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MACA Book Review
How to Play against 1 e4 How to Play against 1 e4
by: Neil McDonald

Price: $24.95
ISBN: 978-1-85744-586-2
Format: Book 238pp.
Publisher: Everyman Chess

Reviewed by: Chess Horizons Editor Mark Donlan
Recommendation: Recommended

The title of this book does not convey that it is a repertoire book for Black based on the French Defense. It is formatted much the same as the Starting Out series, so one can surmise that since Starting Out: The French was already written by Byron Jacobs, we ended up with this title, which nevertheless is well worth your time and money.

McDonald has been employing it for nearly three decades and is thus well-suited to explain its intricacies. He covers all the main variations and also includes a chapter on the Fort Knox Defense: 1.4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 (or 3.Nd2) 3…dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bd7 5.Nf3 Bc6. He notes that the fixed nature of the pawn center allows Black to spend a couple of moves to activate his light-squared bishop, and that this line offers “a safe, non-theoretical, but rather unambitious opening that you can use for a lifetime.” He also calls it “one of the greatest labour-saving devices ever invented,” as there is “essentially only one pawn structure that we need to study.”
One interesting point that McDonald makes is how often Black chooses to leave his king in the center. He writes, “It strikes me that Black can get on pretty well in the French without castling.” He also notes that the French “is handled in a very dynamic way these days. Black doesn’t have to fear the white centre – he has to be afraid of what happens when it vanishes. … There is a special art in making sure that the white centre vanishes on Black’s terms.”


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