Introduction to the French Defense ⎸Chess Openings

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The French Defense is one of the deadliest weapons players with black have against 1.e4

The opening starts (ECO codes C00-C19) after the moves:

1.e4 e6 – This is now the French. The second move is almost forced for both sides:
2.d4 d5 (white has been known to avoid the move 2.d4 with 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2, which will most likely transpose into the King’s Indian Attack, but d4 is played in over 95% of games starting with 1.e4 e6)

From this position on white has four main ways to continue:

06:54 3.Nc3 Paulsen Variation C10

Black can respond to the Paulsen French with:
07:21 3…Bb4 Winawer C15 (this one of the most popular variations of the French Defense, especially thanks to the Soviet school of chess which helped develop the theory in the 1940es)
10:04 3…Nf6 Classical C11
4.Bg5 Burn Variation C11
4.e5 Steinitz Variation C11
12:17 3…dxe4 Rubinstein Variation C10
13:00 3…Nc6 (continuing the Paulsen) C10

13:40 3.Nd2 Tarrasch Variation C03 (the Tarrasch became popular in the 70-es and 80-es thanks mainly to Anatoly Karpov who would use it more often than any other variation)
3…Nf6 Closed Variation C05
17:28 3…c5 Tarrasch Open System C07
3…dxe4 (continuing the Tarrasch) C03

18:59 3.e5 Advance Variation C02

19:39 3.exd5 Exchange Variation C01

If you’d like to study the French Defense, the best way to do so is to study the players who use it against e4. Among the first to employ the opening was the great Géza Maróczy (whom the Maróczy bind was named after). The theory was developed in the 20th century and some of the biggest contributors were Mikhail Botvinnik, Viktor Korchnoi, Aaron Nimzowitsch, Tigran Petrosian and Anatoly Karpov. Their games should be studied in order to understand the principles of the French.

Modern players whose games you should study in detail to understand the modern theory: Gata Kamsky, Varuzhan Akobian, Teimour Radjabov, Alexander Morozevich, Alexey Dreev and Simon Williams.


  1. I want french in my repertoire but sadly everyone exchanges at my level

  2. Hi, great job. Love your videos . I have a question about 1. e4 e6 how about 2. c4 steiner variation…

  3. You're video provide more understanding than reading books

  4. Whenever I want to learn an opening I always watch Hanging Pawns, the best chess channel!

  5. you are the greatest instructor of chess on youtube, keep up the work

  6. stjepan, i am 20 and i am playing chess for three months, still 1200 on blitz, my goal is to be 2000 on lichess, how did it take for you to improve this much, im getting confused a lot

  7. Great lesson on basic variations of french. Thanks tavarish

  8. Can any recommend a variation for a beginner (1200 ELO)? I like attacking, tactical play and dislike turtle, structural play.

  9. Thank you so much. This is easily comprehensive enough to be a paid product

  10. If white plays Bd3, black can play C4 to advance and to hit the bishop. I believe this is a good move for black, correct?

  11. Hanging Pawns ..all videos very use full …god bless you …

  12. Best chess channel around! Thanks for the video as always! Keep them coming

  13. Hi, a very nice and helpful channel!
    I am looking for a second (related?) opening against 1. e4 besides the French Defense.
    What would you recommend? Philidor? Petroff? Alekhine? Scandinavian? Or any other?
    Thanks for your help.

  14. Sorry, i forgot: against 1.d4 i play the Nimzoindian or the Queensindian defence

  15. Question for Stjepan: If a beginner was just starting with chess, which opening(s) would be the best to begin with. Example in in this French Defense video you mention how one set of moves is similar to the Caro Kann for black, and another if white plays a move, it would essentially be a Kings Indian attack.
    So the question is.. what openings are best to start with and learn, so as you progress, you have a better base, when learning other openings?

  16. Stjepan, you provide great explanations. Thanks very much. You get to the point, with honest personal opinions. I've been struggling with FCO, in contrast The writer veers off to sidelines of the opening and it is hard to tell when he comes back to the point. You instead very briefly note a sideline, direct us to your other video for the sideline, and then finish the central explanation.

  17. Why such effort to attack the pawn base? Why not focus elsewhere?

  18. I never worry about whether or not a game is considered boring . Winning is the objective so if I play a boring game but win , who cares? That said, great video as always my friend.

  19. 3. exd5 Qd5 to transpose into the Scandinavian!

  20. Is the winawer for example a subvariation of the paulsen variation?

  21. 9:25 Black doesn't take on c2 (that pawn is protected by White's Queen btw). Black does Qc3+ forking the Rook and the King 🙂

  22. Can someone help me understand, why do you not take a pawn on d4 with your c5 pawn(as black), when your oponent plays Paulsen variation, i thought the whole point of c5 is to take on d4(in Paulsen). I know that you take later, but why dont you take straight away?

  23. Thank you, my friend. Cheers to many games and a growing knowledge/love

  24. Awesome work. Great introduction. I love your detailed and logical breakdowns of openings. I wish I had this kind of introduction to openings years ago.

  25. Thank you:) before watching your videos I was 700 but just by learning
    1Caro kann
    2French defense
    By you vids I am 1700

  26. wow why dont you teach how to teach the french exchange variation for black so we arent just screwed if they play takes which most lower rated players do

  27. Do none of these videos on the French cover the Knight Variation (2.Nf3)? It seems like it transposes I guess, but is there any downside to playing it instead of the mainline?

  28. I greatly appreciate all your videos, well structured, well explained for me who is beginner. Thanks a lot!

  29. Wolfang Uhlmann (East Germany) was a great expert on the French, and one of very few grandmasters to have deployed it almost exclusively in reply to 1. e4. His book, "Winning with the French" has many example games, including one game he won over Fischer using this defense.

  30. Best Chess Channel on the Internet, Second to None!

  31. 9:27 dxc4 is impossible because of Qc3+, not Qxc2 which blunders the Queen.

  32. I don't really know why; but I find your channel very nice, perhaps the most sympathic
    I like you!
    Good luck and take care

  33. Hi, how are you mentor Steven! This is Ferry. Thanks for brief explanation to the gameplay of French Defense Openings main lines and variation lines (1.e4 e6). I hear to remember and learn to understand your tutorial.👂

  34. Absolutely love your content! I hope you continue, especially these long opening series! They are the best on YouTube!

  35. 9:31 After QxC2 isn't there QxC2 for white? Thus hanging the Queen?

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