It’s funny how some tournaments are full of exciting, entertaining games while others aren’t. The B group at Tata Steel is one example, and so is this year’s Aeroflot Open. Today’s game is the third game of the week from the event. It features one of this column’s favorites, the wonderfully indifferent Ukrainian, Anton Korobov, and the veteran Moldavian GM Viktor Bologan. It features another nondescript queen’s pawn opening, where White seems to be making progress on the queen side. But looks are deceiving here, when, after a clever exchange sacrifice by Black, the tables are turned and Black wins with a very pleasant king-side attack.
2018 Aeroflot Open, Moscow, Russia
Anton Korobov (2664) - Victor Bologan (2600)
1.d4 d6 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 g6 4.g3 Bf5 An offbeat choice. The more popular choice is 4…Bg7 5.Bg2 Qc8 6.Qb3 Bg7 7.Nc3 0–0 8.Nh4!? Taking some time to exchange off the bishop. Or it could be a tacit draw offer after 8...Bd7 9.Nf3 Bf5 etc. 8...Nc6!? Very energetic. Not caring about the two bishops, Black continues his development. 9.Nxf5 Qxf5 10.e3 d4 is attack after all. An interesting computer line is: 10.e4 Qh5 11.Be3 Ng4 12.Rd1 e5 13.d5 Nd4 14.Bxd4 exd4 15.Ne2 f5 16.Nf4 Qh6 17.e5 Bxe5 18.h3 Nf6 (18...Bxf4 19.hxg4 Rae8+ 20.Kf1 Qg7 21.gxf4 fxg4 22.Qg3 h5) 19.Ne6 Rf7 20.f4 10...e5 11.d5 Na5 12.Qa4 b6 13.e4 Qc8 14.b4 After this it does seem that White is making progress on the queen side with Black’s knight “trapped” on b7 and his queen on c8 but looks are deceiving. 14...Nb7 15.Qa6 Nd7 Preparing not only the attacking f5 but evicting White’s queen from a6. 16.Bd2 f5 17.h4?! I think White is misevaluating the position. I don’t think he has time for this foray; better was just 17.0–0 17...Nb8! Out, out White queen. 18.Qa4 a5! Black seizes the initiative. White probably thought his next was good enough. 19.a3 axb4! A very nice exchange sacrifice. After this White is constantly backpedaling. 20.Qxa8 bxc3 21.Bxc3 Nc5 Always a nice square for a black knight 22.0–0 Nxe4 23.Bxe4?! Not a good idea to give up those White squares. Better was 23.Bb4 23...fxe4 24.Rae1? Careless. He needs to keep Black’s queen out of h3. So, 24.Kh2 was necessary. Though after 24.Kh2 Bh6 25.Rae1 Qg4 26.Qb7 e3 27.Qxc7 e2 Black is still winning 24...Qh3 The computer evaluation is now that Black is virtually winning. The queen on h3 really makes White’s life miserable 25.Rxe4 Nd7 Here comes the knight with tempo 26.Qa4 Rf3! Not only attacking the bishop on c3 but building pressure on g3. 27.Qc2 Nf6 At least winning the exchange back as if the rook moves, Ng4 wins. 28.Bb4 Nh5! 28...Nxe4 29.Qxe4 Qf5 30.Qxf5 gxf5 When Black is still better but it will be a slog to get the point. 28…Nh5 leads to a winning attack as the pressure on g3 is becoming too much for White to meet. 29.Qb1 Bh6 30.a4 What else? 30...Nf4! 31.Rxf4 31.gxf4 Qg4+ 32.Kh1 Rh3# 31...Bxf4 Not 31...exf4 as it allows White to exchange queens after 32.Qe4 fxg3 33.Qe6+ Qxe6 34.dxe6 Rxf2 35.Rxf2 Be3 36.Kf1 gxf2 when White is still winning but it’s much longer. White now resigned as after 32.Be1 Bxg3 33.fxg3 Rxf1#; 0–1