When you play e2-e4 on your first move most of your opponents will replay e7-e5.

You now know quite a lot about the openings starting with those moves.

But as you get stronger and meet stronger players you'll find many of your opponents will play other first moves against you.

In this lesson we look at some of the other moves Black can play in reply to 1.e2-e4.

This is the first move of the FRENCH DEFENSE.

Black moves his King's Pawn just ONE square forward, inviting White to put a second pawn in the center.

Tip: if Black plays ANY move which lets White put two pawns in the center without one of them being taken, then he should do so.

So White's second move should be d2-d4.

Now Black demonstrates his idea: d7-d5.

Black's plan is to let White set up a PAWN CENTER and then attack it with his pawns and try to knock it down.

Now White has to make a decision: what to do about his THREATENED e-pawn.

He has four main choices here: to EXCHANGE, to ADVANCE or to DEFEND it with either Nb1-c3 or Nb1-d2.

We'll look at each in turn.

White's simplest option is to EXCHANGE pawns: White plays e4xd5 and Black takes back: e6xd5 (you know why Qd8xd5 is not so good).

We now reach this position, which you may remember from the previous lesson.

White will probably develop his Bishops to d3 and g5 and his King's Knight to f3. He may use his c-pawn to strike at Black's d-pawn with c2-c4, or to bolster his own center with c2-c3. He will usually play 0-0 and Rf1-e1.

By the way, I hope, after the last lesson, you won't be tempted to play Qd1-e2+ here, blocking in your own Bishop.

If you're not confident about the other variations I would recommend you play the EXCHANGE VARIATION against the FRENCH DEFENSE - but other moves are more interesting, more exciting and give White more chance of an advantage.

It's well worth taking the time to learn about them.

After all, Black's offering you an advantage in SPACE, so why not take it?

White's second option in the FRENCH DEFENSE is to advance his Pawn - 3.e4-e5.

This is called, amazingly enough, the ADVANCE VARIATION.

Let's stop and look at this for a minute.

White has a SPACE ADVANTAGE - more room to move his pieces.

Black also has a BAD BISHOP on c8.

Black's plan is to ATTACK White's PAWN CENTER with well-timed moves like c7-c5 and f7-f6. (Moves like this are called PAWN BREAKS.)

He'd also like to try to activate or exchange off his BAD BISHOP.

The main line goes like this:

3... c7-c5 (to attack the white center)

4. c2-c3 (to keep two pawns in the middle) Nb8-c6 (to put more pressure on the center)

5. Ng1-f3 (to defend the center again) Qd8-b6 (and to attack it again)

and you should have reached this position.

Tell me this. How would Black reply if White played Bc1-e3 in this position?

Yes, if White plays Bc1-e3 he leaves his b-pawn undefended. Black can - as long as he's careful - take it off safely with his Queen.

If you have a go at playing the FRENCH DEFENSE yourself - which I hope you will - you'll be amazed how many pawns you win in this way.

Just look at how well placed the Queen is on b6.

White has three popular moves in this position.

The first one is Bf1-e2, a simple and good developing move.

The second choice is a2-a3, with the idea of playing b2-b4, challenging Black on the Queen side. Black often replies c5-c4 which takes the pressure off White's center but prepares to meet b2-b4 with an EN PASSANT capture. (You hadn't forgotten the rule, had you?)

The third option is Bf1-d3, placing the Bishop on its ideal diagonal and setting a few nasty traps.

Yes, the Bishop's on his ideal diagonal, but the problem with this move is that it's blocking the Queen's defence of d4.

It looks as if Black can win a pawn here, doesn't it?

Let's have a look.

Black can indeed play c5xd4 here, when White replies c3xd4.

Well then, can Black win a pawn with Nc6xd4 or is White setting a trap?

Black should play Nc6xd4
Black should NOT play Nc6xd4
Don't know
Don't care

Here's the position after Black takes the pawn and White exchanges Knights (if you've seen what's coming you'll know that Black would do better not to recapture.

You should have no problem spotting White's next move.

Yes, of course!

It's an AMBUSH winning the Black Queen.

Going back a couple of moves, instead of playing Nc6xd4 Black could play Bc8-d7, preventing the CHECK and so THREATENING the Pawn on d4.

What often happens then is that White SACRIFICES the d-pawn anyway, and, if Black wants it, the e-pawn as well by playing 0-0 and Nb1-c3.

Next, we return to move 3 to see what happens if White defends his e-pawn.

Instead of EXCHANGING or ADVANCING his e-pawn on move 3, White can instead DEFEND it.

One way to do this is to play Nb1-d2 (the TARRASCH variation) when Black can reply with c7-c5 or Ng8-f6.

But most obvious way to defend the pawn is to play Nb1-c3, as in the diagram on your left.

Here Black has three main choices.

He could play d5xe4, the RUBINSTEIN variation, which is solid but slightly passive.

More interesting and exciting choices are Ng8-f6 and Bf8-b4, both of which we'll look at quickly.

Here's the position after Ng8-f6, renewing the THREAT to White's e-pawn.

Now there are two branches: White can drive the Knight back at once with e4-e5 (the STEINITZ VARIATION) or PIN the Knight with Bc1-g5 (the CLASSICAL variation) and, after Bf8-e7, drive the Knight away with e4-e5 followed by exchanging off his BAD BISHOP.

In the WINAWER variation (3...Bf8-b4) Black renews his THREAT against e4 by PINNING the White Knight.

This is an extremely complicated and interesting variation.

White has several possible moves but the game usually continues 4. e4-e5 c7-c5 5. a2-a3 Bb4xc3 6. b2xc3.

Black has given White DOUBLED PAWNS but exchanged off his better Bishop.

There's a lot more to the French Defense than that, of course, but it's beyond the scope of this course to take it any further.

If you click here you'll find a short guide to the FRENCH DEFENSE which you can view online or print off for your own use.

I hope you'll want to practise this exciting opening yourself - try it out playing both White and Black and see what happens.

Our next opening is THE most popular opening amongst stronger players.

It's called the SICILIAN DEFENSE.

Most strong players know it - and play it. So if you want to be a strong player you'd better start learning something about it - NOW!

This is it - the SICILIAN DEFENSE.

Why is Black moving his c-pawn rather than his e-pawn?

Firstly, playing e7-e5 gives White an immediate target for attack.

If you know something about the RUY LOPEZ you'll know how much pressure White can put on that pawn.

Secondly, if White, as he usually does, plays d2-d4, Black will be able to exchange off a SIDE PAWN for a CENTER PAWN, leaving him with a 2-1 pawn advantage in the center.

White usually plays Ng1-f3 (we'll look at other moves later), giving this position.

There's no threat so Black has a choice. The usual moves are d7-d6, Nb8-c6 and e7-e6.

Sometimes these moves can lead to the same position - Black will often play two or even all three of these moves fairly early on.

We'll take a look at d7-d6 and see what happens.

In this position White usually plays d2-d4.

A good alternative is Bf1-b5+. Nb1-c3 is also fine for White. Bf1-c4 is not so popular - c4 is a less effective square for the Bishop here as Black can block the diagonal with e7-e6.

After d2-d4 Black's idea is to capture: c5xd4, and White usually plays Nf3xd4.

Then Black THREATENS the White e-pawn with Ng8-f6. White's obvious way to DEFEND the pawn is Nb1-c3.

Before we go any further, a quick word about playing e7-e5 in this sort of position.

It's always very tempting to drive back the enemy knight like this but think first!

If you play e7-e5 you are also giving yourself a BACKWARD PAWN on a HALF-OPEN FILE and giving your opponent an OUTPOST on d5.

In some positions, such as this one, it's usually considered bad to play e7-e5. But in similar positions (for instance if Black had played Nb8-c6 instead of d7-d6) it's usually considered OK.

For the moment, if in doubt DON'T play e7-e5.

Black has four popular moves here: Nb8-c6, e7-e6, a7-a6 and g7-g6.

The first three might all lead to the same sort of position (which we'll look at in a minute), but White has slightly different options in each case.

A quick note about a7-a6. This is called the NAJDORF variation and is the favorite of Garry KASPAROV and, formerly, of Bobby FISCHER. You're probably thinking this looks a pretty strange move, breaking most of the rules of opening play.

In fact the move has three points.

To stop White using b5 for his Minor Pieces, to prepare the move b7-b5, gaining space on the Queen side, and to wait to see where White develops his Bishops before choosing between e7-e6 and e7-e5.

Here's a typical position which could arise from this variation - you could reach it from any of Nb8-c6, e7-e6 or a7-a6 in the previous diagram.

We're now in something called the SCHEVENINGEN VARIATION.

White's plan is to attack on the King side - notice how he's started this attack by playing f2-f4.

Black will aim to strike back in the center or on the Queen side.

Now let's look at what happens if Black plays g7-g6 on move 5, giving this position.

Another move that probably looks pretty strange to you.

The idea of this is to develop the Bishop on g7. Developing a Bishop in this way is called a FIANCHETTO (an Italian word meaning 'little flank').

You'll meet FIANCHETTOS in lots of different openings as you learn more about chess.

This variation of the SICILIAN DEFENSE is called the DRAGON VARIATION. Black's pawn formation is supposed to look like a DRAGON.

White's most popular move now is Bc1-e3.

One idea of this move is to follow up with Qd1-d2 and, later on, to try to exchange off Black's FIANCHETTOED BISHOP by playing Be3-h6.

Black would like to foil this plan by playing Nf6-g4 at some point, but now is not the right time.

Let's find out why.

Here's the position. White can win a piece here - can you see what move he should play now?
The correct move is indeed Bf1-b5+, and now if Black plays Bc8-d7 we reach this position. What now for White?

Yes, in this position White can capture a free piece by Qd1xg4.

The Bishop which appears at first to be DEFENDING the Knight is PINNED.

Not easy to see from a couple of moves back if you haven't seen the idea before.

So, instead of playing Nf6-g4 Black completes his FIANCHETTO - Bf8-g7 - and White plays f2-f3 to support his center and prevent Nf6-g4.

A few moves later we reach a position looking something like this.

White's plan is to attack on the King side by advancing his h-pawn, maybe his g-pawn, and, at the right time, playing Be3-h6 (but not at once - it loses material to Nc6xd4!).

Black will attack on the Queen side, usually playing his Knight from c6 to e5 and then c4.

If you found all that rather too complicated to understand, don't worry. There are several simpler plans at White's disposal.

We'll look at just one of them now - you might like to try it out next time someone plays the SICILIAN DEFENSE against you.

On move 2 White can, instead of Ng1-f3, play this move: c2-c3.

You've seen this idea in a couple of other openings: White's planning to play d2-d4 and take back with a pawn to keep two pawns in the center.

Moves like Nb8-c6 or d7-d6 don't stop your plan - just go right ahead and play d2-d4 next move. If Black plays e7-e6 you again play d2-d4. Then Black plays d7-d5 and you can choose between e4xd5 and e4-e5 (a FRENCH DEFENSE ADVANCE VARIATION!!)

A good 2nd move for Black is d7-d5 - against this you should play e4xd5, and, after Qd8xd5, d2-d4.

Another good move for Black is Ng8-f6. What should White do about the threat to his e-pawn?

Correct - White should play e4-e5 to drive the Black Knight away (it usually goes to d5), and then play d2-d4.

You really should be used to this idea by now.

Always look out for the chance to use your center pawns to drive away enemy Knights and Bishops.

So far you've only seen a very small part of the SICILIAN DEFENSE.

It will take you a lifetime to learn and understand everything about it.

It usually leads to exciting games, so it's well worth finding out more about it and trying it out for yourself.

Click here to read our book on the SICILIAN DEFENSE and find out more about this opening.

It's time for some revision. Can you remember the names of some of those variations?

What is the name of this variation of the FRENCH DEFENSE?

The WINAWER variation
The STEINITZ variation
The RUBINSTEIN variation
The TARRASCH variation

And what about this variation of the FRENCH DEFENSE?

The WINAWER variation
The STEINITZ variation
The RUBINSTEIN variation
The TARRASCH variation

Can you identify this variation of the SICILIAN DEFENSE?

The NAJDORF variation
The SVESHNIKOV variation
The DRAGON variation
The TAIMANOV variation

And finally, do you remember the name of this variation of the SICILIAN DEFENSE?

The NAJDORF variation
The SVESHNIKOV variation
The DRAGON variation
The TAIMANOV variation


You have now completed the FRENCH & SICILIAN DEFENSES assignment.