When Planning Requires Some Heat

When Planning Requires Some Heat‎

WIM energia
21 | Strategy

How does one plan a sacrifice? Sometimes the position requires for one side to sacrifice a piece or the exchange. It is often apparent when the position is bad and some active measures need to be taken. What about the positions that are better, but require a sacrifice to convert the advantage? During a chess game one has always to be ready to transition from a peaceful game to one that has fire on the board. This can all be within the same plan. The following two examples from my games have a similar theme: a strategical plan that requires a sacrifice. In both cases my opponent saw it coming and it is interesting to see how they reacted to it. In general, one cannot win a game purely with slow, strategical maneuvers.  There always comes a critical moment where you just have to go all in or you will lose the thread of the position. Let us take a look at our first example of one such position.

I have the white side of a King’s Indian. Black has blockaded the position on the queenside, the side where White must make his advances. I must break through there otherwise I will get mated on the kingside. Black is ready to push ...g5, ...h5 and ...g4. To me there was only one plan – to sacrifice a knight on d6. Someone had suggested a plan with g3, but Black might just ignore it. White is not threatening gxf4, since ...exf4 opens the long diagonal for Black's g7-bishop. White might try to close the kingside with g4, which could be a good idea if it works out tactically. In the game, however, I thought my sacrifice on d6 would settle things quickly enough as Black would have no time to attack my king, since he needs at least three moves to make a break on the kingside. How did the sacrifice occur to me? I saw some chess games where a similar idea had happened, so it was not something I had to come up with fresh at the board. My job was to evaluate the correctness of it and time it well. One important consideration was to not allow ...Bf8 to prevent the sacrifice from working. I have an extra pawn already, and the c- and d-pawns become very dangerous once the knight removes Black's pawn on d6. Three pawns for a piece is a good compensation.

The position was from the last round of th 2010 Libert Bell Open in Philadelphia. It was a Sicilian Dragon. I thought that his last move Bg5 was dubious, since the bishop is not protected and gave me some tactical motifs. Sometimes, the position is not about general planning but about tactical planning. Immediately after Bg5 something triggered in my mind saying: "tactics!!" I think this sense comes from solving many chess problems and puzzles.  After solving enough of them one can instinctively feel that there is something “wrong” with the position. Sometimes this feeling can backfire if there is no tactic to be found in the position. Here I was rather lucky: the Bg5 and the Kg1 lined up for a knight-fork after ...Bxh3. Also, one can notice that if queen was on d2 it would be even better for me. So, first I started to think how lure the white queen to d2. ...Qa5 came to mind but he has unpleasant Nd5. I showed the game to a gathering of IMs and GMs in the bar after the tournament and Shabalov suggested: “if you want his queen on d2, this is his next move, just play ...Re8…”. This thinking process didn’t occur to me during the game. As I gave up on luring his queen to d2 I started calculating ...Ne5 right away. It has the dual purpose of going to c4 or of going to f3 following ...Bxh3. White can only defend against one of these threats. The other ideas here are ...b5 or the prophylactic ...Re8. But when one has a clear threat with ...Ne5 the other ideas go out the door.

Two positions for the next week:



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