Review: The Complete French Advance, by Evgeny and Vladimir Sveshnikov

New In Chess 2017
286 pages

By Davide Nastasio

My interest in this book sparked from a review I wrote a couple of months ago on another great book which taught me the basics of the Open Sicilian.

My goal is that I’d like to follow these modern GMs like Carlsen, who seems to have an omni-comprehensive opening repertoire.  I’d like to return to play 1.e4, for a while. One reason I could give is “creativity.” If we just play one set of openings, and we become very good at them, we could end up depriving our minds of the unimaginable richness that chess offers.





While we are told over and over to study the endgames, the truth is that different openings with different middle games teach us a lot on how the pieces are used. Different openings also bring us to different endgames, hence the need to play different openings throughout our chess career, be it professional or amateur.



GM Evgeny Sveshnikov (photo credit: Wikipedia)


Evgeny Sveshnikov has been a top Grandmaster (GM) for good part of his career, with many important theoretical contributions to the opening field. Yes, the Sveshnikov Sicilian owes its name to the author of this book, which in this particular book he is co-authoring with his son, an International Master (IM).

It is nice to see that the collaboration between father and son has brought other titles in the past like A Chess Opening Repertoire for Blitz & Rapid: Sharp, Surprising and Forcing Lines for Black and White, published by New In Chess, in 2016.




In the first chapter, Sveshnikov makes the case for and against 3.e5, (after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5)




He is quite honest, because from many titled players I heard Nc3 should be the most sharp continuation, as he points out at page 13: “Undoubtedly, 3.Nc3! is the strongest and most principled continuation, which answers to all the principles of opening play.”




Sveshnikov played 3.Nc3 throughout the 60s and 70s and reveals the reason for playing 3.e5: “Therefore by playing 3.Nc3, one concedes the opponent an obvious advantage in preparation and knowledge.” Here’s the real problem: is Nc3 the best most sharp move? Yes! But it is high maintenance, which means one must keep his knowledge updated. Instead, 3.e5 gives the following advantages listed by Sveshnikov at page 13:

1.It gains space
2. It shuts permanently the Bc8;
3. The Pawn in E5 takes away the important F6 square, which will make difficult to defend the kingside, giving White ideas for attack on that side of the board.

After two pages of pros and cons of the French Advance, Sveshnikov begins to show important games played throughout history, with good annotations which are focused on showing us how the ideas changed in different periods. I found this chapter quite fascinating.  The second chapter is HUGE! Around 130 pages! It is the heart of the book where the ideas, theoretical lines, plans for the middlegame, etc. are shown. This is where we need to really work hard.

Chapter 3 is the reason I knew something of the French Advance before studying this book.  The title in fact says it all: “The Multi-faceted Blockade” and the subtitle of the chapter is “Aron Nimzowitsch: theoretician, practical player, and romantic.”



GM Aron Nimzowitsch (photo credit: Wikipedia)


Sveshnikov gives a brief introduction on Nimzowitsch. Please don’t give much importance when Sveshnikov writes at page 161, “It is still unknown to this day exactly what he was doing between 1914 and 1920.” Very likely Sveshnikov didn’t read the biography Aron Nimzowitsch on the road to chess mastery, 1886-1924, written by Per Skjoldager and Jorn Erik Nielsen for McFarland, likely the greatest chess publisher for biographies and books on chess history.




In the above-mentioned book, there are 3 chapters for a total of over 70 pages (Chapter 8, 9 and 10) which describe Nimzowitsch’s life for the years from 1914 to 1920. There are also games played by Nimzowitsch. Sorry to reiterate the point, but if one wants to know about Nimzowitsch’s life in that period, one MUST have that book. (Spoiler alert: there was nothing arcane or mysterious about Nimzowitsch during that period. He did what chess players do all the time.)

In the beginning of this chapter is annotated the famous Nimzowitsch vs. Salwe, 1911, which was the game I knew for the Blockade.  If I remember well, it is the one commented on in Nimzowitsch’s famous book My System.




Here is the game:



Then Sveshnikov goes on to show his games with the blockade, and the modern view on it. This chapter is quite interesting. There are over 24 games!

Chapter 4 is made up of over 80 positions where one is asked to find the correct move and continuation. This is becoming a modern trait of chess books, and a smart one I must say; finally someone tests the knowledge that the reader has gained from the book, and gives the reader feedback on what he/she misunderstood.  Chapter 5 presents the discoveries in recent years. And chapter 6 is a very small chapter, where Sveshnikov concludes the book, giving a final overview of the French Advance.

The book ends with an index of variations, quite comfortable if one needs to use the book as reference.  The book also contains an index of more than 130 games, and another of over 80 positions.

Final thoughts: Sveshnikov knows chess well.  He is not a top GM anymore, but his knowledge is still at the top. If one is looking for a good answer against the French, please give this book a try, because it is definitely worth it. If one doesn’t care to play the Advance, I still recommend this book, especially chapter 3 on the blockade, because it will open one’s eyes to a very important strategical element. And Chapter 4 with all the exercises is quite important for every player. A good book to have in one’s library.


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