The Power of Exchange Sacrifices Part 1.

| 22 | Middlegame

             Every strong player has his own chess signature. Smyslov is an endgame virtuoso, Tal is a wizard of attacking sacrifices, Topalov is famous for his imagination and creativity, Tigran Petrosian has many games with dynamical exchange sacrifices (trading a rook for a knight or bishop). Today’s article is about exchange sacrifices but not of the great Petrosian, but rather from my own practice. I can claim exchange sacrifices as being my game signature as well. Over past the few years I had so many in my practice that it was rather hard to pick only four examples. I chose three of them that show my favorite type of exchange sacrifice: the side who sacrifices gets two bishops in return. Two of my favorite games against Hess and Cheng, where this type of exchange sacrifice appeared in its purest form, are already published (

Suppose you play this quiet, maneuvering position and suddenly you sacrifice the exchange for let's say the advantage of two bishops and a pawn, while opening your opponents king. The game suddenly changes its pace: from rumba one has to switch to quick step. There are no long-term plans anymore, it is move by move calculations, tactical blows, the position becomes dynamical where one inaccuracy can cost a point. It is hard to adjust for your opponent to such a change and the probability of his mistake rises.

Lets look at the first example. Black has a pawn majority on kingside, white has an isolated e4 pawn and weakened dark squares. Black’s Bg7 is not doing much and dreams to get to the g1-a7 diagonal. White has a great square d5 for his knight. And after Bg4 and the exchange of bishops black's light squares would collapse. With his last move white threatens to win the exchange by Bc5, so black should defend against the threat, right?



Our next example is of a bit different nature: the position is very wild, hard to tell what is going on. It was a King's Indian Defence, variation with g3, a line where black sacrifices a piece. As black I confused moves out of the opening and had to be creative not to lose on the spot. So far, my Na5 is hanging, if it moves there is a potential Nc6 fork. Black uses the weakness of the a1-h8 diagonal to create some counter play.



In the third example black concentrated pieces pressuring the d4 pawn, but white managed to hold it. With his last move Ng4 white plans to take over the e5 square. There is no clear way of improving the black position- the pieces are placed ideally. One has to look for tactical blows. Of course, one can maneuver and wait but for an active player like me that is not an option!



The last example features an exchange sacrifice to get rid of the opponent’s two bishops advantage. Black is up a pawn but his king is in the center. White needs two tempi to finish his development like Nc3-Nd5. Black found a creative solution to the position, try to find it yourself.



Overall, one should consider the exchange sacrifice as a powerful weapon. In the above examples, the side that faced exchange sac. couldn't handle it well and made mistakes right away. This tells about the psychological power that exchange sacs possess. In open positions if one gets two bishops through sacrificing the exchange, this is a great compensation, like in three examples above. And if one gets a couple of pawns plus two bishops then it is totally great. In Part 2 there will be more examples from my practice where the side that sacrificed got different advantages than the bishop pair. Be brave, exchange sacs are lots of fun!

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