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After some catch-up games in non-main lines, I'm going to concentrate upon the Poisoned Pawn 7 Qg4 Winawer this month, using a combination of older and newer games. Even though a couple of games come from the distant past (well, between 1995 and 2000), they are highly relevant and serve to introduce the theory further developed by recent games.

Download PGN of August '10 French games

Odds and Ends

The move 2 f4 led to the 'Big Clamp' in Stripunsky - Macak, Philadelphia 2010:

White sets up a maximal centre by means of Na3-c2 and then d4. An interesting strategic battle results.

Exchange Variation

In Thesing - Sulskis, Eforie Nord 2010, I give a few notes on the Exchange Variation, with a look at one of the main lines with 4 Nf3:

After an exchange on f3, White uses the two bishops and space to gain a winning advantage in instructive style.

Winawer Variation

The Winawer Poisoned Pawn main line is hotly contested these days, with few clouds on the horizon from Black's point of view. Two readers have requested some commentary on the older Tait Variation, which was considered close to a refutation briefly in the late 1990s. It has yet to see much if any analysis in the main French sources. The variation begins (with a number of possible move orders):

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.Qg4 Qc7 8.Qxg7 Rg8 9.Qxh7 cxd4 10.Ne2 Nbc6 11.f4 Bd7 12.Qd3 dxc3 13.Rb1 0-0-0 14.h4 Nf5 15.h5 d4 16.Rg1

White intends g4 to clamp down on the kingside and begin a general advance there. I'll look at a series of games. An older contest that still holds up well is Simmelink - Oomen, Netherlands ch-28 corres NBC, 1997, and I'll use it to introduce the variation with 16...f6, as well as lesser lines. There is some valuable input from the Forum, especially about the 'irregular' 16...Be8.

Then, in Harding - Arounopoulos, ICCF corres 1997, we see one of the original games with a piece sacrifice by Black which turns out to be the best justification for 16...f6, and in my opinion the reason that the Tait Variation isn't employed more by leading players.

Here Black plays 17...fxe5! 18 gxf5 exf5 and gets enough compensation for his piece. White soon misplays and allows the attack to get too strong.

Bergmann - Neven, IECG WC corres 2005-6, continues looking at the piece sacrifice. This time White plays a better defence and some accuracy is required by both sides. The key position is this one:

This line often ends in repetition. The notes include the game Korneev-Malfagia, Assisi 2006, which demonstrates Black's use of an alternate solution to try to generate more chances.

Finally, Gutsche - Zawadka, IECG corres 2000, shows White's best chance at getting positive prospects in this variation:

White slows the action down and tries to consolidate his piece. In the game he succeeds, but Black has two ways to deviate. The analysis is complicated; however, Black can generally get to a drawish position, or choose a wide open position with chances for both sides.

Switching to the modern version of the Winawer Poisoned Pawn variation, we find that after 10 Ne2 Nbc6 11 f4, the immediate capture 11...dxc3 keeps getting more popular (the traditional move is 11...Bd7; sometimes the two transpose). Kamsky brought this line to general attention with some nice wins. Last month we saw the ambitious 12 Nxc3, which really doesn't seem to work out well (although it can transpose sometimes). The next crucial juncture is 12 Qd3 d4 13 Nxd4 Nxd4 14 Qxd4 Bd7:

We'll look at four forms of this line, varying as to the placement of White's rooks on g1 and/or b1, and whether Black places a bishop or queen on c6. I have used 2 games from this month and two from previous years as main games, but folded the recent theory into the game in any case. The positions are complex and very concrete, so if you're playing either side of this line you should come to the board prepared.

In Ortiz - Suarez - Noguieras Santiago, Havana 2010, Black plays the somewhat unusual ...Rh8 and combines it with ...Bc6, while White skips Rb1 to set up with Rg1 and g4:

Although Black wins with a standard exchange sacrifice, I'm not happy with his setup.

Especially when White is playing with Rg1 and g4, Black's queen can be very well-placed on c6. This placement is popular right now and apparently equalizing. One idea is to play the sequence ...Qe4+/Qe2/...Qd4, when White generally feels that he needs to challenge the queen by Qf2, repeating:

In Secer - Dogan, Konya 2010, White avoided the repetition and achieved little. He had one chance to play for advantage, but with his poor structure and Black's activity, it seems as though the second player was always able to hold the balance.

The game Berescu - Vargic, Djakovo 2005, sees White playing Rb1 and Rg1 while Black chooses ...Bc6:

In this position, Black has three main choices. All are playable, but only one seems to equalise directly.

Mamedyarov - Alekseev, Ohrid 2009, features the same setup, but with Black's queen on c6. From there it goes to d5 and becomes part of a light-square battery:

In the game White stayed a pawn up, but his structure was loose and king exposed, so he headed for a draw.

Till next month, John

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