French January 2002 Update
Welcome to January's belated Update.
It's been quite a while since we looked at 7.Qg4 Qc7 8 Qxg7, the so called Winawer Poisoned Pawn Mainline. I've been trying to think of a 'new' way to play it for Black- something fresh and unconventional that escapes a mass of opening theory. And looking through some databases I think I have found it! Of course, there is hardly anything new in chess these days and the line I suggest was used by the chess genius David Bronstein back in the 1960s, as well as some strong players these days, but it has been utterly overshadowed by ...Nbc6 variations. What I am thinking about is 8...Rg8 9.Qxh7 cxd4 10.Ne2 and now rather than the universal 10...Nbc6, Black begins with 10...dxc3.
Now there usually follows 11.f4 Bd7 12.Qd3 Nf5!? 13.Nxc3 when 13...Na6!? is an irregular deployment of the knight. Black aims to attack the white queen with ...Nc5 or do something fast down the c file-which he hasn't blocked with ...Nbc6. If instead of 13.Nxc3 White plays 13.Qxc3, then I think Black does best to transpose to the mainline with 13...Nbc6 etc. Theoretically speaking this is a definite victory for Black as the 13.Qxc3 system is one of the most harmless he has to meet - and meanwhile he has side-stepped the more dangerous mainline systems that occur after Nxc3 or other lines.
Have a look at the two illustrative games which give full coverage of this variation for Black- I think it is an excellent surprise weapon. For one thing, my book on the Winawer doesn't mention it at all!
The first features early divergences for White and alternatives to 13.Nxc3 [other than 13.Qxc3, when I recommend you head back to the mainline with 13...Nbc6]. This game is a very exciting struggle- have a look at Volokitin-Firman, JAN02/05.
The second game features 13.Nxc3 Na6- enjoy Lutz-De la Villa Garcia, JAN02/06.
The Winawer: Mainline 7.Qg4 Kf8
Hello Mr. McDonald !
First of all I'd like to thank you for your work here on chesspublishing.com. Also I very much like your book on the Winawer. It has been a great reference for me many times in the relatively short time I have had it (one year).
I'd like to share with you an idea and quite frankly see what you think of it. The idea is in the Kf8 line of the Winawer variation and starts with the move 9..c4 after 8.Bd2 Qc7 9.Bd3.
The idea belongs to Kristjansson but we both play the French Defence and study together so we have both employed it as we generally do.
I like the idea and think it could be a good surprise weapon. I even managed to beat GM Stefansson (2604) with it in a blitz game (5 0 OTB)
Here is my win with this variation and I also give the two games by FM Kristjansson. Many thanks!!
Ingvar Johannesson (2267 currently)
Black's idea reminds me of the way Botvinnik used to play against the 7.Nf3 or 7.a4 Winawer back in the 1940s and 1950s- he would willingly block the queenside with c5-c4 and then outplay his opponent in heavy positional style. Or to put it less elegantly, he would aim to steal White's a-pawn in 'broad daylight' and then resist an attack on the kingside! I have added some early comments to the game Ingvar has sent but most of the comments are his own. Have a look at the intriguing game Ulfarsson-Johannesson, JAN02/10.
The battle goes on among the world elite in this variation. As always happens to a new idea, at its inception it wins a lot of games, but then its enemies study it and begin to fight back. After 5...c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.f4 attention has focused mainly on 7...Qb6 adding pressure to d4- for example this was Shirov's choice against Anand in their Teheran match. However, at the recent FIDE World Championship Ivanchuk came up with a clever finesse. Rather than putting his queen directly on b6, he waited by simply developing his kingside. This puts White in something of a dilemma, for if he plays in the style of Anand with h2-h4 and Rh3 Black can save a precious tempo [or even two!] by not putting his queen on b6. Why this is so is explained in the analysis to the featured game. As it is, Macieja goes completely wrong by trying to copy another idea of Anand's and is severely punished. To see Ivancuk at his best, click on Macieja-Ivanchuk, JAN02/01.
The other established method for Black to counter this line is 5...c5 6.c3-note that in the Macieja game above White deferred 6.c3 to deter Black from playing the line that follows- 6...cxd4 7.cxd4 f6 attacking e5.
Now after 8.Nf4 Bb4+ 9.Bd2 Qb6 10.Bxb4 Qxb4+ 11.Qd2 Qxd2+ 12.Kxd2 Black must choose which way to defend e6 with his king- Ke7 or Kf7??
On this subject I have received an illuminating email from subscriber Jason Bokar:
Thanks for the great French Defense site at ChessPublishing. I am interested in a particular line in the Classical that you have written about. It is the "Anand" system that caused Shirov so much trouble. In the November issue you provided a game by Sax-Atalik. You suggest that 12. ...Kf7 is an improvement on the Anand-Bareev (2000) game (which Byron Jacobs, in French Classical, calls 15.Nf3 an improved plan over Bezgodov-Sakaev, Moscow 1999).
Regarding 12...Kf7 after 13.exf6 gxf6 14.Nf3 Nc6 15.Bb5 Nb6
while I think the idea has some merit in that Nd6 is possible later, I do feel that white has a good move in 16.Rac1 instead of either Rae1 or Bxc6. It seems that Rac1 covers the c4 square and stops the Nc4 manoeuvre.
Secondly, I don't see anything wrong with playing 12. ... Ke7 when it is followed up with Kd6 after the following sequence:
13.exf6 gxf6 14.Re1 Nb6 15.Nf3 Kd6
when it seems that we come back to the Bezgodov-Sakaev game after 16. Bd3 or after 16.Bb5 a6 and then 17.Bd3 (with pawn a6 thrown in - doesn't seem to change the situation.) There was a recent game which seems to follow this idea:
Arakhamia,K (2446) - Gleizerov,E (2587) [C11]
10th Monarch Assurance Port Erin IOM (1), 2001
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Nce2 c5 6.c3 cxd4 7.cxd4 f6 8.Nf4 Bb4+ 9.Bd2 Qb6 10.Bxb4 Qxb4+ 11.Qd2 Qxd2+ 12.Kxd2 Ke7 13.exf6+ gxf6 14.Re1 Nb6 15.Nf3 Kd6 16.Bd3 Nc6 17.Nh5 Rf8 18.Bxh7 e5 19.dxe5+ fxe5 20.Kc1 Bg4 21.Ng3 Bxf3 22.gxf3 Nd4 23.h4 Rxf3 24.h5 Rxf2 25.Ref1 Rg2 26.Nf5+ Nxf5 27.Bxf5 Nc4 28.h6 Ne3 29.Rf3 Nxf5 30.Rxf5 Rc8+ 31.Kb1 Rcc2 32.Rfh5 Rxb2+ 33.Ka1 Rxa2+ 34.Kb1 d4 35.h7 d3 36.Rd1 Rgb2+ 37.Kc1 Rh2 38.Rxd3+ Ke6 39.Rxh2 Rxh2 40.Ra3 a6 0-1
Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!
My thanks to Jason for making two valuable observations about the line. Regarding the first point, in the 12...Kf7 line 16.Rac1 looks a sensible move, though after 16...Bd7 it doesn't seem at all bad for Black- White isn't piling up pressure along the e file, which was Black's problem in the Anand game.
However, Black's treatment of the position in the second line is much more convincing. The idea of playing 15...Kd6! before Nc6 makes a lot of sense. Really White would like to make a decent waiting move so that after Nc6 he can play Bb5 and Bxc6. But there doesn't seem to be one and after 16.Bb5 the bishop has nothing to bite on- it is staring at the blank c6 square rather than the knight. It just shows you how much opening theory depends on trial and error to find the best moves rather than natural moves- 15...Nc6 looks like a really obvious move but it is inferior to 15...Kd6.
Jason is therefore right. This opinion is reinforced by the next featured game between two Superstars at the FIDE World Championships. After 5.Nce2 c5 6.c3 cxd4 7.cxd4 f6 rather than 8.Nf4 Morozevich played 8.f4 against Gurevich, the French maestro [evidently he would have been happy facing 8.Nf4, which speaks volumes about the move!]. An encounter Morozevich-Gurevich always seems to lead to fireworks but strangely enough, it isn't usually Morozevich's fault! Gurevich makes a promising-looking sacrifice, but then loses his way in some bewildering complications. I think against most players apart from the amazing Morozevich the sacrifice would have led to at least a draw. Have a look at Morozevich-Gurevich, JAN02/02.
Classical 4.Bg5 dxe4 with 6...gxf6
The new FIDE World Champion has played some beautiful games against the French. In the last update we saw Ponomariov beat 5...Ba5 Winawer specialist Vaganian with great ease; now we see him outplay Morozevich in one of his favourite lines. This ability to overcome top class players on their own 'territory' marks him out as a true World Champion- and he is still only 18! Enjoy Ponomariov-Morozevich, JAN02/03.
Theoretically-speaking the game above was highly unpleasant for Black- Morozevich's 'improvement' led to trouble. Therefore Nigel Short chose a radically different approach to the opening in his fourth match game with Stefansson. After some hesitant play by White Short took complete control. To see a model handling of the line for Black, click on Stefansson-Short, JAN02/08.
Here I must confess that in my analysis to the game Aagaard-Gleizerov I made a very bad suggestion which would leave Black a rook down for not much. Though to be fair to myself I do say 'watch out for mistakes!' before suggesting it! This mistake came to light when I was looking at a recent game in an ultra critical line of the 3...Nf6/5.Bd3 Tarrasch. Long term subscribers may recall that John Emms, author of the Batsford book 'The French Tarrasch' made a contribution to the debate on this variation some months ago. For the latest developments, have a look at the important game Naiditsch-Kalinitschew, JAN02/04.
Tarrasch- Ngf3 system.
Next up is the latest battle in the long running 'Ngf3 against any Tarrasch variation' saga. Last time we saw the German GM Luther successfully employ an off-beat variation against Minasian, but here he comes to grief against Smirin, who had prepared a sharp attacking option for White. Have a look at Smirin-Luther, JAN02/07.
Nothing spectacular here- but a good example of how efficiently Mikhail Gurevich disposes of slightly lesser ranked opposition. After White's slow opening play the former Russian Champion frees his game and White's position just collapses. Enjoy Van Mil-Gurevich, JAN02/09.
Finally, Paul Cumbers writes:
A while ago, I posted comments to 3 French Exchange games on Chess Pub. The commented games are: T.Luther v F.Vallejo Pons, (May01/06) V.Kramnik v J.Polgar, (NM2) F.Pripis v E.Bareev, (NM4) I'd be very interested in any thoughts you might have on my analysis, in particular my suggested improvement for White (13.Nc4!?) in the game Luther-Vallejo Pons with the line 4.Nf3 Nc6.
You can see Paul's comments by going into ChessPub, finding the games by putting C01- the code for the French Exchange- in the box, and then clicking on 'fetch like', and when they are fetched scrolling down until you have the relevant game and then clicking on 'query'. Click OK when a box flashes up asking you something about a rating range, and then you should be there!
My own opinions are:
T.Luther v F.Vallejo Pons, (May01/06)
Paul's suggestion keeps the tension, but I don't think White has got much to work on at the end of his variation with 21.Bb2. Black's queen might even prove to be well placed compared to White's.
V.Kramnik v J.Polgar, (NM2)
Well spotted! Kramnik missed Nxd4!
After 12...Nxd4 13.Nxd4 Be5 14.Bf3 Rxd4 [ not 14...Bxd4? 15.Nd5] 15.Qe2 Be6!? 16.Rfe1 Bf4 17.Bxb7 Rb8 Black has a big initiative.
F.Pripis v E.Bareev, (NM4)
Again, Paul has noticed something the players missed. In the game Ulibin fell into difficulties after 18.d5 cxd5 19.Nxd5 Rfe8 20.Rad1 Rac8 21.Qb5 Bxd5 22.Qxd5 Rc2 etc. Instead 18.Nxc6! looks good. Perhaps Ulibin saw it but rejected it because of 18...Qxf2+ 19.Kxf2 Bxc4, but the passed pawn outweighs Black's possession of bishop for knight, especially with Black's own knight sitting idly on a6. A sample line would be 20.Ne5 Be6 21.d5 Bf5 22.g4 Bh7 23.Nd7 Rfd8 24.Re7 and White is in control.
Well it's goodbye for now. Messrs Ron Langeveld, Arturo Ochoa M and Kenny Harman- thanks for your emails- I'll try to reply to them next time. Thanks also to Leo Martinez for his email about the Classical 4.e5 line, but I wasn't quite sure what to which variation you are referring as after 14...a5 White can play 15.Nxc5- could you email again? Thanks.
I hope you are enjoying your chess- good luck!