The French Defense has a long history and one that intrigued me as a child when studying MCO6. The game Kramnik vs. Buhmann, Dortmund 2016, was a slugfest and one which Vladimir Kramnik contributed to NEW IN CHESS.
The subject of grandmaster draws arose years ago with a number of essays suggesting ways to remedy the number of Grandmaster draws. Many suggestions were made without any being practical. The vast improvement in chess clock technology largely solved the problem. Games are still won, lost or drawn but the fighting spirit to find victory the ultimate reward for a well played game, often cherished by both players, can be seen in this Dortmund chess struggle.
White: V. Kramnik vs. Black: R. Buhmann French Defense
l. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Be7 7. Be3 b6 8. Qd2 O-O 9. h4! With anticipation that if 9….c:d4 10. N:d4 B:h4+? 11. g3! leaves Black castled position in hoc.
9. … Nc6 10. Bb5 Qc7 11. O-O-O a6 12. Bd3 f5 Needed to stop B:h7+ = mating attack.
13. g4 c4 14. g:f5 Best was 14. B:f5! e:f5 15. Qg2 a computer find leading to a won game.
14. … c:d3 15. f:e6 Ndb8 16. N:d5 Qd8 17. N:e7+ N:e7 18. Ng5 h6 19. Q:d3 Black has been finding the best defense at each turn. As often happens with me (VK) optimism got the best of me and justifiably so with the looks of White’s attack.
19. … h:g5 20. h:g5 B:e6 21. Qh7+ Kf7 22. d5 This move is not bad but puts VK in a state of expecting a resignation at any moment. In combination with …
22. … Bf5 23. e6? Played without thinking. White misses 23. g6+ Ke8 24. Q:g7 Qc7 Rd2 N:d5 26. Qh6! Qc6 27. g7 Rg8 28. e6 Q:e6 29. Qh5+ Ke7 30. B:b6! and White is winning. Now, VK misses a neat trick.
23. …Ke8 24. Q:g7 Qc7 25. Rh2 N:d5 26. Q:f8+ K:f8 27. R:d5 Bh7 28. b3! Ke8 29. g6 B:g6 30. Rh8+ Ke7 31. f5 B:f5 32. R:f5 Qc3! 33. Bg5+ Ke6 34. Rf6+ Q:f6 35. B:f6 K:f6 36. Rh6+ Ke5 37. R:b6 Kd5 38. Kb2 Nc6 39. a3 Kc5 40. Rb7 Rg8 41. Rh7 Rg2 42. Rh5+ Kd6 43. Kc3 43…Rg3+ 44. Kb2 Rg2 Draw agreed.
“A fascinating game that I quite enjoyed. I had wanted to win, of course, but I was not all that disappointed that it ended in a draw, because to play such an incredibly sharp and crazy game is always a joy. There were a lot of spectators, and they rose for an ovation at the end. I only regretted playing 29. g6, because if I had played 29. Kb2 stopping Qc3 and won, sacrificing a queen for a piece and a slow attack, would have been like a Tal game played at his peak.”–Vladimir Kramnik.
Such are webs weaved by human intelligence.
The text of VK’s personal notes to the game can be found in NEW IN CHESS, pages 86-91, 2016#6.
The complexity of this game and crucial decisions to create a plan, and seeing ideas put into the struggle by both players, exists in every chess battle and is a part of game enrichment.