The French Defence – The Road to Perfection #3 – Milner-Barry Gambit (6.Bd3) (Adv. Var.)

How important is the Milner-Barry Gambit? As I found out over the last few months, it is surprisingly important at the amateur levels. This seems strange, considering that it is a rare sideline in the professional chess world for many years.

I guess that the motivation for amateurs playing it is one that has to do with the nature of gambits in general: Usually, a gambit is followed by sharp play, granting the side sacrificing the pawn attacking chances. However, as is also typical for most gambits, the prepared defender against the gambit neutralizes the attack, catches up in development, etc. and ends up with an extra pawn. This is very much so the case for the Milner-Barry Gambit, which explains the great discrepancy between the professional and amateur players. The amateur wants to catch others unprepared, while the professional player does not count on his/her opponent being unprepared. Following these considerations, it makes a lot of sense to study the Milner-Barry Gambit for an amateur wishing to play the French Defense with black. This is the main reason for me making this variation part three of my quest for French Defense Perfection.



To start, let me show you the first game in an OTB team match, which I had to play against the Milner-Barry Gambit. At that time I had only rudimentary knowledge of this variation, but it seems that my opponent was also not that well prepared.



Judging from my game, it may seem as if white get’s a lot for the sacrificed pawn(s) and that white would have defeated me, had he found the correct moves. The latter is true, but it should also be clear that black has better defenses at his/her disposal:


The first things you have to know in this variation are the following:

·         You can’t capture the pawn on d4 right away, since white has laid out a nice discovered attack trap with his bishop and queen. Hence you need to play 7…Bd7 first.

·         White is basically forced to sacrifice the pawn once he/she plays 6.Bd3 because the alternatives are weak.

·         After 8…Nxd4 white has a lot of options, but none of them are convincing. Black should either play 9…Nxf3, 9…Nc6, or 9…Qxd4, depending on what white does.




The pawn on f2 may be a good target for attack, which is rather similar to the 4.dxc5 variation I presented in part I of these series.



Another similarity to the 4.dxc5 lines is the effect that the queen has on b6. It attacks b2 and restricts the bishop on c1 to defensive duties, while it also points at f2.



 Another interesting question is, whether black should take the second pawn on e5 in the mainline after 9.Nxd4 Qxd4 10.Nc3. The answer is that, as can be seen in my game in the introduction, black avoids a lot of troubles by preventing the white knight from getting to b5 first (by playing 10…a6), but when the pawn on e5 happens to be undefended at a later point in the game, it is usually a good idea to take it.

Another important idea is to take control of the dark squares in black’s camp by means of positioning the king’s knight on c6 and the bishop on c5.




Driven by a discussion in part I about the move …f6, I searched for lines/positions, when …f6 is good for black in this variation. The idea is usually to either get a central pawn majority, attack along the f-file, or both (see also the lines regarding the attack against f2).


  • 20 months ago


    I must say I'm still not impressed by Nbd2 and I don't think it is stronger than Nxd4 followed by Nc3. It is simply another way of throwing away white's opening advantage. In your game, edikg, your position was better until the move 19...Qb7?. Play the logical 19...a5!? and everything is fine. I am convinced that white will be the one fighting for the draw. Of course the unprepared player can get into trouble, but this is true for just about any opening.


    ps: It seems that "AngryNegro" changed his name to "theultimatehunter".

  • 20 months ago


    @theultimatehunter: Indeed, I lost an important otb game today playing french defence and my opponent played the milner-barry Nbd2 line instead of Nc3 and since I was unfamiliar I played Nc6. The next few moves were Nb3, Nge7, Be3, Qc7, Rac1, Ng6, Re1, Bb4? (in hindsight I should've played Be7) Re2, Ngxe5 Nxe5 Qxe5 Nc5! Qc7 a3 Bxc5 Bxc5 b6 Bb4 Qb7? Bd6 and I'll stop here because from here white has a pretty much winning position. 

  • 20 months ago


    Thank you, InspiredSquare! Smile

  • 20 months ago


    First-class exploration of this gambit, ccssii... well done.

  • 2 years ago


    @AngryNegro: Against 9.Ng5 Nc6 works just fine, or do you see any problem with it? Be7 is probably ok too imo.

  • 2 years ago


    @AngryNegro: Why is 9.Nbd2 Nc6 such a bad move that it earns a "?"?

    what would you say is the best continuation after 9.Nbd2 - maybe Bc5. Anyhow, I don't think that white has enough compensation. What's your opinion?

  • 2 years ago


    i play the milner as white

    i have found in databases that after nxd4 there are three choices

    1. Nbd2! (number 1 voted new move)

    2. Nxd4 (the old move)

    3. Ng5!? (a strange alternative)

    i have found nxd4 followed by nc3 is ineffective in a slow game, as my opponent thinks some time and declines the pawn, thus gaining the advantage

    Ng5 is actually parried by Be7!

    Nbd2 is stronger, as the obvious Nc6 is actually Nc6?

  • 3 years ago


    I've been a French def. player for many years, since 87, and I find your tutorial, infomative. thank you for taking the time to help us.

  • 4 years ago


    Thanks for the info! I play the French a lot and A lot of players play the Advance Variation aganist me.

  • 4 years ago


    thanks for the info .. it helps a lot!

  • 4 years ago


    very enlightening, thanks!

  • 4 years ago


    nice work man, really admirable

  • 4 years ago


Back to Top

Post your reply: