In my first article from the “Inside the Master Mind: The Best Games of a Chess Coach” Series, I choose to present one of my most beautiful chess games in my career as a tournament chess player. This game was played during the Bulgarian Youth Team Chess Championship in 2005 when I was fourteen. From the very beginning of the competition my teammates and I appeared to be in perfect shape and after the first half of the tournament we were one of the top teams in the standing. In the last round but one (the sixth round) of the championship my team had to play against a team, whose members were some of the main aspirants for the first place. As you surely understand, this particular match was crucial and the win in it was of greatest importance to us, since our overall performance and qualifying in the first places depended on it. As the captain of my team, I certainly advised my teammates what to do and how to play during these important games and also did the necessary preparation for my match. Thus, before this tense round, my job as the leader playing on the first board was to win my game. Yet, this happened to be not an easy goal to follow, because of the fact that my opponent was one of the most talented Bulgarian chess masters – Marian Boychev, who had recently managed to share the first place at the World Youth Championship U14 held in Crete, Greece. Although I had the first move advantage, as you probably understand, I had to be very well prepared not only with regard to chess theory, but also to emotional attitude and endurance, which was indeed not an easy task, taking into account the fact that I had only a few hours for preparation before the actual game.
In my deliberations during my preparation, I chiefly focused on one opening idea recommended by the 8th World Chess Champion - Mikhail Tal in the Keres Attack (Sicillian Defence, Scheveningen Variation) where he suggested an interesting continuation including a piece sacrifice followed by a strong attack. At first, I was a bit pessimistic about the validity and strength of this variation, since the source, from which I read about it was an old one (Opening Monograph - 1980) and it was very likely that a good refutation of this line has been already found for black and thus my opponent will successfully ward off my attack and also keep the material advantage from the gambit. Nevertheless, my impression from the proposed idea was so big that I decided to take the plunge and try it for myself in the real game. Here is the place to note that at this particular competition I did not have a notebook (laptop) for preparation at my disposal, which turned the analysis of the concrete variations and the evaluation of the emerging final positions into tremendously arduous tasks, since it was very likely for me to miss something very important and substantial in some of the key variations in this system (and the latter were indeed too many) Fortunately, my father and personal chess trainer was with me all the time during this so important event and I could rely on him to some extend while analyzing this opening system myself. Thus, we began to slowly review and renounce the unacceptable continuations. After some time of intensive analysis it turned out that there are only a few main continuations for black and our job now was to see if in each of them there was an adequate compensation for white for the sacrificed piece. As a result of the deep analysis and detailed review of all variations and strongest continuations for both sides I managed to conclude that the piece sacrifice for white is worth it and that there is an adequate compensation for it after a few moves and also that black will have to work very hard and precisely to ward off the attack and keep the material advantage at the same time.
Taken as a whole, it turned out that there are a lot of risks for the opponent in his way of warding off the attack, but also taking into account some other practical factors for tournament chess such as surprise, fatigue, time limit, and others, that was the best opportunity for me to fight for a decisive advantage from the very beginning and also to set up big problems for my opponent very early in the game!
As a result of all of this extensive preparation I won my game unhesitatingly. That was all of which a chess player can ever dream – to defeat a strong opponent with a beautiful sacrifice in a great opening variation prepared by himself! The impact of this game on the outcome of the whole match of my team was decisive. My teammates, as taking a look at my game every now and then, were really amazed and inspired of these prodigious moves and the quickly evolving position on the board that this made them even more enthusiastic over trying to win their own games, and as a result my team achieved a final and decisive win in this match.
Now, what to say about myself? The impact of this game on my future development was tremendous. Pleased, inspired and motivated, I was ready to play, create and win! As a result of this win I could achieve the acme of my chess career so far, as I managed to score 32 wins out of 32 games in a row! In some of these 32 games I even defeated Bulgarian strongest chess players during simuls including GM Veselin Topalov and GM Kiril Georgiev! Thus, I learned the most important thing in chess – no matter how strong a chess player is, the efforts, dedication and persistence they put in their preparation as well as during a game are the most important thing, since the win is a privilege not to the strongest, but to the most deserved!