Chess: Getting a return from the ultimate sacrifice

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The Independent Culture
WHEN a whole piece is sacrificed for an attack, you need to be sure that you will get a good return on the investment. At the lowest level of bravado come the pseudo-sacrifices that lead by force to checkmate or material gain. At the next level are those sacrifices that create such weakness in the opponent's defences that you are confident, without analysing it to mate, that the resulting attack will win.

In such cases, Capablanca's rule often applies: If the attacker can bring more pieces into the assault than his opponent can muster in defence, then the attack should win. In positions where blocked pawns in effect cut off one half of the board from the other, this rule can cut out the need to calculate deeply.

The highest level of sacrifice, however, is the speculative offer, where judgment and calculation both come into play. The compensation is a pawn here, a pin there and such general discomfort everywhere that you just feel it adds up to good value. The following win by Andrei Sokolov is a fine example from the recent tournament in Clichy, France.

White was the first to speculate, with 11. b4]? tempting the reply 11 . . . Ng3. After 12. Qb2 Nxh1 13. Qxg7 White has excellent value in two pawns, a promising attack and a trapped knight, so Sokolov got on with his own plans.

On the next move, 12 . . . Ng3 would have been met by 13. Qc3 d4 14. Nxd4 Nxd4 15. fxg3, so instead of trying to win a rook, Sokolov sacrificed a knight. Not liking the look of 17. Qxe4 Qa5+ 19. Kd1 Rxb2, Gurevich protected everything with 17. Qd2, but after 18 . . . c4 Black's mobile pawns and the severe cramp in White's K-side added up to enough for the piece. 23 . . . d3] began the breakthrough, and 29 . . . Qe6] put the finishing touch. The threats of Bxe2+ and Qxa2 cannot both be met.

With White's king so exposed, Black naturally refrained from exchanging queens after regaining the sacrificed material, but kept up the pressure until his attack quickly netted further gains. White's thrashing around when a piece behind over the final moves can only be explained by extreme time-pressure.

White: M Gurevich Black: A Sokolov 1 d4 Nf6 21 h4 h5 2 c4 e6 22 g4 c3 3 Nc3 Bb4 23 Qf4 d3 4 Qc2 d5 24 exd3 Re8+ 5 a3 Bxc3+ 25 Be2 Rxc7 6 Qxc3 Ne4 26 Kf1 Rce7 7 Qc2 c5 27 Rh2 Rxe2 8 dxc5 Nc6 28 Rxe2 Bxd3 9 cxd5 exd5 29 Ra2 Qe6 10 Nf3 Bf5 30 Kf2 Bxe2 11 b4 0-0 31 Qe3 Qc6 12 Bb2 b6 32 Qf4 Bc4 13 b5 bxc5 33 Ra1 Re2+ 14 bxc6 Rb8 34 Kg3 Qc5 15 Nd2 d4 35 Be3 Qxe3 16 Nxe4 Bxe4 36 Qxe3 Rxe3 17 Qd2 Qb6 37 Rc1 Bd5 18 Bc1 c4 38 gxh5 Bxf3 19 c7 Rb7 39 h6 gxh6 20 f3 Bg6 White resigns