Playing through a few of the top boards from each round at the World Open, there were a few games that caught my eye.
First up, Adams – Ehlvest, from round 4.
r4rk1/4pnbp/2pp1pp1/Pq6/2NPP1b1/P4N2/1B3PPP/2RQR1K1 w - - 0 18)
Ehlvest had just sacrificed a pawn on a5 (16…a5 17.bxa5 Bg4), and probably was banking on some loose pieces in White’s camp to recover it. It does look like the Nc4 is a bit overloaded, having to watch over the Bb2 and the pawn on a5, while the pin from the Bg4 might also be annoying with …Ng5 on tap.
Adams’s next move was a bit confusing at first, but there’s a reason he was consistently in the top 10 of the world. He played 18.h3!, and after 18…Bxf3 19.Qxf4 d5 20.exd5 cxd5, the position in the diagram below was reached:
r4rk1/4pnbp/5pp1/Pq1p4/2NP4/P4Q1P/1B3PP1/2R1R1K1 w - - 0 21)
White seems to have gotten himself in a bit of a pickle here, as the overloaded knight is now under attack. White’s next of 21.a4 makes some sense, but after 21…Qb7, it still looks like trouble – the knight is safe for the time being, but …Ng5 ends the pin on the d5-pawn, and playing 22.h4 is too slow because then Black just needs to guard his queen (with 22…Rfb8 for example), and then both minors are hanging. So what to do?
Adams uncorked the brilliant 22.Ba3! at this point (although the whole idea had to seen with 18.h3), seemingly ignoring the threat to his knight. After 22…Ng5 23.Qe2, the main line must be to take the knight, but Ehlvest found it didn’t work and played 23…Re8 instead. After 24.Rb1 Qa6 25.Nb6, White emerged a pawn up in the endgame and won without too much more trouble.
But what happens if Black takes the knight?
r4rk1/1q2p1bp/5pp1/P5n1/P1QP4/B6P/5PP1/2R1R1K1 b - - 0 24)
After 23…dxc4 24.Qxc4+, Black has three reasonable moves, none of which seem to work: