French Defense Repertoire, Part Two

Winawer - Petrosian Variation

The Petrosian Variation of the French Winawer is typically characterized by 4....Qd7 followed by...Bxc3+, ...b6, and ...Ba6, but there are actually a number of ways that Black can achieve the same closed system of play, including with the immediate 4...b6 with the idea of answering 5.Qg4 with 5....Bf8! (since the apparent loss of time in the Bishop's retreat is hard for White to exploit in such a closed position). The chief point of 4...Qd7 is that Black can now answer 5.Qg4 (or more commonly 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 b6 7.Qg4) by ...f5! and the Black Queen protects the vulnerable g7 square along the rank. Since the Bishop does not need to retreat in this line, Black will typically exchange it for the Knight at c3 to double White's pawns and isolate the a-pawn, which often proves a long-term structural weakness. Black will usually then play to exchange the other Bishop by ...b6 and ...Ba6 (to eliminate the "bad bishop" while depriving White of the Bishop pair), though Black can also keep his light-squared Bishop "at home" by playing ...b6 and ...Bb7!? followed by queenside castling. This is exactly how Petrosian himself plays in the game below against Olafsson from Bled 1961, where he keeps the Bishop to help protect his king and potentially to support an eventual kingside initiative. Our French Repertoire Group looked at Petrosian's game by way of an introduction to the system and will probably return to consider this line in greater depth, especially since we are now convinced that Black can sidestep the supposed "refutation" of this system by 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 b6 7. Qg4 f5 8. Qg3 Ba6 9. Bxa6 Nxa6 10. Ne2 Nb8 11. Nf4 Nc6? 12. Nxe6! Qxe6 13. Qxg7 with a huge advantage for White once he extracts his Queen (which analysis by Neil McDonald suggests he can do).

Fridrik Olafsson - Tigran V. Petrosian [C16]

Bled (11) 1961

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 Qd7 5. Qg4

There is a supposed "refutation" of this line, but Black appears to have several sidesteps (as indicated): 5. a3 Bxc3+ (5... Bf8!?)
6. bxc3 b6 7. Qg4 f5 8. Qg3 Ba6 (8... Nc6!? 9. Nh3 Bb7 10. Nf4

7. a3 Bf8! (7... Bxc3+ 8. Qxc3!)

7... Bb7!?

7... Ba6 8. Bxa6 Nxa6 9. Nh3

8. Bd3!?

8. Bd2 Nc6 9. Nf3

9. Nf3

"Relying on the fact that White will be unlikely to part with a Bishop and present him with an open line for his Rooks merely to double his pawns" writes Clarke. But, according to Keres, that's precisely what White should do.

11. a3?!

a) 11. Bxh6! gxh6 12. Qe3 intending g3 and Nf4, Keres

b) 11.

12. Qxg7?! Ng4! and "the White Queen would be in altogether too perlious a position" writes Clarke. But no annotator has examined the complexities of 13. Bg5! (13. Bb5?! Nxf2!)
13... a6!? (13... Rdg8 14. Qf7 h5 15. Bb5! Bxg5 16. Qxd7+ Kxd7 17. hxg5 Rxg5)
14. Bxe7 (14. Qf7 h5!? 15. Bxe7 Rde8 16. Nxd5 Qxd5 17. Bf6 Nxf6)
(14. f3 Ne3 15. Bxe7 Rhg8 16. Qxh7 Nxg2+)
14... Rdg8 15. Qf7 Nd8 (15... h5!? 16. f3 Nd8 17. Qxg8 Rxg8 18. Bxd8 Qxd8 19. fxg4 Rxg4 20.

12... Rdg8

a) 12... Kb8?! 13. Bxc6 Bxc6 14. Qxg7 Ng4 15. Bg5!

b) 12... a6?! 13. Bxc6 Bxc6 14. Qxg7 Ng4 15. Bg5 Clarke

Clarke notes that "Petrosian here reveals his profound understanding of postional play. Instead of getting on with an advance on the K side, as many players would have done, he devotes his attention to the other wing -- because on that part of the board there is still room for improvement.... Thus he makes doubly sure of the initiative."

15. Nf4 Qc8! 16. Nce2 Ncd8! 17. Qb3?

"Losing a pawn by force" notes Clarke.

Better , though still worse for White, was 17. c3 c5 18. Kb1 Clarke and Keres

17... c6!

Forcing the Bishop back in order to prevent a later Nd3.

20. Nh3 Nxe5 21. Bf4 Ndf7 22. Bb5

The pin is easily broken after either 22. Ng5 Bd6

22... Ka8 23. Nd4 Ng6 24. Qa4 Bxd4 25. Bd7 Qf8 26. Rxd4

26. Bxe6!? Be5! 27. Bxd5 (27. Rxd5 Bxf4+ 28. Nxf4 Nxf4 29. Qxf4 Qe7!) 27... Bxd5 28. Rxd5 Qb8! 29. Qc6+ (29. Rd7 Bxf4+ 30. Kb1 Rc8) 29... Qb7 30. Qxb7+ Kxb7 31. Rd7+ Kc6 32. Rxf7 Bxf4+ Clarke

27... exf4 28. Rxb6 Nfe5 29. Rxb7

"White's last defiant gesture" notes Clarke.