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Is the French Winawer really that bad? A rare sideline gets punished

  • #1

    A chess peer of mine once told me that the French is just bad. Specifically, he had a great disdain for the Winawer variation. Personally, I do not share such extreme views on this solid opening, however, I will say that i am pleased to play the white side of this opening any day. Below is a recent game in Winawer. As my opening knowledge as white is rather thin, any suggestions are welcome :)
  • #2

    I really like this game. However, 15... Nxc2+ 16. Bxc2 Qc3+! should be a serious improvement for black as 17. Ke2 Bxb5+ looks just terrible for white.

  • #3

    Black's play looks pretty dubious in places.

     

    (The line above ends 18...Ne7, but I think 18...h6 is better)
  • #4

    The Winawer is just bad thankyou very much ;P.  Well played game, the analysis right above me looks like it might be correct though... meaning that the one tiny little bit of trickery winawer players are basing their game around (Qc3) should have prevailed again.  Recapturing 8. axb4 is likely alright, although I would have preferred to give black another chance or two to develop my pieces for me. 

    Lastly, one thing that wasn't mentioned by anyone else (that I noticed).  Black had 11. ... Bxb5, maintaining whatever pathetic nuance of dark squared control he had left, and trading off his 'french' bishop.  After 12. Bxb5+ Kf8 is likely good enough.

    Good game though, I must admit I still get a warm fuzzy feeling everytime the french is bloodied up like that :).

    -matt

  • #5

    thanks for the comments!

    Qc2 was a grave error indeed - i forgot to mention it as I had to scramble out this forum post within 5 minutes (before my parents kicked me off the pc!).

     

    in the final position of jg27pyth's analysis, I think I would like to play white's position, especially in a blitz game.

    Something like Bxe7 and Qg5+, Ng5 and white should have swindling chances.

     

    :)

  • #6

    Fischer also didnt believe the french was "sound" in general and the winawer in particular. Yet, he lost to the winawer french 10 times , drew 10 times and won 14 games against it.  I dont think its a bad opening at all.

  • #7
    shuttlechess92 wrote:

    thanks for the comments!

    Qc2 was a grave error indeed - i forgot to mention it as I had to scramble out this forum post within 5 minutes (before my parents kicked me off the pc!).

     

    in the final position of jg27pyth's analysis, I think I would like to play white's position, especially in a blitz game.

    Something like Bxe7 and Qg5+, Ng5 and white should have swindling chances.

     

    :)


    I agree mine original line unnecessarily leaves White with chances... I don't know if you caught my note in the last line... replace 18.Ne7 with 18.h6

    I like the French simply because I know of no other response to 1.e4 that is more likely to produce a groan or a sigh in my opponent.  I like the winawer, but your opponent went down a not very good sideline imo with 6.cxb4

  • #8

    after 18...h6 19. Be5 (forced to avoid a passive position, but useful anyhows) and now black must make a choice whether to play Rh7 or to play Nxf6, which allows white to plant a dominant knight on e5. While black should have the better chances with an ultra precise defense, I would definitely prefer to play white.

     

    thanks for pointing that out!

  • #9

    the french is the best!! played it for a long time with good results.

  • #10

    i prefer the tarrasch. (nd2 instead of Nc3)

  • #11
    Reb wrote:

    Fischer also didnt believe the french was "sound" in general and the winawer in particular. Yet, he lost to the winawer french 10 times , drew 10 times and won 14 games against it.  I dont think its a bad opening at all.


    Fischer's comment and record makes a good point.  I don't think it is bad either.  Playing the French takes guts and playing the Winawer takes a lot of guts.  As someone who plays the French, I must admit I do NOT have the guts to play the Winawer.  Smile

  • #12

    For what it is worth (and I know I am necroing this thread hard, sorry) I think that if black had avoided the useless check on c2 and not castled (why castle into the attack like that is beyond me) black would have had a slight pull - I'd have been happy to play that position!

  • #13

    Theoretically speaking, the French Winawer is bad for black, giving White an advantage but not enough to win and likely to come out as a draw but as with any opening, it comes down to which player knows the position the best so the Winawer offer good chances for both sides. Although amongst the elite, theory is homework and those guys do their work so its seldom seen.

  • #14
    Fezzik wrote:

    In order to raise your level above 2200, you need to develop your own theory of chess. That theory may merely be slightly different opinions of known positions than others have. You may consider the Smyslov variation of the Slav (with Na6) more playable than the books suggest, or instead of considering the Winawer to give white a reasonable edge, you may consider that it gives white a killer edge.


     


    Yes! This is something that I've never really seen mentioned yet it has actually been something I have been doing. It's just too damn difficult for even the best of players to have the evaluation of every opening accurately covered, because there are just so many possibilties in a game of chess, and within any opening. After all, it is just chess with a few prerequisite moves that define a given opening.

    My personal opinion of the french is that black can often find himself cramped, but I really think his position is just solid enough, and has enough latent counterattacking ability in the center, and possibly on the queenside, to be a quite playable opening. It's not necessarily easy to play; black may have to play a lot of defense, and against a good opponent he needs to time his central play correctly and come up with good maneuvering schemes to maximize the future potential of his pieces. White may be able to keep his center solid enough, but the mere fact that he always has to worry about it doesn't make him fully free, and usually at some point black can either get dynamic activity, or neutralize white's play, perhaps with some simplification, and then proceed with his modest long term play.

    The winawer may well give an edge for white, but black has lots of both positional and tactical resources. It seems the two bishops gives an easy attack for white, and yes he can apply a nice amount of pressure sometimes, but black's stubborn position can often defend with some work, and this may be partly because the position is rather closed so although white's bishops point to the k side, they may not have as much flexibility as they like. The, perhaps occasionally scorned, philosophy that the doubled white c pawns are enough, I think deserves more credit. Black's play is very long term, but it's there, and there are plenty of ways to improve his position. Although white can put up a lot of pressure, the closed nature of the position gives black some reason not to suffocate himself in panic, and trust in his long term advantages (depending on the line; I've generally played 7...0-0 on 7 Qg4 [what I've mostly been actually talking about] but 7...Qc7 is more of an aggressive line).

    I really don't know the real eval. of a lot of the positions, as many people may not despite their presumptions, but I have played and studied the french a lot and know that in each winawer line black has a lot of ideas that give him a lot to fight for, so even if white is better it's a real fighting game. I like the french because it gives off often a nice closed position, often with many imbalances and dynamic opportunities, yet it is such a solid fundamental structure; at least we know that that e6 d5 complex is almost completely safe; for white he has to be careful his center doesn't collapse, as black's pieces are ready to take over at any time.

    Of course, more solid lines like the classical (and one I like a lot, the macutcheon; it's apparently thought to be a super sharp counterattacking opening, yet to me it looks like a winawer on depressants; I think it's nice to have that dark squared bishop eliminated; it seems to cut down on white's dynamic potential a bit) are probably even sounder, but, as I've been starting to learn, space is space, and if the guy with space plays with care, his pieces will be nicer. But black is always solid, and has his fair share of play too.

    Recently I've been trying out 1...e5 actually, a move I've quit for literally years, and having space from move 1 as black is turning out not to be so bad! I think I didn't like it before because it seemed like black didn't seem to have much of a plan, aside from copying white's, which would inevitably be crappier. But with more strategic knowledge I've been able to find some plans in black's game, and it's nice now because the move does give black a lot of things that are hard to get with him: simply space and decent pieces! Black is a little more passive obviously, but a good player should be able to find ways to outplay their opponent at least as well as other openings.

  • #15
    winawer is underestimated my many. In my view if black can simplify the positions in the opening, he has great chance to win
  • #16
    [COMMENT DELETED]
  • #17

    Enjoyed the game and the analysis posted.

    When black 0-0 I said oh my god can he do that?

    Turns out no Laughing

    His passers gave him some leverage, would some combination around move 22 of  Bc6 h5 maybe Rg8 stuff hold long enough to distract white's forces?  I'll throw it in a computer later maybe.

  • #18

    It's always an idea to study the games of great practitioners.

    In the 1930s-50s, Botvinnik forged the Winawer into a fearsome weapon. He was objective about the positions and difficulties he sometimes faced in his marvellous 3 vol. games collection.

    In modern times, the games of Lputian, Eingorn, Jussupow , Vaganian, Short are worth looking at. They've scored their share of black wins.

    But the two who really must be studied are Korchnoi and Wolfgang Uhlmann. The latter is "Mr.French Defence".

    Three books worthy of mention: Play the French by John Watson is a sort of Bible for French players, whilst Moskalenko has written the Flexible French and the Wonderful Winawer.

    I've played both sides of the Winawer French and as has been noted above: the well prepared player, who knows the positions from study and experience, will come out on top.

  • #19

    Winawer is fine. I had some scary moments with white with my king always in the center though with an extra pawn. Black's king is always safer in this variation. You need to calculate concrete lines here.

  • #20

    Man I LOVE these "experts" criticizing the  Winawar....Like Martial Arts anything is only as good as the player using it..Check out Botvinniks use of it for tactical and positional richness inherent in this  opening. There have been many others in recent years, but Id start w/ the master of this variation and go from there

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