Szymon Winawer was one of the top 10 players in the world in the 1870s and 1880s, dueling with titans such as Steinitz, Lasker, Anderssen, Marshall, Chigorin, Zukertort, Paulsen, Janowski, Maroczy, Tarrasch and others, and defeating most of the major players of his era. He won or took prizes at major international tournaments, including Paris 1867 (second, behind Kolisch and above Steinitz), Leipzig 1877 (fourth, behind Paulsen, Anderssen and Zukertort), Paris 1878 (first equaled with Zukertort, although he lost the play-off), Berlin 1881 (third equaled with Chigorin, behind Blackburne and Zukertort), Vienna 1882 (first equaled with Steinitz) and Nuremberg 1883 (first, ahead of Blackburne).
Winawer was an advocate of fighting chess, regularly deploying the King and Ruy Lopez Gambit with white, demonstrating winning combinations as well as positional sacrifices and accuracy in the finals. He attacked the castled king with his pawn h 150 years before Alphazero. He demonstrated technique using Horowitz pins and opening the g-column. At the same time, we see in the book that he also played solid positional chess. In addition, several opening ideas bear his name, including the popular Winawer Variation of the French Defence.
The Warsaw-born player was not a professional chess player and never published his own commented matches, but some of his concepts, both in the opening and in the middle game, are still valid in the 21st century. In fact, many of the strategic ideas (blocking, exploitation of bent pawns, maneuvers) described in the works of Nimzowitsch and other hypermodernists can be found, in embryonic form, in the Winawer games played half a century earlier.
In the first half of this biographical work, Warsaw-based chess historian Tomasz Lissowski, co-author of books on Kieseritzky and Zukertort, among others, portrays Winawer's life and his sporting achievements in the context of the era. This book offers not only a description of the evolution of chess in Poland in the 19th century, but also a sense through the prism of chess of the political and social history of Poland and the Austro-Hungarian, German and Russian empires in a period of war and turmoil. It is illustrated by many historical photos from the time.
In the second half of this book, International Master Grigory Bogdanovich paints a creative portrait of Winawer, as well as examining the legacy this ingenious improviser left to chess culture. The book contains a total of 132 instructional commentaries and fragments by Winawer and his contemporaries.