Friday, February 9, 2007

Winawer French 7.h4

In My 60 Memorable Games, Bobby Fischer expressed the opinion: "I may yet be forced to admit that the Winawer is sound. But I doubt it! The defense is anti-positional and weakens the kingside."

Nevertheless, Fischer experienced some anxious moments against the Winawer French, as can be seen in Fischer-Padevsky, Varna 1962: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 Ne7 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 c5 7.Nf3 Nbc6 8.a4 Qa5 9.Bd2 Bd7 10.Be2 c4 11.h4 f6 12.h5 fxe5 13.h6 gxh6 14.Nxe5 Nxe5 15.dxe5 O-O-O 16.Rxh6 Ng6 [16...Rdf8 17.Qb1!? Ng6 (17...Nc6 18.Bg4 Nxe5 19.Bxe6 Bxe6 20.Rxe6 Qc7 21.Bg5 Re8 22.Rxe8+ Rxe8 23.Kf1 Nd7 24.g3 Qe5 25.Qe1 +/=) 18.Qb4 Qc7 19.Rb1 Nxe5 20.Rxh7! +/=]

17.Bg5! Qxc3+ 18.Kf1 Rdf8 19.Bf6 Rxf6! 20.exf6 Qxf6 21.Ra3 Bc6 (21...Qg7 22.Qd2 Nf4!? 23.Qxf4 Qb2 24.Re3 Qa1+ 25.Bd1 Qxd1+ 26.Re1 Qxc2 27.Qd4 Qd3+ 28.Qxd3 cxd3 29.a5 with a likely draw) 22.Rah3 Qg7 23.Bg4 Kb8 24.g3 Rf8 25.Rxh7 Qf6 26.Qe1 d4 27.R3h6 d3 28.cxd3 cxd3 29.Rxg6! Qxg6 30.Qe5+ Ka8 31.Rh8 Qe8 32.Rxf8 Qxf8 33.Qd4 a6 34.Qxd3, draw.

Note that the move order chosen by Fischer disallowed any attempts by Black to blockade the a-pawn by ...Qa4 or ...Ba4.

A similar plan was seen in Short-Psaskhis, United Kingdom 1999: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.h4 Nbc6 8.h5 Qa5 9.Bd2 Bd7 10.Nf3 O-O-O 11.h6 gxh6 12.Bd3 c4 13.Be2 Ng8!? 14.Kf1 f6 15.Qe1 fxe5 16.Nxe5 Nxe5 17.dxe5 Ne7 18.Bxh6 Rhg8 19.Bf3 Be8 20.a4 Bg6 21.Ra2 Rd7 22.Bc1 Nc6 23.Ba3 Qxa4 24.Rh6 Qa5 25.Bg4 Re8 26.Ra1 Qa4 27.Qc1 Qa5 28.Qe1 Rf7!?

29.Be7 Rfxe7 30.Rxa5 Nxa5 31.Qd2 Nc6? (better 31...Kb8 32.f4 Rf8 33.g3 Nc6 34.Ke1 =/+) 32.Qxd5 Kb8 33.Qxc4 Rc7 34.Qf4 Ne7 35.Bxe6 Nc6 36.Bd5 Nxe5 37.c4 a6 38.Rh3 Bxc2 39.Re3 Rce7 40.Kg1 Ka8 41.c5 Bg6 42.Qf6, Black resigns.

This game is remarkable in that Lev Psaskhis, who has written a book on the opening, avoided two standard ideas for Black, namely ...Qa4 and ...h6. Probably Psaskhis was playing for a win, as can be seen when he declined a repetition of position by 28...Qa4 in favor of an unclear queen sacrifice. If not for his blunder on move 31, perhaps a result of time pressure, Psaskhis would have stood better but not enough for real winning chances.

The purpose of this article is to explore the possibilities for both sides after the opening moves 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.h4.

When White plays 3.Nc3, allowing the pin by 3...Bb4, he is prepared to accept a mangled queenside pawn formation in return for the bishop pair. The best plan for White is to create an open position in which his free-ranging bishops excel, while keeping Black's "bad bishop" hemmed in. Consistent with White's plan is finding scope for his dark-squared bishop, either on the a3-f8 or c1-h6 diagonal.

Hence Black often tries to thwart White by planting his queen or bishop on a4 in front of White's isolated a-pawn. The downside risk to this strategy is that Black's queen or bishop is not very active on a4, reduced essentially to "guard duty" status. Another idea for Black is to answer White's eventual h5 by ...h6, which creates a hole on g6 but makes it more difficult for White to develop his queen bishop.

A good example of prophylaxis by Black is the game Michalek (FIDE 2285)-Krouzel (FIDE 2325), Czechoslovakia 1998 which proceeded 7.h4 Nbc6 8.h5 h6 9.Qg4 Kf8 10.Nf3 Qa5 11.Bd2 Qa4

12.Ra2 b6 13.Qf4 Ba6 14.Bxa6, draw. Here Black has accomplished all his goals, not only eliminating his "bad bishop" but limiting the range of White's remaining bishop as well.

When Black omits ...h6 and castles kingside, the consequences can be disastrous: 7.h4 Bd7 8.h5 Ba4 9.h6 g6 10.Nf3 Qc7 11.Ra2 Nbc6 12.Bg5 cxd4 13.Bf6 O-O 14.cxd4 Qa5+ 15.Qd2 Qb6?! (better 15...Qxd2+)

16.Ra1 Qb2 17.Rc1 Qxa3 18.Bd3 Rfe8 19.O-O b5 20.Ra1 Qb4 21.c3 Qa5 22.Qf4 Qc7 (22...Qxc3?? 23.Bxe7 and 24.Qf6 wins) 23.Nh2 Reb8 24.Ng4 Rb7 25.Bg7 f5 26.Nf6+, Black resigns, Pikula (FIDE 2440)-Pfister (FIDE 2185), Baden 1998.

In this last game, White developed his queen on g4. But often, White will play Qb1 instead. For example, 7.h4 Qa5 8.Bd2 Qa4 9.Qb1 Nbc6 10.Nf3 Bd7 11.Bb5 Qa5 12.Bd3 c4 13.Be2 f6 14.h5 Rg8 15.O-O O-O-O

16.Re1 Be8 17.h6 fxe5 18.Nxe5 Nxe5 19.dxe5 gxh6 20.Bf1 Nf5 21.Qb4, draw, Zeller (FIDE 2455)-Rudolph, Deizisau 1998.

Sometimes Black avoids ...Qa5 in favor of ...Qc7 with the idea of ...b6 and ...Ba6.

But exchanging off his "bad bishop" did not guarantee Black a draw in Khmelnitsky (FIDE 2420)-Wagener (FIDE 2200), Czechoslovakia 1998 which continued 7.h4 Qc7 8.Nf3 b6 9.h5 h6 10.a4 Ba6 11.Bxa6 Nxa6 12.Qd3 cxd4 13.Qb5+ Kf8 14.O-O Qxc3 15.Ba3 Qc4 16.Nxd4 Qxb5 17.axb5 Nc5 18.Bxc5 bxc5 19.Nb3 c4 20.Nd4 Nc8 21.Ra6 Rb8 22.Rfa1 Kg8 23.Rc6 Kh7 24.Rc7 Rf8 25.Ra5 Rb6

26.Kf1 g6 27.Ra6 Kg8 28.Rxb6 Nxb6 29.hxg6 fxg6 30.Rxa7 Re8 31.Ke2 g5 32.g4 c3 33.Kd3 Nc4 34.Kxc3 Nxe5 35.b6 Rb8 36.b7 Kf7 37.Kb4 Ke7 38.Kc5 Kd7 39.f3, Black resigns.

Besides, White may prevent ...Ba6 with a timely Bb5+, as in Markovic (FIDE 2540)-Drasko (FIDE 2515), Belgrade 1998: 7.h4 b6 8.h5 h6 9.Bb5+ Bd7 10.Bd3 Qc7 11.Nf3 Nbc6 12.O-O O-O 13.Be3 cxd4 14.cxd4 Nf5 15.c4 dxc4 16.Bxf5 exf5 17.Qc1 Na5

18.Bxh6!? gxh6 19.Qxh6 Qc6 20.Qf4 Be6 21.Rae1 Kh7 22.Ng5+ Kh8 23.Re3 Rg8 24.Rg3 Bd5 25.e6! Bxe6 26.Qe5+, Black resigns.

In closing, here are some illustrative games from recent tournaments.

Matsuura (FIDE 2405)-Mueller, Brasilia 1998: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.h4 Qc7 8.Rh3 Bd7 9.a4 Nbc6 10.Ba3 cxd4 11.cxd4 h5 12.c3 Nf5 13.Bd3 Nce7 14.Kf1 O-O-O 15.a5 Kb8 16.Bc5 Bc6 17.Qb3 Nc8 18.Nf3 f6 19.Kg1 Rd7 20.Kh1 Rg8 21.exf6 gxf6 22.Re1 Ng7 23.Rg3 Qd8 24.Qa3 Nd6? 25.Bxd6+ Rxd6 26.Bh7 Rd7 27.Bxg8 Qxg8 28.Qc1 Qh7 29.Qf4+, Black resigns.

Bernardo (FIDE 2220)-Daneri (FIDE 2145), Buenos Aires 1998: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.h4 Nbc6 8.h5 Qa5 9.Bd2 Qa4 10.Rh4? Nxe5 11.h6 gxh6 12.Rxh6 cxd4 13.Rb1 d3, White resigns.

Barthel (FIDE 2185)-Jurek (FIDE 2395), Staufer Open 1998: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxa3 Ne7 7.h4 b6 8.Bb5+ Bd7 9.a4 Qc7 10.Nf3 Nbc6 11.O-O O-O 12.Ba3 f6 13.exf6 Rxf6 14.dxc5 Nf5 15.cxb6 axb6 16.Bb2 Rd8 17.Qe2 Be8 18.Bxc6 Bxc6 19.Qe5 Qd7 20.a5 bxa5 21.Rxa5 Nd6 22.Qd4 Rxf3!? 23.Ra7 Bb7 24.gxf3 Nb5 25.Rxb7 Qxb7 26.Qe5 Qd7 27.Re1 Re8 28.c4 dxc4 29.Re4 Rc8 30.Bc3 Nxc3 31.Qxc3 Qd5 32.Kg2 h6, draw.

Saravanan (FIDE 2375)-Berelovich (FIDE 2515), Calcutta 1998: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.h4 Nbc6 8.h5 h6 9.Nf3 Bd7 10.Bd3 Qa5 11.Bd2 c4 12.Bf1 O-O-O 13.g3 f6 14.exf6 gxf6 15.Bh3 e5 16.Bxd7+ Rxd7 17.Nh4 Qd8 18.Be3 Qg8 19.Kf1 Qe6 20.Qf3 Rg8 21.Re1 Rg4 22.Bxh6 Re4 23.Bg7 Rxe1+ 24.Kxe1 exd4+ 25.Qe2 Qf7 26.h6 dxc3 27.Nf5 Nxf5 28.h7 Rd8 29.h8=Q Rxh8 30.Rxh8+ Kc7 31.Bh6 Kb6 32.g4 Nfd4 33.Be3 Ka6 34.Qd1 Qe6 35.Kf1 Qe4 36.Bxd4 Nxd4 37.Rh5 Nxc2 38.Rxd5 Qh1+ 39.Ke2 Qe4+ 40.Kf1 Qh1+ 41.Ke2 Qh7 42.Rf5 Qe7+ 43.Kf1 Qe4, draw.

Goessling (FIDE 2140)-Lamb (FIDE 2195), Leipzig 1998: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.h4 Qa5 8.Bd2 Nbc6 9.h5 Bd7 10.Nf3 Qa4 11.Rh4 Nf5 12.Rf4 Na5 13.g4 Nh6 14.dxc5 Qc6 15.Be3 Qc7 16.Qd2 Bc6 17.Bd4 O-O-O 18.Qe3 g6 19.g5 Nf5 20.Rxf5!? gxf5 21.h6 Ba4 22.Bd3 Nc6 23.Rb1 Nxd4 24.Qxd4 Bc6 25.Nd2 Qa5 26.Qb4 Qa4 27.Qxa4 Bxa4 28.Rb4 Bc6 29.Nb3 Kc7 30.f4 b6 31.Kd2 Rb8 32.cxb6+ axb6 33.Nd4 Kd7 34.Nxc6 Kxc6 35.Bb5+ Kc7 36.Kd3 Rhd8 37.a4 Ra8 38.Rd4 Kb7 39.Kd2 Rac8 40.Rb4 Ka7 41.Rd4 Rc5 42.c4 Rdc8 43.cxd5 Rxc2+ 44.Ke3 R8c3+ 45.Rd3 Rxd3+ 46.Kxd3 Rc5 47.dxe6 fxe6 48.Be8 Rc7 49.g6 Rc8 50.Bf7 hxg6 51.Bxg6 Rh8 52.h7 Kb7 53.Kd4 Kc7 54.Bf7 Rxh7 55.Bxe6 Rh5 56.Kd5 Rh4 57.Bxf5 Rxf4 58.Be4 Kd7 59.e6+ Ke7 60.Bd3 Rxa4 61.Kc6 Rd4 62.Bb5 Rd6+ 63.Kc7 Kxe6 64.Bc6 b5 65.Bxb5 Kd5 66.Bd7, draw.

Sebastianelli (FIDE 2345)-Ranieri (FIDE 2195), Torino 1998: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.h4 Bd7 8.h5 h6 9.Qg4 cxd4 10.cxd4 Qc7 11.Rh3 Nbc6 12.Rb1 Nf5 13.Nf3 Qa5+ 14.Kd1 O-O-O 15.Bd3 Nce7 16.Qf4 g5 17.hxg6 Nxg6 18.Qd2 Qxd2+ 19.Bxd2 Nge7 20.g4 Ng7 21.Ke2 Ng6 22.Rbh1 h5 23.gxh5 Ne7 24.Bg5, Black resigns.

Seidel (FIDE 2190)-Poldauf (FIDE 2410), Berlin 1998: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.h4 Qa5 8.Bd2 cxd4 9.cxd4 Qa4 10.Nf3 Nbc6 11.c3 Qxd1+ 12.Kxd1 Na5 13.Rb1 b6 14.h5 h6 15.g4 Bd7 16.Bb5 Bxb5 17.Rxb5 Rc8 18.Kc2 O-O 19.g5 hxg5 20.Bxg5 f6 21.exf6 gxf6 22.Bh6 Rf7 23.Rbb1 Nc4 24.Rbg1+ Kh7 25.Bc1 Nd6 26.Nd2?! Nb5 27.Rh3 Nxd4+ 28.Kd3 Rxc3+! 29.Kxc3 Ne2+ 30.Kd3 Nf4+ 31.Ke3 Nxh3 32.Rh1 Nf5+ 33.Ke2 Nf4+, White resigns.

Brustkern (FIDE 2255)-Hera (FIDE 2345), Budapest 1998: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.h4 Qa5 8.Bd2 Nbc6 9.a4 Bd7 10.h5 h6 11.Nf3 c4 12.g3 Nc8 13.Nh4 Nb6 14.Qg4 Rg8 15.Qf4, draw.

{This article originally appeared in the Winter 2001 issue of Empire Chess}