What Are Well Known Opening Traps In French Defense? Black and White


French Defense trap in The Winawer variation

There are a lot of cunning traps in the French Defense. Even though it has a reputation of being a solid opening, danger often lurks for the side that isn’t careful. While most of the time, it’s Black who has to be careful, White also needs to be cautious in some cases. In this article we will see some traps for both the sides.

Traps For White In The French Defense

Trap 1 – The Classic Greek Gift

The Greek Gift is one of the most popular and satisfying ways to finish off the game. Here’s how it arises in the French Defense

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4

This is known as the Winawer Variation.

4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Qc7 7.Nf3 Ne7 8.Bd3 Nbc6 9.O-O O-O??

Black blunders with this move and White sacrifices his bishop with the typical…

10.Bxh7+!

Black is busted now. After, 

10…Kxh7

White has a mating attack with 

11.Ng5+ Kg8

Or 11…Kg6 12.Qg4! f5 13.Qh4! with a mate on h7.

12.Qh5

Once again the mate is unavoidable along the h-file.

Trap 2 – Be Careful In The Fort Knox Variation.

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bd7 5.Nf3 Bc6 6.Bd3 Nf6?! 

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The correct move order is to play 6…Nbd7 followed by 7…Nf6. You will soon find out why.

7.Nxf6+ Qxf6?

7…gxf6 is only the move to avoid a direct loss. After 7…Qxf6, Black’s queen runs out of squares. It’s surprising how many strong players have fallen into this trap.

8.Bg5! Bxf3 9.Qd2! 

An important move defending the Bg5, while temporarily sacrificing the knight. This is the move that is easy to overlook.

9…Qxd4 10.Bb5+ 

And with this discovered check, Black loses their queen.

Trap 3 – How a Wife Beat Her Husband In Chess

This one is special and it deserves a special mention to the Chessbase India co-founders and life partners, Amruta Mokal and Sagar Shah. Playing with the White pieces, Amruta managed to beat Sagar after he fell in a nasty trap. The game went

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Qb6 6.a3

This is a standard theoretical line in the advance variation of the French Defense. With 6.a3, White is planning to push b4 and gain firm control over c5-square. Black avoids it with…

6…c4

Now 7.b4 isn’t possible as it would allow 7…cxb3 en passant. The game continued

7.Nbd2 Bd7 

8.Be2 Nge7

A poor move by Sagar Shah. Amruta now finds a stunning combination which gives her a huge material advantage. 

9.Bxc4!! dxc4 10.Nxc4

The whole point of the bishop sacrifice. White’s knight on c4 threatens two things; Nxb6 winning a queen, and Nd6+ winning a rook. Because of Black’s knight on e7, the bishop on f8 no longer guards the d6-square. Hence the combination works. The game went…

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10…Qc7 11.Nd6+ Kd8 12.Nxf7+ followed by 13.Nxh8.

Black has lost a rook and two pawns for a mere bishop. Amruta managed to win the game, while Sagar lost respect in front of both the families. Check out the video where Sagar explains the tragedy, in his own words. 

Traps For Black In The French Defense

Trap 4 – One From The Winawer

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Ne2

This is one method of playing against the Winawer. With accurate play, Black is fine here.

4… dxe4 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.Nxc3 Nc6 7.Qg4? 

Giving up the central d4-pawn is a bad decision in itself.

7…Nxd4 8.Qxg7?? 

This allows a mate in two. Can you spot it?

8…Nxc2+ 9.Ke2 Qd3#

Trap 5 – Black’s Classic Strategy In The French Advanced Variation

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.f4 cxd4 6.cxd4 Qb6 7.Ne2

Not the most accurate move. Black now gets a chance to demonstrate one of his main strategies to play against the advance variation – to undermine White’s d4-pawn.

7…Nge7! 8.Nbc3 Nf5 

The pressure on d4-pawn is unbearable.

9.g3 Ncxd4 

Black gains a pawn and should have a technically winning position. However, White blunders and soon loses the game…

10.Na4?? Nf3 checkmate.

Trap 6 – Another One From The French Winawer

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qg4 

This move is an aggressive variation to play against the Winawer.

4… Nf6 5.Qxg7 Rg8 6.Qh6 Nxe4

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Black now has a huge initiative after this move.

7.Qxh7??

Too much greed is always bad, be it in life or in chess. 

7…Rf8 8.Bd2 Bxc3 9.Bxc3 Qf6

With a winning position for Black. Black has two threats, against which White has no defense –

– 10…Rh8, trapping White’s queen and

– 10…Qxf2+ followed by 11…Qxf1, winning the game.

We hope you are now aware of some of the common traps in the French Defense. Have you ever won games, thanks to them? Have you fallen into them? 

Also which trap was your favourite? The one where the wife beat the husband? Or any other?Let us know in the comments section below.

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