2 Nf3 Versus The French

Decades ago when playing Backgammon professionally there was a story going around about the best player in the world, a fellow named “Ezra.” As the story went “Ezra” enjoyed spending time watching players new to the game. When asked why he would waste his time watching novice players yet to have found a clue the answer was he liked watched those new to the game because they had no preconceived ideas about how the game was played. For that reason I have always found watching the play of newbies interesting.

In the second round of the European Senior 65+ an unrated player, Ryszard Borowik faced class A player Roger S Scowen, rated 1864. The opening moves were 1 e4 e6 2 Nf3. Now, “Everybody knows” the best second move is 2 d4, because players are taught to “Control the center,” are they not? Playing 2 d4 has become de rigueur. Who checks to learn what the latest version of Stockfish plays on the second move? The AW, that’s who. I was shocked, SHOCKED, to see the version of Stockfish at lichess.com plays 2 Nf3.

Ryszard Borowik UNR vs Roger S Scowen 1864
European Senior 65+ (round 2)
C00 French defence

  1. e4 e6 2. Nf3 d5 3. Qe2 dxe4 4. Qxe4 Nf6 5. Qh4 Be7 6. d3 c5 7. Nc3 Nd5 8. Qg4 Nxc3 9. bxc3 Bf6 10. Bb2 e5 11. Qe4 Nc6 12. O-O-O O-O 13. h4 g6 14. h5 Bf5 15. Qe3 Bg4 16. Qxc5 Bxh5 17. Qc4 Bxf3 18. gxf3 Bg5+ 19. Kb1 Rc8 20. Qe4 f5 21. Qc4+ Kg7 22. Qb3 Na5 23. Qb5 Nc6 24. Bc1 a6 25. Qb2 Bxc1 26. Qxc1 h5 27. Be2 f4 28. Rh2 Rf5 29. Bf1 Rg5 30. Bh3 Rc7 31. Qb2 Qd5 32. Bg2 b5 33. Qb3 Ne7 34. Kb2 Qc5 35. Bh3 Nd5 36. c4 Nb6 37. cxb5 axb5 38. Kb1 b4 39. Be6 Rc6 40. Bg8 Rc7 41. Rhh1 Qxf2 42. Rhf1 Qc5 43. Rd2 Qc3 44. Bh7 Qxb3+ 45. axb3 Kxh7 46. d4 exd4 47. Rxd4 Rg2 48. Rxf4 Rcxc2 49. Rf7+ Kh6 50. Ra7 Rb2+ 51. Ka1 Rxb3 52. f4 Ra3+ 53. Rxa3 bxa3 54. f5 gxf5 55. Rxf5 h4 56. Rf6+ Rg6 57. Rf3 Kh5 58. Rxa3 Rg3 59. Ra5+ Kg4 60. Ra6 Nd5 61. Rg6+ Kf3 62. Rd6 Nf4 63. Kb2 h3 64. Rh6 Rg2+ 65. Kc3 h2 66. Kd4 Ne2+ 67. Kd3 Ng3 68. Rf6+ Kg4 69. Rh6 h1=Q 70. Rxh1 Nxh1 71. Kc3 Kf4 72. Kd4 Rg5 73. Kd3 Rd5+ 74. Kc4 Ke4 75. Kc3 Rd4 76. Kb3 Kd3 77. Kb2 Rb4+ 78. Kc1 Ng3 79. Kd1 Rb1# 0-1
    https://live.followchess.com/#!european-senior-65-2022/2005571260

GM Mikhail Bryakin 2441 RUS vs IM Balazs Csonka 2496 HUN
Titled Tuesday intern op 12th Apr Early 2022

1.e4 e6 2.Nf3 d5 3.Qe2 dxe4 4.Qxe4 Nf6 5.Qh4 c5 6.b3 g6 7.Bb2 Bg7 8.Bb5+ Bd7 9.Bxd7+ Nbxd7 10.d3 O-O 11.Nbd2 Nd5 12.Qxd8 Rfxd8 13.Bxg7 Kxg7 14.g3 1/2-1/2 (From the ChessBaseDataBase)

The programs frown on 3 Qe2, preferring 3 exd5, as in the following games:

Magnus Carlsen (2857) vs Julio Catalino Sadorra (2560)
Event: 42nd Olympiad 2016
Site: Baku AZE Date: 09/08/2016
Round: 6.12
ECO: C00 French defence
1.e4 e6 2.Nf3 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.d4 Bd6 5.c4 Nf6 6.c5 Be7 7.Nc3 O-O 8.Be3 b6 9.b4 a5 10.a3 Ng4 11.Bf4 Re8 12.Be2 axb4 13.axb4 Rxa1 14.Qxa1 bxc5 15.bxc5 Bxc5 16.dxc5 d4 17.O-O dxc3 18.Bc4 c2 19.Qa4 Bf5 20.Nd4 Bg6 21.Nxc2 Re4 22.Bg3 Ne5 23.Bxe5 Rxe5 24.Ne3 Rxc5 25.f4 h6 26.Qb4 Nd7 27.f5 Bh5 28.Qd2 Qg5 29.Qd4 Re5 30.Qxd7 Qxe3+ 31.Kh1 Qc5 32.Qd3 Re3 33.Qc2 Qe5 34.Qd2 Kh7 35.h3 Qe4 36.Kg1 c6 37.Rc1 Qe5 38.Bf1 Rg3 39.Qf2 Qd6 40.Rc4 f6 41.Rxc6 Qxc6 ½-½
https://www.365chess.com/game.php?gid=4009476

Vassily Ivanchuk (2704) vs Ian Nepomniachtchi (2714)
Event: SportAccord Blitz 2014
Site: Beijing CHN Date: 12/13/2014
Round: 1.8
ECO: C00 French defence
1.e4 e6 2.Nf3 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.d4 Nc6 5.h3 Be6 6.Bd3 Qd7 7.O-O O-O-O 8.Nbd2 f6 9.Nb3 g5 10.Re1 g4 11.Nh4 Kb8 12.Qe2 Bf7 13.Bf5 Qd6 14.Bxg4 Nge7 15.c3 h5 16.Be6 Bg6 17.Nc5 b6 18.Nxg6 Nxg6 19.Qb5 Nh4 20.Kf1 Rh7 21.g3 Ng6 22.Bf5 Nce7 23.Bxg6 Nxg6 24.Re6 1-0
https://www.365chess.com/game.php?gid=3921752

French 1. e4 e6 2. Nf3?

Meadmaker
Sep 10, 2009

So I decided to start learning an opening or two at some point, and decided the French Defense would be one I would try out.

The books all have it. 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5

There’s an occaisional variation mentioned, but that’s the line the books say is the usual one.

When playing blitz on chess.com, the most common second move I see is Nf3. What’s up with that? Has some master found great success with that line, but my books are too old for it? I just bought a book on the French Defense. 269 pages of French Defense. I doubt I’ll ever slug my way through it, but I thought I would try really studying one opening in depth, and seeing where it leads. In all those 269 pages, published in 2003, they don’t even mention the possibility of Nf3, or bother telling the reader how to reply.

So, am I just running into lots of players who don’t know the “right” move, or has someone advanced some theory showing why 2. Nc3 is superior to what people did for the last 100 years? And is there a better response than d5?
https://www.chess.com/forum/view/chess-openings/french-1-e4-e6-2-nf3

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