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The French

with IM John Watson and GM Neil McDonald

Welcome to the French Defence website! Here you will find a huge supply of ideas, techniques and principles to guide you through this wonderful opening. And, what's more, it is continuously growing! Every month it will be enriched with new ideas from recent play, or an established line will be examined in greater depth.

So to see the very latest theory first go to the What's new page!

Russian roulette

But maybe you think you already have enough information on the French. Well, you might be right, but have a look at the French Defence books on your shelf: are they becoming a little worn out, just a little bit dusty? What about the ideas inside? Are they also wearing a bit thin? Show me any book on the French and I'll show you a lot the author has come to regret. In fact, when you rely on a chess book you are playing a form of Russian Roulette: everything seems OK for three, four or five games, and then BOOM! 'You didn't know that latest idea from the New York Open, did you?' says your smug opponent as he wipes the blood from the board. You get blown away because books don't automatically update themselves. Well, this book does! And what's more, the author is always at hand if you have any query, comment or complaint. Just email me at the address given in Feedback. If you talk to this book, it answers. Try talking to ink and paper and everyone will think you are nuts. I have been concerned with three things here:


All important developments in the French are posted and analysed as soon as they emerge in tournament play. Every new idea is dramatically illustrated by a top class game, so that you can straightaway see how to apply it in practice.

Comprehensive coverage

Every major variation is covered here, with a continuous reappraisal and deepening of the subvariations. Whether you are looking for a safe and reliable position or a counterattacking adventure, you will find something to suit you here.

Correction of mistakes in published books

And there are a lot! The passage of time is the greatest enemy of a chess author, as it can turn excellent looking ideas into bad blunders, and render whole systems obsolete with the discovering of one move. I cannot gloat about pointing out errors by other authors as my own opening books have also suffered from this malaise. The good thing about this site is that if anything is found to be wrong, it can be instantly corrected. In the case of ordinary books, errors are either never corrected or only in a reprint a couple of years later.

And by the way, I have spent at least 18 years playing the French as Black, and just as long trying to refute it with White! So I am open to ideas for both sides.

Good luck!