Sadler's French Winawer Guide

9/19/2013 – "The French Winawer (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4) has always been a blind spot of mine," writes English GM Matthew Sadler, the book reviewer at New in Chess magazine. But suddenly it seemed to him to give this opening one last chance." Could any of the books on the market convince him that the Winawer was worth playing? Or any of the DVDs, for that matter. Excerpts from Matthew's review.

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I’ve always been a little sceptical about chess DVDs. First of all, I find it tough sitting still in front of my computer screen without getting distracted and clicking somewhere else. I have always felt that I absorb much more information in five hours of reading a book than in five hours of listening to a DVD.

GM Matthew Sadler, book reviewer for New in Chess (photo Wikipedia)

However, maybe that’s also one of the strengths of the medium. You can easily get overwhelmed by all the variations in a book; a DVD is a great way of just getting the main points across. If the presenter does so in an engaging way, then that is also a great help for remembering them.

For example, I was watching Victor Bologan’s excellent Fit for the French. My complete White Repertoire DVD, in which he demonstrates one of his quick wins against the 7.Qg4 Kf8 line. He was so clearly unimpressed with this black variation, I just had to chuckle to myself. And lo and behold, all I have to do now is think of Victor, and I can reproduce the moves of the game perfectly despite having watched that chapter only once.

I also took a closer look at another DVD: Beating the French – Volume 1 by Rustam Kasimdzhanov. Both his and Bologan's DVD are presented from White's point of view. However, even if you only want to play the Winawer as Black, it can still be extremely useful to take a look. Both are fantastic summaries of the type of positions that White will be aiming to achieve against you!

Bologan manages a good mix of providing concrete variations for White while also imparting a few choice positional nuggets along the way. Kasimdzhanov selects a number of excellent illustrative games and I enjoyed his commentary greatly. It’s not difficult stuff, no long variations, just somebody who knows what he’s talking about telling you which positions are good and why.

After looking at these DVDs, I had a much clearer idea of which lines I would probably not want to be playing as Black! I also noticed that the black king isn’t always successful at defending himself. If I have to make one criticism, you might wonder whether Kasimdzhanov’s DVD actually fulfils its stated goal – to give White a complete repertoire against the Winawer – completely, as the treatment of the crazy main lines (7.Qg4 cxd4 8.Qxg7 Rg8 9. Qxh7 Qc7) is extremely brief. I wouldn’t recommend any White player venturing into these lines armed only with the material on this DVD. However, in all other respects, his DVD is a really good positional survey of the Winawer lines.

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Topics Review, Winawer
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