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Fabiano Caruana vs Aleksandr Lenderman
US Championship (2018), St Louis, MO USA, rd 2, Apr-19
French Defense: Winawer. Advance Variation (C18)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Apr-20-18  Big Pawn: <tga: In any event, I hate the French Defense!!!

Why? Any opening where castling is a bad idea is just anathema to me.

The only player in the world who can play the French from either side, and castle first, without high risk of being mowed off the board, is Carlsen.>

I used to think the French sucked even back before I ever cracked open a chess book or played through a game other than my own. As a coffee house player in my teens, whenever I say black play 1...e6, I already knew that if they castled short, I was going to play Bxh7+, Ng5+ and Qh5 mating. I thought I was the only person who knew this trick lol

Then, when I was about 20, I got the idea to pick up a chess book from the library, just to see if it contained some information about chess that I didn't already know (lol). I picked up Chess Praxis by Nimzovich and was blown away.

I quickly realized I don't know a damn thing about real chess, but more interestingly, I saw that Nimzovich played the French quite often. He also played 1...Nc6 which turned into something of French often enough. I was interested to see what he had to say about it and how he played it, and why anyone would ever choose to open a game in such a way.

I've been playing the French ever since!

In some ways, I think the French gets to the very essence of chess. In the Winawer, we see all kinds of interesting imbalances. There is white's weak pawn formation (doubled pawns, weak c4 square) vs blacks solid position, but white has more space on the king side. We see the battle of the two bishops versus two knights, but the jury is out until the pawn structure is settled in favor of the bishops or knights!

The French pits the old classic system against the hypermodern system quite naturally as well. Black tries to prove that the pawn on e5 is overextended and white tries to shore it up proving it is an advantage. In some sense, the Advance Variation of the French is a timeless discussion of this them. White neglects development to push the pawn to e5 on the third move, allowing black to undermine the pawn with ...c5, ...Nc6, ...Qb6 and ...f6. Black is often slightly ahead in development after 9 moves or so. Which imbalance wins? Blacks better development and more compact position, or White's space advantage and safe king?

We see in some variations the quintessential exchange sac ...Rxf3!?. This is cool when black can follow up with a kingside attack, but even cooler and more profound when the idea is to undermine the center.

In the French there is room for all kinds of ugly beautiful moves, like ...Nh8 (intending ...f6 and ...Nf7).

Fischer more or less hated the French too, but he famously struggled with it, often changing his opening approach trying to find something that worked. He felt it should be unsound, but said that one day he might have to admit it's sound after all.

Highly creative players have enjoyed the French like Nimzovich, Petrosian, Korchnoi, Botvinnik, Carlsen, Morozevich.

I think the French offers a richness in chess themes like no other and epitomizes the essence of chess in many ways.

It's an addiction.

Apr-20-18  rgr459: wow look at all the pins!
Premium Chessgames Member
  diceman: <thegoodanarchist:

In any event, I hate the French Defense!!!>

You're the kind of opponent I like!

Premium Chessgames Member
  chancho: Someone Lenderman a hand.

He got crushed.

Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <takchess>: <French Fry> and <French Fried> have been used, <French Toast> has been used twice. Game Collection: Game of the Day Pun Index (F-H)
Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: ouch!
Apr-20-18  Conrad93: The French Defense is a troll opening. You keep defending until your opponent cracks. Quite useful.
Apr-20-18  ChessHigherCat: <FSR> You can steal this one if you like: <French dressing-down>
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: Thanks, <CHC>.
Apr-21-18  dehanne: The Winnower.
Apr-21-18  thegoodanarchist: <Conrad93: <The only player in the world who can play the French from either side, and castle first, without high risk of being mowed off the board, is Carlsen.>

Umm, that's not true. Wesley So, Caruana, Karjakin, and Morozevich have all played it with great success. Black just misplayed the position. It's not that easu to crack this specific variation as long as you don't move you kingside pawns.>

You obviously didn't read what I said. The rebuttal you wrote here doesn't even address my argument.

Apr-21-18  thegoodanarchist: <BP: Highly creative players have enjoyed the French like Nimzovich, Petrosian, Korchnoi, Botvinnik, Carlsen, Morozevich.>

Unlike Fischer, I don't think it is unsound.

And I didn't say it can't be successful.

What I am saying is that, with few exceptions, the notable games that receive many comments and commentators are characterized by the loser castling first (if anyone bothers to castle at all).

Other than Carlsen games, I only recall seeing 1 well-known French Defense game where the winner castled first.

Hopefully it is obvious that my comment is a bit "tongue-in-cheek", meant to be humorous. And my game sample size is not large, maybe a couple dozen.

But it happens often enough to be noticeable.

Weird opening.

Apr-21-18  WorstPlayerEver: French Defense... nuf said.
Apr-21-18  Ulhumbrus: This verson of the French Winawer with 6...Qa5 7 Bd2 Qa4 8 Qg4 has been seen before in the game Fischer vs W Hook, 1970 while in the game Ljubojevic vs Kavalek, 1979 instead of 8 Qg4 White played 8 Qb1 to be followed later by 10 Qb3.
Apr-21-18  WorstPlayerEver: PS although 9. h4 Ne7 gives Black a good position.
Apr-21-18  Calar: <thegoodanarchist> In my experience as a player and spectator, French Defense can lead to a myriad of various type of positions where there are no correlation whatsoever between castling (first) and having a good position potentially becoming a winning one. That's a part of its appeal: both Black and White can steer the position into being slow or fast, positional or tactical, suited for castling or not ;)

Want to bid spatial advantage against play versus IQP? Try Open Tarrasch variation: 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5

Wish to play "standard" French position with positional chances for both sides? There's always Steinitz variation - 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5

You're interested in wildly tactical slaughterfest where both sides try to rip each other open? Look at 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.Qg4 Qc7 8.Qxg7

Or maybe you want to release the tension and play symmetrical, if a bit dull, position: so there's Exchange variation - 3.exd5

You like to see highly opposite strategies where e.g. White tries to strangle Black, who in turn tries to rip open White's position - so consider Big Center Variation - 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5. c3 c5 6.f4 Nc6 7.Ndf3

Perhaps something completely offbeat? 2.b3 ?

All of these lead to completely different types of position, where castling may or may not be a priority, and certainly isn't correlated with winning strategies. Still, if you want a straightforward answer, I quickly found some famous French games where winner castled either first and he was the only one to castle:

Reshevsky vs Vaganian, 1976 - Black castles and destroys White's seemingly safe uncastled King.

Keres vs Capablanca, 1938 - positional struggle where White castled 5 moves earlier than his opponent.

Najdorf vs Gliksberg, 1929 - Black delays castling for too long and gets mated

Nimzowitsch vs Alapin, 1914 - Black gets waaay to greedy, neglects development and gets punished

Kasparov vs Radjabov, 2003 - famous game where both sides delayed castling to mid-game

Charousek vs Maroczy, 1897 - White's plan to delay castling and go for caveman attack backfires

Alekhine vs Fahrni, 1914 - one of best attacking games vs seemingly impenetrable Black's "safe" position

Geller vs Karpov, 1976 - great attacker's dismantling Black's non-castled position

Lasker vs Nimzowitsch, 1934 - another famous game (though most known for its endgame)

Apr-21-18  morfishine: "French Kiss of Death"


Apr-21-18  Sokrates: When I was an active player decades ago (during the Punic Wars!) French was my favorite weapon against e4. There is much psychology in the French. White gets more space and initiative to begin with, and optimistic, aggressive players are thrilled by it. But when their pawn phalanx begins to crumble, their initiative fades away, they often get so disheartened that they lose all positive energy and quickly walk the path of defeat. I experienced that run of a French game many many times.

The worst white opponent you can get, is he who patiently and slowly position his pieces without haste and without trying to squeeze a quick advantage out of the position.

Apr-22-18  Conrad93: <You obviously didn't read what I said. The rebuttal you wrote here doesn't even address my argument.>

It actually does, moron. You castle in the French 99% of the time. Carlsen is hardly a well known French player. There's guy in the 2600's who could give him a lesson.

Apr-30-18  cormier:

click for larger view

Analysis by Houdini 4: d 25 dpa done

1. + / = (0.53): 17...Qg7 18.Kf1 b6 19.Rh3 Rg8 20.g3 Bb7 21.Qf4 Ng6 22.Qe3 Ke8 23.Re1 Rc8 24.Kg1 Rh8 25.Nd4 Nxd4 26.Qxd4 Ne7 27.Qa4+ Nc6 28.Bb5 Kf8 29.Qf4 h5 30.Bd2 Qg6 31.Rh4 Ne7 32.Bb4 Rxc2

2. + / - (1.07): 17...Qxg2 18.Ke2 <Qg4 19.Rag1 <Qa4>> 20.Rxh6 Rxh6 21.Qxh6+ Ke8 22.Rg7 Qxa3 23.Bd2 Kd7 24.Rxf7 b6 25.Ng5 Kc7 26.Be3 Ba6 27.Qxe6 Rd8 28.Bxa6 Qxa6+ 29.Kf3 Qa3 30.Kg2 Kb8 31.c3 Qa4 32.Bf4 Rh8 33.Qf6 Re8 34.Bg3 Ka8 35.Ne6 Qe4+ 36.Kh2 Rc8 37.Ng5 Qg4 38.Rxe7 Nxe7 39.Qxe7 Rh8+ 40.Kg2 Qd1 41.Nh3 Qg4 42.Ng1 Qe4+ 43.Nf3 Qb1 44.Nh4 Qe4+ 45.Kh2

Apr-30-18  cormier:

click for larger view

Analysis by Houdini 4

12...Nge7 13.Rh4 b6 14.Bd3 Ba6 15.Nxd4 Bc4 16.Qe2 Rc8 17.Kf1 Kg8 18.Nf3 Na5 19.Rf4 Nf5 20.Kg1 Bxd3 21.cxd3 Qc2 22.g4 Ne7 23.Nd4 Qb2 24.Qd1 Nec6 25.Rb1 Qa2 26.Nxc6 Nxc6 27.Ra1 Qb2 = (0.03) Depth: 24

Apr-30-18  ChessHigherCat: <Calar> Excellent post. I don't think I've learned so much from a single post on CG before. And so much for stupid generalizations :-)
May-14-18  jerseybob: <Caissanist: Caruana got the idea for 9.h4 from reading an article in New In Chess. Lenderman blamed his loss on the fact that he doesn't subscribe> Many thanks for the link to New in Chess; some great stuff there. But it still doesn't answer my question about this game: how does white meet 10..Qxc2 (sted 10..h6)? With 11.Rh3!?
Nov-12-22  ndg2: I used to play the French. Thing is: it's strategic ideas are easy to grasp and against weaker players, blacks will win with positional means and long term strategic ideas. Against strong white players however, things are reversed. Black can get into positional trouble quite easily and only fearless counter-attack might save the day (apart from serious piece contortions within a cramped setup). It can be difficult to muster up that courage for each game. Players like Korchnoi and Moro could do that. I switched over to open games.
Nov-12-22  ndg2: In addition: if I see now black moving 1..e6 after 1.d4 (I play this exclusively with white), I most often answer with 2.e4 switching over to the French from the white side. I score quite well since I know most of the attack plans.
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