Winawer, Wow!

May 6, 2014, 2:05 PM |






More travails of a (wanna-be) improving chess player...


When Mark (aka Gunners2004) messaged me to find out if I could play a game the following day, I quickly replied yes!  All of my games against Mark have been fun and interesting.  He sometimes tries out opening novelties against me so never know what to expect. But this time he had a special request:  he wanted to practice playing White in the Winawer variation of the French Defense.  I had just watched him play against the Winawer and I had a day to prepare a bit. Or at least become familiar with some of the ideas.

The Winawer variation is named for Szymon Winawer (1838-1919) who has several opening variations named after him (there is also the Winawer Attack in the Ruy Lopez and the Winawer Countergambit in the Slav Defense).


The Winawer variation of the French is 1. e4 e6  2. d4  d5  3. Nc3  Bb4.  Black pins the knight on c3 and forces White to figure out how to handle the central tension (the pawn on e4 is now unprotected).  The most common line has White playing 4. e5, but in the game that I saw Gunners play he chose 4. Qg4 which leads to some early sharp positions.  I was prepared for this line, although I looked through the main line and principal branches to get a feel for the ideas. 

I told myself that if Guns plays 4. Qg4 then I had to be prepared to give up a pawn early for a better position. This is something I almost never willingly do. Material is too strong of a measure for me;  I'm uncomfortable playing gambits because I don't like being down materially even if I get what should be ample compensation. So, I figured that this should be a great learning lesson for me. Play down material early on but get better development and play on knowing that I should be able to get the pawn back later.

Mark is also playing with a handicap or two in this game. By the time the game ended it was 3:00 am his local time, while I'm still playing in the mid-evening hours. The game ended when he ran out of time. He forgot to look at the clock (at three in the morning I probably couldn't see the clock!). If he had realized that he was short on time, he probably would have won because he is much better playing fast than I am. And although the final position is certainly even, I'm pretty sure that I would have eventually found the wrong square for a piece and gotten in trouble.

During the game, Mark messaged me "Win or lose I like the Winawer. I love the double-edged positions."  Indeed, it produced an exciting match with imbalances galore.

Here is my attempt at annotating the game.  Thanks Mark for a wonderful battle!