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How to Play The Sämisch Gambit | KID June

How to Play The Sämisch Gambit | KID June

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Some material sacrifices have immediate rewards -  could be a tactic, checkmate, material gain, etc. You can calculate most to the end, sacrificing material temporarily for a larger goal. Some sacrifices are intuitive, leading to an attack, a strong initiative, or at least a position that you can constantly keep the pressure on your opponent. But with others, you might not get what you want instantaneously. They're usually known as long-term sacrifices or positional sacrifices. Instead of providing you with a winning combination right away, their benefits usually surface and become clearer over time. In their nature, positional sacrifices give you long-term advantages that you can capitalize on in the future, slowly building up the pressure. These are in general much more difficult to understand and employ successfully than their combinatory siblings.

Today we're going to start our journey into the 6. Be3 Sämisch diving straight into cold water with puzzling positional pawn sacrifice. Last time we were introduced to the move 6...c5 to combat 6. Be3. Just for reference, this is played at the highest level; top GMS such as Radjabov, Grischuk, Giri, Kamsky, Ponomariov, Morozevich, Topalov, Ivanchuk, MVL, Ding, Shirov, Korchnoi, Najdorf, Geller and more have all used this, so you can rest assured that this is far from some cheap pawn sac. Further backing: running Stockfish 15 at depth 39 (that took a while) shows that after 6...c5, white only has a +0.35 advantage - meanwhile check out the evaluations of the two more classical lines. The Orthodox Variation of the Sämisch (6...e5) is evaluated at +0.92 and the Yates Defense (6...Nd6) gets +0.85, both at almost a full pawns' worth of an advantage to white. Even offering a pawn, the Sämisch Gambit has a much better evaluation than many other more mainstream defenses for black. Of course, we can't rely on the engine to evaluate this for us, so let's look at this practically and attempt to discern why and how exactly this works out well for black.

Here the most common move is 7. Nge2, which we'll get into in the next post. The reason I'm covering 7. dxc5 first is that in my experience, it's more commonly seen at my level and very likely most others below master. It's simple: see free pawn, take free pawn. In a less experienced white player's eyes, it's just a pawn. Let's take a look at how black shows that it really isn't that easy. 

How does black go on here? It looks like white is doing very well here, with a tempo on the e7 pawn. But after:

we can take a nice long look at the position. There are a few main things that pop out quickly. I'll divide them into four general sections.

First of all, probably the most obvious plus for black is their King's Indian bishop on g7. It stares down the h8-a1 diagonal and has a extremely promising prospects in the not-so-far future.

Second is white's kingside; more specifically, their hindered development. You could call this black's lead in development too. The pawn on f3 blocks white's development and is very annoying. White could try to solve this by playing 10. f4, but it's a mistake and gives black a sizable advantage. It's way too slow and gives black too much pressure on white's center and without the kingside developed and all of the overexpansion, white's weaknesses become glaring. 

Here's a few lines that could possibly arise that make it very clear white's problems if they're not aware of the dangers and leisurely waste time. 

Next, many features of white's position is loose. d4 is a huge hole, the bishop on c5 can't defend both d4 and b4 after ...b6, the whole queenside is vulnerable, and as you'll see later, even the seemingly-solid kingside can be attacked by future ...f5! advances.

Finally, one of the most important aspects of the position is black's control of the d-file. It restricts the white king and controls key center squares. What if white challenges the file immediately with 10. Rd1? Let's see how Shirov plays the black side of this position.

First, how do we face 10. Nd5?

We offer another pawn, of course.

The most popular and logical move for white is 10. Nge2. It gets out a piece and tries to catch up in development. Now 10...Nd7 is most played, but I suggest 10...b6, gaining a tempo on the bishop while opening b7 or a6 for the LSB to develop. 

Now the forced move is 11. Ba3. Both other bishop moves are horrible for white.

So after 11. Ba3, you have a choice between 11...Bb7 and 11...Ba6. Both are completely playable, but I like 11...Bb7 more and it seems more natural and easy to play so we'll look at that. It doesn't look like the bishop can do much fianchettoed on b7, but in reality, it can become very dangerous on the long diagonal once black's plan develops. Keep ...f7-f5 in mind!

The two main continuations here are 12. Nd5, attacking e7 and using the square to press, and 12. Rd1, countering the d-file.

In the following game, black shows us some main themes. They weren't executed exactly, with the game ending in a blunder from white, but it does good to see this in action.

Now let's take a look at 12. Rd1. White hopes to challenge the d-file and neutralize some of black's play before the pressure can build up. In this case, we don't need to rush and can take our time with our counterplay. We still have control over the d-file and white's kingside will take some time to disentangle. First, if white doesn't play Nd5, we would always like to prevent that from ever happening, so we play 12...e6 before anything else.

Again, we'll see ideas such as ...Nf6-h5-f4, ...f7-f5, and using the d-file along with the long diagonals to attack.

I know we're checking out the opening, but these guys need to work on their rook endgames. A couple Chessable courses wouldn't do any harm. This made me feel just slightly better about my officially diagnosed rook endgame disability.


QUICK RECAP

tldr:

You get a monster bishop, piece activity, the initiative, and the d-file to compensate for the pawn, you want to play ...Nc6, ...b6 attacking the c5 bishop, and Bb7, when you can attack with ideas like ...Nf6-h5-f4, ...f7-f5 undermining the diagonal, along with white's pawns being targets that you can look to exploit. The white king isn't safe, white's development is lagging, and time is of the essence. Energetic play is required.


Well, that's it for today, everyone. I hope you learned something along the way - this post has been a bit long but it was fun to write and analyze, and I hope you fee similarly. 

Remember when I said that I thought I would have more time to write over summer? Turns out that's not necessarily true... last summer, during the heavy part of the pandemic (don't get me wrong - it's still going on) I had tons of time, but with activities starting back up again, time hasn't been as preponderant as I had hoped. At the time of writing, I've been through two days of Rafa Nadal Academy camp conditioning and my body completely numbed for an hour. I don't expect to be very functional for the next week. 

Anyway, thanks for reading! ✌