Executing the Exchange French

Playing for a win against the Exchange Variation is a challenge that every French player will face at some point. In Grandmaster Repertoire 16 – The French Defence Volume Three, where appropriate Emanuel Berg advocates long castling for Black, followed by a kingside attack . His coverage of this plan improves significantly over the work of other authors, especially when it comes to identifying certain positions and moves orders where Black should NOT castle on the queenside.

Here is a shortened version of Emanuel’s analysis of a line where Black’s aggressive strategy works perfectly.

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.Nf3 Bd6 5.Bd3

Obviously White has several options on moves 4 and 5, all of which are discussed in the book.

5…Nc6 6.0–0 Nge7 7.c3 Bg4

Although Black’s last move hints at long castling, Emanuel makes it clear that Black should wait to see what White does over the next few moves before committing his king. If he opts for queenside castling at the wrong time, he could find himself clearly worse. Another important point is that …0–0 should not be played too quickly due to the Bxh7† trick.


This is quite a popular move, which has the idea of going to g3 to exchange Black’s ‘good’ bishop.

8…f6 9.Bh4 Qd7 10.Nbd2

10.Bg3 Bxg3 more or less forces 11.fxg3, with a probable transposition to the next note. Instead 11.hxg3? h5! is a typical scenario where Black gets a strong attack.

10…0–0–0 11.b4

Emanuel also shows that 11.Bg3 Bxg3 12.fxg3 (12.hxg3? h5! is, once again, far too dangerous) 12…Nf5 is promising for Black, and offers an improvement over one of his own games a few moves down the line.

11…Nf5 12.Bg3 Nxg3 13.hxg3

13.fxg3 Rde8 14.Qc2 Kb8 15.a4 occurred in Elbasuny – Amin, Amman 2006, and now Emanuel gives the improvement 15…Ne7!N, intending …Nf5 and/or …h5, with good attacking chances.


Watson recommends 13…Ne7 intending …h5, but Emanuel points out that pushing the h-pawn should be the top priority, as Black may be able to do without the knight move.

14.Qb3 h4!N

Proving the above point.


15.Nxh4 is met by 15…Ne7 intending …g5, when the opening of the h-file will prove disastrous for White.


Black succeeds in opening up the kingside, giving him a clear headstart in the attacking race.

31 thoughts on “Executing the Exchange French”

  1. This looks like another reason to look forward to this book. I see there is a release date for the paper copy. Is there a known release date of this for the Forward Chess app?

  2. 8. Bg5 is terribly accommodating though. Just a bad idea.
    If white is to play the exchange, then much better with 8. Re1 and 9.Na3, which struck me as interesting at the time
    c.f. Carton – McDonald, BCF Ch. 1988.

  3. @SimonB

    Of course Berg also covers 8.Re1 (the main line) not just 8.Bg5. The above post just gives a flavour of the chapter.

    But after 8.Re1 Qd7 the move 9.Na3 looks a little wacky to me. Neil McDonald (my 4ncl teammate) seemed to have a bad day in the game you mentioned (more lunchtime analysis). Just 9…Bxa3 10.bxa3 0-0 and I like Black. Maybe it’s equal, but I still like Black.

  4. Does the release date of Wednesday 18th also apply to the Python Strategy? (I’ve been looking at quite a bit of Petrosian recently). Not that I haven’t been checking Forward Chess every day for both books or anything.

    By the way I had to restart my phone to pick up the updated list of books when I was waiting for Rios Chess Structures.

  5. On a related (but somewhat different) topic, how about playing for a win against the Exchange Variation of the Slav? What would a GM repertoire recommend?

  6. Hello folks!I’d like to ask Jacob Aagaard/John Shaw if Boris Avrukh will give a 1.d4 white repertoire against Slav, Dutch, Queen’s Gambit Accepted etc…My apologies if my query is already been raised before.

  7. Gilchrist is a Legend

    @John Shaw
    Any news on the websales of GM16 from Poland to Glasgow? It sounds like a great book again as always.

    Regarding the GM1A, B, and the rest of the series, is it mostly updates with some changes, or are there very drastic changes in comparison to GM1/2 original versions? The Grünfeld Fianchetto variation White has been under quite some pressure lately as an example, but would you think that this variation is still recommended for White in the new series?

  8. Interesting to see the game Hammer – Berg, played on Sunday in Malmo. Hammer played the novelty 17.a3, Berg gives only 17. Na4 in GM16 (page 311). Looks interesting. 20.-a5 didn’t work.

  9. Gilchrist is a Legend

    Is there a glitch if the websales are sent, but it is not being updated in the “Order History” of the wesbale account? They usually would have sent the e-mail reminder by now.

  10. @Gilchrist is a Legend

    The glitch was the books being slower than normal (by a couple of days) in the time the shipping company took to deliver to us. It slowed the posting of some websales. We will be using a different shipping company next time.

    I expect you will have received an email now.

  11. The Doctor :
    In the Semi-Slav book, is it too early to day what Lars recommends against 5.Bg5?

    Yes, it probably is too early, but maybe Lars will cover two options for Black.

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