Channeling Your Inner Tal
Why do we play Standard? There's the fraction of us that like to avoid flagging--either themselves or their opponents. There are also those who enjoy a slow game, pondering their next move while sipping a cup of coffee.
Myself? For the tactics and sacrifices, of course! Nine times out of ten, I find that there isn't enough time to fully evaluate a sacrifice in a Blitz or Bullet game. We may feel rushed into playing a suboptimal move, or forego the opportunity altogether. In a Standard game, though, we have time to evaluate our sacrifices and tactical ideas. By harmonizing tactics and strategy, we can push for a win on the board--not just on the clock.
There is no more prominent example of sacrificial ingenuity than Mikhail Tal, "The Magician from Riga". His readiness to sacrifice for the initiative, coupled with his solid positional play, makes him my biggest chess inspiration. In the following game, I try to place myself in Tal's shoes by thinking: "What would Tal do?"
We begin with a typical 3... Qa5 Scandinavian. I opt for an early 9. Nd5!?-Nf4 maneuver, taking advantage of the exposed Black Queen and seizing the Bishop pair.
After quickly castling queenside, we reach the first critical moment of the game. What do you do? (Hint: Note that Black's King is stranded in the center of the board. His last move, 13... Qb6, indicates that he'd like to castle long next move.)
Once the smoke has cleared, we see that White is up a Pawn and has centralized his two Rooks. Black's Knights are uncoordinated and his King is beckoning for an attack.
Summary: In this Standard game, a stock sacrifice tears open the center and exposes the Black King. With nowhere to run, he begins a "solemn procession" from Ke8-f7-f6-f5-f4, where he is mated.
Lessons to be Learned:
1. Don't be afraid to sacrifice if you think that there's enough "comp"! It may not be possible to work out all of the lines, but going through a few is often sufficient.
2. Once you've sac'd, keep the initiative by playing advancing, aggressive moves.
3. Never forget your fundamentals! Develop your pieces, centralize your Rooks, look for pins and skewers, and more.