[FEN ""] 1. e4 e6 2. e5
This line of attack seems to break so many opening theory principles (don't move same piece twice, don't overextend, develop minor pieces ASAP) that I am surprised it's not immediately punishable.
How should Black defend against the Steinitz attack? This line of attack seems to break so many opening theory principles (don't move same piece twice, don't overextend, develop minor pieces ASAP) that I am surprised it's not immediately punishable.
Why should you defend, at the first place?? All of your observations are correct, so we can conclude that
e5 is a bad move. Black is better here, but the only reason you do not see a question mark behind this move are following facts:
e5is White's only weakness;
d4which means that black will have to attack it with
d6/f6at some point-this will give White the chance to get himself rid of his ONLY weakness by exchanging it.
e5+d4pawn chain vs
e6+d5pawn chain, or
e6+c6pawns. For better understanding of these middle-games consult book Andrew Soltis-Pawn Structure Chess;
Still, Black can gain his fair amount of space in the center and equalize gradually like in any other viable semi-open game.
Since White played twice with a pawn and has overextended himself, the best would be for us to continue developing using initiative against
e5 pawn to get
Below are the variations that demonstrate what I have stated so far:
[fen ""] 1.e4 e6 2.e5 Nc6!? ( 2...d6!? ) 3.d4 d6 4.exd6 ( 4.Nf3 dxe5! 5.dxe5 ( 5.Nxe5? Qxd4 6.Nxc6 Qxd1+ ) Qxd1+=) ( 4.f4? dxe5! 5.dxe5 Qxd1+ ) ( 4.Bb5?! Bd7 5.exd6 ( 5.Nf3 dxe5 6.Nxe5? Nxe5! 7.Bxd7+ Nxd7-+ ) Bxd6= ) Bxd6 5.Nf3 ( 5.Qg4?! Nf6! 6.Qxg7 Rg8 7.Qh6 Nxd4 8.Bd3 e5 9.Bg5!? ( 9.Bxh7? Rh8!-+ 10.Bg5 Rxh7 11.Qxh7 Nxh7 12.Bxd8 Nxc2+ 13.Kd1 Nxa1! 14.Bh4 Bf5-+ ) 9...Ng4! 10.Bxd8 ( 10.Qxh7?? Qxg5-+ ) Nxh6 11.Bh4 ( 11.Bxh7?? Rh8-+ ) Bf5-+ ) Nge7 6.Bd3 e5 7.dxe5 Nxe5=
I was trying to find this line and the only thing I found was a main line from above, given by Lev Psakhis. His line starts with
2...d6 and transposes to the main line given above. The move
5.Qg4 shows my own analysis, since it was not mentioned anywhere but I believe it can be tricky. Notice the traps that I have shown in the above sidelines-they can be very useful to you during play. Also, notice how in time Black frees himself from Whites small spatial advantage and equalizes.
If you do not like these you can always transpose into normal French defense with
2...c5 is also viable here.
If you have further questions leave a comment and I will reply as soon as I can. Hopefully this answer helped you.
Thinking strategically, it is known that having a 2 v 1 advantage of centre pawns means you have good prospects, so Black trying to exchange an f-pawn for an e-pawn is a good way of proceeding in this position.
Since White will presumably try to defend that advanced e-pawn with d4, an immediate ...c5 seems to make sense for Black here, to prevent that possibility. (But then, I'm a complete novice, so take this with a grain of salt.)
@TKR is right - I ran into this OTB, and had never even heard of it. But, I'm a dedicated French player, and I understand the concepts of opening theory.
Here, the situation is clear: the white pawn on e5 is overextended. It must be supported by d4. So, Black prevents this with 2...c5.
White spent the next 15 moves trying to hang on to his e-pawn while I just kept adding pressure. I could see him squirming, thinking he'd made some kind of terrible opening mistake.
Since White often has a pawn on e5 for most (and sometimes all) of the game in a French Defense, players of the black pieces are not fazed in the least by the pawn.
I was eventually able to overpower and win the pawn for nothing, but another strategic option would have been to launch a queenside initiative while his pieces were tied down defending that pawn.
Incidentally, in a database of 7 MM games, I found 136 games with players over 2000 ELO who played the French Steinitz. Of the games with 2...c5, White had a 20% win rate, Black won 50% of the games (that's a 5:2 decisively winning ratio), and there were 30% draws.