Today’s game comes from the Russian Higher League, 9-round Swiss played in the city of Yaroslavl. It is one of the qualifying tournaments (the top five move on) for the Russian Championship, titled Russian Championship Superfinal, that runs at the end of the year.
I must admit that I had not heard of either of these players before. It seems that Russia and before it, the USSR, is just full of 2600+ players hoping to get a shot at the big time, and the Russian Championship is a good first step toward that. By the way, the ever-popular Peter Svidler will be going for his ninth Russian title this year.
In the game, Black, under some pressure and in his eagerness to keep lines closed around his king, overlooks a powerful sacrifice that more or less ends the game in White’s favor.
2018 Russian Higher League, Yaroslavl, Russia
Mikhail Kobalia (2608) – David Paravyan (2634)
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.f3 Long thought a rather dull choice for White. These days it seems just a prelude to the rather dangerous English Attack, 6.Be3 6...e6 6...e5 is the more popular choice 7.g4 b5 8.a3 A true rarity. 8.Be3 is by far the more popular choice 8...h6?! Why waste a tempo on this as well as giving White a hook on his kingside? Better is just 9…Be7 9.h4 Be7 10.Be3 Nfd7 11.Bf2 Qc7 12.Qd2 Ne5 13.Be2 Nbd7 14.0–0–0 Rb8 15.Rh3 Nc4 16.Qe1 0–0 17.f4 g6!? I wonder about this move, as the idea is to keep lines closed on the kingside with h5 in response to g5, but it doesn’t work. I wondered if 17…b4 worked, but sadly no: 18.axb4 Rxb4 (18...d5 19.exd5 Qxf4+ 20.Kb1 Rxb4 21.b3 Nde5 22.Ka2 Bc5 23.Bg1 Na3 24.Be3 Qf6 25.Ne4 Qd8 26.Kxa3 Rxb3+ 27.Kxb3 Qxd5+ 28.c4 Qxe4 29.Qh1 and Black is just down a rook with no compensation.) 19.Nd5 wins. Maybe 17…Kh8 is a better approach when after 18.g5 Nc5 19.gxh6 gxh6 20.f5 Bf6 is a better approach 18.g5 h5 19.Bxh5! A bolt from the blue that even the engines, for the most part, didn't consider. 19...gxh5 20.Qe2 Though there is nothing immediate, Black's kingside is rather drafty; he has to worry about g6 breakthroughs and there are always Nf5/Nd5 sacrifices in the air. 20...b4?! Too slow 20...d5 was necessary, with the idea of giving the piece back right away: 21.e5 Ndxe5 22.fxe5 Qxe5 (22...Rb7 23.Re1 Bc5 24.Qxh5 Nxb2 25.g6 fxg6 26.Rg3 Qh7 27.Rxg6+ Rg7 (27...Kh8 28.Rh6 Bxa3 29.Kb1 Rxf2 30.Rg1) 28.Rh6) 23.Nc6 Qc7 24.Nxe7+ Qxe7 25.Nxd5 exd5 26.Qxe7 Bxh3 27.Qf6 Rbe8 28.Bd4 There are lots of other lines but they are very murky, and you can understand why Black shied away from them but now he just gets mowed down. Sometimes, lines need to be chosen not based on specificity but with the thought, "Well, it can't be any worse than what is going to happen to me." 21.Nf5! exf5 21...Bd8 22.Nh6+ Kg7 23.axb4 Rxb4 24.Bd4+ Nde5 (24...e5 25.Qxh5 Ndb6 26.Bxb6 Nxb6 27.f5 With a winning attack) 25.Nb1 Attack and Defend 25...Nxb2 26.Bxb2 Qb7 27.Rb3 Qxe4 28.Qxe4 Rxe4 29.fxe5 dxe5 30.Rg1, which should be winning for White 22.Nd5 Qd8 23.Qxh5 Nde5 Anything to stop g6; i.e.; 23...a5? 24.g6 Nf6 25.Nxf6+ Kg7 26.Rg3 Ne5 27.gxf7+ Ng4 28.Qh7+ Kxf6 29.Bd4+ Ke6 30.Qxf5# 24.fxe5 Nxe5 25.Bd4 bxa3 26.Bxe5 dxe5 27.g6 Black now gave up as after 27...fxg6 28.Qxg6+ Kh8 29.Rg1 axb2+ 30.Kb1 Rf7 31.Qxf7 Qf8 32.Qh5+ he gets mated;1–0