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Very Hot Topic (More than 25 Replies) C02: Is the French Advance a good weapon? (Read 42158 times)
BPaulsen
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Re: C02: Is the French Advance a good weapon?
Reply #44 - 08/26/11 at 00:26:43
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ErictheRed wrote on 08/25/11 at 17:06:56:
That's how I approach openings with the people I coach.  You recommend them playing good moves, not "systems", and they learn about a variety of types of positions in the process (open, closed, two Bishops vs. Bishop and Knight, IQP, etc).  You could call it dogmatism but I just call it teaching good moves that can be explained logically so that the students understand the ideas behind them.  I guess it's sort of a Silman approach to chess; have them list the imbalances and learn how to formulate a plan and develop logically around those imbalances, trying to play good moves without much thought of "style" or personal preference.


Good post.
  

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Re: C02: Is the French Advance a good weapon?
Reply #43 - 08/25/11 at 23:03:00
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I went the route that I think ErictheRed is talking about myself, of getting a good general understanding of the opening and middlegame first and only then (when I was already at 1900) starting to take opening theory more seriously.

But that was a rather slow route, and I've seen a lot of juniors achieve excellent results and progress by adopting openings that are specifically chosen to be much more difficult to play for the opponent than for themselves. Openings with easily explainable plans and/or tactics (I'm not talking about massive amounts of theory) that are either a headache to play against, the cost of mistakes is higher for the opposing side (the so-called Calthrop coefficient), or the typical opponent won't be prepared for it.

This line of reasoning leads to openings like the Benko Gambit, the Albin, the Accelerated Dragon and the Portuguese Gambit for Black, the Scotch Gambit, the English Opening and the Trompowsky for White (the last two because Black amateurs are hardly prepared for them).

Yes, this involves going into some quite specific position types, whether primarily positional or tactical, before the general chess understanding is strongly developed. But I'm no longer convinced that's a bad idea. This approach does bring results (because it targets the typical weak points of the opposition) and there's nothing like success to motivate further learning and progress. You might just start a self-reinforcing improvement spiral and gently direct the student towards more main line openings along the way.

And to finally return to the thread topic, my opinion of the French Advance for amateurs and juniors should now be obvious: Don't go there. Those positions are just what Black French players want, they play for typical plans like attacking d4, breaking with ...f6, exchanging off the bad bishop, sacing the exchange on f3 etc., and White's best moves with so much time invested in building a centre are much harder to find since they require prophylactic thinking. So 3.e5 will hurt results and therefore motivation.

The exception is the Milner-Barry Gambit, which might be a fine choice for a prospective attacking player since it's so easy for Black patzers to lose a miniature. In the modern 9.Nbd2 line it's not even clear that White is theoretically worse!  Smiley
  

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Re: C02: Is the French Advance a good weapon?
Reply #42 - 08/25/11 at 21:59:14
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Well, yes and no, generally speaking I prefer open positions for beginners, but I try not to be dogmatic about it. Moreover in the Steinitz, after dxc5 and exf6, the position is quite open.
The pawn chains of the Advance I'd rather have my son avoid. Moreover 3.e5 loses a tempo compared to 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 (and it appears that developing the Queenside can be problematic for White); neither does it force a concession like 3.Nc3 Bb4 does.
But I must admit that a certain bias also plays a role. White's chances do not impress me at all.
I very much like your argument about not playing 3.exd5.
  

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Re: C02: Is the French Advance a good weapon?
Reply #41 - 08/25/11 at 17:06:56
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This is a bit off topic, but I essentially agree with BPaulsen about dogmatism and opening choices.  I became flustered in another thread and said something to this effect: we're playing chess.  We're not playing 100 mini games called The French Advance or Panov-Botvinnik Attack or Sicilian Najdorf, we're just playing chess.  Worrying about theory can be far too counterproductive, and theory is entirely unnecessary below 1600 strength (which most young players are), and not very necessary up to 1800.

Regarding something to recommend a young player use against the French, I would explain that 1...e6 had the disadvantage of making it more difficult to get the LSB in the game.  Hence, 3.exd5 is not ideal.  Let's see...our e-pawn is under attack, let's make a natural developing move and defend it: 3.Nc3.  If Black responds 3...Nf6, he renews the attack on the e-pawn.  But wait!  Now we have the opportunity to play a space-gaining advance with gain of tempo.  So let's try 4.e5 Nfd7.  Now we can talk about playing positions with a space advantage, building up a strong pawn center, etc., after 5.f4.  If the student came up with 4.Bg5 himself, I would praise him.  After 4...Be7 we could talk about the space gaining 5.e5 (again with tempo) as well as exchanging off Black's "good" Bishop after 5...Nfd7 6.Bxe7.  Now we've set up our pawns on the ideal color squares to complement our remaining Bishop, we will try to make it difficult for Black to get his Bishop involved in the game, etc. etc.

That's how I approach openings with the people I coach.  You recommend them playing good moves, not "systems", and they learn about a variety of types of positions in the process (open, closed, two Bishops vs. Bishop and Knight, IQP, etc).  You could call it dogmatism but I just call it teaching good moves that can be explained logically so that the students understand the ideas behind them.  I guess it's sort of a Silman approach to chess; have them list the imbalances and learn how to formulate a plan and develop logically around those imbalances, trying to play good moves without much thought of "style" or personal preference. 

Obviously as a student becomes stronger it can be helpful to recommend certain types of positions that suit them better, but first someone needs a basic understanding of many different chess positions.  They have to speak chess relatively fluently before you begin talking about the finer points of style, rhythm, meter, verse, etc.   
  
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Re: C02: Is the French Advance a good weapon?
Reply #40 - 08/25/11 at 16:33:12
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Thanks a lot. Indeed I had the Two Knights route to the Steinitz in mind, heading for the hanging centre and blocking d4 and e5. I'm not sure yet about castling king- or queenside; perhaps both. My son is not the kind of memorization anyway, just like me (bad at reproduction from memory).
I also agree that one should not wait to long with the Winawer 4.e5. I remember clearly how my fear for it disappeared when I took it up.
  

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Re: C02: Is the French Advance a good weapon?
Reply #39 - 08/25/11 at 15:15:22
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@Mnb:

I'm pretty sure you play the French, so you'll definitely be able to play training games against him to help speed up the process of learning ideas against it.

List of possible choices that have straightforward ideas without losing all bite, and can give future carryover as the student gets stronger in general.

3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 c5 5. a3 Bxc3 6. bxc3 Ne7 7. h4. Shove the h-pawn down the board, then develop naturally. Even if black knows his theory it's not like he's threatening white, whereas white can figure out what he's doing without a whole lot of concern once the ideas have been covered. If he's not far enough along to start this, then the Exchange Winawer is a good stop-gap.

Supported by

3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5  Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3 cxd4 8. Nxd4 Bc5 9. Qd2 0-0 10. g3. Fortify the d4 square, castle kingside after Bg2, prepare f5. Very simple, definitely not easy to deal with for black without significant foreknowledge.

My suggestion: teach him the Steinitz portion first. The first ten moves are very natural, and every single one of them has a very clear idea in mind due to the classical nature of play. Get him comfortable with the idea of a good knight versus bad bishop ending (there is not a more positive intro to endgames anywhere than the times white gets Nd4 versus Bd7) by picking a few illustrative games. If black even makes it to the endgame and doesn't get mated due to some f4-f5 business ruining black's day, that is. It teaches handling of pawn chains, and how to identify good endgames. White doesn't need to know a ton of theory to know what he's working towards.

If not 3. Nc3 then consider the Universal Tarrasch. It's about the closest you can come to a punchy "one-size-fits-all" approach (obviously 3...c5 takes the game into different paths, but it's not hard to teach a student to occupy/fortify d4 in the case of the ...exd5 variations, or to try to get after black's king in the ...Qxd5 variations) that can give future carryover when theory is actually tackled. All you need is good explanations for what each side is trying to accomplish with their moves, major theory isn't a big deal.

None of those variations I mentioned require great positional skill from white, but working towards understanding them will undoubtedly improve their positional skill (especially the importance of the d4 square in the case of the Steinitz or Universal Tarrasch) without needing to know tons of theory.

I'd even recommend the Two Knights over the 4. c4 Exchange. Anything that works towards the student learning about common weaknesses in the French (in the case of the Two Knights white is often trying to blockade black's center, or just produce the good knight versus bad bishop ending) is a better route.

The 4. c4 Exchange is roughly equivalent to the French KIA. Sure, you'll pick up some wins with it initially because it's easy to play, but in the case of kids that rapidly improve (and therefore face better opponents on a regular basis) they'll quickly find they're just ramming their head into a wall and will need to learn the tougher stuff eventually anyway.

Novice: French Two Knights

Around 1400: Starting introduction to Steinitz proper (French Two Knights is an excellent precursor). Pair with Exchange Winawer.

Around 1800: Add 7. h4 Winawer

Something like that would be a feasible progression. The French Two Knights is a one size fits all that gives carryover in the form of immediately starting to expose the student to typical problems in the French, and the ideas to go about attacking them. The Exchange Winawer will expose the student to working with the bishop pair in open positions, and finally the Winawer with 7. h4 transitions into working with the bishop pair while having more space, and the pawn chain themes from the Steinitz have some carryover.

And when the student's approaching master he'll already have knowledge of lines that can work up to even elite GM level, without having killed himself with theory.

There's obviously other ways to approach the issue. That's just one of them.
  

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Re: C02: Is the French Advance a good weapon?
Reply #38 - 08/25/11 at 13:28:27
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BPaulsen wrote on 08/25/11 at 01:07:39:
Far too many coaches get by with using their dogma as an excuse to recommend harmless openings, which is a shame since kids are sponges that learn quickly.

I must admit, now I have to recommend something against the French to my son (16 years old), that this point bothers me. What would you recommend? Please remember that he doesn't have your positional skills.
  

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Re: C02: Is the French Advance a good weapon?
Reply #37 - 08/25/11 at 11:36:12
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Smyslov_Fan wrote on 08/24/11 at 20:15:43:
Schaakhamster wrote on 08/24/11 at 19:02:44:
BPaulsen wrote on 08/23/11 at 00:17:26:
OrangeCounty wrote on 08/22/11 at 17:10:29:
I'm not sure why amateurs are always advised to play with an open center, even at the cost of an equal (as white) or worse position.  I would play the Winawer every game if my opponents would essay a move other than 4 e5 reliably.


This is one of the biggest reasons the French is a strong recommendation on the club level.

Even more so since a lot of coaches insist on recommending the tepid 4. c4 Exchange, a line that I can have a black player ready to play and win against in less than 30 minutes.

As a coach I'd feel like I was stunting my students by recommending harmless ideas just because I had some dogma I had to pursue.


You realise your reaction is also quite dogmatic?

BPaulsen's reaction is opinionated, but not very dogmatic. I couldn't predict, based on what he said, which variation he would recommend to his students, even if I knew what other students of his played.

In this sense, dogmatism is rigidity. BPaulsen's recommendation is for flexibility on the part of the coach. One could argue that flexibility is a form of dogmatism, but that would obviate the meaning of the word in this case.


Well he sees 4. c4 as the proof of the dogmatic nature of those coaches. Whilst you could say something about the one size fit all approach I have also heard a few strong player/coaches proclaim that youth players don't have a playing style unless they were led to believe they have.
  
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Re: C02: Is the French Advance a good weapon?
Reply #36 - 08/25/11 at 11:26:29
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BPaulsen wrote on 08/25/11 at 01:07:39:
Schaakhamster wrote on 08/24/11 at 19:02:44:
You realise your reaction is also quite dogmatic?


No. If you think it is, apparently you haven't associated yourself with chess coaches at the scholastic level all that much, and therefore have no insight on my opinion. Far too many coaches get by with using their dogma as an excuse to recommend harmless openings, which is a shame since kids are sponges that learn quickly.


So per definition my opinion is void of any value?

I was mainly objecting too automatically placing the 4. c4 in the category of opening as harmless and devoid of any value for lesser players. What do you suggest: learning reams of theory to hack it out in the poisoned pawn winawer?

I can't say I have lots and lots of experience with youth players but you can always see the difference between players that have been taught some mainline opening and who screw up when their lesser knowledgeable opponents deviate and those who have been taught some decent sideline to get them out of the opening in one piece and just play chess afterwards.



  
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Re: C02: Is the French Advance a good weapon?
Reply #35 - 08/25/11 at 01:23:41
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Thx for sharing the game, Djy. White's win wasn't tied to the opening even though Dorfman played the rather baroque 8...Nh4.

Having said that, White scores comfortably well in the Advance French, ~55%-45% with ~40% white wins in the last decade or so.

Statistically and positionally, white has a usable advantage that scores reasonably well all the way up to the GM level.

I still maintain that the Advance variation is perhaps the most thematic French variation and as such should be taught and learned at the scholastic level.
  
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Re: C02: Is the French Advance a good weapon?
Reply #34 - 08/25/11 at 01:07:39
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Schaakhamster wrote on 08/24/11 at 19:02:44:
You realise your reaction is also quite dogmatic?


No. If you think it is, apparently you haven't associated yourself with chess coaches at the scholastic level all that much, and therefore have no insight on my opinion. Far too many coaches get by with using their dogma as an excuse to recommend harmless openings, which is a shame since kids are sponges that learn quickly.
  

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Re: C02: Is the French Advance a good weapon?
Reply #33 - 08/24/11 at 20:23:42
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A fresh game 2 hours ago!
[Event "National"]
[Site "caen"]
[Date "2011.08.24"]
[Round "10"]
[White "Fressinet, Laurent"]
[Black "Dorfman, Iossif"]
[Result "1-0"]
[PlyCount "167"]
[EventDate "2011.??.??"]

1. e4 c5 2. c3 e6 3. d4 d5 4. e5 Nc6 5. Nf3 Nge7 6. Na3 cxd4 7. cxd4 Nf5 8. Nc2
Nh4 9. Nxh4 Qxh4 10. Be2 Bd7 11. O-O g6 12. f4 h5 13. Bd2 Qd8 14. Bc3 Ne7 15.
Qd2 Nf5 16. Ba5 b6 17. Bb4 Bxb4 18. Qxb4 Qe7 19. Qd2 O-O 20. Rfc1 a5 21. Bd3
Rfc8 22. g3 Ng7 23. Ne3 Rxc1+ 24. Rxc1 Rc8 25. Rc3 Rxc3 26. Qxc3 Qe8 27. Qc7
Bb5 28. Bc2 Qc6 29. Qxc6 Bxc6 Probably white haven't much in this ending and Dorfman's solidity is legendary Wink but more space and a better bishop just in case maybe This is the kind of thing that white hope in playing the french advance?   30. Kg2 Ne8 31. g4 hxg4 32. Nxg4 Kf8 33. Kf2 Ke7
34. h4 Bb5 35. Ne3 Ng7 36. Kf3 Nh5 37. a3 Ba6 38. Nd1 Bf1 39. Nc3 Kd8 40. Kf2
Bc4 41. b3 Ba6 42. Kf3 Bf1 43. Kg4 Ke7 44. f5 exf5+ 45. Bxf5 Bg2 46. Bd3 Ng7
47. Kg3 Bh1 48. Kf4 Ne6+ 49. Ke3 Kd8 50. Bf1 Ng7 51. Bd3 Bg2 52. Kf2 Bh1 53.
Nb5 Ke7 54. Nc3 Kd8 55. b4 axb4 56. axb4 Kd7 57. Bf1 Ke7 58. Bh3 f6 59. exf6+
Kxf6 60. Na4 Ne8 61. Nxb6 Nd6 62. Nd7+ Ke7 63. Ne5 Be4 64. Ke3 Kf6 65. Nd7+ Ke7
66. Nc5 Bf5 67. Bg2 Bc8 68. Kf4 Nf5 69. Bh3 Nd6 70. Bxc8 Nxc8 71. Ke5 Nd6 72.
Kxd5 Nf5 73. b5 Kd8 74. b6 Kc8 75. Ke5 Nxh4 76. d5 Nf3+ 77. Kf6 Nd4 78. Kxg6
Nb5 79. Kf6 Nd6 80. Ke6 Nc4 81. Na4 Kb7 82. d6 Na5 83. d7 Nc6 84. Kd6 1-0
  

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Re: C02: Is the French Advance a good weapon?
Reply #32 - 08/24/11 at 20:15:43
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Schaakhamster wrote on 08/24/11 at 19:02:44:
BPaulsen wrote on 08/23/11 at 00:17:26:
OrangeCounty wrote on 08/22/11 at 17:10:29:
I'm not sure why amateurs are always advised to play with an open center, even at the cost of an equal (as white) or worse position.  I would play the Winawer every game if my opponents would essay a move other than 4 e5 reliably.


This is one of the biggest reasons the French is a strong recommendation on the club level.

Even more so since a lot of coaches insist on recommending the tepid 4. c4 Exchange, a line that I can have a black player ready to play and win against in less than 30 minutes.

As a coach I'd feel like I was stunting my students by recommending harmless ideas just because I had some dogma I had to pursue.


You realise your reaction is also quite dogmatic?

BPaulsen's reaction is opinionated, but not very dogmatic. I couldn't predict, based on what he said, which variation he would recommend to his students, even if I knew what other students of his played.

In this sense, dogmatism is rigidity. BPaulsen's recommendation is for flexibility on the part of the coach. One could argue that flexibility is a form of dogmatism, but that would obviate the meaning of the word in this case.
  
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Re: C02: Is the French Advance a good weapon?
Reply #31 - 08/24/11 at 19:56:05
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GM Normunds Miezis has been playing the French exchange (via the English move order 1. c4 e6 2. e4 d5 3. exd5 exd5 4. d4) for many years against all sort of opposition.

Is it the sharpest and most critical line around? No, but then again sending someone down the winawer mainline without lots of preparation seems also idiotic. I'm quite certain that a junior or amateur player can be quite successful with 4. c4. Anything goes at that level and anyone trying to emulate GM openings at that level will find it quite frustrating.
  
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Re: C02: Is the French Advance a good weapon?
Reply #30 - 08/24/11 at 19:54:52
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Pindugon' threads are always a lot of success . Generaly chose contreversy 's subject and after disepear. And the contreversy is going his way Wink
  

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