Wednesday, April 19, 2006

French Defense Repertoire, Part Two


diagram

White to play and win.

In our continuing survey of the Winawer (introduced in Part One), our French Repertoire Group looked at The Petrosian Variation, which is typically characterized by 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 Qd7!? This odd-looking Queen move has a point, which is indirectly to protect the vulnerable g-pawn: Black can now answer 5.Qg4 (or more commonly 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 b6 7.Qg4) by ...f5! In this line, Black will typically exchange his Bishop for the Knight at c3 to double White's pawns and isolate the a-pawn, which often proves a long-term structural weakness (though he can also retreat the Bishop to f8, since the loss of time is not significant in a closed position.) He will then usually play to exchange the other Bishop by ...b6 and ...Ba6 (to eliminate the "bad bishop" while depriving White of the Bishop pair), though he can also keep his light-squared Bishop "at home" by playing ...b6 and ...Bb7!? followed by queenside castling. This latter idea is exactly how Petrosian himself played it in Olafsson-Petrosian, 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 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? (see diagram above) 12. Nxe6! Qxe6 13. Qxg7 with a huge advantage for White once he extracts his Queen (as discussed in the notes to our game).

We will likely return to examine the "sidesteps" more closely in future installments. But one thing to consider is that you can learn a lot about the French by studying the Petrosian lines, since there are times when very similar positions are reached out of other variations. Case in point: consider the game Anand-Ivanchuk, Dortmund 1997 (annotated at ChessCafe by Yasser Seirawan), which began 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.Nf3 h6!? 8.Bd3 b6 9.O-O Ba6 with play very similar to the Petrosian.

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