Collins: Korchnoi Gambit against the French

by Priyadarshan Banjan
5/3/2015 – If you play 1.e4 you need a line against the French. Why not try the Korchnoi Gambit 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Bd3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ngf3!?. Named after one of the greatest French experts of all time it promises entertaining attacking chess against the often positional French. Priyadarshan Banjan took a closer look and enjoyed the fun of gambit play.

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Sam Collins: The Korchnoi Gambit against the French: A review

The Korchnoi gambit against the French is an Opening fritztrainer from ChessBases 60 minute series and aims to introduce you to a fun-filled variation against the French Defense. Even at club level players often play the French with reasonably good theoretical knowledge. One of White’s major methods to take on the French is to employ the Tarrasch variation which comes up after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2.

I was interested in learning a suitable opening system against the French and my attempts to independently study and play the Advance variation at club level had backfired horribly, to put it mildly. My coach proposed the Tarrasch variation, focusing especially on the Korchnoi gambit arising after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Bd3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ngf3!?

Coincidentally, I chanced upon this DVD by IM Sam Collins and I saw it as an opportunity to learn a refreshingly interesting variation. In sixty minutes IM Sam Collins presents a relatively simple line, which might involve a pawn-sacrifice and arms you with the theoretical knowledge to play this variation.

Irish IM Sam Collins is a successful coach, author of several bestselling chess books, and has recorded a number of popular ChessBase-DVDs. He definitely knows his way around teaching chess material. As a player he managed to win both the Irish and the Japanese National Chess Championships – the latter being a slightly curious fact. Collins has represented Ireland in six Olympiads, winning gold for the best board result in Bled 2002.

The lectures on this DVD are divided into six video-segments where Collins discusses the various methods Black may choose against your 7.Ngf3 Tarrasch system. He methodically first explains the ideas of each variation and then presents the lines. At the end of each segment he evaluates the variation and once again summarizes the plans involved. As he rightly stresses, the practical value of playing such variations is very high. In the practice games I played in this line after studying the theory, I noticed a marked improvement of my results. Moreover, I enjoyed play immensely because the line is filled with tactical opportunities. Two examples:

White to play and win (Solution at the end of the review)

White to play and win (Solution at the end of the review)

However, it would have been nice to have reference database on the DVD. Today, reference databases with annotated illustrative games, usually selected by the presenters themselves, are a common feature of the ChessBase fritztrainers. Well, this DVD was produced a couple of years back when this feature was not yet common. However, how IM Collins evaluates the variations he presents and how he expounds the plans you should follow more than compensates the missing reference database.

IM Sam Collins

One feature that I found useful was the manner in which IM Collins made use of the visual markers to explain the concepts. See the following game for an example.


The more I studied the variation the more I liked White’s position but one thing was worrying me: What to do if Black develops his bishop to e7 and with g5-g4 steams ahead against White’s king? But IM Collins had an answer: Showing a game by GM Sergey Rublevsky, the coach of Russia’s women’s national team, he proposed a method for White which forces Black to play very precisely to even attain equality.


A hallmark of the 60-minute series is the economical way in which you learn. For a small price you get an hour of quality chess instruction allowing you to grasp the most important concepts of a particular opening or a particular variation easily. Although the lines proposed by Collins do not form a complete repertoire against the French, the DVD does a fine job in preparing you to play against this opening. If you look for an entertaining way to counter the French – especially at the club level – this DVD is heartily recommended.


1.       1.Qxf6 gxf6 2.Nxd7+ forking the black king and queen.

2.       1.Rxd5 exd5 2.Qxf5+ forking the black king and c8 rook.

Sample video


Sam Collins:
The Korchnoi Gambit against the French


This DVD can be be downloaded directly from the Internet

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Priyadarshan Banjan is a 23-year-old club player from India. He works as an editor for ChessBase News and ChessBase India. He is a chess fanatic and an avid fan of Vishy Anand. He also maintains a blog on a variety of topics.


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