1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 The so called "Grand Prix Attack", a very popular anti-Sicilian at the amateur (in the sense of non-professional) level. I played it myself many years ago. It is supposed to lead to brilliant but easily conducted and somewhat formulaic attacks - part of its appeal, I imagine. In any event, it is clear that Aman was more than up to the task of handling it!
3...e6 4.Bb5 The positional approach. Will Aman see the threat?
4...Nge7! Indeed! Aman avoids the doubled pawns White was threatening to inflict on Black with Bxc6. The knight is intelligently placed here: it supports the crucial central advance ...d5, protects the c6 knight, and stays out of harm's way as in the case of ...Nf6, where the pawn could menace it with e5.
5.Nf3 a6 6.Bxc6 Nxc6 7.0-0 b5 The theoretical move is ...Be7, as played by Georgiev and Ivkov. However, b5 is highly thematic here (it was Georgiev's next move! See Vega-Georgiev 2008)
8.d3 Bb7 9.Be3 d5 Black fights actively for central space. Perhaps this is a bit risky with the king still in the center. Then again, IF the king is in danger, the burden is on White to prove it!
10.exd5 exd5 11.d4 [11.Re1!? Probably this is the best way. Notice that black can't respond with the "natural" 11...Be7 because of 12.Bxc5 ]
11...cxd4 I like ...c4, myself, not allowing the d4 square to become, in Nimzowitsch's famous term, a "transit square" for the White pieces. Also, with the white pawns remaining on f4 and d4 it seems that it would be more difficult for White to find useful employ for his dark-squared (e3) bishop. [11...c4 ]
12.Nxd4 Bc5 13.Re1 0-0 14.Nxc6 Bxe3+ 15.Rxe3 Bxc6 A classic imbalance has arisen and one that we studied at length in our June chess workshops!! Both sides will aim to create conditions that are favorable to the eccentricities of its own minor piece. Let's see how the drama unfolds!
16.Qd4 b4! boom! Black does not leave his pawns on the same color of his bishop to obstruct its movement. Instead, he harasses the comfortable White knight, removing it from its useful pressurizing of the center. At the same time, he has a clever tactic in mind. If White were greedy and captured the seemingly hapless pawn, he might be in for a rude awakening. Let's look:
17.Ne2 [17.Qxb4?! d4 Perhaps this was Aman's idea, injecting a full shot of espresso into the bishop which was formerly blocked on both diagonals. On the other hand, White can respond to a tactic with a tactic with the move 18.Rd3! pinning the White pawn! As it happens, White was not so daring as to grab the b-pawn, so Black's intentions are lost forever in the deep recesses of Aman's memory.]
17...Re8 18.Re1 Rxe3 19.Qxe3 Qh4 20.Qg3
20...Qxg3 the players acquiesce to a true endgame for their battleground. I'll leave it to the reader to ponder which minor piece the trading of queens favors. For more information on this theme, see our video lectures!
21.Nxg3 g6! In the spirit of the Father of positional Chess, Steinitz! Black restricts the knight's movements beautifully.
22.Re7 Rc8 23.Ne2 Kf8 24.Ra7 White's rook, on the other hand, might prove more of a nuisance.
24...Bb5 25.Nd4 The knight has executed a nice maneuver and has found a wonderful square for itself.
25...Rc4! double attack, and two crucial potential victims.
26.Nxb5 And with that, the drama of our imbalance has ended and a new type of ending arises, the pure rook and pawn ending! It was once said, I believe by Tarrasch, that "all rook endings are drawn". Fortunately for us it is not true, as these are also the most common kinds of endings.
26...axb5 27.Ra5 Rxc2 28.Rxb5 Rxb2 29.Rxd5 Rxa2 30.Rb5 a classic kind of position, reminiscent of Botvinnik-Borisenko from the USSR Championship in Moscow in 1955, Kasparov-Karpov in their Moscow World Championship in 1984/85, Alekhine Capablanca from their Beunos Aires World Championship game 34 in 1927, Leko vs. Anand from Linares 2003, and undoubtedly the list goes on! Of course, in those cases the pawn was always completely on the rim. I'll have to leave it to the reader to engage with most of the subtleties of this highly complex position. For more information on these sorts of positions, check out our video lectures on our video lecture page!
30...Rb2 31.Kf1 Kg7 32.Rb7 Kf6 33.g4 h6 34.Rb6+ Kg7 35.h4 Rh2 36.h5 gxh5 37.gxh5 Rxh5 38.Rxb4 Rf5 39.Kg2 Kg6 40.Kg3 Kh5 41.Rb7 f6 42.Rb1 Kg6 43.Rg1 Kh5 1/2-1/2