This just in from today’s US Championship:
IM (GM-elect) Robert Hess – GM Melikset Khachiyan Keres Attack
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 d6 6. g4 h6 7. Bg2 Nc6 8. g5 A very old lunge, a little bit schizophrenic. White starts slowly (7. Bg2) then switches gears and charges, splintering his own pawn structure. Khachiyan, an experienced GM, starts by playing the right moves.
8…hxg5 9. Bxg5 Bd7 10. Nb3 a6 11. Qe2 Be7 So far, so good.
12…b5 This is fundamentally risky. As solid Swedish GM Ulf Anderssen exquisitely showed in the 1970s, black should be hiding his king on the queenside then working on potential weaknesses caused by white’s early advances. Very solid is 12…Qc7! 13. O-O-O O-O-O and now, for eample, 14. f4 is met by the effective 14…Nh5! aiming at g3. 15. Bxe7 Nxe7 16. Qf2 Kb8 is fully equal. It’s a matter of personal preference, but I would enjoy playing that setup hoping to expose the negative side of white’s kingside pawn splintering. The text move hands black a permanent, difficult, task, with the king in the middle. Maybe Khachiyan was too young (!) to properly recall Ulf’s grand efforts? On the other hand, as the note to black’s 17th shows, he had a narrow path to stay balanced even with the risky king. This move almost warrants a dubious ?! symbol but since it stays afloat with brave play, I will refrain. It is indeed dubious if the player has less than peak energy levels that day.
13. a3 Nh5! The same motif as in the old Anderssen games. Black is OK.
14. O-O-O White might as well try this pawn sacrifice which is totally riskless.
14…Bxg5+ 15. hxg5 Qxg5+ 16. Kb1 Ke7 Black’s king is secure for the time being, but one miscue will mean death (as occurred!). 16…g6 is a move here, but black still has that king placement problem.
The key moment. Black should stay compact.
17…Nf4?? Tempting but losing. He had to play 17…Nf6. In that case, black is all right. For example, 18. Rhg1 is met by the calm 18…Qf4 19. Rxg7 Ne5 and it’s balanced. Black will play Rag8 next to get rid of the intruder.
18. Qd2 Qe5 19. Nd5+! Crushing. The rest is agony. It’s impossible to say what black missed tactically but it must have been something simple.
19…exd5 20. exd5 Rxh1 21. Rxh1 Nd8 22. Re1 f6 23. Rxe5+ fxe5 24. Nd4 Rc8 25. c3 g5 26. Qe3 Kf6 27. Ne2 Bf5+ 28. Ka1 Nxe2 29. Bxe2 Rc5 30. Qf3 e4 31. Qh1 Nf7 32. Qd1 Ne5 33. Qd4 g4 34. b4 Rc8 35. a4 bxa4 36. Bxa6 Rh8 37. b5 e3 38. b6 Rh1+ 39. Ka2 exf2 40. Qxf2 Rh8 41. b7 Rg8 42. Qb6 Nd7 43. Qxd6+ Kg5 44. Bd3 1-0