Monday, March 9, 2015

Exchange sacrifices

Most clubplayers have sacrificed material in some games to launch an attack. However sacrificing purely for strategical or positional grounds is something which I almost exclusively see in games of more advanced players. Less experienced players don't grasp yet the abstractness of activity, strong squares or weaknesses. Obviously you only sacrifice material if you understand the value which you get in return.

In this category of sacrifices there is often used the exchange sacrifice. A player sacrifices the rook for bishop or knight. For most topplayers this is something very common but when I look in my personal database of standard games, I have to admit that it is rather rare in my practice. My non-attacking style (see gambits) doesn't explain everything as a game is always played by 2.

One of the very first times that I encountered an exchange sacrifice on the board, was in the Open Gent 2000 by the Belgian grandmaster Vladimir Chuchelov  (today not anymore an active player but a trainer of among others the number 2 of the world Fabiano Caruana)

A simple but efficient example of how quickly a defense can collapse after an exchange-sacrifice. Much more creative was my exchange-sacrifice in 2002 against Raf De Coninck.

Of course black should've refused the exchange but understood too late how large the compensation is. Sometimes sacrificing an exchange isn't fully objectively correct but it is an ideal practical tool to change the character/ course of a game. Such speculative/ practical sacrifice was played by Wouter Gryson in our mutual game. The complete game was earlier covered in the article the fake truth.

The previous examples are clear but it is often much less evident. Last I had to decide to permit or not an exchange-sacrifice in my game against the Belgian FM Gorik Cools. In the end I chose to avoid the possibility but ended up in a dangerous position.

So the exchange-sacrifice was surely playable but not winning. It is an open question what would've happened if I permitted the complications. Such reluctance exists much less with top-players. Still it was a big surprise in the previous worldchampionship that Anand dared to sacrifice the exchange in his last black-game especially as there were perfectly acceptable alternatives.

So exchange-sacrifices are certainly not always straight-forward. For defense and attack it is often a difficult balance. Personal taste, tournament-situation,... play an important role. However it stands firm that exchange sacrifices more or less guarantee creative positions and interesting complications. Did you play once such type of exchange-sacrifice (so not the famous sacrifice on c3 of the Dragon) and there was no direct tactical justification then write it down in a reaction !


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