The Greatest French Defense Ever Played - Best Of The 70s - Reshevsky vs. Vaganian, 1976
Can you name a better French Defense game?

The Greatest French Defense Ever Played - Best Of The 70s - Reshevsky vs. Vaganian, 1976

NM SamCopeland

Rafael Vaganian was a tremendous player of Karpov's generation who was one of the strongest players in the world for a decade. Unfortunately, with Karpov and then Kasparov dominating the lists, he was never able to make a serious run at the world championship title, but he played lots of exciting and inspired chess in his career.

The following game against Sammy Reshevsky is one of the great masterpieces in the French Defense, possibly the greatest game ever won by the black side. Reshevsky plays theoretically, but the theory of the time proves flawed as Vaganian finds a series of four utterly brilliant sacrifices to blow Reshevsky off the board.

Top 10 Games of the 1970s

In the opening, Reshevsky selects the ambitious 5.f4 which attempts to seize full control of the center at the cost of king safety and development. If White treads carefully, the opening is playable, but when Reshevsky makes a few subtle missteps, Vaganian breaks out with consecutive stunning moves: 14...e5!!, 15...Ndxe5!!, 16...Bh4+!!, and 17...Rxf3!!


  • The queen belongs on b6 in most French positions.
  • If you are (for valid reasons) neglecting development and king safety, you must be VERY cautious, examining all checks captures and sacrifices.
  • Know your checkmates. Vaganian needed to quickly spot multiple mating patterns to get the win.

Annotations are below. Don't miss the many pretty checkmates!

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