The French Fist of Fury

Ian Snape (2135) – Andrew Greet (2450)
4NCL, 14.02.2015

My opponent is not so highly rated, but he used to be in the high 2200s and in our previous meeting I was on the rough side of a draw. This time, however, I had Playing the French to help me…

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 a6 8.Qd2 b5 9.dxc5 Bxc5


In one previous game my opponent played 10.Bxc5 Nxc5 11.0–0–0, which seems rather risky. 11…Qb6 12.Bd3 b4 13.Ne2 a5 14.Ned4 was Snape – Shepherd, Coulsdon 2013, and now after 14…Nxd4 15.Nxd4 0–0 Black’s attack is further advanced.

I also saw that Snape has played the text move on two previous occasions, but neither of his opponents chose the most accurate continuation at move 12 below.

10…Qb6 11.Bxc5 Nxc5 12.Ned4 Bd7!

12…Nxd4 13.Nxd4 Bd7 is fully playable, but the text move is more flexible, as explained in “Playing the French”. Rather than hurry to exchange knights, I’ll let my opponent do it and develop my bishop in the process.

13.Nxc6 Bxc6 14.Nd4 0–0

Black can transpose to the previous note with 14…Bd7, but there is no need at this point, as White is hardly threatening to exchange on c6, and f4-f5 would be premature. This was about as far as I got in my preparation; I did skim through a couple of illustrative lines in PTF where Ntirlis shows how to combat White’s dark-square strategy, but I didn’t memorize any of it, as time was limited and I needed to check a few different openings. Besides, this is about as deep as you need to go with specific preparation – if you understood the position well enough, you should be able to play a decent game from here.


A bit too risky. 15.Qe3 and; 15.Bd3 make more sense, aiming for a positional game, although Black should be fine in either case.

15…b4 16.Bd3 Bb5!

This illustrates perfectly why 12…Bd7 was more accurate. The bishop does not have to retreat to d7, and can instead save time by going directly to b5. Of course, I also had to be ready for the following pawn grab.


After the game I checked the database and saw that 17.Ne2? b3! 18.a3 Nxd3† 19.cxd3 Rfc8† led to an easy win for Black in Winterfeld – Liedtke, Germany 1999.


This was my idea, guarding the b5-square and threatening… well, you’ll see on the next move.


A mistake, but White was already in trouble. For instance, 18.Nb3? Nxd3† 19.cxd3 Rc8† wins trivially. Either capture on b5 would also be disastrous, as Black gets a huge attack after …axb5.

The computer indicates that 18.Be2 and even 18.Bf1 were the two possible ways to avoid an immediate disaster, although in both cases Black obviously has more than enough activity for the sacrificed pawn.

18…Nxd3† 19.cxd3

With a bit more thought, my opponent might have realized that 19.Rxd3 Bxd3 20.Qxb6 Rxb6 21.cxd3 was the only way to prolong the game, although the ending should be winning for Black in the long run.


And in view of 20.Qxb5 Qxd4, or 20.Qc3 Rc8, White resigned.

27 thoughts on “The French Fist of Fury”

  1. Nice game indeed. I recently won a game in the same variation (but white continued with 10.Bxc5 Nxc5 11.Bd3), and the nice thing of 7…a6 is that black’s plan is quite easy and clear. Imo white has absolutely nothing in this line.

  2. It’s a little known fact that Bruce Lee wanted to call what would turn out to be his last film “Enter the French Exchange”. It was only after his death that the studio changed the title, deciding for some reason that “Enter the Dragon” sounded better.

  3. 10.Bd3 is no problem for black. I (or I should rather say Stickfish) already repaired it.

    By the way: it will also be very interesting to see what Avrukh will recommend against the Slav. Maybe he will add another few moves to his analysis (like he did in his book on the Slav) and now conclude it is good for white after all 🙂

  4. @Ray
    Will you share your response to 10.Bd3, or do we all have to start our computers now and waste electricity on it? Think of the environment! 😉
    Also, IIRC, the first book won’t contain the Slav but only the Catalan. The whole series (IIRC) will be 4-5 books this time.

  5. Let’s hope those repertoire do not ever become Chess Stars like, I mean on the books count.

    But I guess you cannot avoid it, the analysis being so deep, especially from white side.

  6. @Ray

    I am also interested in your line. My impression is that Negi’s line is still worth an edge. Many of the positions 10.Bd3 leads to are endings, so I would be suspicious of engines evaluating 0.00 as meaning it’s a sure fix, but maybe you have some forcing line in mind?

  7. @Tobias
    No problem, nobody is reading this blog anyway 🙂 . My main line goes:

    10.Bd3 Qb6 11.Bf2 Bb7 12.a3 0-0 13.0-0 Bxf2+ 14.Rxf2 g6 15.Kh1 Nd4 16.Ng5 Rac8 17.Re1 and now 17…Rfe8 rather than 17…Rfd8 as given by Negi. The point is to take prophylactic measures against the dangerous white attacking plan 18.Nd1 Kg7 19.Ne3 h6 20.f5! exf5 21.Nxf7! Kxf7 22.e6+. After 17…Rfe8 my main line is 18.Nd1 (18.Rff1 Rc7 19.Re3 b4 20.Ne2 – 20.axb4 h6 21.Nh3 Qxb4 22.Rg3 Nf5 23.Bxf5 exf5 24.Rd3 Nb6 is slightly better for black. He plans to play …Nc4 next – 20…Nxe2 21.Qxe2 bxa3 22.bxa3 a5 followed by …Nf8 with equal play) 18…Kg7 19.Ne3 h6 20.Nh3 Nf5 21.Bxf5 (21.Nxf5+ exf5 22.Ng1 d4 with a slight advantage for black) 21..gxf5 22.Rf3 Kh7 23.Rg3 Nc5 followed by …Rg8, with counterplay. A nice line ending in a perpetual is the following: 24.Qe2 Ne4 25.Qh5 Nxg3+ 26.hxg3 Kg7 27.g4 Rg8 28.Nxf5+ exf5 29.gxf5 d4! 30.f6+ Kf8 31.Qxh6+ Ke8 32.e6 Bxg2+ 33.Kh2 Be4! 34.exf7+ Kxf7 35.Qh5+ Kf8 36.Qh6+ Kf7. If I have missed anything essential I’ll be happy to hear of course!!

  8. In the meantime Radjabov is playing a French Winaver Poisoned Pawn against MVL!

    He deviated from Watson/Berg recommendation tough, with 21… 0-0-0, instead of 21… Bc6, if I’m not mistaken.

    Anyway he must have forgotten the line, cause he used 50 min for move 18!!!

  9. Cool! And all variations pretty much to my liking!

    I’m not sure if I should integrate the 3 volumes with “Playing the French” as well… more options are always good I guess, even if it should be slightly less detailed than a GM Rep.

  10. @Ray

    Hi Ray,

    Thanks for posting your line. Fun perpetual. I don’t have time at the moment for a proper analysis, so just a few guesses from me. In your line, instead of 19.Ne3 I would be looking for an alternative.

    Or to go further back, instead of 15.Kh1, how about 15.Re1. Looks interesting.

    To use this line for my own games over the board, I would be happy to reach the position after Black’s 14th move, then start playing with White. Pressure on the kingside, lots of ideas and move orders. Maybe eventually computer analysis could supply a verdict everywhere (draw!) but I would expect to score a few winning attacks anyway.

  11. @John Shaw
    Hi John,

    Thanks for your comments. Indeed maybe white has improvements before move 15, but I was just following Negi’s recommendation 15.Kh1 and assumed that the QC team had already figured out that this was white’s strongest move 🙂 I wonder if Jacob and Nikos share you view because in that case it’s back to the drawing board for Playing the French 🙂

  12. @Ray

    I don’t see what I said as ‘back to the drawing board’ for PtF at all. Instead, it’s just normal chess in serious lines: White pressing, Black (probably) holding. For whatever it’s worth, I’m a 1.e4 player, not a French player, and I prefer White in this line. If you ask Andrew, you would probably get a different view.

  13. Gilchrist is a Legend

    Brilliant excerpt as always, I had a feeling that the book was around 500 pages, 450 was close…

    Is GM16 released together with GM1A in the next publishing date?

  14. Gilchrist is a Legend

    Also I see that Berg recommends the …Qc7 system with the 3…Nf6 Tarrasch. I had a feeling that this was what it would be. I find it better than the …Ne4 lines.

  15. Gilchrist is a Legend

    @John Shaw
    The purchase button is still unavailable–I suppose that soon it would appear?

    Also is GM1A an update only, different lines, or both? I plan to buy it regardless anyway.

  16. Gilchrist is a Legend

    I also see on Forward Chess that 18.03.2015 is the publishing date of GM16, sounds good to me.

    But GM1A shows that the Bogo-Indian is also covered. It was in GM2 in the original series, so I suppose there is some shuffling with the lines in this new batch of volumes.

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