We will see a nice fighting game with some mistakes, but that is normal. After a slightly unusual opening the game quickly turned into a complicated position. Black managed to reach a solid advantage and was even close to be “much” better, but a very nice queen sacrifize saved the game for Maze.
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 In an open tournament like Gibraltar the fighting spirit of the players is especially high. The first price in this tournament is 20.000 Pounds! That’s why often openings like the Paulsen are being played, instead of for example the rock solid Berlin.
3.d3 Maze decides to quickly leave the main lines. Actually this is often a wrong decision for the “weaker” player. In an unclear position it is easier for the “stronger”player to outplay his opponent than in a long line of theory, where the game starts much later.
3…Nc6 4.g3 Nge7 A rarely played setup. [More usual is 4…d5 5.Bg2 Nf6 6.Nbd2 Be7 7.O-O O-O and we are back to a position with thousands of games being played.]
5.Bg2 g6 Black wants to get an even nicer version by putting the bishop on g7 and later playing d5.
6.h4!? A very interesting idea by White to try and gain a tempo by provoking the h6 move.
6…h6 [6…h5 would abandon the g5 square. 7.Bg5 Bg7 8.c3 And White might be a bit better.]
7.O-O Bg7 8.c3 To “kill” the g7 bishop is usually a good idea.
8…O-O 9.Re1 White’s idea is to play e5 next. [After 9.Be3 9…b6 10.Qd2 we can see that the h6 pawn is under attack, giving White a development tempo. 10…Kh7 11.d4 Ba6 It seems like Black also has good play here.; 9.d4 would lead to another unclear position: 9…cxd4 10.cxd4 d5 11.e5 Black quickly opens the f-line. 11…f6! With very unclear play.]
9…e5 is directed against White’s e5 and d4 moves. [Another option was to play 9…d5 10.e5 b5 With an unclear game. Now White’s plan would probably be Nbd2-Nf1-Nh2-Ng4 andBlack would rush on the queenside.]
10.Be3b611.Qd2 And now we see why the h6 pawn is useful for White: he could play Qd2 with a tempo.
11…Kh7 12.d4 There is no time to waste! [After a slow move like 12.Na3 12…d5! only Blackcould probably be better here.] 12…exd4! A good move. Black activates his bishop from g7.
13.cxd4 d5 That is the idea. White’s center is starting to get shaky.
14.e5 [14.exd5 was not better as after 14…Nxd5 15.Ne5 Bb7 White can be in trouble.]
14…Bg4 Black continues putting pressure on the d4 square.
15.Na3! A good move. White wants to play Nc2 or Nb5 next to gain control over the d4 square.
15…Bxf3 And Black is going for the forced continuation. [Another idea could have been 15…Nf5 16.dxc5 Now Black has a lot of complicated options but the most simple one is 16…Nxe317.Qxe3bxc518.Qxc5Rc8! Black’s initiative should give him some plus here.]
16.Bxf3 Nf5 17.dxc5 White’s moves are forced.
18.Bg2?! Maze shows too much respect for his stronger opponent. [White was just in time for 18.Qxd5 18…Qf6 and now the very difficult to find 19.Nc4! probably saves the game for White. The position should be close to equal.]
18…Ng4! Excellent play by Navara! The black knights are basically crushing White’s position.
19.Nc2 There is no other way for White to go on.
19…Bxb2 Cool and strong.
20.Rad1Qf6 Another move with tempo. Black’s threat is Bc3 now.
21.Qe2 It is easy to see that White is in big trouble but the game is still not over and Black needs to continue playing accurately to keep the advantage.
21…Ngxe3 22.Nxe3 Nxe3 23.Qxe3 Bc3 [23…Rae8 would lead to a similar position as in the game: 24.Qxe8 Rxe8 25.Rxe8 Bd4]
24.Re2 Rae8? A very logical looking move, but probably the final mistake. After this the game is a draw. [Black would keep winning chances after 24…d4 25.Qd3 Rae8 and the game would be either a draw or a win for Black.]
25.Qxe8! An excellent decision by White. At first sight the position looks lost, but in fact it is very close to a draw.
26.Rxe8 Bd4 This is what Navara was hoping for, but White had another strong move up his sleeve…
27.Rxd4! This is the only move that saves the game. [27.Rf1 would lose immediately after 27…bxc5 28.Bxd5 Qd6! followed by Qg3.]
28.c6 If there was no white c-pawn the game would immediately be over, but there is this “beast” and Black objectively doesn’t have anything better than a draw.
28…Qd1+ Navara plays the best move but it is already not enough.
29.Kh2 Qc2 30.Bxd5 Protecting the c6 pawn.
30…Qxf2+ 31.Bg2 White still wants to play c7.
31…Qc5 32.Rd8! A good plan and the most simple! Black has no defence against White’s draw idea.
32…Kg7 33.Rd7 b5 The b-pawn is running…
34.c7 b4 35.Bb7! White is forcing a draw.
36.Kh1 [36.Kh3 36…Qf5+ 37.Kg2 would also lead to a draw after 37…Qc2+]
41.Kh2 Qc2+ And Black doesn’t have anything better than to give a perpetual check. A lucky survival for White, but we learned a very useful queen sacrifice idea.