the Monte Carlo Exchange Variation of the French Defense (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.c4), which is an ideal short-cut or low-theory line for those who like a wide-open game with plenty of piece play. There are also several themes and tactical motifs that are easy to learn and that will score you many points over the board and in online blitz. I have also included a bibliography (reproduced below) and welcome additions.
Monte Carlo Variation Bibliography
Baburin, Alexander. "Play on the e-file." Winning Pawn Structures (Batsford 2003): 92-101.
In his contemporary classic on the isolani pawn structure, GM Baburin devotes a chapter mostly to positions where the e-file is unobstructed by pawns. This position can arise from many openings, but especially the Queen's Gambit Accepted (1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e3 e5 4.Bxc4 exd4 5.exd4) or the French Exchange Variation (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.c4 dxc4 5.Bxc4). Baburin notes that "pressure along the e-file is particularly unpleasant for Black where it is combined with pressure along the a2-g8 diagonal." An excellent book and a very useful chapter.
Burgess, Graham. 101 Chess Opening Surprises (Gambit 2001): 62.
Offers a brief repertoire with the line 4.c4 Bb4+ 5.Nc3 Ne7, focused around the games of Tal Shaked and biased toward Black.
Glek, Igor. "French Defence, Exchange Variation." New in Chess Yearbook 20 (1991): 39-41.
A balanced treatment of the line with an early White c4, focused on the game Klinger - Glek, Werfen Open 1990, which began 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.c4 Bb4+ 6.Nc3 O-O 7.Be2 Ne4?! 8.Qb3! += and was eventually won by White.
Lane, Gary. "A French Farce." Opening Lanes 46 at ChessCafe.
Lane, Peter. "Exeter Chess Club: The Queen's Gambit Accepted/Isolated Queen's Pawn." Exeter Chess Club 1998.
Mednis, Edmar. "The Not-so-harmless Exchange Variation of the French Defence." Practical Opening Tips (Cardogan / Everyman 1997): 110-117.
Mednis's book is an excellent treatment of themes in the opening, but this chapter also offers a rather thorough and positive treatment of lines following both 4.c4 Nf6 5.Nc3 c6 (which can also arise via the Slav move order 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 e5 4.e3 exd4 5.exd4 Nf6) and 4.Nf3, which can transpose.
Pedersen, Steffen. French Advance and Other Lines (Gambit 2005): 104-106.
Focuses on the line 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.c4 Bb4+ 5.Nc3 Ne7 6.Nf3 Bg4 as illustrated by the games of Miezis as White and Shaked as Black. Pedersen's main line goes 7.Be2 dxc4 8.Bxc4 O-O 9.Be3 Nbc6 10.O-O Nf5 11.Qd3 Nd6 12.Bd5 which has occured in numerous high level games (including at least one of the author's own).
Razuvaev, Yuri. "You were right, Monsieur La Bourdonnais!" Secrets of Opening Preparation. Ed. Mark Dvoretsky and Artur Yusupov. (Olms 2007): 170-180.
A wonderful article that reinforces my favorite theme in these pages: that there is still a lot of opening knowledge to gain from the great players of even the most distant past. Razuvaev considers the line 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e3 e5!? as contested in the classic LaBourdonnais - McDonnell match -- a line that typically transposes to the Monte Carlo Variation after 4.Bxc4 exd4 5.exd4. Thanks to reader Jose for pointing me to this article, which I had initially overlooked.
Van der Sterren, Paul. "Transposition from the Queens Gambit." New in Chess Yearbook 32 (1994). Considers the line 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e3 e5 4. Bxc4 (Queens Gambit Accepted or Monte Carlo French) 4...exd4 5.exd4 Nf6 6.Nf3 Be7 7.0-0 0-0 8. h3 Nc6, which is now a Petroff, as in Gelfand - Adams Wijk aan Zee 1994. Thanks to reader Jose for this information.
Watson, John. Play the French, 3rd Edition (Everyman Chess 2003): 71-73.
Focuses on the games of Watson's former student Tal Shaked with the line 4....Bb4+ 5.Nc3 Ne7 -- as he notes, "A move this book helped to bring to attention."