Play the French

2. b3

1. e4 e6 2. b3 d5 3. ♗b2 ♘f6 This is my favorite approach. It leads to a rare but interesting position.

3... ♘c6 This move has the advantage that it is rarely played. The knight controls the centre and prepares ...e5 and ...d4 in order to block the bishop on b2. The disadvantage is that the black c-pawn gets blocked.

a) 4. ♗d3 ♘b4=

b) 4. exd5 exd5 5. ♗b5 ♘e7 6. ♘f3 a6 7. ♗d3 ( 7. ♗xc6+ ♘xc6 Currently, Black cannot develop the bishop on f8. Therefore, we develop the queenside first and castle afterwards. Only then, Black starts improving his pieces on the kingside. 8. O-O ♗e6 9. ♖e1 ♕d7 10. ♘c3 O-O-O ) 7... ♘g6 8. O-O ♘f4! Takes advantage of the bad position of the bishop on d3 and after 9. ♖e1+ ♗e7! White cannot take on g7 because of ...Rg8. Therefore, Black can castle easily. 10. ♗f1 O-O=/+

c) 4. ♘c3 d4 ( 4... ♘f6 5. ♗b5 ♘xe4 6. ♘xe4 dxe4 7. ♗xc6+ bxc6 8. ♕g4 ♕d5 9. ♘e2 h5 ) 5. ♘ce2 ♗c5=

d) 4. e5 White closes the centre with the idea to follow up with d4, as Black cannot play ...c5 easily. This means that Black can attack White's centre by playing ...f6. 4... ♘h6 In this specific case h6 is a good square for the knight because it doesn't block his own bishop which he would do after 4...Ne7. Usually, White could eliminate the knight with his dark-squared bishop, but it is now placed on b2. ( 4... d4 5. ♘f3 ♗c5 6. ♗d3 f5 ) 5. ♘f3 ( 5. d4 f6 ) 5... ♗e7 6. d4 O-O 7. ♗d3 f6 ( 7... ♘b4 8. ♗e2 c5 ) 8. exf6 ♗xf6 9. O-O ♘f5

3... dxe4 is the most common move. We should avoid this move because it leads to the lines that White usually wants to play if he chooses this setup. 4. ♘c3 ♘f6 5. ♕e2 ♘c6 6. O-O-O ( 6. ♘xe4 ♘xe4 7. ♕xe4 ♕d5= ) 6... a5 7. a4 ( 7. ♘xe4 a4 8. ♘xf6+ gxf6 9. ♕f3 axb3 10. axb3 ♗a3 ) 7... ♗e7 8. ♘xe4 O-O 9. ♘f3

4. e5

4. exd5 exd5 5. ♘f3 ♗e7 6. ♗e2 O-O 7. O-O c5 8. d4 ♘c6=/+

4... ♘fd7 In this variation Black plays ...c5 and ...Nc6 in order to exert pressure on e5. Depending on how White reacts Black castles kingside or leaves the king in the centre for the moment.

5. f4

5. ♕g4 c5 6. ♘f3 ( 6. f4 transposes to the main line ) 6... a6 7. ♗d3 ♘c6 8. O-O g6

5. d4 provides Black with a target to attack. 5... c5 6. c3 ♘c6 7. ♘f3 f6 8. exf6 ♘xf6=

5. ♘f3 c5=

5... c5 6. ♕g4 Makes sense, but with the bishop still on f8 this is not very dangerous.

6. ♕h5 g6

6. ♘f3 ♘c6

a) 7. ♗b5 ♕b6 8. ♕e2 ♗e7 9. a4 ( 9. O-O c4+ ) 9... ♘b4=/+

b) 7. g3 7... ♗e7 8. ♗g2 b5!

6... h5 7. ♕h3

7. ♕g3 a6 8. ♘f3 ♘c6=

7... ♘c6

7... g5 is an interesting attempt to attack White's centre. In this type of position it is all about the pawn on e5. White supports it with the bishop on b2, the knight on f3 and sometimes the queen on g3. White exchanges his light-squared bishop for one of the knights that attack e5. 8. g3 a6 ( 8... b5 ) 9. ♗e2 ♗e7 10. ♗xh5 ♘c6=/∞

8. ♘f3 ♗e7 9. ♗e2 ♘f8⁉∞

9... c4


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