I played this Sunday my regular G/90 and my 2-month effort learning/trying online French defense culminated in playing it for the first time OTB. My opponent is rated 100 lower, I am playing Black.
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. Bd3 c5 6. c3 Nc6 7. Ngf3 cxd4 8. cxd4 f6, next move takes me by surprise – 9. O-O ( though, actually, it’s a 3rd choice from the book)
9. … fxe5. I decide to take the pawn, not that I knew the stats from chesslive.de – +10-3=2. Basically, accepting this pawn sacrifice requires precise play, which I don’t demonstrate.
10. dxe5 Ndxe5 11. Bb5 Bd7 12. Re1 Bd6 – mistake, much better was 12. … Nf7 13. Nb3 Bb4 14. Bxc6 bxc6 15. Bd2 Bd6 – -0.76.
Now a forced ( almost ) line follows – 13. Nxe5 Nxe5 14. Bxd7+ Qxd7 15. Rxe5 Bxe5 16. Qh5+ Qf7 17. Qxe5 O-O. Crafty gives here – 0.91. I felt bad at that point and it took me some time to recover.
18. Nf3 Rac8 19. Be3 Qg6 20. Nd4 Rce8 21. Rc1 Rf7 22. h3 a6 23. Rc7 23. Rc7 h6 24. Rxf7 Qxf7
25. a4 Re7 26. b4 Qg6 27. b5 axb5 28. axb5 Qf7 29. Bd2 Kh7 30. b6 Qf6
I had a feeling that without queens my life would be easier. I just found in the excellent article “The Evaluation of Material Imbalances” by IM Larry Kaufman a solid confirmation of that : “in the case of two minor pieces vs. rook and pawns; the side with the rook wants very much to trade major pieces, even if he is a bit behind in material. Why this should be so is subject to debate; my explanation is that having more than one major piece is somewhat redundant – in many games there may only be time to employ one major piece on an open rank or file. Having at least one major piece (preferably a rook) to bring to an open line may be critical.”
31. f4 Qxe5 32. fxe5 Kg6 33. Kf2 Kf7 34. Ke3 Rd7 35. g4 Rd8 36. Nb5 Ra8 37. Kd4 Ke7
38. h4 – Crafty’s estimate goes here from 2.5 to ~ 1.0. 38. … Kd7 – I want first to secure my pawn, Crafty wants Ra4+, then Kd7, no big difference. I had time advantage at this time, something like 20+/15. Playing pretty fast, at the same time I tried to “watch my back”. 39. Kc5 Rc8+ 40. Nc7 Rf8 41. h5 Rf2
42. Be3 Rc2+ 43. Kb4 – mistake, much better was 43. Kd4 Rc4+ 44. Kd3 Rxg4 45. Nb5 Rh4 46. Nd6 Kc6 47. Nf7 Kd7 48. Nd6 Kc6 – draw
43. … Rc4+ 44. Ka5 White resigned
OK, so I survived :), meaning the opening survived too, which is good news because I like it. Good news was also my tournament performance rating, which should get my rating over 1700 for the first time ( I will know exactly in 2 days).