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French, Winawer (C18)
1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e5 c5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 bxc3

Number of games in database: 7000
Years covered: 1920 to 2023
Overall record:
   White wins 42.6%
   Black wins 26.4%
   Draws 31.0%

Popularity graph, by decade

Explore this opening  |  Search for sacrifices in this opening.
With the White Pieces With the Black Pieces
Thomas Ernst  51 games
Nigel Short  34 games
Andrei Volokitin  32 games
Ivan Farago  87 games
Wolfgang Uhlmann  73 games
Smbat Lputian  66 games
NOTABLE GAMES [what is this?]
White Wins Black Wins
Tal vs Botvinnik, 1960
Fischer vs S Schweber, 1970
Smyslov vs Botvinnik, 1954
Hort vs Petrosian, 1970
Spassky vs Korchnoi, 1977
Tal vs Korchnoi, 1958
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 page 1 of 280; games 1-25 of 7,000 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. A Rabinovich vs N Pavlov-Pianov 1-0491920USSR ChampionshipC18 French, Winawer
2. Lasker vs Maroczy 1-0501924New YorkC18 French, Winawer
3. Kostic vs S Toemboek  1-0471925Simul, 3bC18 French, Winawer
4. N Zubarev vs A Frenkel  1-0271927Ch Trade Unions (team)C18 French, Winawer
5. O Naegeli vs G Renaud  1-0251927London OlympiadC18 French, Winawer
6. Botvinnik vs A Model 0-1471927USSR ChampionshipC18 French, Winawer
7. B Verlinsky vs A S Sergeev 1-0241928Moscow-chC18 French, Winawer
8. V Jandera vs F Schubert  1-0411933Kautsky mem10C18 French, Winawer
9. L Kaiev vs Panov  1-04819344th Ch RSFSR (qf-E)C18 French, Winawer
10. V Petrovic vs M Maksimovic  1-0361934Yugoslav Amateur ChampionshipC18 French, Winawer
11. J van den Bosch vs S Landau 0-1251934Match 3C18 French, Winawer
12. Panov vs Alatortsev 0-1531934USSR Championship 1934/35C18 French, Winawer
13. V Rauzer vs Alatortsev 0-1411934USSR Championship 1934/35C18 French, Winawer
14. F Bohatirchuk vs Alatortsev 1-0311934USSR Championship 1934/35C18 French, Winawer
15. Kotov vs V Chekhover 1-0201935Trade Unions Championship sfC18 French, Winawer
16. Ragozin vs Botvinnik 0-1391935MoscowC18 French, Winawer
17. L Steiner vs E E Book ½-½351935Warsaw OlympiadC18 French, Winawer
18. Bogoljubov vs G Danielsson 1-0241935GER-SWEC18 French, Winawer
19. B Persitz vs Zhidkov  0-1241936All Union Selected 1st catC18 French, Winawer
20. V Rauzer vs I Rabinovich  1-0561936Leningrad ChampionshipC18 French, Winawer
21. Lilienthal vs Levenfish 1-0461936MoscowC18 French, Winawer
22. Foltys vs K Opocensky  ½-½511936PodebradyC18 French, Winawer
23. Bogoljubov vs Flohr 0-1451936NottinghamC18 French, Winawer
24. M Delage vs S Prokofiev 0-1251937?C18 French, Winawer
25. A Chistiakov vs S Belavenets  ½-½401937Ch MoscowC18 French, Winawer
 page 1 of 280; games 1-25 of 7,000 
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 4 OF 4 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Jun-28-07  micartouse: I'm going to try cracking White open now. :) How about move the King to a4 at which point the White king is on the queenside (probably ...b6 has to be thrown in for a recapture). Now play ... a5 and ... Kb5 and if Kb3 then ... a4+ and Black can penetrate to c4 and win material.

Maybe White needs to move the K up instead and try to trade off a c-pawn? If I find out this is winning for Black, I'll never play the White side of Winawer again!

Jun-28-07  simsim: <square dance> sorry i just realized i misread your post. <yes, but i dont see how black could get that position though.> i thought you couldn't see how black can break through.

so i worked it out.
of course it is difficult to achieve this particular position in a real game. it is very unlikely that the white player would allow to exchange all the pieces. this would be plain stupid. it is more a theoretical debate :)

Jun-28-07  micartouse: I Fritz-checked the position. My idea has a ridiculous logical flaw: if Black can penetrate to a4, he can also penetrate to c4 straightaway. So Black to Play in this ending is a trivial win: Ke8-d7-c6-b5-c4 White resigns.

Now White to play looks trickier since he can trade a bad pawn off but it's still looking very grim.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: <simsim> It's a very minor point in your interesting analysis, but I would have played differently at one point.

click for larger view

Now your 8...Kxd4 does seem to win, but I would have played 8...Kxb4 instantly because I know that such positions are easy wins for Black. White must play 9.Kd3 to keep the Black king out of c4, but Black just moves his king on b3 and b4 until White rund out of pawn moves. Then, after (say) 10.Kd2 Kc4 11.Ke3 Kc3, the d-pawn falls and it's all over.

Perhaps 8...Kxd4 is a bit quicker and more exact, but given my endgame skills in general I always prefer not having to calculate any possible counterplay at all.

Jun-30-07  simsim: <phony benoni>yes you're right. i was fascinated by how the black king could just get two pawns while still keeping the white passed pawn under control (and finally winning it). so i didn't see the easy line.

your line is just more to the point: white's pawns are too weak, so black needs no trick :)

Jul-06-07  ganstaman: I have a question about 6...Nc6 7. Qg4 g6 as seen here: Anand vs Ponomariov, 2007

My question is also posted there, but here is probaly a better place to respond: "This variation of the Winawer reminds me of the Lasker variation of the MacCutcheon, only without white's king being in as vulnerable a position, and also white's DSB and black's kingside knight are still on the board. To me, then, this seems inferior. Is there more to this than I am seeing?"

Jul-11-07  simsim: <ganstaman> i think the fact that the king is already on d2 in the macCutcheon seems like an advantage for white in comparison to the above line: putting the king on d2 connects the rooks, protects c3 and allows white to carry on with the natural attacking plan h4-Th3-Tg3 (or something similar). Kxd2 does not just take back a piece. apart from that it is simple a useful move. generally speaking the king is also quite safe there.

another point: note that (in the above winawer variation) black is able to develop his queenside (i think this is the point of ...Nc6) one tempo faster than in the macCutcheon. black closes the center (...c4) and castles long as fast as possible. so the standard plan with Th3 does not make much sense.

but maybe i miss something.

Jul-12-07  simsim: erratum: about the "natural attacking" plan ...h4-Th3-Tg3... -> actually Tg3 not directly part of the plan.

The point is that the king on d2, allows white a very flexible development of the rooks: Thb2 (after Nf3 of course:) / Th3 or whatever, depending on blacks play.

Oct-25-07  Timeline: 6...Qa5 is an interesting choice in this line. A lot of top GMs (Vaganian, Lputian, Akopian etc.) play it these days from time to time. Vaganian plays this variation almost exclusively. I've also seen American GMs such as Shulman, Ibragimov, Onischuk playing it from time to time. At least, statistically it has done better than its Ne7 and Qc7 counterparts. Recently, I've switched to playing this line from entering poisoned pawn variation via 6...Ne7.
Jun-26-08  offtherook: Opening of the day 6/26/08. For a long time I always played the Tarrasch so as to avoid the Winawer, but, inspired by the "Battle of the Brains" consultation match (I'm on Team White), I decided to allow the Winawer for the first time ever in a game on FICS, played the Poison Pawn variation, and eventually came out on top. I certainly made my share of mistakes, and was getting sloppy towards the end due to time trouble, but overall this was a decent game.

offtherook (1552) - lotusrobot (1766)
15 0 rated standard
1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e5 c5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 bxc3 Qc7 7 Qg4 Ne7 8 Qxg7 Rg8 9 Qxh7 Nbc6 10 Qd3 cxd4 11 cxd4 Nf5 12 c3 a6 13 Nf3 Na5 14 Qc2 Bd7 15 Ng5 Rc8 16 Bd2 Nc4 17 Bxc4 Qxc4 18 Qa2 Qd3 19 Qb1 Qc4 20 Qb4 Bb5 21 Qxc4 Bxc4 22 Rb1 b5 23 g3 Ke7 24 Nh7 Bd3 25 Rb4? a5 26 Rb2 Rc7 27 Nf6 Rgc8 28 Ra2 Rc4 29 f3 Ra4 30 Kf2 Bc4 31 Raa1 Bd7 32 h4 Rh8 33 Bg4 Kf8 34 g4 Ne7 35 Nd7+ Ke8 36 Nc5 Rc4 37 Bxe7 Rxc3 38 Bf7 Rh7 39 Nxd3 Rxd3 40 Rad1?? Rxa3 (crap, now my opponent has 2 passed pawns and this game could get really double-edged) 41 Ke2 Kd7 42 h5 Ra2+ 43 Rd2 Ra4 44 Rb1 b4 45 Rdb2 Ra3 46 Rb3 Ra2 47 Ke3 Kc6 48 Kf4 Kb5 49 Kg5 Rf2 50 h6 Rd2 51 Bg7 Rxd4 52 Kf6 Rf4+ 53 Ke7 d4 54 Kf8 Kc4 55 Kg8 d3 56 Kxh7 Rxf3 57 Kg8 Rf2 58 h7 Rh2 59 h8=Q Rxh8+ 60 Bxh8 d2 61 Kxf7 d1=Q 62 Rxd1 Kxb3 63 Kxe6 Kc2 64 Rd5 b3 65 Rxa5 b2 66 Rb5 1-0

Any thoughts? Improvements for either side, suggestions, comments, etc would be greatly appreciated.

I think he made a lot of pointless moves with his rook that just cost him tempos without doing anything, and he should have leveraged his queenside passed pawns better and earlier to cause more trouble. I actually think that after my blunder on move 40 Black was probably better, even winning, because of the passed pawns and because of the tortuous route my king had to take on the kingside to help those pawns forward. He did, however, make excellent use of his LSB, which normally is not so active in the French. After I got up 2 pawns, I was largely trying to trade down because his pieces seemed more active than mine for much of the middlegame and I wanted to get down to an ending that I could win. Another motive to trade down was my king being effectively trapped in the middle of the board. If I can't get my king safely castled, the next best thing is trade down so my opponent never has enough material available to mate my exposed king.

I might annotate this game later if I have time, and if I do I'll post that along with diagrams for key positions. It was a rather long game, especially for such a short time control—I ended up having on average just over 10-12seconds/move.

Jun-26-08  whiteshark: <offtherook> It didn't work after 31. Raa1 as the ♗ can't movo to d7. Also 33.Bg4 looks like Bg5.

You may like to post an efficient pgn. :D

Jun-26-08  Alphastar: I think the Qc7 7. Qg4 f5 variation is pretty OK too. I would play it if I'm ever going to play the Winawer.
Jun-26-08  offtherook: <whiteshark: <offtherook> It didn't work after 31. Raa1 as the B can't movo to d7. Also 33.Bg4 looks like Bg5.> Yes, when I wrote this down my handwriting was rather bad. It should be 31...Bd3 and 33 Bg5. Sorry. For some reason, this didn't save in my journal on FICS when I tried to, so I lost that record of the game.
Jun-26-08  offtherook: Here is a repost of just the game with typos corrected.

offtherook (1552) - lotusrobot (1766)
15 0 rated standard
1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e5 c5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 bxc3 Qc7 7 Qg4 Ne7 8 Qxg7 Rg8 9 Qxh7 Nbc6 10 Qd3 cxd4 11 cxd4 Nf5 12 c3 a6 13 Nf3 Na5 14 Qc2 Bd7 15 Ng5 Rc8 16 Bd2 Nc4 17 Bxc4 Qxc4 18 Qa2 Qd3 19 Qb1 Qc4 20 Qb4 Bb5 21 Qxc4 Bxc4 22 Rb1 b5 23 g3 Ke7 24 Nh7 Bd3 25 Rb4? a5 26 Rb2 Rc7 27 Nf6 Rgc8 28 Ra2 Rc4 29 f3 Ra4 30 Kf2 Bc4 31 Raa1 Bd3 32 h4 Rh8 33 Bg5 Kf8 34 g4 Ne7 35 Nd7+ Ke8 36 Nc5 Rc4 37 Bxe7 Rxc3 38 Bf7 Rh7 39 Nxd3 Rxd3 40 Rad1?? Rxa3 (crap, now my opponent has 2 passed pawns and this game could get really double-edged) 41 Ke2 Kd7 42 h5 Ra2+ 43 Rd2 Ra4 44 Rb1 b4 45 Rdb2 Ra3 46 Rb3 Ra2 47 Ke3 Kc6 48 Kf4 Kb5 49 Kg5 Rf2 50 h6 Rd2 51 Bg7 Rxd4 52 Kf6 Rf4+ 53 Ke7 d4 54 Kf8 Kc4 55 Kg8 d3 56 Kxh7 Rxf3 57 Kg8 Rf2 58 h7 Rh2 59 h8=Q Rxh8+ 60 Bxh8 d2 61 Kxf7 d1=Q 62 Rxd1 Kxb3 63 Kxe6 Kc2 64 Rd5 b3 65 Rxa5 b2 66 Rb5 1-0

Sep-10-11  ProjectR: In the above diagram on the winawer,after 6.bxb3 is this in anyone's opinion better for black ?? Because as white i personally struggle,but as black i do okay.. White's queen side is wide open and messy,but black can open up the f file which is handy for the rook after castling,and basically things just look much better for my opinion Anyone think otherwise ?
Sep-10-11  SimonWebbsTiger: @<ProjectR>

I have played both colours during the past 20 years. My experience is that some white players don't play energetically enough.

The position isn't better for black; just plain old "unclear"!

The acid test, in many ways, is the brawling 6...Ne7 7. Qg4. Current fashion is the solid 7...0-0, but I have always loved to sac the pawn with 7...cxd4 8. Qxg7 Rg8 9. Qxh7 Qc7.

Fischer in his day -- and he famously struggled against the Winawer, despite thinking it fundamentally unsound positionally -- liked the more positional approach starting 7. a4, also used a few times in Smyslov-Botvinnik games. Black can easily find himself lacking space and also has to be careful of the 2 bishops should the position open up.

All in all, both sides have their strong and weak points and the person with the better understanding will win.

For white, see games by: Smyslov, Fischer, Short and Kasparov

For black, see games by: Botvinnik, Korchnoi, Short and the main man himself Uhlmann. A bit of classic fun

That's my 2 cents. :o)

Sep-10-11  ProjectR: <simonwebbstiger> thanks for help and explaining that,its really appreciated.. And if fischer struggled against it at least im in good company lol.. Il check the links you posted out now,thanks again :-)
Sep-11-11  ProjectR: <offtherook> Iv noticed your handle on FICS before,so i just checked a few of your games out and you played really well and beat a 2150..Just wandered if you always play 6.h4 in the alekhine defence,as i like that opening as both black and white,but i always play 6.Bc4 just developing pieces..but the h4 served you well in that particular game,im not that "booked up"so i dont know if its that common ?
Premium Chessgames Member
  Penguincw: Opening of the Day

French, Winawer
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.♘c3 ♗b4

click for larger view

Sep-18-12  Blunderdome: Anyone who knows the line care to explain why black would play 6...Qa4 instead of 6...Qc7?
Sep-18-12  Blunderdome: or 6...Ne7 followed by 7...Qc7, for that matter.
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: < Blunderdome: Anyone who knows the line care to explain why black would play 6...Qa4 instead of 6...Qc7?

Blunderdome: or 6...Ne7 followed by 7...Qc7, for that matter.>

The variation 6....Qa5 isn't something I ever tried, but a fair explanation of 6....Ne7 is given by <SimonWebbsTiger> in his kibitz of 10th September 2011. My preference was 6....Qc7 (there's even a game of mine in this DB, but my play was very poor) 7.Qg4 f5.

Sep-26-12  SimonWebbsTiger: 6...Qa5 has been attracting more players of late. Moskolenko has written a couple of fine books about the French in the past years where he shares some of his ideas. The 6... Qa5 line didn't really catch on because of games like Fischer-Hook, Siegan OL 1970 until now because the early queen sortie appeared to give white an easy edge after 7. Bd2 Qa4 8. Qg4 and then 9. Qd1. It's not as obvious as all that.

6...Qc7 is preferred by those who wish to meet 7. Qg4 with f7-f5 (or even f7-f6), protecting the g7 pawn and avoiding the Poisoned Pawn line of the Winawer.Also, the ...Qc7 line has Bc8-a6, exchanging LSBs as an idea.

Dec-22-15  The Rocket: Very frustrating opening for white. One cannot conduct an ordinary kingside attack, and aloth of the dynamics in the positions favour black. No killing blow for black however but gradual improvement. If white adopts h5, h6, Rh4, courtesy of Morozevich, then black simply ignores the short castle. The king on the queenside castling really isn't exposed due to the fractured pawn structure for white on the queenside.
Dec-01-18  SpiritedReposte: An interesting sideline in the winawer french comes up from time to time.

After 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 <cxd4>

click for larger view

Last I analyzed it looked more promising for white after <6.axb4 dxc3 7.bxc3 Qc7> This is what is sneaky for white in this line because it seems black will have an initiative

click for larger view

<8.Nf3> Simple development begging the queen to go pawn grabbing, which in my experience against 1800 players it happens often. <...Qxc3+ 9.Bd2 Qc7 10.Bd3> Again simple development and things start to get spicy.

click for larger view

If black goes after the e-pawn with <10. ...Nd7 or Nc6> then follows <11.O-O Nxe5 12.Bf4 Nxf3+ 13.Qxf3 Qe7 14.Qg3!>

click for larger view

And this is where my opening prep ended. Despite being down 2 pawns, white must be better here. The development, safe king, the dark square bishop is a monster and will keep the black king in the center.

This line has served me well over the years and I invite anyone with an engine to give it a look to try and refute it.

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