I am a 1750 Elo player with a very positional, quiet and strategic style of play.

I am looking for one or more books about the French Defence which fits these 3 conditions:

  • It must offer a complete Black repertoire. It must cover the French Defence from the point of view of Black only. (I don't care about playing the French Defence as White since I don't play 1. e4) (And if the diagram boards in the book show Black at the bottom, ie. with the board flipped, that would be great.)

  • The Black repertoire proposed in the book must (on average) tend to lead to positions which are as much solid, positional, slow, closed, quiet and strategic as possible. I want as few sharp and tactical lines as possible.

  • If possible, I would like that the repertoire tries to avoid playing the Pawn break ...f7-f6 (except when it's totally necessary).






I don’t really like 3.Nc3 dxe4 and 3.Nd2 dxe4. I’ve looked in my ChessBase Mega Database and on Chess Tempo games database and here is what I found out:


3...X: A | B | C | D

X: The Black move

A: The average Elo that Black is expected to lose, ie [Average Elo] minus [Performance Elo] - Statistics from Chess Tempo

B: The average Elo that Black is expected to lose, ie [Average Elo] minus [Performance Elo] - Statistics from ChessBase (selecting only games where both players were rated between 1700 and 2200)

C: The percentage of games that ended in a draw - Statistics from Chess Tempo

D: The percentage of games that ended in a draw - Statistics from ChessBase (selecting only games where both players were rated between 1700 and 2200)



3...Bb4: 43 | 33 | 34.3 | 27

3...Nf6: 37 | 19 | 38.4 | 27

3...dxe4: 57 | 40 | 47.7 | 34



3...Nf6: 53 | 35 | 34.1 | 28

3...c5: 43 | 28 | 49.7 | 32

3...Be7: 40 | 33 | 39.8 | 33

3...dxe4: 59 | 27 | 47.2 | 30

3...Nc6: 58 | 27 | 33.0 | 33

3...a6: 43 | 34 | 43.1 | 35


Conclusion: 3... dxe4 scores extremely poorly both against 3. Nc3 and against 3. Nd2. And against 3. Nd2 it isn't even efficient at making draws.

I don't know much about the French so I don't know exactly which of these moves are sharp/tactical and which of them are solid/positional/quiet.

But I would guess that against 3. Nc3 I should probably choose 3...Nf6 (I heard that 3...Bb4 was extremely sharp and tactical)

And against 3. Nd2 I should probably choose 3...c5 and answer 4. exd5 with 4...Qxd5 (I heard that 3...Nf6 was extremely sharp and tactical) (and 3...Be7 looks too subtle for a non-GM)

So any more suggestions would be appreciated, thanks.

  • 6
    Most of my games as white against the french ended in complete chaos (created by either side). If you want to play a quiet, positional game, maybe the french isn't the best choice.
    – dwo
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 21:16
  • 1
    @dwo : Really? I always thought that the French Defence was the second most solid/positional/quiet/closed/strategic of all answers to 1.e4. The first being the Caro-Kann. Are you sure about what you're saying? And if what you're saying is indeed true, then what are the solid/positional/quiet/closed/strategic answers to 1.e4 other than the Caro-Kann?
    – Fate
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 4:15
  • 5
    @Petrosian, Instead of letting statistics dictate what you play, I recommend just picking what YOU like the most, just try out some variations in some casual games, see what fits you. Bb4 against Nc3 is called the Winawer by the way, and is a dynamic and strategical variation of the French which is very interesting. Also, I think you are asking too much, no one reply to 1.e4 can get you what you desire (solid/positional/quiet/closed/strategic) even the Caro-Kann can become tactical with the Panov-Botvinnik attack. If you keep this mindset you will never progress in Chess.
    – sco-ish
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 11:59
  • @Petrosian as I've told you before, look at Petrosian's games in the French! Bb4 back to f8 is played in one of his games IIRC.
    – magd
    Commented Jul 6, 2015 at 16:15
  • russell-enterprises.com/images/frenchrubinsteinexcerpt.pdf - Black repertoire book on the French Defense, based on the Rubinstein, claims to be complete by looking in detail into other lines but 1.e4 e6 2.f4 is not covered. I have read it and been playing it for months in online blitz. There is nothing solid about it. It is more difficult to play as Black than as White but it is an excellent drawing tool in those cases when the opening turns out fine. In online blitz it can be easily used to win the drawn engames, so I cannot complain with my results really. Commented May 11, 2016 at 12:56

3 Answers 3


There are several excellent books covering the French Defense.

Unfortunately, you cannot avoid complications, despite how much you want to, there are going to be complications, just because you play this line, doesn't mean the game can't somehow explode into a tactical mess.

Also how can you be a French player if you don't want to play the critical f7-f6 pawn break? That "break" defines so much of the French!

Probably the definitive French Defense repertoire book is Play the French by John Watson (4th Edition) (3rd also fine), which I highly recommend http://www.amazon.com/Play-French-4th-Everyman-Chess/dp/1857446801/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403968578&sr=8-1&keywords=play+the+french

Also good is Chess Explained: The French by Viacheslav Eingorn and Valentin Bogdanov, this covers the Rubinstein variations of the French and more http://www.amazon.com/Chess-Explained-French-Viacheslav-Eingorn-ebook/dp/B00H8ZDATS/ref=sr_1_15?ie=UTF8&qid=1403968623&sr=8-15&keywords=french+defense

There is also the Grandmaster Repertoire Series on it, with two volumes by Emmanuel Berg http://www.qualitychess.co.uk/products/1/207/grandmaster_repertoire_14_-_the_french_defence_volume_one_by_emanuel_berg/

And lastly, The Flexible French by Viktor Moskalenko (French Defense expert) should not be ignored http://www.amazon.com/The-Flexible-French-Strategic-Explanations/dp/9056912453/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1403968623&sr=8-8&keywords=french+defense

Hope this helps

  • Also good is Chess Explained: The French by Viacheslav Eingorn and Valentin Bogdanov, this covers the Rubinstein variations of the French -> how well does it cover the Rubinstein? I need thorough coverage of this line. So far only Vitiugov tried to cover it thoroughly but did not achieve it entirely, in my opinion. Upvoted, mostly because of your comment on f6 pawn break. Best regards. Commented Jun 28, 2014 at 17:02
  • AlwaysLearningNewStuff- Chess Explained: The French, covers the Rubinstein fairly thoroughly, an entire chapter of about 13 pages is dedicated to it, 3 Grandmaster games are used to explain the variation, the first being between Peter Svidler and Anatoli Vaisser (2006), the second is Tatiana Kosintseva- Xu Yuhua (2006) and the third is Vassily Ivanchuk- Sergei Volkov (2005). Although theory in the Rubinstein is constantly developing, I recommend viewing Grandmaster Georg Meier's games, he has played the Rubinstein with a fair amount of success. Regards
    – sco-ish
    Commented Jun 29, 2014 at 13:01
  • I forgot about him completely! But in order to find his most recent games I guess I will need MegaBase or something... Commented Jun 29, 2014 at 14:50
  • 1
    No need :) chess-db.com/public/pinfo.jsp?id=4675789
    – sco-ish
    Commented Jun 29, 2014 at 19:19
  • +1 for John Watson's book. He is often regarded as the leading authority on the French
    – user1108
    Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 8:22

French can get very sharp. Your biggest problem is the fact that it is White who steers the game. If he chooses, he can make things so sharp that both of your heads will explode.

Your best bet to dodge this is to play Rubinstein variation, which is positional in nature and has a reputation of being solid:

[Title "French defense, Rubinstein variation - ECO code is C10"]
[fen ""]

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 ( 3.Nd2 dxe4 4.Nxe4 ) 3...dxe4 4.Nxe4

I was trying to play this line, relying on general principles, against computer/stronger opponents and things went very bad. You must know opening moves and typical middlegame positions that arise very well in order to have equal chances.

That being said, each time I played opening well, I drew with ease. I have never faced any problems, even against a computer -> positions are simplified and tend to fizzle out to a draw. You might have to defend accurately in some lines, but it is worth it. White has limited options and has just a few lines that give you difficulties.

Once you learn how to defend there, there will be nothing White can do and you will have usually an easy game, at the cost that you will never win. I am sorry to say that, but endgames give winning chances only to White. Middlegame positions are harder to play as Black too, as I have mentioned, and are designed to draw, not to win the game. All in all, this line is a powerful, risk free drawing weapon.

The only book that tried to cover this line in depth was Nikita Vitiugov-The French defense A Complete Repertoire for Black ( 2010 ), but the author didn't manage to cover all the options. I just feel that something is missing... The line itself is also at crisis at the top level, which is consistent with my painful experiences.

Your biggest problem will be to find detailed, quality coverage of this line. If you still manage to solve this problem somehow, I ask you to leave me a comment with the name of the book/resource/CD you found, as this is big problem for me that I'm struggling with for over a year.

I am sorry for posting this as an answer, but the content is too big to fit into a comment...

  • Sorry but I don't really like your suggested moves. Humm... I edited directly my question to answer about your move 3...dxe4 because we can't make blank lines in comments so it would have been pretty messy.
    – Fate
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 4:19
  • @Petrosian: It is indeed very hard to play this line with Black. Because it is used only to draw, top GMs do not look at it, which is why in theory White manages to get small advantage -> no top GM produces novelties for Black to improve his play. As for ...Bb4, it is White who chooses whether to sharpen things or not, which doesn't suit your style. As for ...Nf6 I am not sure, but maybe that is the closest to "quiet" you can get. There is a good reason why 1.e4 openings are called open games -> they give sharp open games. You can only reduce sharpness as Black, and that's it. Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 13:28
  • "There is a good reason why 1.e4 openings are called open games -> they give sharp open games." Really? I thought this was only a myth. I heard a lot of strong players say that this isn't really the case, and that 1.e4 can be as quiet and positional as 1.d4.
    – Fate
    Commented Jul 2, 2014 at 13:16
  • @Petrosian: Why do you think computers beat GMs? They are dead things, not living creatures with brain. In the old days, GM would close the game and outmaneuver the machine, but not anymore. The whole point is that since the 80's, GMs have found ways to force sharpness in any opening. Only in some lines things are "quiet" but most of the time if opponent wants, he can bypass those lines. Sadly, this is especially true with open games. 1.e4 can be as quiet and positional as 1.d4 if you both choose it. Most of the time your opponent "disagrees" though... Commented Jul 2, 2014 at 17:42
  • I'm not totally sure what you're saying is true. I'm probably much lower rated than you so I might be wrong but I thought that it is White who can choose it, not both White and Black. For example: White wants something quiet and plays 1.e4, Black wants something sharp so he goes Sicilian 1...c5 (which is widely regarded as the most sharp and tactical opening). Now after 2.Nf3 Black can try 2...d6 but then White can go Moscow 3.Bb5+, and if Black tries instead 2...Nc6 White can go Rossolimo 3.Bb5. Both of these variations are quiet, solid, strategic and positional if I am not mistaken.
    – Fate
    Commented Jul 2, 2014 at 18:54

I understand you want a book recommendation however having been in said situation before(quiet, positional player myself that loves the french), i chanced upon a chessbase dvd by Nick Pert,the variations he provides are as solid as it gets in the french link...http://shop.chessbase.com/en/products/pert_french_defence_for_the_tournament_player

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