Chess openings – French Winawer

Chess openings – French Winawer

Welcome back to In today’s
video, we’ll get a chance to look at the razor sharp opening known as the
French Winawer, and it begins with the moves, pawn to e4, pawn to e6, pawn
to d4, pawn to d5, knight c3, and then the key move, bishop to b4. Today
we’ll get a chance to investigate the key plans for both sides.
Let’s take a look. The French Defense is a reply to the king’s
front opening, which begins with the move, pawn to e4. With this move,
White grabs central space and threatens to set up a central pawn duo with
the move d2 to d4. Black’s most common moves, pawn to e5 or pawn to c5, are
both directed against this key threat to occupy the d4 square with a pawn,
but a popular alternative is pawn to e6, the French Defense, which gives
White the chance to grab the coveted central pawn duo. To understand why
Black is comfortable allowing White a chance to establish the pawn duo,
it’s important, first of all, to realize that the move, pawn to e6, is simply
a preparatory move for Black to play d7 to d5. Therefore, after White almost
invariably grabs the pawn duo with the move, pawn to d4, Black immediately
replies d5, which challenges the pawn on e4 and sets up his
own strong pawn in the center. The French Defense is based on the deep idea
that the best way to challenge a pawn center is to force it to modify itself.
In today’s video, we’ll look at White’s most popular move, knight to c3,
a move which is designed to temporarily maintain the tension in the center.
This is just a fancy way of saying that neither White nor Black wants
to be the first to act on the conflict in the center. White would prefer
if Black played D takes e4 for himself, since this would still leave him
with a comfortable space advantage and even give him a centralized
knight in the center on e4. Black, on the other hand, would prefer if
White either changes on d5, relinquishing the space advantage altogether,
or plays e4 to e5, when the pawns will be easier for Black to develop
around and attack. This is because the pawns will be fixed, and so Black
doesn’t have to spend any more time guessing how the pawns will arrange
themselves. The goal for Black is quickly to follow up
with an assault on the fixed pawn center, with c7 to c5. This explains
why knight c3 is a popular method of handling the situation in the center. Importantly,
this should not be taken to mean that White does not want to
play e4 to e5. On the contrary, White benefits from playing the move e4 to
e5 since he gains space, cramps Black further, and acquires excellent chances
of attack, especially if he can follow up with the move, f4 to f5. But
if at all possible, White wants to keep his options open and wait for Black
to call out his intentions first, and then look for a little concession.
For example, if Black plays knight f6 as he often does, White can now
play e4 to e5, gaining a little tempo, and this is a line. But today’s video deals with quite a radical
alternative to knight f6, and that is the move, bishop to b4, known as the
Winawer Variation. Black simply uses the pin on the c3 knight to increase
the pressure to the e4 pawn and puts further pressure on White to
play this move, e4 to e5. Now, why do I call bishop b4 a radical alternative
to knight f6? This is because in order for the strategy to work, Black will
almost certainly find himself in a situation where he needs to exchange
off the dark squared bishop. This is a major sacrifice for Black because in
the opening, he has to ploy his pawns on light squares. Generally speaking,
when you fix your pawns on light squares, your dark squared bishop increases
in value since it can protect key squares and also develop counter-play
outside of the pawn chain. And in the Winawer Variation, White
will quickly force Black to trade off this bishop, and White will design
his entire strategy around provoking and attacking Black on the weakened
dark squares. Usually, he can begin this attack with a timely queen to g4,
targeting the vulnerable pawn on g7. We’ll see later in the video exactly
how White can profit from the absence of this bishop. So what does Black hope to get out of this
transaction with the dark squared bishop? Quite simply, he’s able to
damage White’s pawn structure on the queen side, giving him excellent chances
of long-term counter-play, as long as he does not succumb to an attack on
his dark squares. Also, this strategy is much faster for Black than the
alternative knight f6, because now when White plays the move, e5, it does
not occur with a gain of tempo. And when White plays the move a2 to a3, this
will also be an invested tempo to gain the bishop pair. Thus, Black’s counter-play
speeds along more quickly in the Winawer than in the more classical
variations. Now, White can no longer continue the strategy
of holding the pawn on e4, since attempts to hold onto the pawn can quickly
backfire in this position. One example is that if White were to try f3,
the weakening of the king’s diagonal, along with the relative under-protection
of the e4 pawn, suggests that Black can win material, and indeed he
can with pawn takes pawn, pawn takes pawn, bishop takes knight, check, pawn
takes bishop, and now, queen to h4, check, attacking both the king and
the pawn on e4. So, White advances the pawn forward with e5, and now
Black usually continues with the move pawn to c5, his prepared idea in this
position after White plays e5. To demonstrate some of the ideas in this position,
I do briefly want to show some alternatives to the move, pawn to
c5. One of these moves is knight to e7, but this is very likely to transpose
after the moves, a3, bishop takes knight, pawn takes bishop, and
now pawn to c5. This simply transposes to a position which could have
arisen out of the move, c5, and we will get a chance to look at the details
of this position in just a moment. Very rarely, Black tries to delay the moves,
c5 and knight e7, with the hopes of retaining chances to retrieve the
dark squared bishop after a2 to a3 is played. In these cases, White can normally
profit from an immediate assault on the g7 pawn. For example, b6 is
an interesting attempt to exchange off the light squared bishops, perhaps
by playing the move bishop to a6. But White can instantly create some
issues for Black with the reply, queen to g4, attacking g7. It turns
out that if Black ever plays the move g6, this generally leads to intolerable
weaknesses on the king side and on the dark squares. And so, Black usually
actually plays the move bishop to f8 in this position, hoping to argue
that despite a deficit in development, he can make use of his early
opportunities to attack the fixed pawn on d4 and trade off the light squared
bishops. Unfortunately for Black, theory pretty strongly indicates that
White should be able to profit from this extra space and development and
still have a good advantage. So it turns out that players handling the
Black pieces mostly continue with the aggressive move, c5, making good on the
concept of attacking these central pawns as soon as they’ve modified
themselves and become fixed. And it is at this moment that White plays the
move a3, inducing Black to capture, bishop takes c3, check, pawn takes
bishop, and leading to a very intriguing situation. Black has parted ways
with the key bishop, and as we’ll see in a moment, he’s quite vulnerable
due to this fact. But in the long run, Black will find tremendous counter-play
against the weakened queen side pawns and against White’s center.
He hopes that this will fully compensate for the early exchange of his dark
squared bishop. Now before we delve a little deeper, let’s
take a look at what would have happened if Black tried to retain the bishop
with the move, bishop to a5. At first, you might be tempted to try D takes
c5, since it looks like in a moment here, you will be able to play b2 to
b4 with tempo and solidifying the pawn on c5. But, in fact, Black has a
neat trick in this position, which is that he now plays the move, bishop
takes c3, check, and then after pawn takes bishop, and the move, queen c7,
White will suddenly realize that the pawn on c5 was no pawn worth taking, and
Black will quickly recover his pawn, leaving White with all kinds of structural
weaknesses. Instead, White has to come back to the critical idea of making
use of the weakened dark squares. He does this with a beautiful positional
pawn sacrifice, beginning with the move, pawn to b4, a move worthy of
an exclamation point in this position. Black is practically forced to play the move,
C takes b4, and now White reveals the concept of this pawn sacrifice.
Since there is temporarily no pin on the knight on c3, White is able to
now play the move, knight to b5, targeting the square on d6, the weakened d6
square, and this leads to immense compensation for the sacrificed pawn.
For example, if Black tried the move, B takes a3, check, White would simply
play pawn to c3. In this position, White has an overwhelming number
of strong positional threats, such as bishop takes a3, giving the bishop
a wonderful position, knight d6, check, and also queen to g4, attacking g7.
Another example of how play might continue, Black may try bishop to c7,
holding the d6 square, though he would again find that White will just target
the dark squares, queen to g4, forcing Black to play something very unattractive,
such as g6, or king f8, after which White will recapture on b4,
having no material deficit and strong positional plusses. So after the move, bishop to a5, White has
a 1-2 punch, pawn to b4, and then after pawn takes pawn on b4, knight to
b5, which demonstrates that the bishop is still misplaced on a5 and therefore,
White can still succeed with a vigorous assault on the dark squares. So
Black plays bishop takes c3, check, following through on this brave idea
of exchanging the key bishop. Now B takes c3, and now Black most often simply
develops quietly with the move, knight to e7. In the long run, Black
wants to target the weakened queen side pawns, perhaps by opening the C
file at some point with C takes 4, and then striking at the weakened c2 and
a3 pawns. For example, if he’s lucky, Black may also aim for the exchange
of his light squared bishop by playing moves, like b6 and bishop to a6, like
we talked about earlier. But Black needs to keep an eye out on the sensitive
g7 weakness. White will try to tickle this point and play aggressively
with the bishop pair to develop a devastating assault before Black’s game
even gets started. The most straightforward way for White to
go about this is to play the move, queen g4, immediately attacking the
weakness on g7. And this is also the most common way to play it, though I do
want to point out that White has developed some other approaches in this
position as well. If you take a look, you’ll notice that it’s very uncomfortable
for Black to try to defend this pawn. For example, if he tries to use
the knight to defend it, let’s say, knight to f5, the knight is too easily
provoked with a move, like bishop d3, or for example, if Black were to
play knight g6, then White could simply play h4, and this knight will
not be able to keep itself situated for very long on either of these
defensive posts. So this is a no- go for Black. Clearly, Black still does not
want to play g6, leading to all kinds of weaknesses to the dark squares, and
he doesn’t want to play moves like king f8, or rook g8, which give up castling
rights. So how can Black go about best defending this
pawn on g7? Well, over time, Black players have developed two main methods
of addressing this threat to g7. One is to simply castle king side and
hold on for dear life. Believe it or not, this plan appears to be quite playable
for Black and offers Black plenty of counter chances, if White mishandles
the situation. But the most famous solution, and still quite popular for
Black, is to play queen c7, just sacrificing the pawn on g7 and leading
to what’s called the Poisoned Pond Variation. Black just gives up the pawn
and relies upon his long-term piece play and White’s damaged structure to
compensate for the loss of material. Play nearly always continues with
the moves, queen takes g7, rook g8, and queen takes h7, leading to an exhilarating
position in which Black simply concedes the g7 pawn in a temporary
double pawn sacrifice, but then fights hard to keep White from finishing his
development, thanks to a substantial lead in development. No matter whether you’re handling the White
pieces or the Black pieces, the mysteries of this position can be fascinating
for your own chess development if you’re willing to spend a little
time on them. That’s all for today. I hope you’ve enjoyed this look
at the key lines in the Winawer Variation, and I hope you’ve gotten a little
feeling for the deep, yet consistent, strategic ideas which characterize
the French Winawer. See you soon.

100 thoughts on “Chess openings – French Winawer

  1. Hi Dereque… im beginner i have seen many gm videos, but suddenly i become great fan of u… can u make complete video on one single opening covering almost every variation… thank you

  2. Ahh, I love this suggestion. I am working on a project exactly like this though this particular one I am hoping to "monetize". I hope the cost will not be at all prohibitive and maybe in the future there will be an opportunity to start a project like that here on YouTube too.

  3. Yes I agree with Rakesh, I too am a beginner. Thanks for responding to him. I see you are in the process of creating these. Another question, will you be bringing your windows phone 8 app over to us iOS owners? ipad/iphone version? Thanks.

  4. Thank you! As with another question you had asked the future of all of these projects is very unclear 🙁 In the case which you are mentioning there is a chance it could take place later next year and I really would like to see that it does.

  5. Dereque. Obviously you have impressive chess oration. The presentation is crisp, fresh and vibrant. Whomever is backing you needs to keep doing just that. If they want money, take these HD videos, tell them to create interactive books for ios/windows/android. Add these videos in there alongside interactive puzzles/openings/variations. Charge us money and "wallah" profits. If you go this route pm me, I can reference you some mobile websites to help in your exposure.

  6. There are as many ways to make money as there are to get good at chess – seems about infinite to me! And (it seems to me) there is much more to life than money. Therefore, I'm not too worried 🙂 Your kind words and enthusiastic suggestions are appreciated. Thank you!

  7. Absolutely! There is more to life than money 🙂 In this case, I was just referring from a business standpoint. Happy New Years!

  8. Wow! Haven't seen analysis like this in a while! Thanks a lot and I'm definitely using the Winawer whenever I'm Black in the French!

  9. Thank you for this nice video on the Winawer! Watching this, it's so much easier to understand the opening vs. reading Ruben Fine's "Ideas Behind the Opening"!

  10. 7:25 It is better to move Kf8 than Bf8 . Black doesnt have to castle in this variation, actually if he plays Bf8 he won't castle either and he lost a tempo and a position.

  11. I have a newfound appreciation for the French but I find the winawer incredibly unattractive. Bobby Fischer said it best when he called it anti-positional. The dark square weakness on blacks kingside and the exchange of the dark square bishop is quite the headache.

  12. Greetings! I certainly enjoy watching Carlsen, Kramnik, Aronian but there are many great players…hard to say!

  13. This is brilliantly clear and well organized. It is much better than other opening lectures if one is, like me, a player rated below 1500.

  14. At 12:08, how would White go about exploiting said weaknesses on Black's dark squares? To a new player it seems to me Black's g6 pawn is well protected by f7 and h7, and would later be able to thrust these pawns forward and maybe even threaten the queen.

  15. Thanks for posting these videos, if we want to learn these openings in details through videos, how can we do that, any clue.

  16. …Ng6 and …Nf5 both look playable, though I'd need to look a little more closely to determine which I'd play if I were Black (I'm leaning toward …Nf5)

  17. You're welcome! That's a tricky question. To learn opening details through videos would mean those details were present in the videos. But of course videos can only cover so much! Trying openings in practice can go a long way. To go even further, you may want other materials.

  18. at 9:15 you siad black is forced to play cxb4 i think black can play cxd4 with a solid position i want to know why you did not said this as option

  19. @Akash Moothedath: This also works and simply transposes since in both cases White needs to respond to …Qh4+ with Ke2 (and in the case you are mentioning, Black will then continue with …Bxc3+ and so forth)

  20. You're videos are perfect, thank you for making them for us! Also, I am astounded by the rate at which you respond to comments. You obviously truly care about helping everyone with their chess game. I love it. I will be tuning in. thanks again!

  21. 6. b4 worthy of an exclamation mark?? Then what happens after 6. … cxd4 in stead of 6. … cxb4? White has a vulnerable knight on c3 and a weak pawn on d5 which can both be targeted by a Qc7 move. Isn't black better??

  22. Kelly…. superb, I watched few of your videos… the way take up chess opening, no body else or perhaps I liked alot your explanation. Thank you so much. Your works fab !!!!

  23. 10:55 why can't white take the undefended c pawn? now that the bishop is gone and taking it does not help black develop what is stopping white from taking?

  24. Nothing but positive comments on all your videos…
    That says it all, you broke youtube.
    Thank you and keep it up please!

  25. I play the winawer and this is the line I use: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.Qg4 0-0 8. Bd3 f5 9.exf6 Rxf6 10.Bg5 Nd7 11.Bxf6 Nxf6….with TREMENDOUS counterplay. One line that happened in a game went like this: ( 12.Qd1 Qa5 13.Qd2 c4 14.Be2 Ne4 15.Qd1 Qxc3+ 16.Kf1 Nd2+ 17.Ke1 Nb3+ 18.Kf1 Nxa1 ) with a completely winning position for black.

  26. Interesting video. Been playing the bishop pin then messing up the rest of the line. Hopefully this leads me in a better direction.

  27. What if white plays 5.Bd2 and then 6.a3? Capturing the knight no longer damages white's pawn structure so is the exchange still worth it?

  28. "White can simply castle… and hold on for dear life." Great video Dereque. You are a great presenter. 🙂

  29. I have found your videos by random, but now I start looking at all of them. You are very clear and pleasant to listen. THANK YOU.


  31. Hey Derek, I like your interpretations in all of your videos, those sophisticated words one should only hear in a great lecture theatre. Tusen takk!

  32. Funny that as amateur player have wond up in some theses positions. Position asblack at 9:50 led to a long fight always behind and eventual loss. Was hoping white would break pin win Bd2 and was so afraid of opening B file for white rook, not of losing bishop pair.

  33. In a very old chess book its called nimzowitch. And i can see the similarities in the themes with nimzo indian. When did it become winawer? Or is it cos winawer employed the nimzowitch a lot? Ive also wondered about the pronounciation of winawer a lot….wee-na-were, wee – na- where, vee na vere??

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