Ehlvest goes berserk! Nakamura's queen sacrifice in the second round of the U.S. Championships must have made a strong impression on his opponent, Jaan Ehlvest. A mere, three rounds later Ehlvest himself sacrificed his queen for bishop and knight against Varuzhan Akobian. Unfortunately for Ehlvest, his moment of inspiration did not work out very well.
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 Nf6 4. Bd3 c5 5. e5 Nfd7 6. c3 Nc6 7. Ngf3 Qb6 8. O-O cxd4 9. cxd4 Nxd4 10. Nxd4 Qxd4 11. Nf3 Qb6 12. Qa4 Qb4 13. Qc2 Nc5 14. Bd2 Qa4 15. b3 Qd7 16. Nd4 Qd8 17. Rac1 Bd7 18. Be2 Ne4 19. Nb5 Bc5
Ehlvest has sacrificed a pawn in a French Tarrasch, but does not appear to have much compensation in this position. The only thing he really has going for him is that Black's king is still in the center. White's knight is ready to harass the king from d6, but Black's dark-squared bishop and knight are both covering that square. But how can White deflect them from the defense of d6? 20. Be3 seems like a plausible move. There are then a lot of potential variations to evaluate:
a. 20...a6? 21. Bxc5 Bxb5 22. Bxb5+ axb5 23. Bb4 gives White a nice advantage, with the Black king stuck in the center, strong dark-square control, and the Black knight in danger of being trapped.
b. 20...Rc8 21. Bxc5 Rxc5 22. Nd6+ Kf8 23. Qb2 Rxc1 24. Rxc1 Nxd6 25. exd6 Bc6 26. Qe5 and White has good compensation for the pawn, because Black's rook isn't in play.
c. 20...Bxe3 21. Nc7+ Ke7 22. fxe3 Rc8 23. Bd3 Bc6 24. Bxe4 Qxc7 (24...dxe4?? allows 25. Qc5+ Kd7 26. Qd6 mate!) 25. Bd3 Qxe5 26. Qc5+ Ke8 27. Qxa7 seems unclear. Black is up a pawn but his king is stuck in the center. White queen is off-side while Black's is nicely centralized. White also has to watch out for his king's position.
In any event, 20. Be3 seems playable, although there were a lot of complicated variations to evaluate. Ehlvest's way of breaking through to the d6 square is more elegant:
20. Qxc5?!?! Nxc5 21. Nd6+ Ke7 22. Rxc5
20 hours ago