Friday, May 06, 2011

Once was enough IV : Eingorn Winawer

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.Qg4 Kf8

Like the previous item in this series, this line belongs to the category of the slightly-eccentric rather than the asking-for-trouble. I think it may be the only time I have ever played, with the Black pieces at any rate, the Winawer, despite owning two editions of John Watson's Play The French, the third edition of which even includes a couple of references to my good self, following some analysis I sent to the author after reading the second edition.

Despite his recommendation, I've never much liked the Winawer, and the one time I did pursue it, I chose neither the Poisoned Pawn line which his second edition suggested, nor the 7...O-O variation favoured by his third. Instead, prior to the side tournament (the Harry Baines) that I played in during the British Championships in Scarborough in 1999, I discovered a line advocated by Eingorn, 7.Qg4 Kf8, and played it once, in a game I won easily. But after that, I never played it again.

WHY I PLAYED IT: This was towards the end of my period of maximum thrashing-about, my games over the the previous months including Scandinavians, Sicilians and Open Games. I was somewhere between trying to find an ideal Black opening - that I didn't yet accept didn't exist - and considering a portmanteau approach in which I'd select different openings against different strengths of opponent. A reasonable approach in principle, albeit one that ran the risk of overloading oneself horribly with Frenchs, Sicilians and Open Games, all of them the appropriate and theory-heavy choice at one time or another.

I can't say, in retrospect, exactly where the Eingorn Winawer fitted in with this scheme. I do know I have a liking for ...Kf8 in the French, it being the sort of eccentricity that's always pleased me and - perhaps with justice - that I've often thought opponents might find disconcerting and hard to play against. Such was certainly the case on this occasion, and why I didn't persist with it is a mystery which at this distance, I can't entirely resolve.

WHERE I FOUND IT: In keeping with the lapsed-memory theme of this piece, I'm not completely sure. (I was, as it happens, both quite unwell during this period, and in the process of changing life, career and the part of the country in which I lived, so it is not so surprising that much of the detail is lost to me.) I have a feeling that Ray, somewhere, devoted an article, or part of one, to the line, but that might be my imagination. I also wonder whether it may have featured in Wolfgang Heidenfeld's fine and undeservedly obscure Lacking The Master Touch, which was lent to me at the time and which comments on a number of eccentric lines in the French, e.g. 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e5 Ng8, with which the author once drew with Unzicker.

But I am sure the major source was McDonald and Harley's Mastering The French, which I bought despite never having liked - or, as far as I can recall, played - the French before. It's a nice and useful introduction (though what in God's name is the "read and play" method - does it mean "has illustrative games rather than variations"?) and I've played the French intermittently ever since, sometimes as my main defence against 1.e4, rather more often because I felt like a rest from 1...e5.

As I say, whether I intended it as my major defence or as an alternative against the lower-graded, I can no longer remember, though I suspect the latter. But I rolled out the French three times at Scarborough, the first time against 1.d4 which turned into an Exchange Variation, the third time being met with 2.b3 which turned into a Sicilian. But only on the second occasion, and only this once ever, did I get my Eingorn Winawer, which game was effectively over as soon as White had dropped a pawn with 11.Bd3?. (The fact that it continued until move 68 is presumably explicable only on the basis that I might have been in time-trouble. Unusually, the times aren't recorded in my scorebook, which suggests that I might have lost my scoresheet and had to borrow my opponent's to copy the game up. But the time control was at move 40 and only twenty minutes were then added to the clocks. So it's plausible enough.)

It was an easy win. Not just that, but one that came about pretty much as I'd planned, with an eccentric approach confusing my opponent. But I never tried it again.

WHY I STOPPED PLAYING IT: Who knows, for sure? But after the Harry Baines, my next six Blacks against 1.e4 were five Sicilians and a King's Gambit, and though the seventh was a French, it was a Classical. Changing my mind was what I did, at the time, so to ask what changed my mind is perhaps to miss the point.

But possibly I was never entirely convinced. Not by the Winawer generally, nor by the 7...Kf8 line. It's plausible that I didn't really want to adopt a defence on which no specialist book appeared to exist - though this didn't deter me from taking up the MacCutcheon a couple of years later - and I think that's a sound enough approach if you're looking to play something in the long term. It's also plausible that at the time, I was more or less inclined to adopt any defence on which I happened to find a new book.

Or, for that matter, a new article. I can remember seeing, about that time, an article by Mig Greengard on a game Polgar-Illescas, played in that year's Dos Hermanas tournament, in which Black crushed White by playing all around the knight on d5. That, too, was an idea I thought I could understand, there were books on it too (I have six) and I started playing it immediately. It didn't last, but it lasted longer than the Eingorn Winawer. Which was forgotten. Until now.

Or not, since on searching in Google for eingorn winawer the very first reference turns out to be to my own enquiry, from 2006, as to the present status of the line. Weird. That little nibble, too, I had completely forgotten.

CHANCES OF MY PLAYING IT AGAIN: As with the Czech Benoni, I can feel this twinge of fascination, and at the same time, a competing feeling of "better not". There's even some book coverage now, by Eingorn himself, though more in passing (according to Watson's review) than anything chunkier. And also, apparently, a chapter in Moskalenko's Wonderful Winawer. Perhaps that's not really enough, for the long-term. And perhaps the line itself isn't really convincing enough for the long-term.

And yet, perhaps, perhaps.

[Once was enough I,II, III]

[Thanks to Sean]

1 comment:

Jonathan B said...

Yeah, there's a chapter on this in Moskalenko's book.

I had my own 'once was enough' experience with this line back in March, albeit via the 6 ... Qa5, 7 Bd2 Qa4, 8 Qg4 Kf8 move order.

My opponent played 9 Nf3 - Moskalenko concentrates on 9 Qd1 but sacrificing the pawn always looked a good idea to me - and I took on c2 and brought my queen back to g6. Mosky says something about Black having enough resources in that variation, but I just ended up getting my queen trapped.

I doubt I'll be playing it again - not for a while. Shame really, since I like ... Qa5 against most other tries.