What to do against the French? Sergei Tiviakov recommends 3.Nd2!

by Markus Hochgräfe
5/5/2017 – Sergei Tiviakov knows how to win against the French: by playing 3.Nd2! The renowned author and grandmaster regularly plays this move which has brought him a score of about 80% against the French. On a ChessBase DVD he revealed the secrets of this line. French expert Markus Hochgräfe had a close look at the DVD - and was impressed.

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Review: Sergei Tiviakov: The French Defence. 3.Nd2: a complete repertoire

Sergei Tiviakov is an active grandmaster who likes to travel and to play tournaments all over the world. He is also a renowned trainer and author of 14 ChessBase DVDs. In October 2005 he was among the world’s best 20 players.

On this DVD Tiviakov presents a repertoire for White against the French Defense that is based on 3.Nd2, the Tarrasch Variation. Tiviakov is one of the leading experts of this line and it helped him to a fantastic score against the French.

The DVD contains an incredible amount of material:

  • 20 chapters of video lessons. These chapters are sometimes up to 40 minutes long. As far as I can see Tiviakov covers everything White should know but also shows a lot of additional options.
  • 218 games (some of them annotated) in which French expert Georg Meier plays with Black “C00-C19-MeierBlack”. Not all of these games feature the Tarrasch Variation – it’s basically a collection of Meier’s French games with Black.
  • 230 games (all of them uncommented) in which Tiviakov plays with White against the French “C03-C11-Tiviakov”.
  • 312107 games (all of them uncommented) with the Tarrasch Variation “C03-C11”.
  • A short theoretical overview of the Tarrasch “French with Nd2”
  • 236 chapters with detailed theoretical analyzes: “C03-C11-ECO”
  • 6 questions with interactive training

Overview of the chapters:

000-intro: Why Tiviakov prefers 3.Nd2 versus 3.Nc3
001-sidelines: 3…f5 and other sidelines
002-3a6: 3…a6 4.Ngf3
003-3b6: 3…b6?! 4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.Bd3
004-3nc6: 3…Nc6 4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.e5 Nfd7 6.Nb3
005-3be7: 3…Be7, various moves
006-3nf6part1: Side lines and main variation with 6.Bd3 and 11…Qc7
007-3nf6part2: Variation with 6.Bd3 and 11…0-0
008-3c55dcpart1: 3…c5 4.exd5 Qxd5 5.dxc5, game 1
009-3c55dcpart2: 3…c5 4.exd5 Qxd5 5.dxc5, game 2
010-3c55ngf3: 3…c5 4.exd5 Qxd5 5.Ngf3
011-5a6: 3…c5 4.exd5 exd5 5.Ngf3 a6
012-5c4: 3…c5 4.exd5 exd5 5.Ngf3 c4!? 6.b3
013-5nf6: 3…c5 4.exd5 exd5 5.Ngf3 Nf6
014-5nc6: 3…c5 4.exd5 exd5 5.Ngf3 Nc6 6.Bb5 Bd6 7.dxc5 Bxc5
015-3desidelines: 3…dxe4 4.Nxe4 sidelines
016-4be7: 3…dxe4 4.Nxe4 Be7?! 5.Nf3 Nf6 6.Nxf6
017-4bd7: 3…dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bd7 5.Nf3 Bc6 6.Bd3
018-4nd7: 3…dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7, several options for White
019-conclusion: Strongest variants as Black.

Sergei Tiviakov

As I have played the French with Black throughout my chess career I was curious where and why Tiviakov deviates from my own analyses. Here are my remarks:

000-intro: Tiviakov claims that objectively 3.Nc3 is the strongest move against the French. However, White runs a certain risk of losing against 3…Bb4, and that is the reason why Tiviakov prefers the more solid 3.Nd2 which has brought him a fantastic score of about 80% against the French. Other players who regularly play the Tarrasch with success are Michael Adams and Sergey Rublevsky.

004-3nc6: 3…Nc6 was often played in the past but is no longer popular.

005-3be7: 3…Be7 is a good move according to Tiviakov. Now, he does not like the line 4.e5 c5 5.Qg4 too much for White but instead prefers 4.Bd3 or 4.c3.

006-3nf6part1: 3…Nf6 is the most popular move against 3.Nd2. But Tiviakov likes the positions that arise after this move and he has scored 87% (!) against 3…Nf6. Sergey Volkov is the only top grandmaster who still plays 3…Nf6 with Black. After the sequence 4.e5 Nfd7 5.c3 c5 Tiviakov recommends 6.Bd3 and claims that 6.f4 is weaker (or at least riskier). However, in the theory section he does not cover the critical line 12.Nc3. See the game Jansa-Langrock.:


006-3nf6part2: In this line I found a strong novelty for White: After 12.Bf4 Bxf4 13.Nxf4 Ng4 14.g3 Qd6 Tiviakov claims that 15.Bxh7 leads to equality. But after 15…Kxh7 16. Ng5 Kg8 17.Qxg4 e5 18.dxe5! N White is simply better. After the main move 13…Ne4 Tiviakov shows several possibilities for White. He does not like 14.Ne2 or 14.Nh5 but prefers 14.Qc1 Ng5 15.Nxg5 Qxg5 16. Bxh7 Kxh7 17. Nxe6 Qf5! 18. Nxf8 Qxf8 with a slight advantage for White. I recently played an interesting game against German Grandmaster Niclas Huschenbeth with this line.


010-3c55ngf3: 4…Qxd5 5.Ngf3 cxd4 6.Bc4. Here Tiviakov offers a lot of theoretical material focusing mainly on the lines arising after 6…Qd6. However, the move 6…Qd7 which has recently become popular is not covered. The main ‘problem’ for amateur players in these lines (and this goes for the whole variation with 4…Qxd5) is that 10.Qxd4 leads to an ending in which White has virtually no risk of losing. This move is not often played on the highest level but it still is a problem when you want to play for a win with Black. But Tiviakov prefers 10.Nxd4 and he recommends to follow up with b3, Bb2, Qe2.

019-conclusion: 3…a6, 3…c5 4.exd5 Qxd5 and 3…dxe4. According to Tiviakov these are the most solid lines for Black in which it is very difficult to get an advantage for White.


Tiviakov presents a complete repertoire for White against the French and offers an incredible of material. In the videos he offers a comprehensive analysis of the opening, diving deeply into the theory. But for me the highlight of the DVD are the 236 chapters which offer a detailed theoretical overview of the Tarrasch Variation: “C03-C11-ECO”. So far, I have not seen anything better yet for this price. All in all I would give the DVD an ‘’A” and would recommend to buy it.

Sample video

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Markus Hochgräfe was born in 1972 and is a FIDE-master from Germany. He is a former Hamburg youth champion and qualified several times for the German Youth Championships. In 2000, he played for Königsspringer Hamburg in the German Bundesliga. Hhe has a current Elo-rating (as of April 2017) of 2411.


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