakens the h2-b8 diagonal. As we will see on Black's 19th move, advancing the g-pawn will often cause the h-pawn to hang. White should wait to advance any of the pawns in front of his King until he is forced to do so.


Black should instead play 10...Bh5. The pin on the Knight is the primary annoyance for White.


White gets a substantial advantage after 11.gxf3! Yes, White's pawn structure is shattered, but unlike the 9.Bxe4 line, Black's Knight is still on e4 and must move, gaining time for White, and there are no good places for the Knight to go. For example, 11...Nf6 12.Bxf5 is considered best, but White is still better and up a pawn, and he can use the open g-file for his heavy pieces. After 11...Nd6 12.Qb3!, Black again is in trouble. After the game move, Black has virtually no problems.

11...O-O 12.Nd2 Bd6 13.Nb3 Qh4 14.c4 Nb4 15.Rf1 Nxd3 16.Qxd3 dxc4 17.Qxc4+ Kh8


This move can't be good. White has two undeveloped pieces. The Bishop and the a1-Rook. The only undeveloped Black piece is the a8-Rook. On one side, it looks like White is trying to dethrone the Black Knight from the e4-square. However, all Black has to do is simply move the Knight, not trading it off, and then the c1-Bishop that is blocking in the a1-Rook is now being blocked in by the d2-Knight. This makes Black's decision fairly easy on what to do with the Knight.


This move not only avoids the Knight trade, but the Knight eyes the h3-pawn, which Black's next move will force the h3-pawn to hang.

19.Qd5 Qf4 20.g3

Unfortunately forced. Now the cover for the White King is about to be completely stripped.

20...Nxh3+ 21.Kg2 Qg4 22.Nf3


While this sacrifice works and Black is winning, mainly because White still has a Rook completely out of play, even stronger is 22...Bxg3! where after 23.fxg3 f4, White is dead!

23.Rxf2 Bxg3 24.Nh2 Bxh2+?

Much stronger is 24...Qh5!. The Bishop can't be taken because 25.Kxg3 is answered by 25...f4+, winning the White Queen.

25.Kxh2 c6

Possibly stornger for Black here is 25...Rf6, which is also close to equal after 26.Bd2 Qh5+ 27.Kg1 Rg6+ 28.Rg2 c6 29.Qc4 Rxg2+ 30.Kxg2 Qg4+ (or 30...Re8 31.Re1 with equality) 31.Kf2 Qh4+ 32.Kg2 Re8 33.Rg1 Re4 and while the position is close to equal, White still has a very difficult task defending the position, starting with the move 34.Kf1, which isn't obvious.


White misses his chance, and at this point, Black doesn't look back. After 26.Qf3! Qxd4 27.Be3, Black has no advantage!

26...Rae8 27.Qf4 Qh5+ 28.Kg2 Re1 29.Rf1


The position is still better for Black after this move, but in some ways, Black is getting too cute. Of course White can't take the pawn as 30.Qxg5? Re2+ followed by 31...Rg8 winning the Queen, but a much cleaner attack by Black would be to play 29...Re2+ 30.Rf2 Rfe8 and Black is simply winning.


Correct is 30.Qf3! Re2+ 31.Rf2 Rxf2+ 32.Kxf2 Qh2+ 33.Qg2 Qh4+ 34.Qg3 Qxd4+ 35.Qe3 Qh4+ 36.Qg3 Qxg3+ 37.Kxg3 f4+ 38.Kg4 h6 39.Kh5 Kg7 and while Black is still better, winning this position will still require a lot of work and many accurate moves by Black in order for him to win the game.


The death ticket to the White King.

31.Qf3 Rg4+ 32.Kf2 Qh2+ 33.Ke1 Re8+ 0-1

White resigned as 34.Be3 is answered by 34...Qxb2 and there is no way for White to hold his position together at this point.

This game was clearly by no means as well played by me as were rounds 2 and 3. That said, winning a game of chess doesn't always require perfect play, and many times, keeping up the pressure is often enough to cause the opposing side to bend and eventually break. That said, there were still opportunities for White to get back into the game, and often times, players with a stripped King will have that sense of being distraught and will often times lose focus on the position, and make any move that makes even a remote amount of logical sense when in reality, a situation like that which White was in this game is the exact moment that focusing and playing the best move on every turn becomes the most critical.

On the flip side, for Black, it is a sign that just because the position looks assuring doesn't mean that you can suddenly relax and think that any move of an attacking piece to a square near the opposing King necessarily means that it is a good move. Every move, a list of candidates needs to be established, and each and every one of them must be researched in granular detail. Often times, two or more moves make appear to make little or not difference, and will often look like they will simply transpose to one another, but many times one move is significantly better than the other due to very minor, though critical, details.

This win put me at three-and-a-half out of four, and in a three-way tie for second place at that time, with one player having a perfect score of four. Stay tuned as the next article will show what happened in that final round.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Simple Chess: Officially a Featured Streamer

Fellow chess players,

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families. I hope that you have a wonderful day of food, family, and relaxation.

I have exciting news to share with you!

I have officially been named a streamer. What does this mean? Well, it means I stream playing chess on using my Twitch channel. It also means that from time to time will help advertise my streams through Twitter and other platforms.

In fact, this Friday (November 24) I will be doing a live stream from 11pm until 2am and will be advertising on Twitter. I would love to see all of you in the stream if you are able to make it. Also, if you want to play some games Friday night let me know so I can send you a friend request on

If you can't make it this Friday then my entire schedule is posted below. I appreciate any support you are able to show to help make the community around my stream the best there is.

Twitch Stream Schedule (Weekly and all times are Eastern time)
Monday 11pm - 2am
Wednesday 11pm - 2am
Friday 11pm - 2am

See you over a chessboard or on a live stream,

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Game Analysis: NC Closed Championship - Round 3

In this article, we will analyze my round 3 game of the NC Closed Championship. So after re-entering the tournament with a half-point bye for round 1 and the strong performance in round 2, I walk into the room Saturday night with a point and a half and am assigned to play Black against the only other player with a point and a half, Scott Haubrich, at board 5.

The game is a French Tarrasch, and for those of you that have read my previous articles on Beating the French Tarrasch in September and on my game analysis from The New Hampshire Open in July, specifically round 2, will know that my take on beating the Tarrasch is understanding the ideas and not memorizing reams of theory. (NOTE: Clicking the article titles will take you there for those of you that haven't read them previously and would like to.)

This game is an excellent model game for understanding the ideas, and knowing how to put White away when he or she violates many of the principles in the French Tarrasch. You will also note that rather than the overly passive play in the game from The New Hampshire Open, the biggest violation committed in this game was not developing all of his pieces, and White gets put away in very short order.

So, without further ado, let's see what happened.

NC Closed Championship, Round 3
W: Scott Haubrich (2044)
B: Patrick McCartney (2090)
French Defense

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.exd5 exd5

Pretty much following the repertoire in the article posted in September. More often, the fourth and fifth moves will be inverted, but as was discussed then, move order tricks are always available to White, and what you do against 4.Ngf3 has to mesh with what you do against 4.exd5 because one can lead right back to the other, as was the case here via White opting to exchange the pawn rather than advance the pawn.

6.Bb5+ Bd7 7.Qe2+

This is an alternative to the main line, which is 7.Bxd7+, but it is not played nearly as frequently at the master level because the Queen can get harassed on the open file by a Black Rook in the near future, gaining time, as we will see later on in this game.


Playing 7...Qe7 is inferior. White gets the better position in an endgame because of the pawn structure. Black is about to be saddled with an isolated queen pawn, a.k.a. IQP, and the main trump for the player with the IQP is free piece play. Well, trading them off, and particularly the Queens, is not best in these circumstances.


More normal here is 8.dxc5, but the pawn grab is only temporary, like it is for Black in the Queen's Gambit Accepted (1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4). After 8...O-O, White can't really hold on to the extra pawn without destroying his own position. For example, after 9.Nb3 Re8 10.Be3 a6 11.Bd3 Ba4 12.Nfd4 Nbd7 13.O-O Nxc5, Black has regained the pawn with a level position. Note that Black can also regain the pawn by tactical means after 9.Nb3 via 9...Bxc5 10.Nxc5 Re8 11.Be3 Qa5+ followed by 12...Qxb5 or 12...Bxb5, depending on how White gets out of check.

Note that 9...b4? is even worse. After 9...Bxc5! 10.bxc5 (10.Bxd7 Nbxd7 doesn't help the cause) Re8! 11.Ne5 Bxb5 12.Qxb5 Rxe5+ is significantly better for Black. As mentioned in the note to White's 7th move, this idea of putting the Queen on e2 in order to grab the pawn on c5 can severely backfire on White.

Therefore, White should simply castle and make Black recapture the pawn with his Bishop rather than with the Knight like he normally does in the 5...Nf6 line and test Black's knowledge on the position. There is no advantage for White in this line outside of a psychological one if Black doesn't know his stuff.

So now let's go back to the game move, 8.Ne5, and look at a diagram.

So compared to the more normal lines of the Tarrasch with 5...Nf6, whether it be the main line with 7.Bxd7 as discussed in the Tarrasch article from September, or the 7.Qe2+ line discussed above, what can we say about the position after 8.Ne5? Well, for starters, White has moved a piece in the opening twice for unnecessary reasons. The Knight was not attacked, unlike the Bishop on move 7, which gives it the right to move again, and in this case, would normally capture its perpetrator on d7. The Knight was not in the way of other pieces, unlike say, in the Round 2 game in the previous article where White moved Ne5 early on to get out of the way of the Bishop and Queen to control g4 and h5, and allow White to go for the h-pawn advance. Here Black has not advanced his Kingside pawns at all, and so there is no hook for White to latch onto, and hence no reason for early advancement of the Kingside Pawns for White. It does attack d7 one more time, but Black has it well covered with his Knights on f6 and b8, and the Queen on d8. So the only thing that Black needs to figure out is whether or not there is a major problem for Black if he gives up his Light-Squared Bishop for a White Knight. Well, if Black is without his Light-Squared Bishop, he can harass the White Bishop with the move ...a6, and if the Bishop retreats to d3 rather than trade itself off, Black can play the move ...c4, forcing the Bishop to f5, and since Black still has his Dark-Squared Bishop, the move ...g6 should be fine for Black provided the Knight on f6 doesn't hang, and this would again force White to either take on d7, making the light squares a complete non-issue, or else retreat the Bishop to a passive square like h3. Now even if White takes the pawn on c5 first, allowing the Bishop to rest on d3, the move ...g6 will still plug up the diagonal, and Black's Bishop or Knight will land on c5, activating yet another piece for Black. Black also has tempo-gaining moves coming like ...Re8, hitting the White Queen. In the meantime, White spends another move to take the Bishop on d7, and in that time, Black develops a piece via the recapture, whereas White has traded away his developed piece. So what this boils down to is that Black should not mind giving up the Bishop for the White Knight on the basis that he can't get immediately killed on the light squares, and he will be light years ahead in development by not spending time doing something like taking White's Bishop on b5. Therefore, through basic logic and reasoning, Black's next move should be obvious.


Now even here I would say that White should probably castle and not fall behind in development. The d-pawn, while technically hanging, is not a real issue for White as Black would be left with doubled isolated pawns and White should easily be able to gain one of them.


Instead, White trades off what is arguably his best placed piece on the board, and grabs what is arguably Black's worst minor piece just to get the Bishop pair, and in the mean time, Black gets to develop his last minor piece in the recapture. This is a prime case of reasoning out what to do when White doesn't play the main moves, and understanding what to do here is more important than memorizing "correct play". You can use these ideas to figure out the right moves in correct play if you don't remember them, but not understanding these ideas will throw you for a tailspin when correct play is not executed by White.

9...Nbxd7 10.O-O a6

As mentioned previously, Black's idea is to force White to part with his Bishop for a Knight, and development of yet another piece for Black at the cost of a developed piece for White, or else force it to h3 and then follow that up with ...Re8.


White decides to part with the Bishop so that he can follow up with saddling Black with the IQP.


Those that have read the articles mentioned at the top will know that a sore spot for Black is f5, and not e5. Therefore, connecting the Rooks and taking with the Queen, which covers f5, makes more sense than taking with the Knight to cover c5 and e5. If White takes the pawn on c5, the Bishop can always recapture now that Black has castled. Outside of re-positioning the connected Rooks, presumably to e8 and either c8 or d8, Black's development is done! White's? Not so much! His Bishop and Rook are both undeveloped. The f1-Rook will want to re-position itself, presumably to e1, and the Knight has to relocate itself to let the Bishop out. Black is already at least slightly better.

12.dxc5 Bxc5 13.Nb3


An intermezzio move that once again shows that putting the Queen on e2 early on just to check the Black King is going to come back to bite White in the butt.


Black has a big advantage after 14.Nxc5 Rxe2 15.Nxd7 Nxd7 16.c3 Rae8.

14...Bb6 15.c3 Ng4

With the threat of 16...Nxf2 and 17...Re1+. In the mean time, the Knight is headed for e5.

16.Nd4 Ne5 17.Qd1 Rad8

Black develops his final piece while almost all of White's pieces are where they started. Black also has a cunning trap set up if White falls for it. If he doesn't, Black's position is still better. Putting the Rook on d8 backs up the Queen,and allows Black to use the e4 outpost without White having a tricks of taking and using the pin on the d-pawn to the Queen. There didn't seem to be any activity available for Black on the c-file, and hence the decision to go to the d-file instead.


White falls right into it! White should have developed the Bishop, whether it be to e3, f4, or g5.

18...Bxd4 19.cxd4

Unfortunately forced as 19.Qxd4? drops the exchange to 19...Nf3+


A very annoying move for White to have to face.


The lesser evils were either 20.Re2 Qg4 or 20.Rf1 Nb4, holding Black's advantage to a minimum.

20...Rxe3 21.fxe3 Qf5!

White is in a heap of trouble now.


This move loses on the spot. White had to try either 22.Bd2 or a Queen move like 22.Qd2, 22.Qe2, or 22.Qf1, but Black has a winning attack in all lines. Just not quite as easy as the one in the game.

22...Qf2+ 23.Kh1 Ne1 0-1

Game Over! The only way to stop both mate threats on f1 and g2 is to jettison the Queen, and even then it's only temporary.

Through basic understanding of the position, using the ideas from the articles mentioned at the beginning, Black won this game fairly easily, and it should be noted that with the game having a time control of G/120 with a 5 second delay, Black still had 81 minutes on the clock! There were only two moves the entire game where I spent more than 4 minutes, and that was figuring out where to put the Bishop on move 14 (d6, b6, or a7) and figuring out where to put the Rook on move 17 (c8 or d8). Otherwise, basic strategy and understanding of the opening themes instead of deep opening theory carried me through.

So at this point in the tournament, I have two and a half points out of three. Another major factor was that both games on Saturday (see the previous article on Round 2 for the Saturday afternoon game) were fun to play. In neither game did the opponent put up much resistance, and as a result, neither game was highly stressful, and energy levels were fully intact heading into Sunday.

Stay tuned as the Sunday games will be published shortly after the holiday weekend. Everybody have a good Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Upcoming Charlotte Chess Center Events

Tuesday, November 21 - Tuesday Night Action Round 3

Wednesday, November 22 - Sunday, November 26 - GM/IM Norm Invitational and Junior Invitational

Tuesday, November 28 - Tuesday Night Action Round 4

Saturday, December 2 - Reverse Angle 78

Tuesday, December 5 - Tuesday Night Action Round 5

Thursday, December 7 - First Thursday Blitz

Saturday, December 9 - Unrated Scholastic

Tuesday, December 12 - Tuesday Night Action Round 1

Friday, December 15 - Sunday, December 17 - Southeastern FIDE Championship

Tuesday, December 19 - CCCSA Holiday Party!  No Tuesday Night Action.

Wednesday, December 20 - Friday, December 22 - Winter Break Chess Camp

We will be closed Tuesday, December 26

Game Analysis: NC Closed Championship - Round 2

This article plus the next three by me will cover my road to second place in the NC Closed Championship.

I actually started off the tournament with a complete dud as White against Xiaodong Jin (1830) and decided to re-enter, taking a half point bye for the first round. I was initially a little skeptical about it despite being the 8 seed out of 36 players given that the loss had me riding a four game losing streak, but I went ahead and did it anyway, and little did I know that it would actually pay off in the end as the extra $40 turned into $300!

So without further ado, let's get started. In this article, I'm going to thoroughly analyze my round 2 game against Solomon Painter. Future articles will cover rounds 3 through 5.

North Carolina Closed Championship, Round 2
W: Patrick McCartney (2090)
B: Solomon Painter (1836)
Barry Attack

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Nc3

This move can be very annoying to King's Indian players. White is threatening to play 4.e4, which after a move like 3...d6, would transpose to the Pirc Defense, an opening that not a lot of King's Indian players play. The only reasonable way to stop the transposition is to play the move 3...d5, which Black does in the game, but while this move is natural to someone that normally plays the Grunfeld, most King's Indian players loathe this move, but their choice here is to either play that or else deal with playing a Pirc Defense. I will add that I did happen to notice Solomon playing the Black side of a King's Indian in the fourth round!

3...d5 4.Bf4

This is the starting point of the Barry Attack, not to be confused with the London System where the White Knight normally goes to d2 and the c-pawn is pushed to either c3 or c4. Mark Hebden was a major advocate of this opening. The idea in the Barry Attack is simple. Maintain a position that is free of weaknesses for White, and if Black plays actively in the center and on the Queenside, White aims for a slightly favorable endgame. If Black plays passively, White goes for a caveman-like attack via shoving the h-pawn up the board to get at the Black King. The latter is what happens in this one.

4...c6 5.e3 Bg7 6.Be2 O-O

Black is applying no pressure to White's center, therefore ...

7.Ne5 Nbd7 8.h4

Here we go with the Kingside attack.


As much as it appears to weaken Black's Kingside, either 8...h5 or 8...Nxe5 9.Bxe5 h5 was absolutely necessary. It does gain Black at least a move or two as after 8...h5, the immediate 9.g4? drops a pawn after 9...Nxe5 and 10...Bxg4. While a computer might try to claim equality after 8...h5, White still has the trumps, and Black is likely playing for nothing more than a draw.


The threat of 9...Ne4, while not fatal, was extremely annoying for White, and so he prevents it with this move as now 9...Ne4?? would drop a piece to 10.Nxe4 as the Queen is hanging on a5, and if he takes on d2, White takes back with the Knight on e4 and it's no longer being attacked.

Now you might be thinking "Great! Even one less piece of White's is covering g4! 9...h5 or 9...Nxe5 10.Bxe5 h5 must be even better than it was before!" Actually, it's just the opposite. as after 9...h5 10.Nd3 or 9...Nxe5 10.Bxe5 h5 11.f3, Black has nothing better than to retreat the Queen back to d8, losing the time gained for slowing down White's attack and other moves simply don't work. For example, after 9...h5 10.Nd3, the move 10...Nb6 can be answered by either 11.Bc7 or 11.b3, both of which are better for White.

9...Nxe5 10.Bxe5 e6

I presume that Black was looking to play ...c5 without dropping the d-pawn as 10...c5? is answered by 11.Bxf6 and no matter how Black takes back, he has no tricks to regain the pawn. For example, 11...Bxf6 12.Nxd5 Qxd2+ 13.Kxd2 cxd4 is answered by 14.Nxf6+ while the lesser evil, 11...exf6, is answered by 12.Nxd5 Qxd2+ 13.Kxd2 cxd4 14.exd4 and again there are no tricks to win the pawn back without wrecking the position. For example, 14...Rd8 15.Bf3 Be6 16.c4 f5 17.Kc3 Rac8 18.Ne7+ Kf8 19.Nxc8 Bxd4+ 20.Kb3 Rxc8 21.Bd5 Bxd5 22.cxd5 Bxf2 23.h5 Ke7 24.Rac1 Rxc1 25.Rxc1 and while the material is equal, the position is not! The position after 25...Kd6 26.Rc8 Kxd5 27.Rh8 Ke6 28.Rxh7 gxh5 29.Rh6+ followed by 30.Rxh5 is winning for White as is 25...Kd7 26.Rh1 and now both 26...Bd4 27.Kc4 Bxb2 28.Rb1 and 26...Bg3 27.hxg6 hxg6 28.Rh7 Ke7 29.Kc4 are both winning for White.

11.h5 Bd7 12.g4 Rac8

This move is an error as White can now force Black to either lose material, or pry open his Kingside. Black should have played the other Rook instead with 12...Rfc8.


Plugging up the last available escape square for the Knight without having to take on h5 once the g-pawn is pushed. Instead, Black can surrender the exchange with 13...Ne8 or 13...Rd8 14.g5 Ne8 15.Be7, but no matter white, Black is in major trouble.

13...Rfe8 14.g5 Nxh5 15.Bxh5 gxh5


White is in no hurry to grab the h-pawn as it is literally going nowhere. White would rather take on h5 with the Queen instead of the Rook. However, after something like 16.Qd1, Black has 16...e5 17.Qxh5, Black has 17...Bf5, defending his Kingside. Therefore, we block the e-pawn so that the Bishop can't come to the rescue of h7.


This trade really doesn't help Black at all. The immediate 16...c5 is preferable, though still significantly better for White, if not already winning.

17.dxe5 c5 18.Qd1 Kf8

Black does not have time to hunt down the Knight. After 18...d4?, White doesn't bother to capture twice on d4, but rather, play 19.Qxh5, winning as 19...dxe3 20.Qxh7+ Kf8 21.Qh8+ Ke7 22.Qf6+ Kf8 23.Rh8 is mate as is 19...Kf8 20.Qh6+ Ke7 21.Qf6+ Kf8 22.Rxh7 and mate can't be stopped. That leaves 19...Bc6, which is answered by 20.Qxh7+ Kf8 21.g6 Rc7 22.Qh8+ Ke7 23.Qf6+ Kd7 24.gxf7 Bxh1 25.fxe8=Q+ Kxe8 26.O-O-O and Black is busted. He can't take the Knight because of mate on d8. If he moves 26...Bc6, then White breaks through in the center starting with 27.exd4. If he moves the Bishop anywhere that White can trade his Knight for it, he can follow up with Rh1 with mate soon to come, and going to g2 simply drops the Bishop to a fork.

19.Qxh5 Ke7

And here inlies Black's other major problem. His own pieces block all the light squares, and so the Black King must walk down the path of the treacherous dark squares!


Both defending the d4-square and threatening discoveries on the King, leading to an advanced passed pawn on the seventh rank.


Getting out of the discovery with 20...Kf8?? leads to the same mate as discussed in the note to Black's 18th move. Also worth noting is that 20...Qb4 doesn't work either. White can simply answer with 21.f4! and White will castle Queenside the following move as 21...Qxb2?? leads once again to mate, this time via 22.g6+ Kf8 23.g7+ Kxg7 24.Qh6+ Kg8 25.Rg1+ Kh8 26.Qg7 mate.

21.g6+ Kc7 22.gxf7

This is where you can throw general principles out the window. Yes, a passed pawn on the edge of the board, especially with most of Black's pieces on the complete other side of the board, maybe harder to stop, but here, gaining the tempo and forcing the Rook off of the e-file is more critical so that the Queen can come in.

22.Rh8 23.Qe7

Threatening 24.Qd6+ Kd8 25.f8=Q, winning a Rook. Note also that Black can't win the Knight with 23...d4 as not only does White have major threats around the Black King, but even if White had nothing else, he could trade pawns once on d4 and follow up with a check on d6 and then grabbing the pawn. That said, White's after bigger things, like mating the King or winning a Rook.


Giving the King the c8-square and allowing the Rook to continue to eye f8.


There is no reason to go pawn hunting with 24.Qxc5+ as then White would need to go back to e7 to hold his major trump card on f7. Instead, White gets two more pieces involved in the attack. The dormant Rook that was sitting on a1, and the Knight on c3 that has been pinned for most of the game.

24...Kc8 25.Rh6

Setting up even more problems if Black tries to use the Queen to cover the d6-square.

25...Qa6 26.Rf6

Covering f2 in the event of any checks on f1 once the Rook leaves the back rank and also threatening to win a Rook via promotion on f8.


27.Rxd5!! 1-0

The fatal blow to Black's position. White's threat is 28.Rxd7 Rxd7 29.Qxf8+ followed by 30.Qc5+ and promotion of the f-pawn. If Black takes the Rook via 27...exd5, then 28.Rxa6 bxa6 29.Nxd5 and Black is not surviving this as 30.e6 is coming. Therefore, exhausting all of his possibilities, Black resigned.

In the next three articles, I will cover the final three rounds of the NC Closed Championship. For completeness, and for those of you that are curious how I got pounded in the first round, I had White in the following game against Xiaodong Jin (1830): 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.e3 b6 4.Bd3 Bb7 5.O-O d5 6.b3 Bd6 7.Bb2 O-O 8.Nbd2 Nbd7 9.Ne5 c5 10.Nxd7 Nxd7 11.f4 cxd4 12.exd4 Qh4 13.Qf3 Rac8 14.Rae1 Nf6 15.g3 Qh3 16.Re2 Rc7 17.Rg2 Qg4 18.h3 Qxf3 19.Nxf3 Ne4 20.Ne5 f5 21.Kh2 g6 (I declined a draw offer at this point) 22.c4 Bxe5 23.dxe5?? (23.fxe5 is equal. The move played loses.) 23...Nc5 24.Ba3 (Maybe not the best way to handle it, but no matter what, Black's winning material.) 24...dxc4 25.Bxc4 Bxg2 26.Kxg2 Rd8 27.b4 Rd2+ 28.Kg1 Rc2 29.Rc1 Rxc1+ 30.Bxc1 Kf7 31.Be3 Ne4 32.Bb3 Rc3 33.Bf2 Nxg3 34.Kg2 Nh5 0-1

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Simple Chess: #100DaysofChess is Moving to Twitch

#100DaysofChess by the numbers:

8 days completed
~4 hours of training
8 videos
90.1% accuracy
91 puzzles attempted
9 puzzles failed
Starting tactics rating: 1574
Current tactics rating: 1895

Today is the 9th day of my #100DaysofChess challenge. I have committed myself to spending at least 30 minutes every day towards improving my chess abilities. Part of the challenge is posting publicly about my progress to make sure I truly hold myself accountable. 

I am excited about the continued progress that I will make by staying dedicated. In fact, I have some exciting news regarding the new format of #100DaysofChess. Starting today I will be live streaming my #100DaysofChess sessions on Twitch as part of becoming a and Twitch partner. I will be streaming today at 1100AM as part of a special first time stream. After today my #100DaysofChess streams will occur every night at 11PM. 

As of right now my plan is to stream every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday night immediately following #100DaysofChess and going until 1am. During these streams I will be playing bullet and blitz games on with anyone and everyone. I would love it if you were able to make it on the stream even as a spectator. 

Thanks for reading!


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Opening Preparation: Beating the French with the Advance Variation

Thus far, we have looked at six articles that, outside of the first half of the introduction, have been predominantly written for Black. Now we are going to switch gears, and cover what White should do against the French Defense. Now those of you that have read the first six articles probably already have some idea on what my take is on the French Defense.

First, a Little History on my Experience with the French Defense

I first learned how to play the game of chess in 1983 when I was in third grade. One classmate of mine and I were so far above the others in math that our teacher taught us the game and this is what we played during recess on days that it rained and recess took place in the classroom. For the next 11 years, I played occasionally. Then came the 1994-1995 school year, my sophomore year of college at Winthrop University, and there were four of us that played many nights in the lobby of the dorm in the middle of the night, one of which being the person that operated the entrance door to the dorm that was locked at midnight each night. A year later, in the Fall of 1995, an RA (Residence Assistant - a student that is hired to head one floor of a residence hall) by the name of Gil Holmes ran a small tournament between 7 other students and himself. This lead to Gil Holmes and myself probably played about a thousand blitz games over the course of my final five semesters in college (and we've gone to many tournaments since then, and now our kids hang out together at times, but that's another topic), and I read my first three chess books over the course of the 1995-1996 school year. "Winning Chess Tactics" and "Winning Chess Strategies" by Yasser Sieriwan and "How to Win in the Chess Endings" by I.A. Horowitz. During that time, I was playing blitz games against another player by the name of Mark Roach (some of you might recognize the name as he's played in limited tournaments in North Carolina), and unlike Gil at the time, Mark was a big 1.e4 player, and I experimented with various moves as Black, not knowing anything about openings. Just basic tactics, strategy, and endgames. When I played 1...e6 and 2...d5, something clicked. I asked if what I was playing was an opening and if it had a name, and was informed that it was called the French Defense, which lead to the first opening book I ever read, Wolfgang Uhlmann's "Winning With the French". This is now 1996. I also at that time picked up the Queen's Gambit as both White and Black, and this is what I played in my first tournament in 1996, the Statesville Open. I continued to play a bunch of blitz in college and studied books, but didn't play another tournament until March of 1997 in Rock Hill, SC. This is when I started played in tournaments regularly, including well over 50 games in 1997, and over 100 games every year from 1998 until 2015, a streak that was broken in 2016 where I only played 93 games.

Well, during those years, while I have played other openings as well against 1.e4, including 1...e5, the Caro-Kann, the Najdorf and Taimanov Sicilian, the Modern Defense, and brief stints of the Pirc, Scandinavian, and Alekhine, I have known the French Defense for over 20 years now. I probably have at minimum 400 to 500 games as Black with the French Defense, and possibly more. I've had great results with it.

That said, there has been two major difficulties with the French. The first is 3.Nc3. This is known to be White's strongest move against the French. White will always have a slight advantage with this line if played properly. If Black ever proved full equality here, everyone would play the French Defense. That said, there is a TON of theory that White must know to be able to maintain that advantage. In addition to the move 3...Nf6 that we covered here in the previous two articles, White must also be ready for the Rubinstein Variation (3...dxe4) and the Winawer (3...Bb4), the latter of which has even more theory to it than 3...Nf6. You could spend a lifetime just trying to figure out how to retain that advantage with 3.Nc3.

From 1997 until about 2007, it was thought that 3.Nc3 was White's only choice to get an advantage. Then came a rough patch for Black. A GM by the name of Evgeny Sveshnikov was a major contributor, amongst others, that started finding many new ideas for White in the Advance Variation of the French Defense. 3.e5 started becoming more popular, and White was starting to get excellent results. It was figured out that the main reason why Black was scoring so well previously wasn't because the Advance Variation was bad, but rather, that White wasn't following up with the correct lines. The Milner-Barry Gambit (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Qb6 6.Bd3?!) was popular, but it's not very good. Others, after the same first five moves by each side, were playing the more conservative 6.Be2, but this does nothing for White and equality is extremely easy for Black to achieve. In 2007, that all changed, so much to the point that the French Defense for me went from being my main defense to 1.e4 from 1997 to 2007, to being a defense that I only played on rare occasion for 2007 to 2015, before picking it back up in 2015 and playing the line shown in the Introduction article. So the ideas in the Advance French have come a very long way just in the 20 year span that I have played the French Defense, and it is of my firm belief that aside from 3.Nc3, the Advance French is a legitimate way to get an advantage against the French Defense, and that aside from these two moves, 3.Nc3 and 3.e5, White has no other way to achieve anything better than equality.

The Advance Variation contains far fewer branches than 3.Nc3, and hence easier to retain the ideas, and so that is why I believe it is the best line to play against the French, balancing strength with the amount of work required to execute. In addition, these ideas from 2007 still for the most part hold today.

Article Structure - And The Theory Behind It

You might have noticed that the first six articles covered various lines of the French recommended for Black via a complete game structure, with a game for each major variation that often contained other games embedded within for various side lines. While I am a firm believer that the complete game format is the best way to learn a defense as Black, I don't think it's the most effective way to study your game as White. Why, you ask? Think about it from a tree structure perspective.

Let's look at Black first. What can White legitimately play? 1.e4 is one move. 1.d4 is a second move. 1.c4 and 1.Nf3 are options, but they will often transpose to 1.d4 openings. Sure there are a few sidelines, but not many that are very effective. Then you have very minor openings like 1.b3, 1.b4, 1.Nc3, 1.g3, etc. So if you look at it from the perspective of branches, you have 4 branches. 1.e4, 1.d4, 1.c4 minor lines that don't transpose to 1.d4, and 1.Nf3 minor lines that don't transpose to 1.d4. Now let's take the 1.e4 branch. You play 1...e6. What does White have? 2.d4, maybe 2.d3, and really nothing else. All other lines are deemed minor. If you figure minor lines are so rare that a 30-minute study and absorbing a basic understanding is sufficient, you are left with a very limited number of branches. So the 1.e4 branch may have 2 branches at move 2, 2.d3 and 2.d4, and then for the 2.d4 branch, move 3 will have 4 branches, 3.Nc3, 3.Nd2, 3.e5, and 3.exd5.

Now with these limited branches, namely 5 of them, you are looking at almost half of your games ever played as Black if you are a devoted French player. Every time the game starts 1.e4, you have a French. So it's absolutely critical to understand the pawn structures and ideas like the back of your half because roughly a quarter of your games will feature this opening, assuming half your games you'll be Black and half of those you'll face 1.e4. You need to know typical endgame themes.

Now let's look at White. Since we are talking about being the French, we'll assume your first move will be 1.e4. How many legitimate moves are there for Black? Sure something like 1...b6 is legal, but there are seven moves for Black that are considered the main defenses to 1.e4, namely 1...e5, 1...c5, 1...e6, 1...c6, 1...d6, 1...g6, and 1...Nf6, with moves like 1...d5 and 1...Nc6 not far behind. That's 9 branches at move 1 compared to Black's 4 branches. Now let's look at just 1...c5. Let's say you play 2.Nf3, the main second move just like how I am recommending the main second move, 2.d4 here against the French. Now you have 2...d6, 2...e6, 2...Nc6, 2...g6, and even 2...a6 or 2...Nf6. That's 6 sub-branches just in the Sicilian Branch and this is only move 2. 1...e5 is also loaded with sub-variations.

Therefore, given the fact your White repertoire is going to have far more branches to it than your Black repertoire unless you play something really odd like 1.g4, and that your number of opening branches as Black will typically be far more limited, I am of the firm belief that understanding the middlegame and endgame positions in your Black repertoire is far more critical because of the high frequency. As White, there is a lot more to understand and absorb in the opening, and your positions end up so diverse, that you are not going to have the same middlegame positions repeatedly, and so a general broad study of middlegame and endgame ideas is more effective here. So in essence, what you are doing is studying general middlegame and endgame books to broaden your knowledge, and these will be most effective for your games as White as you will have a wide variety of positions, but as Black, you are narrowing the middlegame and endgame positions and deepening your understand of those specific positions, but you can't leave out the rest of the middlegame and endgame structures because of your games as White.

Therefore, the structure of this article will be as follows:
  • History of the French Advance
  • Theory of the French Advance
  • Recommended Study

History of the French Advance

While not the earliest that it was ever played, the biggest contributor to French Advance strategy is Aaron Nimzowitsch. In a nutshell, one one describes White's strategy. Blockade! Understanding of White's goal is extremely simple. Keep the d5-pawn and e6-pawn stuck in their tracks. Does this mean that White must go out of his way to hold on to the two pawns in the center and automatically play moves like f4, to hold down e5? No! In fact, in the French Advance, the move f4 is rarely ever played early on because once White castles, the d4-pawn can be pinned to the King by the Black Queen on b6, which in turn actually weakens e5. The idea behind blockading the pawns on d5 and e6 is not to keep pawns on the d4 and e5 squares, but rather to completely control those two squares, where in some cases, it may not be physically impossible to move those pawns, but rather, moving them simply loses for Black. So rather than there being one way to own the center and block the Black pawns, there are three:
  • Occupy d4 and e5 with Pawns, which is how the game starts off.
  • Occupy d4 and e5 with pieces, most frequently a Bishop on d4 and a Knight on e5, though both could be Knights if e5 is thoroughly covered by other pieces, such as a Rook on e1, or maybe if the f-pawn is eventually pushed to f4, usually preceded by a King move to h1 to get out of the pin.
  • Leave the squares open, but under total control such that if Black ever were to advance them, despite it maybe opening up Black's bad Bishop, it leads to no compensation for Black once they are captured and White is just winning.

So to illustrate this idea of the Blockade, I'm going to show you a game played by Aaron Nimzowitsch where he gives up the pawn center, and then uses his pieces to maintain the blockade, and win the game. Please note that this game is solely to illustrate the concept of the Blockade and that the line played in the opening is not amongst the lines I'm going to recommend as Black's play in this game was not ideal.

W: Nimzowitsch
B: Salve
Carlsbad 1911

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Qb6 6.Bd3

This move constitutes the well known Milner-Barry Gambit. While it may have worked out well in 1911, it's not considered to be very good in today's day and age, and is not the move I will be recommending in the theory section of the article.


It is well known today that Black should trade on d4 first with 6...cxd4 7.cxd4 and only now play 7...Bd7!.


White takes advantage of Black's error and surrenders his pawn center, but I emphasize that he is surrendering his pawn center, not THE center! This game will illustrate how White continues to maintain the Blockade, which is the most important thing to keep in mind. Nothing else matters!

7...Bxc5 8.O-O f6?

Black continues to chip away at White's pawn center, but it won't help Black's cause. Black needs to try to fight for control of d4, and that starts with 8...a5, preventing White's next move and keeping the Bishop on the g1-a7 diagonal, eyeing d4. White is still better in this line, but the game move allows White to go from better to practically winning right off the bat!

9.b4! Be7 10.Bf4 fxe5?

Now that Black gave up the d4-square on move 8, let's give up on e5 now that we are at it! Great idea! NOT! Black needed to play something like 10...Nh6, maintaining the tension in the center, and if White ever takes on f6, Black can take back with the g-pawn and continue to give competition to the e5-square.

11.Nxe5 Nxe5 12.Bxe5 Nf6

Note that 12...Bf6 fails tactically to 13.Qh5+ g6 14.Bxg6+ hxg6 15.Qxg6+ Ke7 16.Bxf6+ Nxf6 17.Qxg7+ and 18.Qxf6 and White is up two pawns.


The Knight is coming in to join the c3-pawn and the Bishop to complete the Blockade!

13...O-O 14.Nf3 Bd6 15.Qe2

Keeping the Blockade intact! There is no reason to trade Bishops on d6.

15...Rac8 16.Bd4

Giving way to the Knight to occupy e5!

16...Rac8 17.Ne5 Be8 18.Rae1

White has completely dominated the dark squares in the center of the board. The c3- and b4-pawns also play a major factor in Black's complete inability to contest the central Blockade.


So of all things, what does Black do? He gives up his dark-squared Bishop for a Knight? Leaving White with an uncontested dark-squared Bishop when trying to break a dark-squared Blockade is a recipe for disaster! Black has basically waived the white flag with this move. Black's position is a train wreck as it is, but he has to try something like 18...Bh5 and at least pretend that he's trying to survive. The point behind this game has been made, and the rest requires no comments.

19.Bxe5 Qc6 20.Bd4 Bd7 21.Qc2 Rf7 22.Re3 b6 23.Rg3 Kh8 24.Bxh7 e5 25.Bg6 Re7 26.Re1 Qd6 27.Be3 d4 28.Bg5 Rxc3 29.Rxc3 dxc3 30.Qxc3 Kg8 31.a3 Kf8 32.Bh4 Be8 33.Bf5 Qd4 34.Qxd4 exd4 35.Rxe7 Kxe7 36.Bd3 Kd6 37.Bxf6 gxf6 38.Kf1 Bc6 39.h4 1-0

Theory of the French Advance

After the moves 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5, Black has nothing better than 3...c5, and after 4.c3, Black has two primary options.

   A) 4...Bd7
   B) 4...Nc6

Also possible for Black is 4...Qb6, but after 5.Nf3, Black just about always plays either 5...Bd7, which directly transposes to line A2, or 5...Nc6, which directly transposes to line B3.

A) 4...Bd7

Black's idea is simple. He figures that with the center closed, slower player is warranted, and rather than development being his primary goal is to trade off the bad Light-Squared Bishop.


And now Black has two major options here.

   A1) 5...a6
   A2) 5...Qb6

A1) 5...a6

Those of you that have read the Introduction article will know that this is the line recommended for Black in the Black Repertoire. It is a fairly recent idea, and there is still lots of room for research and creativity. Black figures that rather than running the risk of the Queen being misplaced, Black is willing to take doubled b-pawns if White captures when the Bishop comes to b5. However, it will come at a cost as it will open up the a-file for the Black Rook, and it makes Black's plan fairly easy. As you will see, we won't be executing this trade.

Another side note - this position can also arise from the O'Kelly Sicilian after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 a6 3.c3 e6 4.d4 d5 5.e5 Bd7

6.Bd3 cxd4

If Black plays the immediate 6...Bb5 without trading first on d4, White should take the Bishop because of the tempo that can be gained later on. After 7.Bxb5+ axb5 8.dxc5! Bxc5 9.b4 Bb6 10.Na3, Black doesn't have a good way to hold the b5-pawn, and after 10...Ne7 11.Nxb5 O-O 12.O-O, Black will move his Knights to c6 and g6 to attack e5. It may be best for Black to play 12...Ng6 first to eliminate White's option of bringing out the Bishop to cover the e5-pawn. After 13.Qe2 Nc6 14.Re1 Qd7 15.a4 Rae8 16.Be3 Bxe3 17.Qxe3, Black doesn't have sufficient compensation for the missing pawn. Degraeve(2470) - Hall(2370), Oakham 1992.

7.cxd4 Bb5 8.Bc2 Bb4+ 9.Bd2 a5 10.a3

The main line is 10.Nc3, but I think this sneaky little sideline, virtually forcing Black to trade Bishops immediately, is stronger.

10...Bxd2+ 11.Qxd2 Ne7 12.Nc3 Ba6 13.h4

With the Black Bishop covering f1, White doesn't bother trying to block the diagonal to castle. Instead, the Rook is going to come out via the third rank. An idea that is also seen sometimes in the Winawer Variation.

13...h6 14.Rh3 Nd7 15.Rg3

Black's Kingside weaknesses can be hard to deal with. With White pawns on e5 and h5 and Black's pawns on e6 and h6, if Black advances either the f-pawn or the g-pawn, the neighboring squares become very weak. For example, if Black advances ...g6, then the f6-square and the h6-pawn both become very weak. Because of this, the pawns on f7 and g7 become weaknesses in and of themselves.

15...Qc7 16.Rg3 Qc4 17.O-O-O


Note that 17...O-O loses to 18.Qxh6! while 17...Kf8 fails to 18.Qf4! Qc8 19.Nh4 Kg8 20.Qg4 Qf8 21.Ng6 and Black is in a heap of trouble. 21...Nxg6 is answered by 22.hxg6 while 21...fxg6 is answered by 22.Qxe6+.

18.b3 Qc7 19.Rxg7 b4 20.axb4 axb4 21.Na4 Bb5 22.Qxb4 Bxa4 23.bxa4 Nb6 24.Kd2 Nc6 25.Qc3 Nxa4 26.Bxa4 Rxa4 27.Rb1 Kf8 28.Rg4

And White has consolidated. Black does not have sufficient compensation for the pawn. Eliseev - Artemiev, Moscow 2016

A2) 5...Qb6

Like 5...a6, Black's idea is to try to get the Light-Squared Bishops off the board. What's different here is that the Queen comes out early, which can in some cases end up being misplaced, but at the same time, it pressures White's center, and doesn't give White the same aggressive options for the development of his Bishop.


Here, 6.Bd3 is a mistake as Black can play 6...cxd4 7.cxd4 Nc6, directly transposing to the dubious Milner-Barry Gambit.


If Black trades pawns first with 6...cxd4 7.cxd4, White should use the c3-square for the Knight and after 7...Bb5 8.Nc3 Bxe2, White doesn't give Black the easy development by attacking d4 after a Queen recapture on e2. Instead, 9.Nxe2! and now:
a) 9...Bb4+ 10.Kf1 Nc6 11.g3 Bf8 12.Kg2 Nge7 13.Rb1 and White is better as his pieces are better coordinated and his King is safe. Petrov - Skalkotas, Aghia Pelagia 2004
b) 9...Nc6 10.O-O Nge7 11.Ng3 h5 12.h4 g6 13.Bg5 Bg7 14.Rb1 Rc8 15.Qd2 Qb4 16.Qf4 Nf5 17.Nxf5 gxf5 and White's better as he can use the dark squares to infiltrate and attack with a static pawn structure for Black. Malysheva - Rozic, Budva 2003

7.c4 Bxc4

After 7...dxc4 8.d5 exd5 9.Qxd5 Ne7 10.Qe4, Black has to be really careful. For example, after the tempting 10...Bc6?!, White gains the upper hand after 11.Qxc4 Bd5 12.Qb5+ Nbc6 13.Nc3 Rd8 14.Qxb6 axb6 15.Nxd5 Nxd5 16.O-O Be7 17.Bc4 O-O 18.a3 Nc7 19.Be3 b5 20.Be2 Rd5 21.Rfe1 Nxe5 22.Nxe5 Rxe5 23.Bf4 Rxe2 24.Rxe2 Nd5 25.Rd1 Nxf4 26.Rxe7 h6 27.g3 Ne6 28.Rxb7 g6 29.Rb6 Nd4 30.Rxd4 cxd4 31.Rxb5 Rd8 32.Kf1 and the White King is inside the box of the Black passed pawn, and with it isolated compared to White's connected passers on the Queenside. White will be up two pawns and won the game on move 72. Thanh - Hoang, Phu Dong 2004.

Instead of 10...Bc6?!, Black should play 10...Qg6, where after 11.Qxg6 hxg6 12.Na3 Ba6 13.Bxc4, White's advantage is minimal, and in Galdunts - Grabarczyk, Germany 1999, Black was able to reduce it down to a slightly inferior Rook ending and indeed held on.

8.Bxc4 Qb4+

Or 8...dxc4 9.d5 exd5 10.Qxd5 Ne7 11.Qxc4 Qb4+ 12.Nbd2 and White is better. See Howell - Villamayor, Gausdal 1986 and Benjamin - Marinello, Sioux Falls 1998.

9.Nbd2 dxc4 10.a3 Qb5 11.Qe2 cxd4 12.Nxd4 Qd5 13.N4f3 Nd7 14.Nxc4 Rc8 15.Ne3 Qe4 16.O-O

And White has a slight advantage on the basis of his lead in development. Hendriks - Kamp, Germany 2001.

B) 4...Nc6

This is the more common response by Black.


And now Black has three major options here.

   B1) 5...Nh6
   B2) 5...Bd7
   B3) 5...Qb6

B1) 5...Nh6 6.Bd3

White waits to see what Black does before responding. Inferior is 6.Bxh6 gxh6 7.dxc5 Bxc5 8.Bd3 f6 and White's center is basically gone. White waits to see if Black moves the Knight again to f5, or if he trades on d4.


The alternative is 6...Nf5 in which White should respond with 7.Bxf5 exf5 8.dxc5 Bxc5 9.O-O Be6 10.Nbd2 O-O 11.Nb3 Be7 12.Re1 and White has the advantage as Black is weak on the dark squares. Espinosa Flores - Cave, Dresden 2008.


This is why we wait at move 6. If the Black Knight goes to f5, we capture on f5 and then capture on c5 and work off the dark squares. If Black trades on d4, only then do we take on h6. The rule of thumb is, between capturing on h6 to double the Black h-pawns and make ...f6 slightly harder to achieve, and taking on c5 to control the dark squares, you don't want to execute both as Black gets at the weak e5-pawn too quickly. Instead, if Black executes a trade on d4, then since a White d4-pawn will support e5, Black trades on h6. If Black moves the Knight to f5, you trade Bishop for Knight and then take on c5 to dominate the dark squares. Whatever you do, don't allow Black to trade on d4 and get in Nf5!

7...gxh6 8.cxd4 Bg7

Or 8...Qb6, after white the game Svidler - Nguyen, Russia 2011 shows White's potential. 9.Qd2 Bd7 10.Be2 Bg7 11.Nc3 O-O 12.O-O Ne7 13.Bd3 Kh8 14.Ne2 Bb5 15.Bxb5 Qxb5 16.Nf4 Ng6 17.Nh5 Rac8 18.Rac1 Qd7 19.h4 Rxc1 20.Rxc1 Rc8 21.g3 Rc6 22.Rxc6 Qxc6 23.Nh2 Ne7 24.Qf4 Nf5 25.g4 Qc2 26.Nf3 Ne7 27.Qxf7 Qg6 28.Qxe7 Qxg4+ 29.Kh2 1-0.

9.O-O f6


White should not be tempted to take on f6. Instead, he calmly develops and keeps the blockade on e5 intact, following the ideas of Nimzowitsch.

10...O-O 11.Nd2 Kh8 12.Rc1 fxe5 13.dxe5 Bd7 14.Nb3 Qe7 15.Bb5 Rf4 16.Bxc6 bxc6 17.g3 Rg4 18.Nfd4

A double attack on the c6-Pawn and via discovery on the Rook on g4.

18...h5 19.Nxc6

White has won a pawn for no compensation and won the game in 62 moves. Ding - Nguyen, China 2013.

B2) 5...Bd7 6.Be2

And now Black has no less than five legitimate options.

   B21) 6...Rc8
   B22) 6...Qb6
   B23) 6...cxd4
   B24) 6...f6
   B25) 6...Nge7

B21) 6...Rc8

Black goes for rapid development. However, once White's castled, if Black leaves the tension on the board too long, White can take advantage.

7.O-O a6

Black is in a bit of a dilemma in this line. If he takes the pawn with 7...cxd4 8.cxd4, then regardless of his follow-up, like 8...Qb6 or 8...Nge7, White has the c3-square for the Knight as he hasn't committed the Knight to d2 before Black traded, and both moves should be answered by 9.Nc3! and White holds a small advantage. That said, the downside to 6...Rc8 and 7...a6 is that is poses no pressure to White's center, and White can take full advantage of that.


The e5-pawn is not under intense pressure, making this move possible.

8...Bxc5 9.c4 dxc4

9...d4 is inferior. After 10.Nbd2 Qc7 11.Ne4 Nxe5 12.Nxe5 Qxe5 13.Nxc5 Qxc5 14.b4! Qb6 (14...Qxb4 15.Qxd4 +/=) 15.Qd2 Ne7 (15...e5 16.f4 is better for White, and 16...f6 is no good because of 17.fxe5 fxe5 18.Qg5! +-) 16.c5 Qc7 17.Qxd4 and the Bishop pair gives White the advantage.


And White will regain the pawn with an advantage in space. White is for preference here.

Note that the following game illustrates nicely what happens if Black tries to hold the pawn. After 10...b5? (Getting his pieces out is more critical and something like 10...Nh6 should be played, but White is still for preference) 11.Ne4 Be7 12.b3 f5 13.Nd6+ Bxd6 14.Qxd6 c3 15.a4 Qe7 16.Qd1 Qc5 17.axb5 axb5 18.b4 Nxb4 19.Ba3 Ne7 20.Ne1 c2 21.Nxc2 Qxc2 22.Bxb4 Qxd1 23.Rfxd1 Nd5 24.Ra7 Rc7 25.Rxc7 Nxc7 26.Bd6 Nd5 27.Ra1 Kf7 28.Ra7 Rd8 29.Bxb5 Ke8 30.Ba6 Ne7 31.f4 Nc8 32.Rxd7 Kxd7 (32...Rxd7 33.Bxc8 is also winning for White) 33.Bb5#, Paragua - Sadorra, Manila 2013.

B22) 6...Qb6

Here Black is trying to use the move order to goad White into an inferior line.


This is the preferred move for White. The problem with 7.a3 is that after 7...Rc8 8.b4 cxd4 9.cxd4 Nge7, we transpose into the line 5...Qb6 6.a3 Bd7 7.b4 cxd4 8.cxd4 Rc8 9.Be2 Nge7, and you will see below that White's 9th move here is inferior to what is recommended in line B32.


Again the dilemma of whether or not to trade on d4 as it gives White the c3-square for the Knight. After 7...cxd4 8.cxd4 Nge7 9.Nc3 Nf5 10.Na4 (An idea to keep locked in your head when Black is putting pressure on d4. This sequence will drive the Queen away from d4.) 10...Qa5 11.Bd2 Bb4 12.Bxb4 Qxb4 13.a3 Qe7 (or 13...Qa5 14.b4 followed by 15.Nc5) 14.Rc1 O-O 15.Nc5 and White's position is to be preferred.


Here we see it again! The lack of pressure on e5 allows White to transition the focal point from d4 to e5 via this capture. Knowing when to relieve this tension is paramount for both sides. If White ever develops his Queen's Knight, Black should almost always take on d4 immediately. White needs to delay the development of his Queen's Knight as long as possible so that if Black trades, he can use the c3-square for his Knight. If Black puts all his eggs in one basket and goes after d4 without relieving the tension, always look for this possibility. The two points on the board that you have to check to make sure this is possible are the squares e5 and f2.

This battle of Black wanting to wait to relieve the tension on d4 and White wanting to develop his Queenside Knight is very similar to the battle for the tempo in the Queen's Gambit Declined, where Black wants to make White develop his Bishop to e2 or d3 before taking the pawn on c4 while White is trying to make productive moves without moving his light-squared Bishop until Black takes on c4. The trade on d4 and the development of White's Queen's Knight is a similar battle of who commits first. Keep this in mind before you automatically develop the Queen's Knight. In some lines it's necessary. For example, line B25 below. But make a habit of first trying to see if you can make progress without moving this piece, and always be on the lookout for when dxc5 works, after which the Knight is free to move when appropriate.

8...Bxc5 9.b4

White forces the Bishop to a more passive position before Black is ready to execute any king of attack on White.


Here Black will typically use the h6-square to develop the Knight. The alternative option is 9...Bf8 and developing the Knight through e7. In both cases, Black's position is somewhat passive and White is ready to expand on the Queenside, reducing Black's space even more. Clearly White wants to trade as few pieces as possible in this line.


With the focal point shifted from d4 to e5, White overprotects his strong point and is ready to expand on the Queenside. White's got the advantage.

B23) 6...cxd4

Unlike the previous two lines, Black immediately gives White the c3-square for the Knight, but in return, he has fixed the target at d4.

7.cxd4 Nge7 8.O-O Nf5 9.Nc3 Rc8

9...Qb6 goes through the same rigamarole as before, starting with 10.Na4. Black chooses to avoid this.

10.Be3 Be7 11.Bd3 Nxe3

This is almost forced. Black could try 11...g6, in order to hold on to the Knight, but then just continuing on with the development gives White a slight edge, starting with a move like 12.Rc1. Other than 11...g6, Black has no real alternative because he can't afford to let White take the Knight on f5 in such a way that Black is forced to re-capture with the e-pawn as, even if it's protected, the d5-pawn will become way too weak for Black, especially with a White Knight already on c3.

12.fxe3 O-O

Black can also play 12...f5, which based on a rarely used idea I'm about to bring up, this move order might be the better move for Black. A complex game ensues after 13.a3 O-O 14.Ne2 Qe8 15.h4 Qh5 16.Nf3 Qe8 17.Rc1 with unclear play, Webb - Trella, Dortmund 2009. Note that while Black does win this game, it is because of subsequent errors. White's position is fine here.


White's got the space advantage and d4 is well covered, and outside of the a1-Rook, White's pieces are ready to attack, so why not break it open immediately? Oddly enough, this move has been rarely played.

13...dxe4 14.Bxe4 f5 15.Bc2 Qb6 16.Na4

There's that idea again, using the Na4 move and the Queenside Pawn expansion to push the Black Queen away from d4. You should be starting to see the importance of developing the Knight to c3 whenever possible.

16...Qa5 a3 17.Rfd8 18.b4 Qc7 19.Bb3

White is getting ready to get his last piece in the game with Rc1, gaining even more time on the Black Queen. Once again, White is for preference, and while the game may not be perfectly played (it is played between a couple of amateurs), I would encourage all to look at the game Milla de Marco - Blanco Villalba, Malaga 2005. If you can't find it anywhere else, it can be found at, which all the games referenced here can be found at. It's a free database. It features a lot of critical items that come up often in the French Advance, like the potential of a passed pawn, the superiority of the Bishop over the Knight in an endgame, the Rook ending that ensues, and many other factors. The game is 104 moves long, but well worth the time to look at.

B24) 6...f6

This line has been somewhat popular of late, but I find it very dangerous for Black.


White should simply castle here and not worry about trades on e5. Taking on f6 would be a mistake as it simply accelerates Black's development and White loses control of the f6-square.


If Black tries to build up on e5 with the move 7...Qc7, then 8.Bf4 Nge7 (Intending 9...Ng6 adding an attacker to e5 and hitting the Bishop) 9.Bg3 Qb6 (Attacking b2 on the basis that the White Bishop has gone to g3) 10.Na3! and now 10...Qxb2 would lose to 11.Nb5! and other moves like 10...Nf5 allow White to play 11.dxc5! once again and after 11...Bxc5 12.b4! Nxg3 13.hxg3 Be7 14.c4 Nxb4 15.exf6 Bxf6 16.Rb1 a5 17.Qb3 O-O 18.cxd5 exd5 19.Nc2, White is better. Petzold - Hoellmann, Germany 2006.


White should trade Knights first. 8.dxe5 results in Black keeping an extra attacker of the e5-pawn, and while White maintains the Knight on f3, it impedes the possibility of playing f4, which would also guard the e5-pawn, and in a better manner than the clumsy Knight on f3, which can eventually be driven away if Black starts pushing his g-pawn at any point in the game.

8...Nxe5 9.dxe5 Qc7 10.c4!

White surrenders the e5-pawn, but breaks open the center and can harass the Black Queen if he takes it.


10.Qxe5 11.Re1 O-O-O 12.cxd5 exd5 13.Nc3 (remember, the threat is worth more than the execution - there is no reason to execute the discovery at this time) 13...Nf6 14.g3 Qc7 15.Nxd5 Nxd5 16.Qxd5 and White was better in Jonkman - Rodrigues, Lisbon 2000. White proceeded to execute a nice winning attack in an opposite-colored Bishop ending.

11.Bf4 O-O-O 12.Nd2 Bc6 13.Bf3 Be7 14.Ne4 Bxe4 15.Bxe4 g5 16.Bg3 h5 17.h3 g4 18.hxg4 hxg4 19.Qxg4

And White has emerged with the Bishop pair and is up a pawn in Tomazini - Poliakov, Czech Open 2009. Black did not have near the fire power to get at the White King.

B25) 6...Nge7

So we have seen the problems if Black trades early on d4, and we've seen the problems if Black doesn't immediately attack White's center, so that leads to this being the main line. Black intends to go to f5 with the Knight, pressuring d4 again without actually trading there. It also makes dxc5 ideas less attractive for White as Black will have already developed one of his Kingside pieces. That can only mean one thing.


In this case, we will have to move the Knight and let Black win the battle of who commits first. The Knight needs to be relocated to c2 to cover d4.


As mentioned prior, it makes no sense for Black to hold off trading now that he doesn't have to worry about Nc3 ideas.

8.cxd4 Nf5 9.Nc2 Qb6 10.O-O

So we now have the main starting position of the 5...Bd7 variation.


10...Na5 leads to a forcing sequence. 11.g4 Ne7 12.Nfe1 Bb5 13.Nd3 h5 14.b4 Nac6 15.a4 Bc4 16.a5 Qc7 17.gxh5 Nf5 18.Be3 with a complex game and chances for both sides.


White has other options here, but I think this is his best move. The center is blocked, and with the way the pawns are pointing, White should be figuring on a Kingside attack. There is no reason not to get started right away. White will gain tempi on the expansion based on the Black Bishop having to spend time so as not to get trapped.

11...Nh4 12.Nxh4 Bxh4 13.f4 Be7 14.Kh1 g6 15.b3

White has no intention to fianchetto. He just doesn't want to sacrifice the b-pawn when he develops the Bishop.

15...a5 16.Be3 Rc8 17.Qd3 Na7 18.a4

Preventing 18...Nb5.

18...Nc6 19.f5 Qd8 20.Bh6 Bg5 21.Bg7 Rg8 22.f6

Fixing all the targets on the Kingside.

22...Nb4 23.Nxb4 axb4 24.Qh3 h6 25.Bd3 Rc3 26.Rf3 Qb6 27.Bxg6! Qxd4


A very cute move. Black can't take the Bishop because of mate in 1. White wins material.

28...Kd8 29.Raf1 Re8 30.Bxe8 Bxe8 31.Bxh6 Rxf3 32.Rxf3 Bxh6 33.Qxh6 Qxe5 34.Qf4 Qxf4 35.Rxf4

And Black didn't have the compensation for the lost material and resigned five moves later. Zhizmer - Manilyk, Kiev 2006.

B3) 5...Qb6

This is Black's other main option. The move is double-sided. On one side, Black puts immediate pressure on d4. On the flip side, the Black Queen can very well impede Black's own expansion on the Queenside.


White tries to take advantage of the downside to 5...Qb6 and attempts to expand on the Queenside for himself. If White can successfully take over space on both the Kingside and Queenside without having his position fall apart, and without trading a whole bunch of pieces off, Black is likely to suffocate.

Black had three main options here. The first two allow White to expand and Black proceeds on the basis that he thinks White is over-extending himself while the third option prevents the expansion, but releases the pressure on the d4-pawn.

   B31) 6...Nh6
   B32) 6...Bd7
   B33) 6...c4

A word of note on a fourth option you might occasionally face. Like line B33, the move 6...a5 also attempts to clamp down on b4 and prevent White's Queenside expansion. That said, there is a major flaw to this move. It was previous mentioned that the Milner-Barry Gambit is an inferior line and not good for White because of the line 6.Bd3? cxd4 7.cxd4 Bd7 8.O-O Nxd4 9.Nxd4 Qxd4 10.Nc3 a6!. Well, Black no longer has the move ...a6 with the pawn already pushed to a5. Therefore, the b5-square becomes a weakness, and so now after the strong move 7.Bd3!, White is better after 7...cxd4 8.cxd4 Bd7 9.O-O Nxd4 10.Nxd4 Qxd4 11.Nc3 because the move 11...a6 is unavailable to Black!

B31) 6...Nh6

This move is interesting, but may not be best here. If White had played 6.Be2, which I don't recommend unlike in the 5...Bd7 line, only then would the move 6...Nh6 have the punch it needs. You'll see in the line below that White wastes no time with the light-squared Bishop early on.

7.b4 cxd4 8.cxd4 Nf5 9.Bb2 Bd7 10.g4

White wastes no time and immediately pushes the Knight back.

11.Nc3 Na5

This move is possible because of the loose Bishop on b2.

12.Na4 Qc6 13.Nc5 Nc4 14.Bc3

White does have a bad Bishop, but so does Black. The position is very complex, but the space advantage should give White a small edge. Mkrtchian - Middelveld, Kemer 2007.

B32) 6...Bd7

Once again Black allows White to expand on the Queenside.

7.b4 cxd4 8.cxd4 Rc8

And now, 9.Be2 would lead to the same inferior position that 7.a3 lead to in line B22. Instead of playing this automatic move, White should develop his other Bishop to cover d4.


Despite the fact that it might turn into a bad Bishop, and the tactics it allows Black to get his Knight in on the c4-outpost, I prefer it over 9.Be3 because the latter allows Black to play 9...Nh6 followed by going to f5 or g4 and trading itself off for the Bishop on e3. Once again, piece trades favor Black because he is the one that is cramped. A space advantage is useless if there are no pieces on the board.

9...Na5 10.Nbd2

White isn't going to let the Knight sit on c4.

10...Nc4 11.Nxc4 dxc4 12.Rc1 a5 13.Nd2 axb4 14.Nxc4 Qd8 15.a4!

This move is stronger than recapturing. Black's extra pawn is an isolated and doubled pawn. 15.a4 keeps the bind more intact and leads to a better position for White.

15...Bc6 16.a5 Nh6 17.Nb6 Rc7 18.d5! exd5 19.Bd3

White takes the time to get his Bishop out and castle while the pawn blocks the Black Bishop from taking on g2.

19...d4 20.O-O Be7 21.Rc4

Black may technically be a pawn up, but the extra pawn is extremely weak. White also has a lead in development as Black still has to castle. He's also got a lead in space, and in the game Vysochin - Kobylkin, Lugansk 2007, it only took White 17 more moves to mop up and win the game.

B33) 6...c4

Many consider this to be the "old main line". It's not quite as popular today because Black has less space to attack than White. By rule of thumb, when the center is completely blocked, you attack the side in which your pawns point, regardless of where the Kings are. In most cases, Black will castle Queenside and White will castle Kingside, but unless Black makes the mistake of allowing the move b3 by White early on, White will still attack Kingside and Black Queenside because of the direction the blocked pawns in the center point.

White should also keep a keen eye on the possibility of sacrificing on c4, d5, or e6. For example, White may sacrifice his Bishop on c4 for two pawns, taking the second pawn with a Knight on d2, and get an annoying Knight in on d6.


Threatening 8.b3

7...Na5 8.Be2 Bd7 9.O-O Ne7 10.Rb1

Taking the responsibility off of the Bishop to cover b1.

10...Nc8 11.Re1 Qc7 12.Nf1 Nb6

So we now have the main starting position of this variation. Move order can sometimes deviate, but it will usually amount to the same thing. For example, White could play 10.Re1 before 11.Rb1, or Black could play 10...Qc7 before 11...Nc8, etc. Black can also play an earlier ...h6 to prevent the Knight from going to g5. In the long run, it should transpose the vast majority of the time.


I like this move better for White than the more popular 13.Bf4. The problem is that Black can be annoying with 13...Nb3, with the threat of 14...Ba4 and the White Queen has problems getting out from discoveries by the Black Knight, in many cases winning the d4-pawn. After 14.N3d2, to annoy the Knight and trade it if Black doesn't move it, Black simply retreats with 14...Na5 and if White goes back with 15.Nf3, then simply 15...Nb3, and in the game Simacek - Petrik, Cartak 2003, White tried to avoid the draw with 16.Ne3, but paid the price for it after 16...Ba4 17.Bf1 h6 18.h4 Be7 19.h3 O-O-O 20.Qe2 Kb8 21.g4 Ka8 22.Bg3 Rdg8 23.Bh3 Qd8 24.Ng2 Bd7 25.Nfh4 g6 26.hxg6 fxg6 27.f4 g5 28.Nf3 h5 29.Ne3 gxf4 30.Bxf4 hxg4 31.Bxg4 Be8 32.Kf2 Bg6 33.Rh1 Bxb1 34.Rxb1 Bh4+ 35.Nxh4 Qxh4+ 36.Kg2 Nd2 37.Bg3 Rxg4 0-1


This move was played to avoid Ng5 by White and be able to castle Queenside without having to worry about a fork on f7.

14.Bf1 O-O-O 15.Nh5 Na4 16.Qc2 Nb6 17.Bf4 Ba4 18.Qe2 Qd7 19.g4

Once again, with the center locked down, White can afford such moves of pawns in front of his King.

Due to the complexity of the line, and the interesting factors of the game, I've decided to give the entire game of Smeets - Lui, Nijmegen 2002.

19...Bb3 20.Ra1 Qc7 21.Bg3 Ba4 22.Nh4 Nb3 23.Rab1 Bd7 24.Ng2 Na4 25.Qc2 b5 26.f4 a5 27.f5

A critical break for White in this line.

27...b4 28.axb4 axb4 29.Ngf4 Qa5 30.Re3 Kc7 31.Bg2 Kb7 32.Rf1 Qb6 33.Kh1 Re8

So let's observe the situation. It looks at first glance like Black has everything intact. He's got e6 covered, which appears to be what White's attacking. However, the problem isn't e6, but g6 and f7!

34.fxe6! fxe6

Black has no choice as 34...Be6 drops the d5-pawn. Now g6 is weakened.


And so White's move makes total sense, attacking the Rook with tempo and putting the knight on the weakened g6-square.

35...Rg8 36.Rf7 Kc8 37.Ref3 bxc3 38.bxc3 Bb4 39.Bf2

39.cxb4?? allows 39...Nxd4!, forking the White heavy pieces and building a danger pair of passed pawns for Black.

39...Ba3 40.Nxg7

Black's position is falling apart.

40...Rd8 41.Qa2 Na5 42.Bh4 Qb3 43.Qa1 Bb2 44.Qf1 Nc6 45.Bxf8 Rxf8 46.Nf8 1-0

Black resigned as he realized that White's attack is coming much faster than his and there is no stopping it.

Recommended Study

That's a lot of theory, and yet it's barely anything compared to the amount of theory in 3.Nc3. Now that you have a basic foundation of the French Advance, I would suggest expanding your knowledge on the French Advance by doing the following items:
  • Go to and pull up each of the games referenced in this article and study them. The vast majority of them are wins by White.
  • Study the games of Aron Nimzowitsch and Evgeny Sveshnikov, specifically those with an ECO Code of C02 where Nimzowitsch and Sveshnikov are White. Note that when studying these, ignore the specific variations played. The focus should be more on middlegame play that results from the French Advance. In particular, pay close attention to games that involve blockading the central pawn by controlling d4 and e5. Not every game will involve this strategy, but a high percentage of them will, and keep in mind that a blockading strategy can be lifted at any point in the game if there is something better available, especially if White has placed all of his pieces on ideal squares and is ready to attack.
  • Play the Advance variation against the French in over the board tournament games. Don't get overly frustrated if you lose a few games. The practice is critical for long term success.
  • If you have not done so already with one of the other six articles, save this to your favorites. That way, it will be easier for you to find for future reference. With the links at the bottom of each article, if you have one of them saved, you can easily get to all seven.

Well, that concludes this series of articles on the French Defense. I hope it has encouraged you to give it a whirl as Black, and hopefully with the same level of success that I've had with it for over 20 years, and that you are also able to go up against the French with confidence now that you have this dangerous weapon at hand, namely 3.e5!

Links to the rest of the articles.
Introduction and facing the Advance Variation
Part One: The Exchange Variation
Part Two: The Tarrasch Variation
Part Three: The King's Indian Attack
Part Four: The MacCutcheon Variation
Part Five: The Steinitz Variation