Is the French Defense bad? Why?

Why Is the French Defense Bad?


French Defense if 3rd most popular opening against 1.e4. This opening is not very result-oriented. Black didn’t get enough counter-play in French defense. You will also notice that French defense is not very popular with top players. Very few players play French defense as their main repertoire.

But those players are also rated below 2700. The reason behind this is, French Defense is already slightly passive but also gives a symmetrical structure. White always gets an advantage in French defense if he has decent preparation.

However, there are some fantastic variations from black sides, which are complicated and playable. But again, many people don’t prefer that variation because those positions are very dangerous to play.

If you are a beginner player or want to prepare a new opening against e4, I will suggest instead of French Defense you can prefer Caro Kann or Sicilian Ddefense.

Major Problems with French Defense

  1. Limited development -In French Defense, black don’t get much compensation, and the position is always better than white due to the limited number of developing squares available with black. This is the main reason why people avoid French Defense from the black side.
  2. Exchange variation is equal – In the French exchange, white gets an entirely drawish position and slight chances of winning. Black doesn’t get any counter-play if white doesn’t make any mistakes.
  3. Limited amount of opening development – Except for a few variations, the French Defense don’t have any scope to improve the opening theory. E.g., if we take exchange variation, you can see a well-developed theory and no scope of novelty from the black side.

Why Do Players Play French Defense?

In the main content, we have seen the cons of french defense. But there are some benefits of playing french defense which need to be discussed. The main reason people prefer French Defense is because it is straightforward to play. You don’t need much preparation before the tournament. This is the most significant advantage which I see. 

Also, some lines in french defense are tricky for white. If white knows the perfect solution, then it’s good. But if white didn’t know the solution, then it can become a significant problem. Lines such as Winawer variation are very sharp and tactical. Many players make mistakes in these lines.

Mainly black faces problems when white does nothing in french. For example, if white played exchange variation or 3rd move bd3, black has no equality option.

How to Prepare Against the French Defense?

There are multiple ways to prepare against the french defense. My first suggestion is to hire any chess coach or join a chess academy to get a deep understanding. Here I am suggesting some ways without a coach or academy.

The first step is to decide on one opening. There are two central openings which you can choose, i.e., exchange variation, advance variation, or classical variation. Once you choose one opening, then play some blitz and rapid games with these openings.

The second step is to start preparing for these openings. You can use books or any video courses and start preparing. Don’t forget to prepare various sidelines which are trending. 

Lastly, implement all preparation in actual tournament games so that you will gain a lot of experience.

Free Resources

There are various free resources from which you can study french defense. Here I am attaching some helpful youtube videos which are helpful to prepare from the white or black side.

Learn the French Defense, 10-Minute Chess Openings by IM Levy Rozman

Introduction to the French Defense by Chess Openings

Chess Openings- French Defense by thechesswebsite

Best Games in French Defense

Various players are playing french defense regularly. Some players have played french defense for their whole life. Here is the list of players who have played French Defense in their careers.

  • Viktor Korchnoi
  • Pentala Harikrishna
  • Nikita Vitiugov
  • Emmanuel Berg
  • Alexander Morozevich

The above players are top players from various countries, and they still managed to maintain their rating by playing french defense. So now we will see some of the best games in french defense which top players play.

Best Books in French Defense

Hundreds of books are already published on the French defense. Some books are for those preparing for French Defense, and some for those not preparing against it. Let’s check these books out.

  • Grandmaster Repertoire The French Defense ( 3 volumes) – This book is published by quality chess and written by GM Emanuel Berg. This book is perfect for those who are looking for a complete repertoire to play the French defense.
  • Opening Repertoire: The French Defense – This book is published by gambit chess, recently acquired by the Magnus group and written by Cyrus Lakadawala. Cyrus is a very famous author, and he explains the concept in great detail.
  • Playing the French by Jacob Aagaard – This book is a perfect repertoire for black. Jacob Aagaard is a very famous book author and chess coach. He has a lot of playing experience in French Defense reflected in the book.

All our articles are reviewed and edited by GM Marian Petrov, a top level GM coach, theorist, mentor and and former Bulgarian champion, as well as winner of many open tournaments around the world.

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