French Defense, Part 3: Exchange Variation

In this final part, we move on to the French Defense Exchange Variation.

We wrap up our coverage of the French Defense with the Advance Variation

A view of the Musée d’Orsay across the Seine in Paris. Photo: Andre Harding

We looked at structures with an early e4-e5 by white in parts 2a2b, and 2c. In those cases, white’s central pawn chain restricts black’s light-squared bishop and prevents black’s king knight from going to f6, its best square.

With 3.exd5, white releases the pressure on the position and makes the game much simpler and almost equal. Still, both sides can play for a win! In my French days, I was never disappointed to see the Exchange Variation and scored well against it.

French Defense Exchange Variation: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5

Both sides have chances here, and there is more than one way for each side to play. Don’t let anyone tell you the Exchange is the prelude to an early draw. Not always!

White cannot fall asleep and hope for a draw

Even 90 years later, many consider this a model of how to play against the Exchange Variation.

Don’t underestimate symmetry either

Most players are taught to emulate Nimzowitsch’s play above. I preferred to model my play after Akiba Rubinstein’s in the game below:

White’s positionally-aggressive potential

Black isn’t the only one who can have fun in the Exchange Variation!

Simple, direct play can also work in the French Exchange

Richard Rapport goes straight for the throat from the beginning, and hits his target:

This concludes my overview of the French Defense! It has provided you with food for thought and the seeds of further discovery.

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