French Winawer

Here's an introduction to the French Winawer.

C18 French Winawer [C18]

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 Diagram

The Winawer. By pinning the Nc3 with Bb4, Black is immediately threatening to win the e-pawn.4.e5 Protecting the e-pawn by pushing it and establishing the central pawn chain so typical of positions in the French Defense. 4...c5 Rather than attacking the head of the pawn chain, black prefers to attack the chain at its base. The theory is simple enough. By attacking the base, both pawns may become weak. 5.a3 Challenging the bishop the moment its retreat is blocked. 5...Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Both sides have made concessions. Black has traded off the valuable dark-squared bishop. White has doubled c-pawns and a "hole" on c4. 6...Ne7 Developing the knight and preparing a counter to Qg4 7.Qg4 Typical in the French (and other openings) in once the dark-squared Bf8 is traded. How best to defend the g7-pawn? 7...Qc7 Probably best. 0-0 runs into Bd3 with the deadly threat of Bh6. ...g7-g6? weakens the dark squares on Black's kingside. 8.Qxg7 Rg8 9.Qxh7 cxd4 The threats are Qxe5+ and especially Qxc3+ 10.Ne2 Tal tried Kd1 against Botvinnik. It's an amazing but less preferred alternative! 10...Nbc6 Not ...Qxe5 11.Bf4! 11.f4 Protecting the e5-pawn 11...dxc3 12.Qd3 Bringing the queen back into the battle 12...Bd7 And this is the key position, with three logical candidate moves (Qxc3, Nxc3, and Rb1). In all three lines, white will emerge a pawn ahead which is why many look at the French as a Gambit! *

Edwards,J (2230) - Grant,D (2155) [C18]
APCT, 1988

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.Qg4 Qc7 8.Qxg7 Rg8 9.Qxh7 cxd4 10.Ne2 Nbc6 11.f4 Bd7 12.Qd3 dxc3 13.Rb1 I favor Nc3 today because the threat of Nc3-b5 usually motivates Black to play a6, when Rb1 leads to favorable in which black seems to have insufficient compensation for the pawn. 13...0-0-0 14.Nxc3 Na5 15.g3 Kb8 16.Ne2 An important move, to protect g3 and especially the key d4 square. 16...Nf5 17.Bh3 d4 Diagram

18.0-0! Bc6 19.Rb4 Bd5 20.Bxf5 exf5 21.Rxd4 Two pawns ahead. Black does not have adequate compensation. 21...Be4 22.Qc3 Nc6 23.Rxd8+ Qxd8 24.Be3 Qh4 25.Bc5 The bishop will be strongly placed on d6 25...Qh3 26.Rf2 Meeting black's only possible threat 1-0

Finally, here's a group of games from this interesting line.