Practical or objective sacrifices

Jan 21, 2013, 9:53 AM |

In what I suspect is an ongoing effort to keep me humble, the folks from Bristol & District Chess decided to lower the Open grading bound to 155 just as I reached my new peak of 156. Coincidence? 

I think not.

Naturally, they deny foul play but that doesn't help me. I'm now stuck entering the Opens knowing full well I'll be the lowest seed and in for a hammering. Anyway, this doesn't have much to do with my point and I'm far too lazy to think of a witty segue, so I'll move on.

I'm beginning to suspect that a lot of chess debates are sparked only by semantics. For example, when I ask if a move is "sound", I know what I mean and I think what I mean is what most people think it means, I think. But there are people I've spoken to who are quite content to reply with, "Well it won" as if that was the measure of a move. No, hang on, it kind of is the measure of a move, isn't it? Sure, it didn't answer the question, but it is an interesting point. To that end, I would like to share my definitions in the hope that they catch on and I become well-known for my contribution to chess literature.

Put simply, a sound move is one that can't be refuted. A position may have one, many or no sound moves. It maximises your position objectively. It's how we think a computer plays. On the other hand, a practical move is what works over the board, staring at your sweaty opponent. Sometimes a practical move is sound, but that's not essential. A practical move against one player isn't practical against another. It's bad practice. And it's fun.

To illustrate my point I'd like to show two games from last weekend's Bristol Winter Congress Open. Unfortunately, I don't seem to play much in the way of "sound" chess, so here we're talking sacrifices. The first game was from round 4 when I was still on 0, if you don't count my bye, which most people don't.

In that game, it turned out that 11. Nd5! was objectively sound, possibly winning, but I couldn't find the best continuation. The sound move wasn't practical and so, contributed to me losing the game. Clearly in the last round I was still on 0, but I found a far more practical way to play.

So there we have it. A practical sacrifice does better than a sound sacrifice. What does that mean? Well for me, practical play is typically easier and more fun, sound play means you'll lose less provided all your moves are sound. What's my point? I don't know, but maybe I'm making too much of a distinction between the two and we should just be looking for practical, sound moves. As for me, I'll probably keep looking for reckless ways to get my pieces off the board.

Anyway, I didn't want to sound preachy and I promise that normal sarcastic service will resume after BUCA in February.