The tread title is a joke, for some reason a few years ago a bunch of neo-conservatives in the U.S. got mad at France during the invasion of Iraq. So mad, in fact that many of them began calling French fries "freedom fries." (On the island of my forefathers they call fries "chips" and chips "crisps" .....but I digress).
Anyway, this post is about the French defense. A lot of people who know me wonder why I play the French so much, since it's really not suited to my "natural style."
Right now I consider myself an attacking player who loves fighting for initiative from the get-go, and in most cases there are a few positional things you have to get out of the way before you can even consider attacking.
There are a couple of reasons I play the French. The first being that everyone and their momma at the chess club I go to play the H.A. Dragon, and I want to be different. Later on I've learned quite a bit of Najdorf theory and I also have an e5 repertoire I'm working on, but I still play the French.
One reason for this is that a lot of players absolutely hate playing against it. Another is that I don't want to be a player with just one uniform style. I want to be a universal player and I think that playing an opening that forces you to take into account quieter positional considerations (if you're naturally more of a dynamic player you have to learn patience with the French. Several times I've tried attacking with it before I improved my position adequately and I paid the price).
French games can be very tactical, and they can become tactical very quickly. But before that happens, the first issue that must be settled from black's point of view, is the fight for the center.
I think that the importance of black's claim on the center is understated when talking about the French and way too much time is spent on talking about what to do with the light-squared bishop.
This game got tactical quick, all because white ceded me the center.
Most of the time you have to fight for the center though, and that should take priority over what to do with your light squared bishop.
Theory abounds with the French. I do not like John Watson's "Play the French." No doubt the man knows a whole lot about it, but it's basically a human database dump. He gives a LOT of variations, but he doesn't bother to do much explaining why he recommends many of his recommendations. Plus he spends a lot of time on Winnawer theory, and I prefer to avoid all that and go into the classical variation.
As has been said, and will be said over and over again, Uhlmann's "Winning with the French" is the most instructive book yet written on the subject.
I haven't read "Dangerous Weapons: The French" yet, but I'll probably have to. One thing about it is that if you want to do theoretical work on the French you have to deal with Watson.
The problem is if you want to think about plans using that theory, he leaves you on your own.