Magnus Carlsen's Amazing Pawn Sacrifices
Magnus Carlsen. Photo: Maria Emelianova / Chess.com.

Magnus Carlsen's Amazing Pawn Sacrifices

Gserper
GM Gserper
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61 | Strategy

There is a well-known chess joke (or maybe not even a joke!) that it is much more difficult to sacrifice a pawn than a queen.

Indeed, in most queen sacrifices you get huge dividends right away, since it is difficult to imagine a player sacrificing his queen just to get (for example) a good square for his knight. Therefore, it is relatively easy to predict the outcome of many queen sacrifices, like the next one:

From the other side, most pawn sacrifices are done for positional gains and so it is not always easy to evaluate if you will get enough compensation for a pawn. The outcome of a pawn sacrifice is more difficult to predict—unless it is done by Magnus Carlsen.

Magnus Carlsen. Photo: Maria Emelianova / Chess.com.
Magnus Carlsen. Photo: Maria Emelianova / Chess.com.

It is amazing to watch the effect of such pawn sacrifices in the world champion's games. Usually his opponent's get paralyzed pretty quickly and can only helplessly watch how Carlsen finishes them off.

Look at the next game. Instead of recovering a pawn by 15.Nc6 followed by 16.Nxb4, Carlsen played 15.Nc4! and very quickly his opponent, Wesley So, could barely move his pieces!

A similar sacrifice helped Carlsen successfully defend his title in the world championship match vs. Sergey Karjakin.  This time Carlsen dominated on the dark squares:

In his recent tournament triumphs, Carlsen used his deadly weapon again:

The following position looks closed, so it was very difficult to imagine that the game would be over in just four moves!

A pawn sacrifice is one of the most difficult elements of a chess game. I hope that these Magnus Carlsen games helped you better understand how it works. 

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