[FEN ""]
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4. dxc5

I don't want to play 3...bf5 instead, but this 4.dxc5 line in the Advance Variation gives me so much trouble, whether they go with 5.Be3, 5.a3 or 5.Nf3.

  • What's a good way for black to deal with this 4.dxc5 line?
  • 3
    P.S. 3.e5 is a normal move, and was popularized by none other than Nigel Short. Short, Anand, Caruana, MLV, Karpov, Kasparov, and Magnus Carlsen have all played it. The likes of Mamedaryov, Anand, Grischuk, Topalov, Nakamura, Nepo, Kramnik, Karpov, and Carlsen have all played 3...c5. MLV, Karjakin, Anand, Grischuk, So, Topalov, Nepo, Shirov, and Carlsen have all played 4.dxc5...so none of it is bad. Feb 9, 2020 at 20:48

3 Answers 3


First, I would wonder why you do not want to play 3...Bf5 first? That is the most common move, and the most natural.

3...c5 almost forces you to gambit a pawn, and if you are not comfortable playing very tactical positions down a pawn, you will want to avoid the immediate c5 in the future (it is still the move you will want to play eventually to free your game, but you will want to prepare it so you are not just losing a pawn for play).

After 3...c5 4 dxc5, here is the main line. (There are a fair amount of written prose notes in the comments below, so make sure you read those too.)

 [FEN ""]

 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. dxc5 Nc6 5. Bb5 (5. Nf3 Bg4 6. c3 e6 (6... Bxf3 7. Qxf3 Nxe5 8. Bb5+ Nc6 9. O-O $16) (6... Nxe5 $4 7. Nxe5 $1 Bxd1 8. Bb5+ Qd7 9. Bxd7+ $18) 7. Be3 Nge7 8. Nbd2 Nf5 9. Bd4 $14 Nfxd4 $2 10. cxd4 Nxd4 $4 11. Qa4+ $18) 5...e6 6. Be3 Nge7 7. c3 Bd7 8. Bxc6 Nxc6 9. f4 {And there are several moves here, most requiring black to be a pawn down. In exchange for that, black has the bishop pair, the white king has been weakened with f4, and black is slightly ahead in development, so you have to play very actively.  Here, I would recommend either b6, or the main book move, g5. a5 is also possible trying to round up c5 at some point.} g5 (9... b6 10. cxb6 axb6 {And now, you also have an open rook file, and can aim for b5-b4 after getting the Bf8 out. you may also play the Bf8 to c5 with the idea that if white trades, you will have strong pressure for the pawn down the a-file and b-file...a bit like the Benko, but reversed.}) 10. fxg5 Nxe5 (10... h6 $5 {Has been played.}) 11. Nf3 {With a wild game with chances for both sides.}

First time I saw this approach was in the Tal-Botvinnik return match in 1961, my thought was "it wastes a move heading for the French Defence," but it has some sting in it.

Black isn't really giving away a pawn, White can't hold the extra pawn without development issues (...Nd7 pretty much ensures the pawn comes back, if not immediately, then soon, if it worries you, though ...Nc6 will exert more pressure on White's split pawns).

What you're opting for, when keeping this line closed, over Bf5 is keeping your light bishop (in the Bf5 lines, White can pretty much force that off the board at will) even though it gets blocked in with the e6-pawn, moving some of your strategic ideas towards the French and away from the C-K.

You're giving up a tempo, yes, but the game becomes sharper. White becomes the first person to release the tension in the center, which frees up Black's game a little, so you're looking to capitalize on the freedom. Like any good French player, you need to be prepared to keep that light-square bishop at home for a long time while you play against the e-pawn.

Meanwhile, if the idea of letting the pawn hang for a while doesn't bother you, ...Nc6 instead of ...e6 can lead into some Queen's Gambit like positions with the colors reversed (keep aware of the tactical shot ...Qh4, you might be able to use it to threaten stragglers on the Q-side, like Keith Arkell did in a recent Senior Championship. Another of Arkell's ideas is to quickly swap the light Bishop for White's Knight before pushing ...e6, if the opportunity permits, at which point Black has a better pawn structure than White, and may even have the better game going forward; it's the French Defence without the bad French Bishop. In the ...Bf5 lines it's usually a Bishop trade, oftentimes trading a bad Bishop for a useful Knight is the better option.

It's really not all that bad (I find it hard to conceive that anything Botvinnik came up with is truly bad) but it caters to a different style of play than the more fashionable ...Bf5 lines. Arkell, Anand, Ponomariov, and Tarjan have all essayed it recently. Like pretty much any opening, White gets a slight pull if they play it right, but you're always "playing uphill" as Black, so don't let it worry you.

That's a few ideas for you to look at; go have a look at games from the French Advance and see what ideas you find there that appeal to you. Keith Arkell seems to be a common practitioner of the line today, have a look at some of his games from the Pro Chess League. There's scope for play here, if it's to your taste. But only you can answer for that.


Does not appear to work well to me.

RELATIVE TO OTHER MOVES white e5 is poor pxp is worse

Black should have played Bf5 not pc5 and then whites best is c3 not the moves you gave

What is the problem you encounter with the moves given? How would you handle the panov attack?

To answer your last part after pxp black should play nc6 as the least worst alternative. That yields about a 44% result rate.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.