The Tarrasch variation is one of the most interesting ways to fight the French defense.
The Tarrasch variation was rarely played against the French defense until a certain Anatoly Karpov started playing it with great success. Now, it is the second most popular move for White. As a reminder, White has other possibilities on the third move, mainly:
- 3. e5, the French defense advance variation
- 3. exd5, the French defense exchange variation
- 3. Nc3, the classical variation leading to the Steinitz variation of the French defense, or the Burn variation of the French defense with Bg5
Knight on c3 or Knight on d2 ?
This Knight on c3 can be so annoying that White can sometimes spend an additional tempo to remove it from c3 afterwards (especially in the Steinitz variation).
By the way, this line is called the Winawer variation of the French defense and it is a very good opening for White, but it might not be to everyone’s taste to let Black damage your pawn structure this way !
At this point, Black’s next move will decide what kind of game we will see.
Enough said, let’s start to look at the concrete lines now, starting with the one in which Black immediately tries to take advantage of the move Nd2.
3… c5: The Open System Of The French Tarrasch
This is Black’s attempt to “prove” that 3. Nd2 is not working for White. Of course, it is not a refutation and White is doing fine.
Note that White takes the advantage because his Knight controls d5…
A principle you have to know: each exchange of minor piece favors Black in the isolated Queen’s pawn.
4… exd5: Black Recaptures With The Pawn
In this system, White is always on time to recapture on d4 and blockade immediately the isolated queen’s pawn after a move like Nb3. There is no way Black ever keeps his pawn on d4 after capturing it.
All the lines starting with 4. exd5 exd5 eventually end up in a slightly better position for White in which Black gets an isolated Queen’s pawn.
4… Qxd5: Black Recaptures With The Queen
Sometimes you have to move your Queen early in the game even if opening principles say the opposite !
As it turns out, in this position Qxd5 works and Black is not forced to recapture with the pawn and accept the isolated Queen’s pawn ! Now let’s look at what happens after this move.
Also, don’t believe that the position is necessarily quiet and positional. Here is a common line where White takes advantage of a quick development to put pressure.