Was the Initiative Enough?

Round three in Tashkent saw three decisive games. In the following one White sacrificed a pawn early in the opening. Was the sacrifice good enough for an advantage? Or at least for a level game?
Check out for yourselves:
A game that I liked (ChessBase 12)

[Event "Tashkent FIDE GP"]
[Site "Tashkent UZB"]
[Date "2014.10.23"]
[Round "3"]
[White "Kasimdzhanov, R."]
[Black "Jobava, Ba"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C10"]
[WhiteElo "2706"]
[BlackElo "2717"]
[Annotator "Bojkov, Dejan"]
[PlyCount "66"]
[EventDate "2014.10.20"]

1. e4 e6 {Baadur Jobava came to Tashkent immediately after the Unive
tournament in Netherlands. He replaced the Iranian GM Ghaem Maghami as the
Tehran withdraw from hosting one of the events at the very last moment. The
Iranian capital was replaced by the Georgian one as a host city and this
certainly added flavour to the current Grand Prix. Jobava is an extremely
original player.} 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bd7 5. Nf3 Bc6 6. Bd3 Nd7 7. O-O
Ngf6 8. Ng3 g6 {[%cal Gf8g7] Diagram [#] A very interesting idea of the
Swedish GM Hillarp Persson. It should not come as a surprise for Kasimdzhanov
as his opponent had already used it twice this year.} (8... Be7 {is the common
choice for the second player. Later he will capture on f3 and build a solid
wall with the move c7-c6. That position will be solid, but passive though and
it is not to everyone's liking.}) 9. c4 {White starts an immediate attack in
the center.} ({Probably the calmer development offers more-} 9. b3 Bg7 10. Ba3
Bxf3 11. Qxf3 c6 12. c4 {with some advantage for White in Solak,D (2632)
-Jobava,B (2713) Tromsoe 2014}) ({The stem game saw} 9. Qe2 Bg7 10. Ne5 Nxe5
11. dxe5 Qd5 12. f4 Ng4 13. h3 Qd4+ 14. Kh1 h5 15. c3 {1/2 (15) Hellers,F
(2652)-Hillarp Persson,T (2562) Sweden 2001}) 9... Bg7 10. d5 {The point.
White opens up the center and spoils the castling of the black king.} exd5 11.
Re1+ Kf8 {[%csl Yf8] Diagram [#]} 12. cxd5 $146 {This move is a novelty.
Jobava have previously faced:} (12. Nd4 Kg8 13. Qc2 Nf8 14. Nxc6 bxc6 15. Qa4 {
White has a pair of bishops and light-square compensation for the pawn in
Karjakin,S (2772)-Jobava,B (2706) Loo 2014}) 12... Bxd5 ({Better than} 12...
Nxd5 13. Bg5 Bf6 14. Bh6+ Bg7 15. Qd2 {and the black pieces are stuck.}) 13.
Qc2 $5 {An interesting decision. Rustam is not afraid to spoil his pawn
structure in return for the mighty black bishop.} c6 $1 ({In case of} 13...
Bxf3 14. gxf3 c6 {White can start advancing the pawn on the king's side} 15. f4
Kg8 16. f5 $36) 14. Ng5 {Kasimdzhanov revealed at the press conference that he
thought at first that his position is easier to play but somewhere around this
point he understood that it might be the other way round. Indeed, Black
simply wants to finish the development, hide the king on h7 after h7-h6 and
Kf8-g8-h7 and then convert the extra pawn.} Kg8 {Sooner or later Jobava has to
play this. It makes no sense to target the knight on g5 which does not attack
anything anyway.} (14... h6 15. Nh3 {only pushes it to a better position, for
example} Kg8 16. Nf4 {and White is ready to sacrifice on g6} h5 17. Bxg6 $5
fxg6 18. Nxg6 Rh7 {with a pleasant to choice for White to force a draw with}
19. Ne7+ ({Or continue the attack} 19. Nf5 $5) 19... Kh8 (19... Kf7 $2 {loses
to} 20. Qg6+ Kf8 21. Nxd5 cxd5 22. Nf5 $18 {[%csl Re7,Rg7][%cal Re1e7,Rf5g7]
with the dual threat of Nf5xg7 and Re1-e7.}) 20. Ng6+ $11) 15. Bf4 (15. Bd2 {
was also an idea but Black was afraid of} Ng4 $5 16. h3 Nxf2 $1 17. Kxf2 Bd4+
18. Kf1 Qf6+ {with powerful attack.}) 15... Nf8 16. Rad1 Qa5 {Black wisely
finishes the development first. The rook is coming on d8 and this reinforces
the center.} ({Jobava did not like} 16... h6 17. N5e4 Ne6 18. Be5 Nxe4 19. Bxe4
Bxe5 20. Bxd5 cxd5 21. Rxe5 $11) 17. a3 $6 {[%csl Yb3] Only here did White
commit a mistake. The b3 square is very important in some lines.} ({Correct was
} 17. N3e4 $1 {[%csl Yf6][%cal Ge1e8,Gd1d8] Diagram [#] This knight is the
only white piece that can do better and it makes sense to trade it. White
also needed some air for his pieces to prove the compensation. After} Nxe4 ({
Jobava also considered the sudden retreat} 17... Ne8 {but then White is just
better after taking the bishop} 18. Nc3 $1 h6 19. Nxd5) 18. Bxe4 {and now} {
Which leaves the move} Rd8 {when White can force a draw with} (18... Bxe4 $2 {
is a mistake which leaves all the open files for White} 19. Qxe4 Qf5 20. Qf3
$16 ({and even the endgame is better for White} 20. Qxf5 gxf5 21. Re7)) (18...
h6 $6 {allows White to convert development advantage into something tangible}
19. Bxd5 cxd5 20. Nf3 $14) 19. Bc7 $5 Qxc7 20. Bxd5 Bf6 21. Bxf7+ Kg7 22. Ne6+
Nxe6 23. Bxe6 $11) ({Also} 17. b3 Rd8 18. Be5 {was better than the move in the
game.}) 17... Rd8 18. Bd2 (18. Re7 Rd7 {is good for Black.}) ({But} 18. N3e4 $5
{was still possible} Nxe4 19. Nxe4 (19. Bxe4 {is weaker this time as Black has
enough central control} h6) 19... Ne6 20. Bg3 $44 {[%cal Ge4d6]}) 18... Qb6 $1
({Jobava does not allow the bishop a chance to occupy the long diagonal.} 18...
Qc7 19. Bc3 h6 20. N5e4 {is good for White.}) 19. Be3 ({White loses the
exchange after} 19. Bc3 Bb3 {and this is where we see why a2-a3 was inaccurate!
}) 19... Qc7 ({Rustam mentioned the pretty tactics} 19... Qb3 20. Bxg6 $1) 20.
h3 ({Unfortunately for White} 20. Bd4 Ne6 $1 21. Nxe6 Bxe6 22. Bc3 Nd5 {does
not bring the desired effect on the long diagonal as the black knight controls
the c3 square.}) 20... h6 21. N5e4 Ne6 22. Nxf6+ Bxf6 23. Be4 Kg7 $17 {Jobava
managed to consolidate his position and can now start converting his extra
pawn.} 24. Bxa7 $2 {A tactical oversight which eases Black's task. Rustam
thought that he forces a draw but missed a very strong in-between move.} ({Both
} 24. b4) ({or} 24. Rd2 {would have prolonged the game.}) 24... b6 25. Bxd5 ({
The engames after} 25. Rxd5 cxd5 26. Qxc7 Nxc7 {are hopeless for White} 27.
Bxb6 Rd7 ({or also} 27... dxe4 28. Bxc7 Rd7 29. Ba5 Bxb2) 28. Bxc7 Rxc7 29.
Bxd5 Bxb2 $19) 25... Nd4 $1 ({One draw is achieved after} 25... Rxd5 26. Rxd5
cxd5 27. Qxc7 Nxc7 28. Bxb6 $11) 26. Qa4 (26. Rxd4 Bxd4 27. Bb3 Qxg3 $19) 26...
Rxd5 27. Qa6 {[%csl Ya7][%cal Ra7b6,Ra6b6] Diagram [#]} Qd7 $3 {This is what
teh Uzbek GM missed! The threat Nd3-f3 forces a win for Black.} ({Kasimdzhanov
calculated the beautiful lines} 27... Ra8 28. Bxb6 Qb8 ({and the sweet draw
after} 28... Qxg3 29. Qxa8 Nf3+ 30. Kf1 Nh2+ $11) 29. Bc7 $1 {where White
escapes with a draw.}) 28. Rxd4 {The alternatives lose more material} (28. Bxb6
Nf3+ $19) (28. Kh1 Ra8 $19) 28... Bxd4 29. Bxb6 c5 30. Ba5 Bxb2 31. Qc4 Bd4 32.
Bc3 Ra8 33. Re3 Rxa3 {White started an early attack of the enemy king which
stayed in the center a bit longer than usual. This was worth the central pawn
but then Kasimdzhanov missed to open more room for his active pieces.
Whenever you have development advantage do try to open as many files and
diagonals as you can.} ({White resigned due to the line} 33... Rxa3 34. Bxd4+
Rxd4 35. Qxc5 Rxe3 36. fxe3 Rd1+ 37. Kh2 Qd6) 0-1

Playing at home is not an advantage for the chess players. There are plenty of distractions and the audience cannot cheer you up. However I hope that Kasimdzhanov will be back in the tournament and show better play.

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