How to say variation in French? - YouTube

The French defense is a very popular choice nowadays among chess players of all levels. It’s quite flexible and it offers black unbalanced positions almost in any line. In this article we will have an inside look in the so called Fort Knox variation of the French and we will see how to play against it.

First played by Capablanca in 1902, the Fort Knox has the reputation of being a very solid variation for black. The idea is simple – to play 5…Bc6 followed by 6…Nbd7, 7…Ngf6, 8…Be7 and 0-0. Black will eventually have to give up his bishop for one of white’s knights and the position will turn into a sort of Caro Kan type in which black’s position is rock solid, although it is also a bit passive. See an example below:

Despite the “passive” reputation of the Fort Knox variation, it has been employed by many strong Grandmasters that have seen potential in black’s setup. Gelfand, Nakamura, Karpov, Epishin and nowadays Jobava have great results with it. Therefore, black’s position should not be underestimated, never.

And we arrive at the first critical point in the opening. Black is happy with a massive exchange of pieces on e4; that’s the first thing to know. The trade of pieces would benefit black who has less space, therefore we should avoid it and white has three reasonable options: 8.Ned2, which aims to recycle the knight via c4, the second option, 8.Neg5, puts some pressure on f7/e6.

This would force black to make some concessions in his development. Third, the move we have chosen for this article is 8.Ng3, which is the most popular and the preference at the highest level.

After 8.Ng3 white wants to continue with 9.Re1, c4, Bf4 with more space. It is also possible to develop the c1 bishop via b2 with b3-Bb2 and c4. Avoiding unnecessary trades is one of the important things to remember. Once white has finished his development and his pieces have been improved to optimum squares, one plan is to begin the advance of the H pawn in order to create weaknesses in black’s castle.