Chess openings – French Defence

September 13, 2019 posted by

Welcome to Today, we’re
going to take a look at the French, which is a very solid opening for
Black, but offers counter chances. Let’s take a look. The French Defense
begins with the moves pawn to e4, and pawn to e6. Now White’s idea is
that after this almost universal reply, d4, setting up the ideal pawn center,
Black would play pawn to d5 and set up a strong hold for himself in the
center. I like to think of the French Defense as a
deep psychological strategy on Black’s part. Black goes ahead and he just
accepts a modestly cramped game in exchange for some simpler strategic plans
in a closed position. Black can comfortably play for his plans and avoid
an early tactical battle, and he can also avoid a theoretical contest to
see just who knows how much theory. This is one reason why this opening
is so popular with beginning and intermediate players. Let’s get acquainted with some of the charm
of Black’s strategy. To do that, we’re going to focus on the advanced
variation which begins with the move, pawn to e5. This is a reasonable reply
to the French Defense. The only way White could have opened the game
would have been to exchange the pawns on b5, but this has a reputation as
being a very drawish structure because the pawns are asymmetrical, and things
are very likely to be traded down the D files here. So, normally White
doesn’t want to take on d5, so it’s very reasonable for him to, at some point,
advance this pawn. But today we’re going to look at what happens
if he does it straightaway. Now that Black has induced White into playing
pawn to e5, Black’s ready for the second stage of his plan, which is to
start laying siege to the center. He wants to do that with breaks, like pawn
to c5 and pawn to f6. He’s also going to want to combine pawn to c5 with some
piece pressure against the d4 pawn and see if he can crack down the light
center. Now, of course, White also has plans of his
own. Since he has a space advantage, he can look, for example, to build
up an attack on the king side with moves, like f4 to f5. Or he can even
sometimes find some play on the queen side. At the same time, he’s going to
focus on maintaining the center, and so it’s a big battle of plans
here. But one thing is that Black’s plans are a little bit easier to play,
whereas White’s require more finesse. So if White is a little bit less
prepared, he can easily fall under an attack in the center or on the queen
side. But, Black also needs to stoically accept a few downsides in the
French Defense. Black has used one of his pawns for passive defense on the
third rank, and this translates into a somewhat cramped position. For example,
Black’s queen bishop looks very sickly compared to all the other bishops
on the board. This is a real problem piece for Black in the French. What’s
more, the White E pawn is ready to advance to e5 at any moment, so Black
has to be careful to time natural developing moves like knight to f6,
and he definitely tends to rule out bringing the bishop to the otherwise
comfortable square on d6. Let’s get back to the advanced variation.
Black now begins his counter- strategy with the move, pawn to c5, putting
immediate pressure on White’s pawn chain here. White has no real choice
except to defend this with a pawn, with pawn to c3. That way he can always
recapture with the pawn and keep the center intact. Now, Black plays knight
c6 and is starting to build a little bit more pressure on White, and after
knight f3, we reach a standard starting position in the French advance.
To help get acquainted with the major aims of the French Defense,
we’re going to focus on just a single, key variation today, which begins
with the most aggressive move here, and that’s queen to b6, further piling
up pressure on d4, while also eyeballing the b2 pawn and making it difficult
for the bishop to develop here. Now the interesting thing here is that, even
though Black’s move, queen b6, has put some pressure on the d4 pawn, Black
still only has three attackers to White’s three defenders. So at the moment,
this is not a real threat here yet to take on d4. How does Black bring
a fourth piece to attack the pawn? Well, he plans to bring this knight
on g8 to the square f5, and he can do this either by taking to d7 to f5,
or from h6 to f5. Normally, he’ll combine this with a well-timed exchange on
the d4 square by the pawns. For example, if White just plays the move,
bishop b2, which is not a bad move by any means, Black normally goes ahead
and he captures on d4, pawn takes pawn, pawn takes pawn, and now he starts
heading a knight to f5. For example, here he even has a sneaky way to
set up a trap. He plays knight to h6, threatening to bring the knight to f5,
and it looks like White can just play bishop’s H to h6 and indeed, this
has been played many times. However, there’s a little trap here, which
is that instead of recapturing the bishop, Black would play queen takes b2,
with a threat to the rook. This gives Black not only an extra pawn, but
also quite a bit of initiative since, for example, after knight b d2, Black
would now take on h6, and in addition to being up ahead of pawn, he’s still
attacking this point on d4, twice. Backing up a bit, it’s important to realize
just how rapid Black’s attack is. For example, if after pawn takes pawn,
pawn takes pawn, and knight h6, if White simply castles here, Black would
already grab the upper hand with knight f5. As you see, you already have enough
attackers on this pawn that we are actually threatening it. Because of
the attack to the b2 pawn, White can’t easily bring out a defender to this
point. In fact, he already has a funny problem here. It’s very difficult to
defend this pawn. So, White has a couple of options in this position after
knight h6, both of which are taking into account how quickly Black’s counter-play
is coming. For example, he can play b2 to b3, but this makes
himself vulnerable to a little check on b4 after knight f5, bishop
b2, and now bishop b4, check. Since any interposition here would mess up
the defense of d4, for example, if White would play knight d2, that one’s
cut off the queen from defense of d4. It’s just waiting to be plucked off the
board. Or if he would play knight c3, he would be blocking the bishop
from defense, so here we have it. So after this check, White’s best move,
it turns out, is to play king f1. I don’t think this is a very healthy setup
for White. Yes, he has a small space advantage, but giving up castling rights
and not having any real plan here seems like too high of a price to pay.
So after knight h6, theory tends to recommend not b3, but a little bit
more of a tricky move with knight c3. Again, this is the sort of thing
that a lot of players are not going to know in these kinds of positions. Now after we play knight f5, the idea is that
White is going to make use of an in-between move, knight to a4. Now Black
has to waste some time addressing this attack to his queen. This
leads to a sharp position, and there are many ways it can go. Let’s just
suppose that Black plays these popular moves, queen a5, check, and now bishop
d2, bishop b4, then our attack on d4 is still going strong right now.
But now, White simply plays bishop c3. This leads to an unusual position,
which should be about balanced, according to theory. Let’s move back to the situation after Black
played queen b6. All that analysis just showed is how rapidly White’s
d4 pawn can fall under attack if he’s not careful. Bishop b2 isn’t a bad
move by any means, and in fact, it even has a good score recently. But the
traditional move in this position has been this quiet looking pawn
move, a2 to a3. a2 to a3 is a tricky little move that accomplishes more
than one thing at a time. With this move, White is aiming to achieve b2 to
b4, and this would not only gain some space for White, but would also
allow his bishop some freedom to move once again. Black may play this move
under many circumstances. He might play it right away, or he might play
it after Black exchanges on b4, or he might even take on c5 first and then
play b4. Now in this position, our previous plan of
pawn takes pawn, pawn takes pawn, followed by knight h6, it doesn’t make
quite as much sense here since White now has the simple move, pawn to b4.
After knight f5, we would then have, let’s say, bishop to b2. White’s pawns
are much more comfortably ranged on the queen side in this case, and
it’s difficult for Black to gain counter-play. For example, if you were to
play a5, then White would simply go ahead with b5. At the same time, White
can always play g2, g4 at some point in this position, which is a very common
strategy in these positions. This will also reduce the attackers on d4.
This is not exactly how Black wants to play this position after White plays
pawn to a3. Fortunately for Black, there is a pretty simple
reply to all of this, which is simply pawn to c4. Due to the En Passant
rule, if White were to play pawn to b4, Black could simply capture the
pawn with C takes b3, using the En Passant rule. So, c4 makes pawn to b4 very
difficult to achieve. The second point which c4 has going for it is
that it fixes a pretty big weakness on the b3 square, which might be
useful, for example, for a knight if it could arrive there. However, it’s a
little unclear to assess who has the upper hand on the queen side, or who benefited
most from this move, pawn to c4. The reason for that is that Black did give
up his pressure on the d4 point. This allows White to now get on with his development
and start playing for his own attack in peace. Play tends to continue
with the move, knight B to d2. White hasn’t entirely given up on the
idea of trying to move this pawn. In this case, he probably wants to play it
tob3, trying to break down the pawn chain for Black here. So to avoid this,
Black plays knight a5, and finally, White tends to get on with his development
of the king side here, either with bishop to d2, or with something
like pawn to g3, followed by bishop g2. In the long-term, what White wants
to do, is he wants to build up an attack on the king side, either by eventually
playing for f5, or in some cases, he even plays the H pawn all the
way down to h6. This is just one idea. This is actually the main ideas
for White in this position. On the other hand, Black has a very long ranging
strategy of his own to play on the weakness squares on the queen
side. For example, he might play bishop d7, and quite often, he castles queen
side in these positions, maneuvers the knight over to some area on
the queen side and just plays for an initiative on this side of the board. This
is a fascinating position to study, and it’s very representative of the
sort of strategic battle that the French Defense can lead to. I’d say that
White might have a bit of an initiative here. This is exactly the sort
of closed strategic game that Black is probably more comfortable with if
he aimed for the French Defense. That’s what I wanted to show for today. We’ve
touched on a lot of important strategies that are unique to the French Defense,
and we’ve gotten a foothold on this important opening. Perhaps,
you’ll choose to deepen your exploration of this opening on either side.
Until next time, thank you, and we’ll see you again.


100 Replies to “Chess openings – French Defence”

  1. Ravenblack says:

    After Nc6, I often encounter the move Bb6. If I play the queen they either move their horse or trade the bishop for my knight (depending on where I place the queen). What should I do and how continues it afterwards? Thanks in advance

  2. Alen Bizjak says:

    on 3:32 grandmaster Damien Lemos recommends queen to b6 BEFORE knight to f6, so that white cant defend the pawn with bishop to e3

  3. Dereque Kelley says:

    @sanitary103: What do you consider to be the attractive factors of the French? If it's the e-pawn's positioning then you could always try 1.e3 🙂

  4. Dereque Kelley says:

    @Rex Velos: Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it. Isn't this video about the Advanced variation?

  5. Christopher Kelly says:

    Great video as always Dereque. You have made a huge difference to my game. Thanks for taking the time.

  6. Robb Cravens says:

    Dereque Kelley does in depth explanations that most people can understand. This makes his video's extremely valuable. I subscribed.

  7. kochampion7 says:

    Great video!

  8. RealyBadMexican says:

    Dereque I am in 9th grade, can you please explain what do to and capitalize if the d file pawn decides to capture the c file pawn once the c4 pawn is played

  9. CapableTie 7 says:

    I like to play pawn to f6, it helps the knight develop. and makes the f file semi open for the rook after castling.

  10. Pixel Turtle says:

    can you do a video on the crab?

  11. Icrnicjr says:

    The sickly french defense LSB! lol Thanks for the vids!

  12. raymond oropesa says:


  13. Andrew says:

    This sounds unsettlingly scripted

  14. W64 says:

    Very good introduction and very nice presentation too.

  15. athos1669 says:

    You are by far the most didactic mentor in this themes. Thank you so much for making this wonderfull game even more enjoyable!

  16. Chessdumy says:

    Hehe, en passant rule shown in the french defense!

  17. Emmanuel Boulade says:

    This video and the dutch stonewall one changed my life, THANKS !!!

  18. IronPump89 says:

    the one issue with the french, is that the …f6 push from black is often accompanied by the white queen giving a powerful check at h5. Thus the white pawn at e5 is often hard to exchange.

    anyway thanks alot

  19. MURDR63 says:

    What if the white queen's pawn decides to take the black bishop's pawn, not allowing me to bring the queen to b6? Should I play pawn to b6, and go through the exchange to get my queen to b6 (whether they accept or decline)?

  20. JABS991 says:

    ha! Funny.

    I just realized you tape this in Chicago

  21. Mr.H says:

    thanks for all the vids! 😀

  22. Arturo Castillo says:

    Thank you!  The a3 move really gave me a deeper appreciation for the French defence. 

  23. TheUnofficialGamer22 says:

    Well I just found a nice and simple opening for state and nationals! Thanks!

  24. David Willis says:

    Great video! Very instructive. That looks like Chicago behind you. I spent a week in a condo very near there–on N Dearborn between Grand and Ohio. Love that city. Dig that belt you're wearing too.

  25. Ujjval Verma says:

    wowow… enjoyed it really… this is beautiful !

  26. David Willis says:

    Why do you say that white has no real choice but to defend 3…c5 with a pawn? Why not Nf3?

  27. examinfo says:

    If you like to play Adv.Variation as white, look at the games of GM E.Sveshnikov(old school) and GM A.Grischuk(new school).

  28. jayamini premadasa says:

    why are you laughing when the video show you ?

  29. Jmason247 says:

    Why not Bc3 on the Bb4 check?

  30. Rafael Borges says:

    Master Kelley, I'm searching for a good positional, hypermodern defense against 1.e4.
    As white, I like the Colle, the Zukertort, and the London systems.
    Against 1.d4 I love the King's Indian Defense.
    The French is interesting, but feels too closed…
    Pirc is almost what I want, but feels too risky.
    Sicilian Accelerated Dragon, Grunfeld and Najdorf (even the "Dragondorf") are also interesting, but a bit too complex to me.
    Do you have any suggestions? I'm totally lost…
    Thank you very much!!

  31. Pete West says:

    This video has not only converted me to playing the French, but has also helped me a lot with developing my understanding of opening theory in general. I'm subbed.

    Thanks, DK

  32. Emre saçkesen says:

    such a great and positive mentor. Thanks for the educative videos.

  33. Devan Kingsford says:

    Dereque, you are amazing. I love how you explore the strengths AND weaknesses of each opening, and not just from both the white AND black point of view. I consult your videos when I've been stymied by a new defense, or when I'm trying something new myself. So informative, so well rounded, and so well put for beginner and intermediate players. Please keep these videos coming!

  34. Dream Cardigan says:

    Hi, I'm sorry, I'm a beginner so there are some terms I don't fully understand but would like to anyway, like, what is an open and a closed game? What are their differences? If an opening is coined as a kind of "Defense," does that mean the opening is more advantageous for Black than for White?

  35. The Dark Light says:

    666 likes lol

  36. The Dark Light says:

    what if white plays knight c3 or knight f3 in the beginning? do i still play French or do i transpose into something else?

  37. Gilberto Gomez says:

    I love how this guy explains openings!

  38. Wesley Vickers says:

    A great video, thank you. Easy to understand and this will help me in my own games certainly.

  39. Denko Troi says:

    Nice channel

  40. malcolm dixon says:

    Extended Bishop Variation?

  41. JoEv John says:

    I owe you a great deal of thanks. I've watched two videos of your's today, and already i am starting to understand the french defense, and I am beginning to see chess in a whole different light because of you. I finally am starting to see the theory of an opening!

  42. scottdpt12 says:

    Very well done! Thank you!

  43. malcolm dixon says:

    Light squared bishop comes to E2 after N2 to C6 in mainlines

  44. Owen MacAlevey says:

    Hey Dereque. Your videos on the French Defence are quite interesting. Do you think you could do a video on the Milner-Barry Gambit in the Advance Variation?
    Just to give you an idea, it goes 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. c3 Nc6 5. Nf3 Qb6 6. Bd3!? cxd4 7. cxd4 Bd7 8. 0-0 Nxd4 9. Nxd4 (Nbd2!? is also interesting, trying to retain a powerful knight on f3) Qxd4 10. Nc3 a6.

  45. Sijo K R says:

    This is the best lecture about French defence I ever saw in YouTube… thank you 🙂

  46. Dharmang Gajjar says:

    Thank you 🙂

  47. shravan ramesh says:

    what happens if d4 pawn goed toc3

  48. shravan ramesh says:

    sorry c5

  49. tide pods 4 life bleach chlorox says:

    its an good and understanding and of course very helpful video of the French advanced variation

  50. Theo Dijkstra says:

    Thanks. I think you mean "White" at this point but that's a nit-pick comment.

  51. Sebastian B says:

    Hello, great video ! 🙂 I wondered what would happen if black played a5 instead of c4 with the intention of taking on b4 should white push his pawn.

  52. Theo Catanzaro says:

    Great explanation of various lines as well. Very clear and concise

  53. Eskil O J says:

    Helped me to come on the 4th place for the best chess player in norway for kids 13.
    Thank u!

  54. Baballevincent says:

    French defence: 1.e4 Black resigns

  55. youpeng cai says:


  56. Dylan Hunn says:

    Wonderful video! Thanks for making it 🙂

  57. Alvin Cruz says:

    I always think of how to play here as White. I see a3… I will try that.

  58. Willy Amigo says:

    Hi kelley! What chess set/board are you using?

  59. ALL IN ONE BABA says:

    You are a perfect chess coach for openings!!!!

  60. Ed Hague says:

    U need more subs

  61. Alan Gordon says:

    Thank you, a very good lesson!!

  62. Lawrence Lepes says:

    I bring out the Queen to b6 before I bring my Knight to c6. That way White can't bring out the c1 Bishop immediately. If I play White, and my opponent plays Nc6 before Qb6, I play Be3. Great video! Very informative

  63. Manish Kumar says:

    why didn't he put b5 when bishop was pinned. He will simply lose his pone or if did wrong then piece

  64. Jean Carlotto says:

    You have the best videos about openings on youtube.

  65. Zach Heath says:

    I always have to watch these multiple times because I forgrt

  66. Amir Kahinpour says:

    Thank you for your great tutorial.

  67. henri says:

    03:25 why does he have no choice than protecting with a pawn? Be3? I don't see why this should be so bad. would be kind if someone could explain it!

  68. RayVitoles says:

    clearly the best presentation of openings i have seen online..You explain the ideas behind the openings..For a beginner that has first touch with opening theory and even for an experienced player that wants to try something new,your videos are recipe for success..

  69. Connor Monday says:

    Would someone mind explaining or directing me to something that explains how the French isn't simply worse than the Caro Kann? Especially in each advance variation, it seems much more active for black with the active bishop.

  70. Clayton Benignus says:

    How about the MacCutcheon Variation???

  71. yash soni says:

    Ya its great video for french defence but i felt Sleppy after watching it plz bring in more intresting manner bro…

  72. xi chen says:

    Hi hihihi hihihi

  73. The BLDRS says:

    My go to for openings, love you man

  74. Baptiste Bauer says:

    Definitely aimed for everyone to understand there. Which is awesome. You put so much work into this, it definitely deserves a like

  75. Aaron Jacob Amador Salazar says:

    1:17 What should we do if White captured the Pawn at d5?

  76. Thamara Denise says:

    why are u always in black

  77. Thamara Denise says:

    u are the best!

  78. Richard Qing says:


  79. Shon Williams says:

    Great presentation! Thank you.

  80. Akanksha Gupta says:

    When we play knight h5then white can simply move on to G4

  81. Akanksha Gupta says:

    Sorry paun to g5

  82. Akanksha Gupta says:

    Sorry Paun to G4

  83. Akanksha Gupta says:

    Not paun to G5


    Which is the best opening for black

  85. alex16cole says:

    Dereque u r amazing

  86. Filosofikuningas says:

    Very nice explanation; I'll definitely look into your other videos as well. Thanks a bunch!

  87. Barta Anett says:

    0:18-you can come out as a second move with the right black horse so the white bishop has to beat it

  88. Meena Chandran says:

    But I don't know to play against french defense…

  89. Liverpool Football Club says:

    I always play the Paulsen Attack if my opponent plays the French defense .

  90. Lionssky Blue says:

    its great that you explain everything to help us. thank you.

  91. Văn Chí Dũng says:


  92. Blackocean ngambirwoha says:

    best chess teacher ever

  93. T B says:

    Oh,those frenchmen…

  94. nuff sed says:

    Any time the French defence is failing just try anything, and call it the English defence. The English defence has very much helped the French since the mid 1940s. FACT!

  95. Chris McCarthy says:

    Thanks much!

  96. Rajanya Sengupta says:

    Thanks it worked out for me

  97. jagdish singh says:

    Nice opening

  98. Trev Barlow says:

    So helpful!

  99. Advait Desai says:

    I really like your videos so much that I made a notebook in which I write all openings and variations… But while writing like you know, it is difficult to write without coordinates. So is it possible for you to include coordinates on board from next video?

  100. Trev Barlow says:

    Dereque, this video has helped me come to grips with playing against the FD. I used to go KIA but since this video, my win percentage against it has greatly improved. Thanks!

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