The World Champions' Favorite Sacrifice

The World Champions' Favorite Sacrifice

Gserper
GM Gserper
May 31, 2015, 12:00 AM |
27 | Tactics

There is a positional sacrifice that is quite popular in the games of top players, particularly world champions.

It works like this: you have your rook on an open file and you have an outpost there. (I hope most of our readers remember that an outpost is a square on an open file protected by your own pawn.)

Then you move your rook to the outpost where it can be captured by the opponent's minor pieces. When your opponent accepts your exchange sacrifice, in return you'll get a very strong passed pawn. Then your passed pawn supported by your active pieces should bring you a win.  

A very good example of such a positional exchange sacrifice was demonstrated by ex-world champion Viswanathan Anand in a recent super tournament:


Don't be surprised if Anand's 28. Rd5! feels like deja vu.  He already used this idea 20 years ago to catch a very big fish:


It seems like GM Anand likes this sacrifice so much that he tries to play it whenever possible, even if the circumstances are far from perfect. Remember, one of the key conditions for this idea to work is your pieces should be very active.  

Meanwhile, if your opponent's pieces are more active than yours, then your passed pawn is not that dangerous, and therefore his material advantage will prevail eventually.  

Here is a good example from the last world championship match:

 Photo: Mike Klein


The next famous game is quoted in many chess books and it is one of those proverbial games that "every Russian schoolboy knows."


This game has been published thousands of times and has become a symbol of this positional sacrifice. The whole idea is sometimes called "the Russian sacrifice." 

I don't know why Botvinnik in his books preferred this game; personally I like another game by the patriarch much more. It features the same idea, but was played much earlier and the finish of the game is very artistic.

Here is another "Russian sacrifice" by Botvinnik:

Botvinnik via Wikipedia

And now try to find how the founder of the Soviet school of chess finished the game:


Finally, let me show you another high-profile game played in the world championship match. Tigran Petrosian was famous for his exchange sacrifices and in this game his execution is impeccable.


The positional exchange sacrifice that we discussed today is a very important tool of modern chess. I hope my dear readers, you won't miss an opportunity to execute the "Russian sacrifice" in your games!

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