Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The French Defense

The French Defense is characterized by the opening moves 1. e4, e6.  The French has a reputation for solidity and resilience, though it can result in a somewhat cramped game for Black in the early stages. Black often gains counterattacking possibilities on the queenside while White tends to concentrate on the kingside.

Deceptive Aggression

One of the most interesting facets of a great master's art is his knack of demolishing positions which seem overwhelming.  In the following game, Black must have the keenest of insight to convince himself that White's imposing-looking position was really hollow.

London, 1923

1. e4, e6
2. d4, d5
3. Nc3, Nf6
4. e5, N6d7

Black will try to undermine White's powerful-looking Pawn center with ....c5 and .....f6.  White will support his pawn center with c3 and f4.  This explains his next move, which is a preparation for f4 and c3.

5. N3e2, c5
6. c3, Nc6
7. f4, Qb6
8. Nf3, f6!
9. g3 .....

White hopes to play Bg2 but never quite got to it. White's support of his center gets his pieces entangled; Black's attack on the center opens up lines for him.

9. ...... cxd4
10. cxd4, fxe5
11. fxe5, Bb4+

The best reply to this is 12. Nc3. White's reply leads to quick trouble.

12. Kf2?, 0-0

Interesting enough this matter-of-fact move threatens .....Nxe5 as both White's Queen Pawn and King Knight are pinned.

13. Be3 .....

 13. ..... N7xe5

The unexpected start of a dynamic breakthrough.

14. dxe5, Rxf3
15. Kxf3, Nxe5

Leaving White very little choice, for on 16. Kf2 the reply 16. .....Ng4+ is deadly.  For example: 17. Kf3 Qxe3+; 18. Kxg4 e5+ with mate next move.

16. Kf4, Qd6 !

Conclusive, but an attractive alternative line was 16. .....g5+! and if 17. Kxe5 Bd6, 18. Kf6 Qd8 mate!

17. Bh3 .....

A pretty alternative was 17. Bd4 Qf8+, 18. Ke3 Qf3 mate.

17. .....Bd7

And here 17. .....Qf8 also does the trick.

18. Bd4, Rf8+

White resigns, just in time to avoid 19. Kg5 Qe7+, 20. Kh5 Be8 mate.

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