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This month features an assortment of games, but first, allow me a complaint. In the latest issue of New in Chess Magazine, Matthew Sadler reviews at length seven French Defence books and DVDs from the last few years which contain material on the Winawer Variation (two are directly about the Winawer). Sadler is an excellent writer who is not, however, a French player, nor even a 1 e4 player, and somehow he manages to skip my own Play the French 4, which not only incorporates the others but has the most detailed and up-to-date material (excepting Steve Giddins' more recent work, which targets a different audience). At the end, Sadler explains that the book 'escaped my pillaging of the New in Chess bookshop', although searches in the NIC shop for 'French', 'Watson', and other keywords immediately brings it up. Nothing malicious, I'm sure, but frustrating.
Okay, I've vented. At least I have the Winawer in mind, and since some catching up is needed anyway, I've analysed a set of six games with that variation, chosen for instructive value and/or theoretical interest. Apart from that there are two Advance Variations and best of all, a surprising reader contribution of theoretical interest in the Classical Variation. Harvey Williamson, who played White, managed to get some notes from none other than World Champion Anand!
It seems that every month there are far more games of interest than I can accommodate, so several of these games slip back into the previous update's time slot, something that will doubtless continue. I'm contemplating limiting the analysis of the late middlegame and endgame and expanding the number of games, particularly those of theoretical significance. I've also considered limiting the number of super-GM games, since those are often of less theoretical importance than those by their lower-ranked compatriots.

Download PGN of October '13 French games

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Advance Variation 6 a3 f6 [C02]

The game Das - Bluebaum, Dresden 2013, features a secondary variation that I have given a note on in every edition of PTF4, namely, the move 6...f6 in the main line with 5...Qb6 6 a3:

I still see this as a safe route to equality for Black. There's a recent recommendation for White in the notes, but it seems uninspired at best.

Advance Milner-Barry Gambit 9 Nbd2 [C02]

There seem to be various forms of Simon Williams' name in the database, including 'S', 'Si' and 'Si1'! At any rate, it seems to be the French specialist and author who is playing White in Williams - Harvey, Torquay 2013 (British Ch), in which the Milner-Barry Gambit with Nun's 9 Nbd2 arises:

Black finds a satisfactory reply, not as ambitious as the one I give in PTF4. At one point White goes badly wrong and allows winning moves, but Black gets confused (probably in time pressure) and White escapes with a draw.

Winawer Variation 4 a3 [C15]

4.a3, played by Fischer, continues to be one of White's most popular alternatives. Nepomniachtchi - Rapport, Biel 2013, saw one of Black's less popular but respectable defences and reached this typical position:

White uncharacteristically went wrong, and got in serious trouble, but saved the game with excellent defence.

5 Bd2 Ne7 6 a3 [C17]

In Zawadzka - Mkrtchian, Wroclaw 2013, White plays 5 Bd2 Ne7 6 a3 Bxc3 7 Bxc3, avoiding the dangers of 6 Nb5.

Black chooses a solid equaliser and somehow develops very good chances, but mishandles the endgame.

Winawer 7 Qg4 cxd4!? [C18]

In the 7 Qg4 main line, as we've seen before, there are two means by which Black can head for a Poisoned Pawn Variation: 7...Qc7, which is the most common, and 7...cxd4. There are advantages and disadvantages to each one, but in the end I think they are both good moves, and that White's deviations don't achieve any advantage. After 7...cxd4 8 cxd4 Qc7, for example, most of White's moves haven't proven very effective. The most interesting and unclear is probably 9 Kd1:

In Sochacki - Nisipeanu, Pardubice 2013, Black goes wrong early and gives White the chance for a clear advantage, but after a series of inaccuracies it's Black who eventually wins out.

Winawer Poisoned Pawn 11...dxc3 12 Qd3 d4 [C18]

Snape - Mason, Daventry 2013, is an instructive example of how, in the main line of the Poisoned Pawn, White's extra space and bishops can be of decisive effect. The opening is uninspiring, reaching this familiar position:

This line has proven fine for Black, but in this case, some minor slips turned into a technical victory for his opponent.

Winawer 7 Qg4 0-0 8 Bd3 Nbc6 9 Qh5 [C18]

Of course Black needn't sac the g-pawn, and after some setbacks, the theory of 7...0-0 has been looking brighter for Black for the past couple of years. 8 Bd3 f5 is the 'safe' line, but here 8...Nbc6 9 Qh5 Ng6, one of the most analysed positions in the French Defence, seems to be holding it's own as well for Black. Khachiyan - Yang, Los Angeles 2013, arrives at this well-known position:

In the game Black achieves easy equality after 15...h6, and 15...Bd7 has been working too.

Winawer 7 Nf3 b6 8 Bb5+ [C19]

With so much theory in the 7 Qg4 variations, the Positional Winawer main lines are arguably the best way to get complex and fruitful play. In Georgiadis - Nuri, Kocaeli 2013, the players chose to enter one of the closed variations with a maneuver which arises in several related lines: ...Kd7 followed by ...Qg8-h7. A key starting position is this one:

In the notes you'll find a variety of notes and ideas. The game was fairly level, then went Black's way after mistakes, and finally turned completely in White's favour.

Classical Steinitz Variation with 4 e5, 7...Be7 [C11]

Harvey Williamson generously sent me one of his correspondence games in a main line of the Classical Variation, Williamson - Hamarat, ICCF 2012. What's more, he managed to get World Champion Vishy Anand himself to provide some notes!

Probably White has some edge here already, but Black played passively and allowed White to demonstrate how to win with a classic space advantage. Very instructive.

Till next month, John

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