Every Piece Sacrificed

GM MacMolner

Hey all!

There has a been a lot of exciting chess going on recently with the Candidates Tournament taking place right now. With two games left, it's going to be an exciting race to see if Carlsen can catch Kramnik. Since everyone's interest in observing high-quality chess is at its peak right now, I thought I would try to share a lesser-known but extremely fun and high-quality game.

The game is between two strong players, Gregory Serper and Ioannis Nikolaidis, from 1993. The game started out as a somewhat strange- looking King's Indian Defense but soon took a structure that looks similar to many of the lines that occur after 6... Na6 in the mainline. What makes this game so unique is that every piece that Black captures is a sacrifice. Not one capture is an equal trade and on top of that, White manages to promote two pawns during the middlegame! Along with the fact that all of White's starting pieces are sacrificed, I'm not sure what else you could look for in a high-quality, exciting game.

In this game, White does many things that a wise attacking player would and should do. He follows and exemplifies many critical attacking ideas in order to make his decisive plans work. His sacrifices begin on move 17 when Nd5 is played. This sacrifice is made not just for the sake of playing wild chess but because sometimes the position dictates that it should be played, and this is exactly how this sacrifice and each future one works. Black is uncastled but has potentially strong outposts for his Knights if he is allowed time to consolidate his position. White must act quickly before this can happen. 20. Bb5 is a very consistent and powerful follow-up to White's original sacrifice. The position has a closed nature and in order for a sacrificial attack like this to work, there has to be an open file or lines to penetrate through the opponent's position. Once the a-file is open, White follows the principle of including all pieces into the attack by bringing both rooks in the enemy camp along the 7th and 8th ranks. Once again, when Black was threatening to shore up his position by castling, White sacrifices yet another piece with 25. Rxc8+. This is a necessary move in order to prevent his opponent's King from escaping. Within the next three moves, White had sacrificed another two pieces in order to make sure that Black's King remained uncastled. At some point sacrificing ever piece like this might be considered reckless, but if White loses control of the initiative then he stands to be in much more danger of losing, no matter how many pieces he has.

By move 30 White only has 2 pieces left to attack with and leaves himself only one after playing 30. Rf7+. Despite being down a rook and two minor pieces at that point, and only having one piece left to continue, White manages to keep creating threats with each move. Creating constant threats in order to not allow your opponent any time to create a defensive set-up is another critical idea of attacking chess. White completes his sacrificial onslaught with 41. Qxe7+, removing another important Black piece while gaining time to promote his pawn. The game wraps up quickly after that with a series of accurate moves by White. I don't see this game get mentioned by many players or authors, but I've never seen anything else like it. In the spirit of some of the crazy and entertaining Candidates games, I found it worth sharing! I hope you enjoy it too!