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French, McCutcheon (C12)
1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Bg5 Bb4

Number of games in database: 2342
Years covered: 1885 to 2023
Overall record:
   White wins 40.3%
   Black wins 29.8%
   Draws 29.9%

Popularity graph, by decade

Explore this opening  |  Search for sacrifices in this opening.
With the White Pieces With the Black Pieces
Emanuel Lasker  19 games
Janis Klovans  13 games
Alexander Galkin  11 games
Igor Glek  44 games
Sergey Volkov  38 games
Alexander Chistiakov  27 games
NOTABLE GAMES [what is this?]
White Wins Black Wins
Alekhine vs NN, 1915
Fischer vs Rossolimo, 1965
Lasker vs Reti, 1924
G Sagalchik vs Nakamura, 2003
Fischer vs Petrosian, 1962
Tarrasch vs Alekhine, 1914
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 page 1 of 94; games 1-25 of 2,342  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Steinitz vs J L McCutcheon 0-1281885Simul, 25bC12 French, McCutcheon
2. Showalter vs D T Phillips 1-0291890Chicago Chess TournamentC12 French, McCutcheon
3. W Pollock vs J L McCutcheon  1-0291891corrC12 French, McCutcheon
4. Janowski vs Showalter 0-1391899Janowski - Showalter Second MatchC12 French, McCutcheon
5. Janowski vs F J Lee 1-0211899LondonC12 French, McCutcheon
6. Maroczy vs Showalter ½-½551899LondonC12 French, McCutcheon
7. Janowski vs Showalter 1-0531899LondonC12 French, McCutcheon
8. Lasker vs Showalter 1-0381899LondonC12 French, McCutcheon
9. Lipschutz vs J L McCutcheon  1-0331899New York v Pennsylvania Interstate Teams MatchC12 French, McCutcheon
10. Pillsbury vs Showalter ½-½511899Exhibition MatchC12 French, McCutcheon
11. G Bellingham vs Burn 1-0811900Burn - BellinghamC12 French, McCutcheon
12. Marshall vs O Roething 1-0241900Marshall - RoethingC12 French, McCutcheon
13. Lasker vs J L McCutcheon  ½-½351901Casual gameC12 French, McCutcheon
14. E M Sobernheim vs J A Kaiser  1-0361902New York-Pennsylvania matchC12 French, McCutcheon
15. J Mortimer vs Gunsberg 0-1861902Monte CarloC12 French, McCutcheon
16. Pillsbury vs A Reggio 1-0321902Monte CarloC12 French, McCutcheon
17. Gunsberg vs J Mason 0-1711902Monte CarloC12 French, McCutcheon
18. A Reggio vs Albin 0-1571902Monte CarloC12 French, McCutcheon
19. Pillsbury vs Marshall 1-0331902Monte CarloC12 French, McCutcheon
20. Olland vs Pillsbury 0-159190213th DSB Congress, HanoverC12 French, McCutcheon
21. Lasker vs J L McCutcheon 1-0321903Correspondence gameC12 French, McCutcheon
22. K S Howard vs J L McCutcheon 0-1341903corrC12 French, McCutcheon
23. J L McCutcheon vs Lasker 1-0361903Correspondence gameC12 French, McCutcheon
24. Taubenhaus vs Pillsbury ½-½381903Monte CarloC12 French, McCutcheon
25. Tarrasch vs J Mason ½-½331903Monte CarloC12 French, McCutcheon
 page 1 of 94; games 1-25 of 2,342  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 3 OF 3 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Dec-11-06  soughzin: I'm far from an expert but sometimes I check the forum and there was a feel that actually the 6.Be3 variation was quite testing for black and that g5, not g6 or Kf8 may be the best way to counter the usual Qg4.
Feb-13-07  drukenknight: Hey I've got a new version of the Macutheon on black's sixth move, I dont think it's been played before and it comes right out the standard line, so much room for home analysis. Okay first here is one of the early ones from the internet play and black winds up with an advantage...

1. e4 e6
2. d4 d5
3. Nc3 Nf6
4. Bg5 Bb4
5. e5 h6
6. Bd2 Nh7?!
7. Qg4 g6
8. Bxh6 (he doesnt have to take this and quite a few are not taking it, but it's hard to say. The nice thing is, most white players can see they can gain a pawn so they go for it, thinking it's an oversight)

9. exf6 Rxh6
10. Qf4 Rh5
11. Bb5+ c6
12. Bd3 Bd6
13. Qf3 Nd7
14. g4 Rxh2
15. Rxh2 Bxh2
16. Nge2 Nxf6
17. Kd2 e5
18. dxe5 Nxg4
19. Re1 Qg5+
20. Kd1 Qh4
21. Rf1 Nxe5
22. Qe3 black seems to have some advantage.

Okay so now white starts to work on improvements and some anonymous guy somes up with 11 Nf3 which looks unnatural but maybe better:

11. Nf3 Rf5
12. Qe3 Qxf6
13. Kd1 Kf8
14. Bd3 Bxc3
15. bxc3 Rf4
16. h4

Another one where white decides not to take on move 8 and instead:

8. 000 h5
9. Qf3 Nc6
10. Nge2 Be7
11. Kb1 Bd7
12. g3 Nb4
13. Bg2 Ng5
14. Qf4 a5 looks very close to even.

There is a lot of room for more analysis in this, I have found it very playable for black but I feel white is going to find something even better.

Feb-13-07  shalgo: <drunkenknight> An interesting idea. What do you have in mind if white plays 8.h4? Doesn't the knight on h7 look sort of silly then?
Feb-14-07  drukenknight: Helo Shalgo: See what I mean? white has a whole host of moves he can try. Here is a line based on your 8th move, the crap pc starts out favoring white +1.4 at beginning and then it comes back to almost dead even after move 18:

9. Qf4 Na6
10. O-O-O Bd7
11. Nf3 Qe7
12. Nb5 Bxb5
13. Bxb5+ c6
14. Bxa6 bxa6
15. Ng5 Nxg5
16. hxg5 Qb7
17. Bxb4 Qxb4
18. Rd3

Here is another idea for white 8 Bd3. Care to try that?

Jul-26-07  simsim: <souzhin> i think that 6...g5 is supposed to be quite risky for black after (6. Be3). i just started to play the MacCutcheon recently, so i've no own opinion, but i know that GM psahkis writes in his book "French Defence Steinitz, Classical and other Systems" that it is not a good idea to play 6...g5 since it creates to many weak squares on the kingside.
Sep-03-07  drukenknight: ANother odd Macutheon ends on an odd note. Although there are some mistakes it is a good illustration of the Rook pins and N forks that occur so often as well as the open lines to blacks K. I'll put a diagram at the end so you dont have to play all the moves...

1. e4 e6
2. d4 d5
3. Nc3 Nf6
4. Bg5 Bb4
5. e5 h6
6. exf6 hxg5
7. fxg7 Rg8
8. a3 Bxc3+
9. bxc3 Qf6
10. Bb5+ Bd7
11. Bd3 c5
12. Qg4 Qxg7
13. c4 dxc4 (think I missed ...e5 around here)
14. Bxc4 f5
15. Qh5+ Kd8
16. Nh3 (Rd1 was necessray to keep this equal)
... Qxd4
17. O-O Qxc4
18. Qf7 Re8
19. Nxg5 Nc6
20. Rfd1 Nd4
21. Qf6+ Kc7
22. Rd2 Rh8
23. Qe5+ Kc6
24. Rc1 Rag8
25. Nf7 Nf3+ and 0-1

I think my anonymous opponent had a heart attack at the end we'll never know for sure, but how is this supposed to go?

click for larger view

Oct-03-07  simsim: one of the things i dislike about the mac-cutcheon (from the black point of view) is that the position after f.e. 1. e4 e6
2. d4 d5
3. Nc3 Nf6
4. Bg5 Bb4
5. e5 h6
6. Bd2 Lxc3
7. bxc3 Ne4
8. Qg4 g6
9. Ld3 Nxd2
10. Kxd2 c5
11. h4

click for larger view

the position is quite simple and have the feeling that white is having more fun - blacks choices are rather limited:

1.) 11... Sc6 12. Sf3 Qa5 (or 12... cxd4 13. cxd4 Qa5+ 14. c3) seems just natural. its not that white is much better, but the game is very straightforward for white.

2.) 11... Ld7 12. Sf3 Lc6 which seems nice (preparing long castling), but white can force a draw with 13. Lxg6 fxg6 ( not 14. Qxg6+?) 14. Qxe6+ Qe7 15. Qc8+ Qd8 .... so its okay against stronger players.

3.) 11... c4 12. Lf1! (with the idea to deploy it on long diagonal or h2-a7 diagonal & Se2)

White's play is often quite obvious. Of course players like morozevich and nepomniachtchi (had to look this name up:) have already proofed that black can indeed pose a lot of problems for white. but when i compare this line to the winawer-variation (with short castling), which i used to play it seems simpler for white. (the strongest lines for white are shorter and easier to find i suppose). so after 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Lg5 (i'm perfectly satisfied with my repertoire against other white moves) i'm not sure what to play. it is not that i have had bad results (many players on my level play inferior moves like 6.exf6 or even skip 8. Qg4) with the mac-cutcheon, but i do not like it too much. right now i'm studying the burn variation 4...dxe4 5.Nxe4 Le7 6.Lxf6 gxf6 which seems interesting but difficult. any opinions?

Oct-03-07  RookFile: I know what you mean about the position being simple. I used the MacCutcheon myself on Monday. Basically, you need to be the type of guy who loves endgames, and is skillful at grinding out small advantages. Some guys would just prefer to blow the guy off the board with tactics, and that probably isn't going to happen in most cases.
Oct-03-07  ganstaman: <simsim> I think you are missing black's light square bishop in your diagram. And that probably explains this line:

<2.) 11... Ld7 12. Sf3 Lc6 which seems nice (preparing long castling), but white can force a draw with 13. Lxg6 fxg6 ( not 14. Qxg6+?) 14. Qxe6+ Qe7 15. Qc8+ Qd8 .... so its okay against stronger players.>

Since 14. Qxe6+?? loses to 14...Bxe6 (or Lxg6, I guess).

I'm actually playing this position (well, one of the positions you mention at some point) in a correspondence game against User: timhortons . So the only other things I'll say are:

1) This is why I play the French. White gets a seemingly easy attack to pull off. But black is forced to be creative, and when he is, an amazing defense and even better counter-attack takes the full point. It makes you work, but it's so much fun when it goes as planned.

2) I recently played this blitz game as black (G/10). There are some improvements for both sides, but there was basically one big mistake, I think:

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Bb4 5. e5 h6 6. Bd2 Bxc3 7. bxc3 Ne4 8. Qg4 g6 9. Bd3 Nxd2 10. Kxd2 c5 11. h4 Nc6 12. Nh3 Qa5 13. Bxg6 (<Not a sound sacrifice, but keeps the game fun. For me, at least.>)

click for larger view

13...Rg8 14. Bxf7+ Kxf7 15. Qh5+ Ke7 16. Qxh6 Rf8 17. dxc5 d4 18. Qh7+ Rf7 19. Qd3 Qxc5 20. f4 b6 21. cxd4 Nxd4 22. c3 Nf5 23. g4 Bb7 0-1 and white resigns.

click for larger view

White to move, but nothing looks great. Personally I would have played on as this is getting a bit complicated for blitz, but it is likely lost for white anyway.

Oct-03-07  simsim: <ganstaman>
I'm sorry that i forgot the bishop in the diagram and for the annoying notation (Lxg6 instead of Bxg6, i know this annoying).

<Since 14. Qxe6+?? loses to 14...Bxe6 (or Lxg6, I guess)> In the line i was refering to 11... Bd7 12. Sf3 Bc6 the bishop is already on c6, so the Queen capture is safe and leads to perpetual check.

don't get me wrong. i'm loyal adherent (not another basher) of the french defence. actually it is the reason why i have a 5% higher winning percentage with black instead of white :)

i just recently switched from the winawer to the classical 4...Sf6. the mac-cutcheon is quite similar to the winawer, but i think it is more simple (for both sides actually) to play. by simpler i mean: f.e. in the mac-cutcheon (diagram from my first) the white king has already found its place, while in the winawer the white player has to decide when (if at all) to castle. also the white's black-squared bishop is exchanged, so white's attacking potential is reduced...

it is not that i have completly removed this variation from my repertoire (especially in blitz, i still have a lot of fun with it).

Oct-03-07  ganstaman: <simsim: <Since 14. Qxe6+?? loses to 14...Bxe6 (or Lxg6, I guess)> In the line i was refering to 11... Bd7 12. Sf3 Bc6 the bishop is already on c6, so the Queen capture is safe and leads to perpetual check.>

Ah, I see. The notation got me, so I didn't realize it was the bishop moving to c6. While I'd hate to take the quick draw from either side of that, I do find it interesting that you're almost concluding that in the MacCutcheon, white has no more than a draw (maybe the whole French is that strong? Wasn't it Reti who thought so?).

As for the rest of your points, I understand. No matter how hard I've searched, I haven't been able to find any perfect opening (except maybe 1.f4...). Every one of them has some flaw, and it's all about which flaws we're willing to live with.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Turns out it's the McCutcheon variation, not the MacCutcheon. Here's its inventor's obit in the Times from 103 years ago. Such prodigious labors to achieve a wisp of immortality; we should at least spell his name right.

Sep-11-08  Timeline: What's interesting in the sideline of the Janowski variation after 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Bb4 5. e5 h6 6. Be3 Ne4 7. Qg4 Kf8 8. Bd3 Nxc3 9. Bd2 Nxa2 10. c3 Black declines the 2nd pawn in the database and makes white spend tempo in recapturing the piece by the means of 10...Be7 11.Rxa2
However, this occured only 4 times in the database and they're all from 1907. It appears that black can take the 2nd pawn by 10...Nxc3 11.bxc3 Be7 and Computer (Rybka) seems to like that better although the practical chance for the human is up for the debate. It seems to me that black doesn't have an immediate attack but black's lack of development gives him some chances.

"Analysis by Rybka 2.3.2a mp After 11.bxc3 Be7"

12.Nh3 h5 13.Qf3 Kg8 14.0-0 Nc6 15.Nf4 g6 16.Qg3 Bh4 17.Qe3 a5 18.Ra4 Be7 =(-0.25) Depth: 20

"Analysis by Rybka 2.3.2a mp After 10...Be7 11.Rxa2"

11...c5 12.Nf3 Qc7 13.0-0 cxd4 14.Qxd4 Nc6 15.Qe3 Na5 16.Bc1 Bd7 17.Re1 Nc4 18.Qe2 =(0.06) Depth: 20

I must add that neither seems to offer white much that it is not very likely to encounter this line in practice.

Sep-20-08  jahhaj: <gangstaman> Back here since it's the opening of the day.

You're right about why 7.Bxc3 is inferior to 7.bxc3. There's a Fischer - Petrosian game where Fischer tried 7.Bxc3 (he lost), see here Fischer vs Petrosian, 1962

Nice trap to know after 7.Bxc3

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Bb4 5.e5 h6 6.Bd2 Bxc3 7.Bxc3 Nd4 8.Bb4 c5 9.dxc5? Nxf2! 10.Kxf2 Qh4+ Black regains the piece and White's king is exposed.

Mar-08-10  TheScroobiousPip: Can anyone recommend any good resources for studying the McCutcheon? Thanks much.
Apr-13-10  jahhaj: <TheScroobiousPip> Tim Harding wrote a book on it, 'French: MacCutcheon and Advance lines' published in the UK by Batsford. A long time ago though, may well be out of print.
Sep-19-10  odnareieff: Appart from Tim Harding-any other
Sep-19-10  parisattack: I don't have it in front of me but there is a French Mc paperback, early 90s I = Lutz? Better than the Harding book by far.

Also some instructive games here -

Sep-19-10  parisattack: Author = Lutes, 1991 (I was close).

He also did an excellent work on the O'Kelly Sicilian, several other nice opening monographs in the years BDB (Before Data Bases).

May-20-12  parisattack: There is also Remember the MacCutcheon by Eade.
Dec-28-12  parisattack: The Modern French by Antic & Maksimovic has an excellent and sympathetic section on the McCutcheon. An especially useful discussion on the relative merits/demerits of 8. ...g6 and 8. ...Kf8 in the main line.
Nov-06-13  Wyatt Gwyon: <Parisattack> I've been working through The Modern French for a while, and the chapter on the McCutcheon is indeed excellent. Really strong case for the Kf8 line.
Nov-06-13  parisattack: <Wyatt Gwyon> I really like that book for a number of reasons. Went through the Mc section but haven't had time for the other sections/variations. Very readable, easy to follow.
Jun-19-14  parisattack: Alekhine's 'famous' 5-Queen game was a McCutcheon. Good story on it in the kenilworthchessclub link above.
Jan-24-17  parisattack: Watson covers the Mc in the 4th edition of Play the French. I've had good success with it on RedHotPawn losing only one game to a 2500 player.
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