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This month I'm going to be using outside contributions from various sources. First, Jose Blades (or Jose Noel Blades Aldebol) once again submits several games with refreshing and original ideas; he has a knack for finding little-played moves in mainstream variations, moves which have somehow escaped general notice. This month we look at two potentially important Winawer lines with better prospects for White than previously assumed. I've spent some time explaining where I think he is right, where known alternatives exist, and where I think Black can improve.
The ChessPublishing Forum contributors have provided another source of material for this month, in the form of some timely and thought-provoking analysis of the 4 exd5 Winawer. I've looked at that analysis in detail and annotated some recent games in this controversial variation.
Finally, we have two remaining correspondence games in the Classical French from Thomas Johansson (we looked at three last month); these are games which illustrate the advantages and drawbacks of precise move orders by both sides.

Download PGN of February '14 French games

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Winawer Poisoned Pawn 7 Qg4 Qc7 8 Bd3 [C18]

Our super-contributor Jose Blades addresses a variety of main line 7 Qg4 Winawers. He much prefers 7...cxd4 to 7...Qc7. In PTF4, while I devote 4 detailed pages to 7...cxd4, my main line is 7...Qc7. The problem that Black takes on is the move 8 Bd3 (instead of 8 Qxg7), and Blades goes down a critical line to arrive at this key position:

This is a typical middlegame pawn structure in the Winawer. Blades suggests that White has at any rate the easier game to play. I don't fully agree, but the analysis in Winawer Poisoned Pawn-7 Qg4 Qc7 8 Bd3 is fascinating and this is potentially a line that White would like to fold into a 7 Qg4 repertoire.

Another under-analyzed line in the poisoned pawn is 7 Qg4 Qc7 8 Bd3 cxd4 9 Ne2 dxc3 10 Qxg7 Rg8, and now the somewhat unusual 11 Qh6:

Blades makes a case for the White side versus 11...Nbc6 in Winawer Poisoned Pawn-11 Qh6. This is good analysis and although Black can get some double-edged positions after 11...Nbc6, I think that 11...Qxe5 is nevertheless a safer course (see the notes). Both will need a lot more work to come to a definitive conclusion.

Winawer Exchange 5 Bd3 Nc6 6 a3 Bxc3+ [C01]

Since I've been looking at the Winawer line 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 exd5 exd5 anyway, a fascinating thread from the Forum caught my attention. The contributors are top-notch, including but not limited to Tullius, Keano, BladezII, TalJechin, and shorter comments from the always-insightful Dom and MnB. The line in question is 5 Bd3 Nc6 (there are many options!) 6 a3:

Black has three respectable moves, 6...Bxc3+, 6...Be7, and 6...Ba5. The most ambitious and risky continuation is 6...Bxc3+ 7 bxc3 Nge7. Tullius provides a game he is playing which involves a new, critical move for White after 8 Qh5. It provides an interesting challenge to a line which has been advocated by both Berg in his recent Winawer series and by myself in PTF4. See Tullius - Winawer 4 exd5 (Forum), 2014. I think Black is okay, but there's plenty of room for further analysis.

In addition to 8 Qh5, many games with 8 Qf3 have been played.

This month's game Smeets - van Haastert, Dutch Teams 2014, sees Black castling queenside, and although White breaks down Black's defences in the game, the opening looks fully equal.

Also cited in the Forum is the old game Timman - van Haastert, Dutch Teams 2002, again involving ...0-0-0, which turns into a standard advantage for White after Black commits some inaccuracies.

Finally, Onischuk - Lugovskoy, Kazan 2013, provides an example in which Black castles kingside:

Although Black soon went wrong, this type of position gives him satisfactory play.

Winawer Exchange 5 Bd3 Nc6 6 a3 Ba5 [C01]

After 6 a3, Black can also play 6...Ba5:

This isn't as critical as 6...Bxc3+ and the game tends to develop more slowly. In Harikrishna - Edouard, Gibraltar 2014, the opening itself was equal, and although White had the advantage at certain points, Black was able to work his way back to a draw.

Winawer Exchange 5 Bd3 c6 [C01]

Instead of 5...Nc6, Black can also play 5...Nf6, also covered in PTF4, or the unambitious but solid 5...c6, a third option I offer in PTF4 mainly because it's widely recommended and quite solid:

There are any number of choices on the next few moves, and after 6 Nge2 Ne7, Keano took me to task for not mentioning 7 Ng3. Fair enough, but it's hard to cover all moves in every sideline, and 6 Nge2 doesn't seem particularly challenging. In the game Cheparinov - Rapport, Camarinas Entrefaros 2013, Black implements a solution that has succeeded in equalizing over the years. The problem with White's slow setups (like this one) is that Black develops undisturbed by pawn breaks and advances.

Classical Steinitz 7...Be7 8 Be2 [C11]

Last month we looked at three of Thomas Johansson's games in the Classical Steinitz, all involving the move dxc5 on move 8 or 9. Johansson also contributed two games in which keeps the pawn on d4. In Feco - Johansson, ICCF 2012, White plays the unusual order 8 Be2 0-0 9 0-0:

Now Black played 9...f6! which, as Johansson points out, appears to equalize straightaway.

Classical Steinitz 7...Be7 8 Qd2, 9...b6 [C11]

In Poli - Johansson, ICCF 2013, White played more conventionally by Qd2 and Be2. Black chose a ...b6 system:

White played the natural move 10 Nd1, and here 10...f6, or 10...cxd4 11 Nxd4 Nxd4 12 Bxd4 f6 was better than allowing White free play on the kingside. In the end, Black manages to recover and achieve a playable endgame with opposite-coloured bishops. The endgame analysis itself is superb, and as good an example as you'll find in the extensive literature about this type of ending. Many thanks to Thomas.

Till next month, John

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