Here we are, together on this page, both interested in the French Defence with 3.Nc3 Bb4. Before telling you what you can learn from this opening, let me tell you a little story about my journey in the French. I started playing the French after reading John Watson’s Play the French, which improved my play a lot. I learned that the French is a positional yet concrete opening, and many of my young opponents couldn’t grasp its subtleties. Moreover, many opponents were far less prepared against 1 ... e6 than against 1 ... c5 or 1 ... e5. Unfortunately those days would end.
During the 2008 Dutch Youth Championships (U20), I understood that everyone would throw 7.Qg4 in the Winawer at me. In that respect, my opening preparation was simple: I’d study the Winawer for Black very intensively and the problem would be solved. In reality, I faced many difficulties. Novelties I’d find in the evenings were promptly refuted by the engine the next morning; I was constantly thinking about the French, but I couldn’t quite make it work. There was this strange, inexplicable feeling in my stomach, some might call “butterflies”. I had fallen in love with a chess line! Despite my two losses in the crucial games, I still believed I had a great repertoire with countless novelties to show for it.