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Hot Topic (More than 10 Replies) Trends in the French Tarrasch (especially 3...Nf6) (Read 1159 times)
WSS
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Re: Trends in the French Tarrasch (especially 3...Nf6)
Reply #15 - 08/26/17 at 22:16:23
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TN wrote on 08/22/17 at 20:52:33:
The reason 3...c5 is more trendy is because it's a better line according to engine analysis. In the position after 11...Qc7 you note, I haven't found a way for White to achieve even a symbolic advantage (though Black must remember a few concrete moves, of course). Conversely, in the 3...Nf6 main line, White has a few different approaches (12.g3, 12.Bg5, even 12.Nc3) and White's play seems more straightforward in all of them, though my knowledge there is not deep enough to say with any confidence if White can claim a true advantage. In CHOPIN the overall assessment is 'equal, but a touch more comfortable for White'.

First of all, thanks for your response TN!  I was busy with some other projects this week so I didn't get a chance to respond earlier.

I understand your point of view since the 3...c5 tabyia is relatively safe for Black given that he has no structural weaknesses and his main challenges are his lagging development, somewhat unsafe king and slightly less space.  However, I would have a slightly different view that White's play in this position is easier and reasonably comfortable and Black has not quite equalized as yet.  White will use his lead in development and mobility to probe at Black's position hoping to create a weakness to exploit.  Certainly it is the kind of position that a stronger player can hope to outplay a weaker opponent.

Admittedly the 3...Nf6 line has greater risk for Black but he is also pressing harder and I would say there is a higher risk/reward potential in the position.  I'm not trying to say that it is a "better" position for Black - I am merely asserting that it is more dynamic and, on balance, not a worse alternative for Black than the more popular 3...c5 line.
  
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Re: Trends in the French Tarrasch (especially 3...Nf6)
Reply #14 - 08/22/17 at 20:52:33
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The reason 3...c5 is more trendy is because it's a better line according to engine analysis. In the position after 11...Qc7 you note, I haven't found a way for White to achieve even a symbolic advantage (though Black must remember a few concrete moves, of course). Conversely, in the 3...Nf6 main line, White has a few different approaches (12.g3, 12.Bg5, even 12.Nc3) and White's play seems more straightforward in all of them, though my knowledge there is not deep enough to say with any confidence if White can claim a true advantage. In CHOPIN the overall assessment is 'equal, but a touch more comfortable for White'.
  

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Re: Trends in the French Tarrasch (especially 3...Nf6)
Reply #13 - 08/15/17 at 14:55:11
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ako wrote on 08/15/17 at 10:08:06:
3.-Nf6 is positionally rather fragile. I think this is the reason for the popularity of 3.-c5 at high level (- c5 is also my choice). 


Yes, the variations lead to quite different types of positions.  Let's look at two tabyias which represent a main line of each variation:





In the 3...c5 line, White is ahead in development, his king is safer and he can quickly develop some threats against Black's uncastled king.  Although Black lags in development, one pair of knights has been exchanged, his pawn structure is sound and he has an extra central pawn so his long term prospects are good if he can mobilize while neutralizing White's attacking chances.

In contrast, in the 3...Nf6 line, both players are similarly mobilized although White has succeeded in castling and his king is safer.  Obviously Black's pawn structure is weaker with 3 pawn islands to 2 for White and his backward e-pawn (although he does possess 2 center pawns to 1 for White.) . Generally speaking, Black must play more dynamically in order to take advantage of his attacking chances in the middlegame since passive play would ultimately favor White's better pawn structure.  Indeed, the thematic exchange sacrifice ...Rxf3 is often an important resource for Black utilizing the half-open f-file.

Both positions have their merits and disadvantages for Black.  At the risk of over generalizing, the 3...c5 tabiya should appeal to solid, positional players who don't mind defending and are looking to outplay their opponent over the long term.  I would also assume it appeals at the highest levels where solid technique is the norm and a draw is an acceptable outcome as Black.  On the flip side, the 3...Nf6 line requires more dynamic, fighting  play by Black (it sort of reminds me of playing the Black side of the King's Indian Defense where I feel the need to generate pressure against White without allowing him to drift into an advantageous endgame.)

Just a few comments to stimulate discussion!  Wink

By the way, in my sample of 2400+ players, Black scored the following in each tabiya:

3...c5 tabiya Black scored 5W - 17 D - 10L
3...Nf6 tabiya Black scored 2W - 3D - 3L
« Last Edit: 08/16/17 at 00:55:04 by WSS »  
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Re: Trends in the French Tarrasch (especially 3...Nf6)
Reply #12 - 08/15/17 at 14:12:30
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I think both experiences can occur even when facing the same group of players. In my experience it depends a lot on the event.

When I play in 1 game a day FIDE rated tournaments my opponents (most likely rated 1900-2300) will usually prepare for me fairly well, thus giving the impression of them being well versed in theory. On the other hand playing in local leagues, where opponents aren't known in advance, has a completely different feel. In such cases I've had many strong players start to think deeply well within theory. For example a 2100 level player thought for 15-20 minutes after 4.Nf3 against his Nimzo Indian.

Some of the difference may be related to the type of players who play in tournaments, compared to those who play evening leagues. Still, I suspect most of it is down to how much time there is for decent game preparation. Personally I also display far less theoretical knowledge in local league games Smiley
  

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Re: Trends in the French Tarrasch (especially 3...Nf6)
Reply #11 - 08/15/17 at 13:52:56
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About my comment about opponents and knows less and less theory, some friends and I plays regularay in weekend tournaments in Sweden during the past years and we has noticed this trend in all our games. Maybee different in other countrys, I dont know. The point is when I was younger I met mainlines more often and was in theoretical positions for more moves regardless of type of tournament or opponent.

However this thread was about French defence. I recently started to play French and in over the board games and I have met exchange variation in more games then I expected including vs heigher rated playes.


  
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Re: Trends in the French Tarrasch (especially 3...Nf6)
Reply #10 - 08/15/17 at 11:20:36
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bragesjo wrote on 08/13/17 at 20:36:01:
I can add one small thing about not knowing theory. While there are more theortical information available than ever before players  bellow elite leve know less and less concrete theory. I have met a several FM:s who has been out of book before move 7 in mainlines regardless of side.
If have only met 3 GMs but in each case I knew theory some move longer.

I've seen several comments in this general vein from you lately. I don't doubt your experience, but it's surprising because it doesn't match my experience at all: My opponents seem to know more and more theory.

I can't play something semi-offbeat and rely on surprise value anymore: Quite often my opponents are concretely prepared for my openings, and so I have to be too.

Maybe my experience is an anomaly because I play in Norway, where I often get to face ambitious, young players who took up the game during Magnus' rise to the top. And when I do travel abroad to play, I deliberately choose opens where I'm likely to face stronger opponents a lot of the time.

But even disregarding my own case, I still find your statement that people know "less and less concrete theory" hard to believe. The general chess level has improved gradually since the start of tournament chess, and this also includes opening knowledge. And nowadays people have access to all this opening information as you say. They can even pick up quite a bit of theory just by following live broadcasts of top tournaments, which have become a lot more frequent and professionally done in the last decade.

P.S.: When you know more theory than the FMs and GMs you face, the obvious conclusion is that you're a somewhat lopsided player at present, a lot stronger in the opening than in other parts of the game. I have no idea what your specific weaknesses are of course, but the time should be ripe for forgetting about openings for a while and focusing on the rest of your game.
  

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Re: Trends in the French Tarrasch (especially 3...Nf6)
Reply #9 - 08/15/17 at 10:57:14
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One reason Black doesn't score so well with 3...Nf6 against the Tarrasch is many Black players wheel it out just because it often leads to fighting positions or because it's the typical "French" move that leads to central pawn chains, not because they have studied it in detail, which would be a much better reason to play it of course!

This point shouldn't apply above 2400, but maybe it does even there to some extent.

In contrast, if Black plays 3...c5, especially if he aims for the ...Qxd5 lines, it's a good bet he knows quite a bit about it. It's obvious that those lines require independent study since they are more unique and less "French-typical" thematically (though there are som similarities with the Rubinstein French and the Caro-Kann).
  

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Re: Trends in the French Tarrasch (especially 3...Nf6)
Reply #8 - 08/15/17 at 10:08:06
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3.-Nf6 is positionally rather fragile. I think this is the reason for the popularity of 3.-c5 at high level (- c5 is also my choice).
  

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Re: Trends in the French Tarrasch (especially 3...Nf6)
Reply #7 - 08/14/17 at 21:22:04
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ErictheRed wrote on 08/14/17 at 18:08:40:
So your overall takeaway is that Black is still OK if he follows Berg's repertoire, is that your main point? 


Actually both Berg and Watson's (PTF4) repertoires seem to be holding up in the 3...Nf6 line.  My initial interest was trying to understand why the 3...Nf6 line was underperforming / less popular based on database statistics.  I used Berg and Watson as arbitrary standards for how Black should (or could) play (understanding that both authors make choices regarding variations.)  In my opinion the 3...Nf6 line remains a good fighting alternative to the much more popular 3...c5 variation.
  
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Re: Trends in the French Tarrasch (especially 3...Nf6)
Reply #6 - 08/14/17 at 18:08:40
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So your overall takeaway is that Black is still OK if he follows Berg's repertoire, is that your main point?
  
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Re: Trends in the French Tarrasch (especially 3...Nf6)
Reply #5 - 08/14/17 at 01:46:27
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bragesjo wrote on 08/13/17 at 20:36:01:
There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. Statistics does not always show the correct evaluation of a line.
I can give an example from an other opening with equal material that several books for black recommened where all engines thinks dead equal while in practical  play white scores 61% in databases. It could be that in practical over the board games whites position is easier to handle when one is out of book.


I share your skepticism regarding the simple statistics we find in databases.  That was a motivation for me analyzing the individual games more deeply to draw my own conclusions.  In this case, the database statistics would say that Black should avoid the 3...Nf6 Tarrasch based on the overwhelming positive score for White.   However, when you look at the actual games you find a more nuanced story where Black has many opportunities (often relatively early in the game) to improve his play.
  
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Re: Trends in the French Tarrasch (especially 3...Nf6)
Reply #4 - 08/13/17 at 20:36:01
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I can add one small thing about not knowing theory. While there are more theortical information available than ever before players  bellow elite leve know less and less concrete theory. I have met a several FM:s who has been out of book before move 7 in mainlines regardless of side.
If have only met 3 GMs but in each case I knew theory some move longer.

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. Statistics does not always show the correct evaluation of a line.
I can give an example from an other opening with equal material that several books for black recommened where all engines thinks dead equal while in practical  play white scores 61% in databases. It could be that in practical over the board games whites position is easier to handle when one is out of book.
  
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Re: Trends in the French Tarrasch (especially 3...Nf6)
Reply #3 - 08/12/17 at 23:20:46
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Understood, and it is interesting to do this sort of analysis.  It's always been a little mysterious to me, though: a new repertoire book is published, everyone memorizes all of these new lines, and then...they don't appear on the board!  We can drive ourselves a little bit crazy trying to figure out what's going on. 

Speaking for the dozen or so 2300+ rated people I've known well enough in person to have these conversations with (strong USCF masters, FMs, and IMs), I think that it boils down to something like this.  Many of those players have put their repertoires together on their own, analyzing games from databases and various sources, working with another strong player, etc.  They have a lot of confidence in the work they did (in "their own" theory), and they don't care too much what some random new repertoire book says.  Some of them, I was surprised, seemed unaware of what new opening books were proposing!  They just work on their openings differently than many club players do. 

Also, I have been surprised at how many FMs and IMs simply seemed to know less theory than me at times, and forgotten their theory or prep.  In lines I know well (the Catalan, the 6.Bg5 Samisch King's Indian), it's happened pretty often that I know more theory than even an IM!  Unfortunately while it's helpful to know a lot of theory, I've realized that it's usually only enough to shift the evaluation of the game slightly in your favor--from equal to slight edge for you, for instance--and there's still a lot of work to do once the opening ends.

It really is fairly common for adult stronger players to forget their exact preparation (I'm not talking about 2600+ GMs here, but it even happens there).  It doesn't seem to hold them back, though; they are better at tactics than we are, and endgame play, and maybe understand their pet variations better than we do and are able to "wing it" better, etc.  Memorizing a lot of theory seems to be more the domain of younger, improving players, those in the 1800 - 2200 range or so.  I think that somewhere around 2300, players start caring less about published "theory," or they think about it differently than the rest of us, or they do more work to come up with their own ideas, or they disagree with some assessments, etc. 

Anyway, all of that only touches on one particular part of your original post, but it's interesting to me. 

It's also interesting to note that it was Black who was deviating much more often.  I'd dig in a little to see if those same Black players were making the same deviations in more than one game; that would give a clue about whether they were using their preparation or just winging things.
  
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Re: Trends in the French Tarrasch (especially 3...Nf6)
Reply #2 - 08/12/17 at 22:58:23
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ErictheRed wrote on 08/12/17 at 18:47:38:
[quote author=6E6A6A390 link=1502539894/0#0 date=1502539894]

Anyhow, I would suggest that you not over-think some of this.  It's interesting, but just because someone is rated 2420 does not mean that they have perfect recollection or have specialized in a particular system, or were not caught-out by a particular opponent or move order.  Some of those Black players probably simply forgot the theoretical continuation and were not trying to surprise White per se.  

I don't have a particularly good point, but I think that for us weaker club players, it's a good reminder that there is a lot of chess to be played and a bigger scope for our own ideas than looking at all the latest theory might have us believe.


I take your generalization about strong players not necessarily knowing (or remembering) theory which is certainly plausible in some cases.  I still recall the post you made many years ago (2010?) where you shared how quickly you were "out of book" in your previous 12 OTB games.  However, that wasn't really the main point of my post. 

Most of the benefit I derived from this was from personally analyzing every single one of the losses and understanding where Black went astray.  Since I can't post all the details, an interesting summary observation for me was that Black was most often the one varying from main line theory rather than White and in many cases that put them under pressure in an inferior position.  Generally I would expect it to be the opposite since French players tend to be specialists and the main lines in the 3...Nf6 Tarrasch are somewhat "narrow". 

Another helpful observation was that I couldn't find anything  theoretically suspect about the 3...Nf6 line even though it is not as popular or successful lately.  This was personally encouraging for me since I find the popular 3...c5 lines to be more drawish than I like.  My view is that the main ideal of opening knowledge is to get you to a playable middlegame which you like and hopefully understand a little better than your opponent!


  
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Re: Trends in the French Tarrasch (especially 3...Nf6)
Reply #1 - 08/12/17 at 18:47:38
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WSS wrote on 08/12/17 at 13:11:34:
I compared the losses suffered by Black to the recommendations in Berg’s repertoire to see where the games varied.  After looking at the 28 losses by Black in the 3…Nf6 line, it is interesting to note that:
•      Black chooses to vary from the recommendations in Berg’s repertoire by move 11 in 82% (23/28) of the games. 
•      Only one White win, Artemiev-Onischuk follows Berg’s “absolute main line” after 5.Bd3 and Black varies by failing to execute the thematic French exchange sacrifice 16…Rxf3 and suffers with an inferior position.
        


I'm always a little amused at how rank-and-file club players (I mean 1600 - 2200, certainly there are some FMs and IMs that consider themselves amateur "club players") are so worried about theory, or their opponents' knowing a ton of theory.  At higher (but not elite) levels, all of those amateur FMs and IMs are going about their lives, playing chess as usual, not worrying too much about the latest repertoire book. 

Anyhow, I would suggest that you not over-think some of this.  It's interesting, but just because someone is rated 2420 does not mean that they have perfect recollection or have specialized in a particular system, or were not caught-out by a particular opponent or move order.  Some of those Black players probably simply forgot the theoretical continuation and were not trying to surprise White per se. 

On the other hand, many stronger players have "their own theory" and their own ideas about how things should be played that they've developed over the years, and are not going to change all of their ideas because a new book comes out (no matter how good it is).  Sometimes they're happy to see a different recommendation that White has to deal with, while they just continue playing their same old stuff! 

I don't have a particularly good point, but I think that for us weaker club players, it's a good reminder that there is a lot of chess to be played and a bigger scope for our own ideas than looking at all the latest theory might have us believe.
  
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