We will see an interesting fighting game where White sacrificed an exchange and even went to b4 with his king, but somehow still won the game!
1.e4 d6 Chatalbashev is one of the few players who love to play the Pirc.
2.d4Nf63.Nc3g64.Be3 This is one of the main lines. White does not hesitate and develops the queenside pieces quickly in order to be able to castle queenside.
4…Bg7 [4…c6 and; 4…a6 are the two other main lines here.]
5.Qd2 White’s idea is simple, to play Bh6 at some point or to castle queenside, followed by an attack in the center.
5…c6 [White should not be afraid of moves like 5…Ng4 because of the simple 6.Bg5 h6 7.Bh4 g5 8.Bg3 and White
6.h3 I am not sure about this move. We would be back in the main lines after 6.Bh6.
6…O-O Now Black can comfortably castle kingside. Usually White’s idea would be to play h4-h5, but it is clear that after 6.h3 it would at least be a loss of a tempo.
7.Nf3 e5 Black tries to immediately create some play in the center. [Personally I think a move like 7…b5 followed by Nbd7 and only later e5 also gives Black a playable position.]
8.O-O-O Now White already wants to play dxe5 next.
8…exd4 9.Bxd4 [After 9.Nxd4 9…b5! we end up in a very unlcear position.]
9…Re8 10.Qf4 A very logical move, protecting the e4 pawn and also putting extra pressure on the d6 pawn.
10…b5 Black finally plays b5. He wants to play b4 next.
11.e5!? White is entering deep complications. [Another interesting try could have been 11.Bc5 11…Qa5 12.Bxd6 and now Black has the nice 12…Nh5! (12…b4 was losing to 13.Bc7!) 13.Qg5 And White might be better, but things are pretty unclear.]
11…Nh5 The white queen has to take a passive place.
12.Qh2 dxe5 [Including 12…b4 would not bring anything for Black. 13.Ne4]
13.Bxe5 Nd7! A good move. At first sight White’s position looks much better, but things are pretty unclear. Black can be very fast with Qa5 and b4 and the white queen on h2 is not a great piece.
14.Bxg7Nxg715.Bd3 White is planning to play Ne4 after b4 and he develops a piece at the same time.
15…Qa5 Now b4 move is a threat.
16.Rhe1! There is no time to lose! [After the usual 16.Kb1 16…Nc5 the position should be around equal.]
16…Rxe1 [After the tempting 16…b4 17.Ne4! looks very strong. 17…Qxa2 18.Qd6! Another very strong move. The position is complicated, but White should be better.]
17.Rxe1 Nc5 Black almost finished his development.
18.Qd6 There is no better try for White.
18…Nxd3+ 19.cxd3 Be6! Black is done with his development, all pieces are in the game and he has a solid structure. Black can’t be much worse here.
20.Ne5? A very tricky move, but probably a mistake. [White should have tried to get control over the black squares by playing 20.a3! followed by d4 and Qc5. White’s position might be a bit better.]
20…b4! Now things are getting pretty forced.
21.Nxc6 The only move.
22…Qh4! This is probably the move that Akopian missed when he played 20.Ne5?. Both the rook on e1 and the knight on c3 are attacked, so White already has no choice but to give up the exchange.
23.Rxe6 Nxe6 24.Nd5! A good practical move. White doesn’t care about “gambling” anymore and is ready to run with his king, in the hope to get good play on the dark squares. As we know, the queen and knights can be very dangerous pieces in the attack.
24…Qe1+ A logical move. The white king needs to run now.
25.Kc2 Qe2+ 26.Kb3 Qxd3+ 27.Kxb4 So far everything was forced.
27…a5+! Another nice move by Black. The position is still very tense. Black needs to play very precisely because the white pieces could become very dangerous.
28.Ka4 Kg7? This is a serious mistake! Black hands the initiative over to White. [It was much easier to play 28…Qc2+ 29.Ka3 Qc5+ and reach an endgame where Black is clearly better.]
29.Qe5+ Now it is White’s turn to attack!
29…Kh6 30.Ne3 Ng4 is a deadly threat.
30…f5?? Black panics… [After 30…Qe4+! 31.Qxe4 Nc5+ 32.Kb5 Nxe4 we would still reach a very interesting endgame. It is hard to say who is better here… ]
31.Qxe6 Simple and strong! The game is over now…
31…Ra6 32.g4 What a sad end of a fighting game for Black!