The Rubinstein Variation of the French Defense

  • Jacques Delaguerre (I’ve always thought the Rub French proves that the main line of the French is the Advance Variation)
  • Nigel Davies Well then, your assignment for this week is to find a hole in Parimarjan Negi’s analysis and then post it here on Facebook!

Akiva Rubinstein helped usher in the 20th century’s approach to opening theory. The salient characteristic of his opening analysis relative to that of his contemporaries was a sophisticated insight into the relationship between time and space on the chessboard. The variations that bear his name each exhibit some apparent temporal paradox.

The Queen’s Gambit Declined, Orthodox Defense, Rubinstein Attack (D61-65) revolves around the struggle for the tempo which will be traded when Black eventually plays d5xc4 and White king bishop recaptures. The Rubinstein Variation of the Symmetrical English (popping up as anything from A04-A34 in the clumsy move-order-oriented ECO numbering system) is a temporal joke in which Black preempts White’s right to open the center by moving the d-pawn two squares. The Rubinstein Four Knights Game (C48) likewise features Black’s queen knight jumping the fence to d4 in a manner classical theory would have supposed reserved to the first player. The Rubinstein Sicilian (B29) and Rubinstein Nimzo-Indian (E42) both exhibit similar taxonomies.

The Rubinstein French is one of Akiva’s greatest jokes on the attacking players of his generation and their love for the asymmetrical topography and material imbalances that characterize other French lines. Rubinstein’s variation apparently yields a tempo and brings White’s QN to the center, only to tease White to give the tempo back by Ne4xNf6. Black remains backwards in space and apparently backwards in development but structurally sound and catching up inexorably move-by-move.  White gropes for a target while Black paddles smoothly and positionally into the calm waters of the draw.

I played the Rubinstein French  tonight at Denver Chess Club. This was not good wall chart strategy for a competitive four-round Swiss section, but it was artistically satisfying. 15 … Ne4-d2! left the gawkers gawking and led to compliments after the game.

I’m not very good at following instructions. For one thing, I’m turning in my homework to Grandmaster Davies here on Chess Improver, rather than Facebook. Also, I had an improvement on Negi, honest, but my opponent didn’t play into it. Maybe next time!

Jacques Delaguerre


Author: Jacques Delaguerre

Jacques Delaguerre is a Colorado musician and chessplayer.