After notching my first in round 6, I was hoping I had turned the corner, but in round 7, I was knocked back down by GM Jaan Ehlvest (2591 FIDE). Ehlvest and I have played a number of interesting games – this was the 5th game between us, and the 4th where he had the white pieces. The first two times around, I outplayed him in different lines of the French Defense, and since then, he has not tried 1.e4 against me.
The first few opening moves were the same as in my game against Altounian from round 4 (1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 c6 3.Bg2), and I decided to go with the …Bg4 setup instead of the …Bf5 setup I used in that previous game. I wasn’t expecting the King’s Indian Attack (Jaan can play just about anything), and I had not really reviewed the opening phase of that game in between, so I figured he had found what both Altounian and I suspected was there (a small advantage for white). Unfortunately, what I tried in this game also didn’t quite equalize.
r2q1rk1/pp1nbppp/2p2n2/8/4P1b1/2N2NP1/PPQ2PBP/R1B2RK1 b - - 0 11)
White has played the KIA with c4, cxd5, and then Qc2 and e4. With a little more space and central control, White has a definite plus. It’s nothing amazing, but Jaan likes to work with small positional advantages like this and it was definitely not what I was hoping to get from the opening. In the two games where I had the most success against him, I had quickly created dynamic imbalances and then outplayed him in complications later on. Here, I’d have to sit and defend for a while – not something I’m unfamiliar with, just not something that I’d like to do.
r1q1rbk1/1p3pp1/2p2n1p/p1n5/3NP3/1PN3P1/P1Q2PKP/2BRR3 b - - 0 19)
White has just played 19.b2-b3. I thought I had done well to get here from the first diagram above, as the bishop exchange has relieved some congestion and the flank pawn moves (…h6 and …a5) have covered my knights against some annoying threats. Still, White has the more space and a more harmonious position. Black’s main question is how to finish his development and I didn’t answer this properly.
I played 19…Qc7, and after 20.Nf5 Rad8 21.Bf4, I went back to c8 with the queen. Jaan didn’t increase the pressure accurately, and that is why I equalized later on.