The French: McCutcheon Variation – Chess Openings Explained

Jonathan Schrantz teaches a French variation of which many players aren’t aware. Learn the McCutcheon variation with two games from Sergey Volkov.

Alisher Rustamov vs Sergey Volkov, 8 Agzamov Memorial (2014): C12 French, MacCutcheon, Lasker variation
Alexandr Predke vs. Volkov, 2013: C12 French, MacCutcheon, Lasker variation


  1. I watched this video all the way back when it was first posted and I’ve been playing it ever since. The problem I’ve had, is that opponents my rating (~1800) almost always play exf6, the side line he says he doesn’t mind playing. Problem is, there’s no more theory after the black queen recaptures the g7 pawn. I have many games from that position, and I’ve struggled to learn the best way to proceed. Wish another video would come out that would flesh out that part of theory

  2. Hi sir, I love all the videos you upload.I have a request in your upcoming videos on chess openings can you please explain Queens gambit declined in the perspective of black ? or any other good defense against Queens gambit.

  3. I would really appreciate a video on the English opening and the strategic ideas behind it…

  4. This was a terrific introduction to the conceptual ideas behind the opening, so very well elucidated especially considering how non standard some of these ideas are to the non French aficionado. The Caro Kann video from the White perspective was also very impressive.

  5. I would like to see Ficher's refutation to the King's gambit.

  6. nice lecture, but next time dragon pls 🙂

  7. I'd like to see an inspiring ivanchuk game

  8. @ 14:55 why not Queen g5 and force a queen trade opening the h file for black's rook? how can that be bad

    at least mention it.

  9. Can you explain the English Opening Botvinnik System plz…..

  10. Najdorf and black's development of his queenside minor pieces when to play the bishop to e6 and when to b7 and the knight to c6 or d7 depending on what white does.

  11. Nice lecture! My wish for next one is the Dutch.

    More specifically, I would like to see a some ideas about how black should use his light squared bishop, both in the Leningrad Dutch and the stonewall. (And also ideas for white how to restrict the bad bishop)

  12. impressive! will definitely watch more jonathan-lecuters…. btw: "please […] do internet stuff" really inspired me to leave a comment 🙂

  13. Schrantz is very instructive and thorough in the explanations.

  14. Please do a lecture also on the english opening from black's point of view. So far nice enjoying the tutorials.

  15. I would like to see a Fischer game!

  16. Great lecture! I got a lot out of this. Thanks so much, Jonathan Schrantz.

  17. if possible can u make a series of video on french

  18. One question: After Black plays Nxd2 & White plays Kxd2, how about Qg5+ for Black, forcing the trade of Q's. How do the GM's evaluate the resulting queenless middlegame?

  19. I've played the MacCutcheon before but books only say so much. This lecture gives me a lot of ideas. The second game is sort of a bizarro mirrored King's Indian.

  20. great video. thanks
    the best french defense lecture ever

  21. Who is in the second game? When/where was it played?

  22. The trouble with playing the McCutcheon Variation is that a lot of White Players play the Exchange (a.k.a Killjoy) Variation.

  23. sir i just love this opening,when i play black,,,,,,,

  24. awesome! I love how the ideas are very well explained!

  25. after c4, why cant white just play Rg3 instead of retreating the bishop?

  26. At 6:00 Allowing Nb5 and capturing the rook leads to a very good trap in fact! Black gets good counterplay with Qb4+ and can actually go to Black's advantage 🙂

  27. I have used this video to begin the the revamp of my response to 1. e4. Very instructive video

  28. 34:53 What happens if white plays Rg3 attacking g7? Looks tough for black or am I missing something? :/

  29. sir if my opponent play with white and after h6! he play bishop to h4! then what I play at this position

  30. Actually, at 29:10, Black missed two tactics; can you see what they are? Pause the video.

  31. 17.25 is lost for black. 1. Rg3 Rg8 2. Bh7 then black lost. please do me some reply to see the line

  32. Great video Jon! I actually fell into c5 mistake too. I ended up giving up the rook for a couple pawns and activity and one. It was a blunderful game with NM McLaughlin (sp?)

  33. And is there a video about the 8… g6 line? I find it personally better for Black since you eventually castle.

  34. He reminds me of Krillin from the Dragon Ball franchise.

  35. I'm guessing this guy is Canadian.

  36. This treatment of the McCutchen is interesting (Black's early c4 and K jouney to c7) but IMO is flawed and can be played only against low rated players.
    The iMcCutchen is not that different from other "typical" French positions when the pawn center is locked with a double pawn chain, and the "other" player is often unprepared with nuances, like…
    – Opposite board attacks
    – If you're not attacking the K, a successful attack leads to nothing because the locked center can prevent further improvement of your position

    The above means that both players have an interest in keeping pawn tensions as long as possible to avoid a total commitment to a very long range strategic lock. Once locked, any misjudgement is magnified and correction if possible might involve great material sacrifice.

    Therefor, if Black wishes to keep the option of defending the Kf8, it's better not to lock the pawn center with c4.
    Instead, b5 should be played as soon as possible with the options of either locking the center with c4 and pushing the pawn roller, or instead blowing up the center with the pawn on c5 and pushing the pawn b4 attacking the base of the white pawn chain c3.
    Particularly if the White K stays in the center (eg Kd2), black may need to blow up the center to get to the K.
    If the pawn chain is locked, then even if Black exchanges the b and a pawns, his attack will wipe out all resistance but lead to nothing while White tries to attack on the K-side.

    In both these games, it shows what happens when White doesn't have any diea how to attack,
    And this is probably more common than you'd think.
    I think that White often doesn't study how to attack the French because with e6 blocking the QB, White may think all roads lead to Rome with an enormous unopposed K-side space advantage.
    But, you still need to know how to attack, and in both these games, White shuffles pieces around listlessly.

    Funny thing is,
    For a long time despite White moving aimlessly in both games, the game wasn't really truly losing until very late.
    Goes to show that indeed White has a large margin of error playing White in these kinds of French positions but sooner or later will lose if correct moves aren't played.

  37. "Volkov" begins the same way as "Voldemort", so no wonder he is good with the dark side !

  38. It should be noted at 7:41, if Rxg7 Qh8+, Black can hold it together with Bf8, blocking the check and defending the rook. Not an ideal way to play the position, but you don't have to lose a rook.

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