Dancing With The French

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.




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