Following on from my Kamikaze post I thought I’d do a post about sacrifices. They always spice up and unbalance a game and it is sometimes hard to let the voice of reason prevail. On Tuesdays I often play against my friend Tom and he is a demon for sacrifices – often with success. Typically he uses the Greek Gift or Trojan Horse where the bishop flies into the second/ seventh rank pawns in front of a king. Unfortunately I can’t find a recorded game between us that shows this so I found the next best thing, a game between Gata Kamsky (FIDE 2714) and Sam Shankland (FIDE 2616) with notes from GM Daniel Naroditsky that I found on Chess.com.
Postscript: I did find one of my games, not against Tom. The sacrifice worked but I’m sure I could have been more forcing.
I found a treasure trove of games, on chess.com, played by the person who was going to be my opponent at my Monday game, unfortunately his repertoire was varied and it was hard for me to work out what I would play against him. I was going to be white and I noted that his favourite responses to 1.e4 were the Ruy Lopez – most popular, the Scandinavian with Qxd5 (followed by the retreat Qd6) or a Sicilian with 2.Nc6.
I saw 2 games he played where his opponent opened with the Scots Gambit and in both cases he responded with the questionable 4. …Be7 so I revisited my Scots Gambit study hoping that the game would go in that direction. It did…
And so my Kamikaze move was not justified in this game and once the position stabilised I was behind. At that point I kept swapping down and when you are behind like this you should swap pawns not pieces. I guess I was hoping that one Bishop would not be able to stop my pawns if I could give them good support with my King but I was wrong. My other problem was that even if I was going to sacrifice I needed to develop my pieces more to support my attack. Once my attack petered out I was very vulnerable. So a lesson was learned – if you’re going to take down a warship with a small plane you need to be bang on target.
Postscript: I ran the game through my Arena engine and the sacrifice was wrong but it wasn’t horrendous. At move 21 I am only down by 1.03 (the value of a pawn) and I am playing well, often playing the computers first choice but as the game wore on and pieces got swapped off the game became more and more un-winable. Here is a graph showing the balance of the game.
I have started my new Monday weekly tournament, it is a 9 round Swiss format tournament with a 90 minute plus 30 second increment time control. Before playing you can find out who your opponent will be because the pairings come online a few days early. My opponent was an experienced player who has been playing competitive chess since the early 70’s. I found 48 of his games online and he overwhelmingly chooses 1.e4 as his opening. The game only went for 25 moves but it was a great game with 3 positions that stood out as complex and critical. The three positions are shown below and can be thought of as puzzles – not tactical puzzles but puzzles that test calculation and positional understanding. If you want to improve I strongly recommend setting up a board with these positions and working through possible moves (don’t move the pieces till you’ve done the exercise in your head).
Position 1. Knights Jostling.
The full game is at the end of the post with my reasons.
Position 2. The Mexican Standoff
Position 3. The end.
After the game my opponent and I went through this last position and it surprised me how much variety and danger still lurks on the board. we spent perhaps 20 minutes on all the variations we could think of and came to the conclusion, without the use of computers, that a draw was possible.
Here is the whole game with comments based on Rybka analysis.
I have been looking at piece activity and recently Rook activity. I have often heard the phrase “Get your Rook on to an open file” and this is wrong. It should be “Use your Rooks to INVADE via an open file”. This is a far more active way of thinking and quite a new way of thinking for me. In the past I was happy to place a Rook at the base of a file knowing that I was controlling it. I then concentrated on other parts of the game. One stylistic difference I have noticed in my sons games are that he is far more willing to get rooks onto an open file and then push them forward to INVASION SQUARES, he is also far more willing to carry out a Rook lift by moving a rook forward of his pawns so that he can use it on semi open files, again to find INVASION SQUARES. This is something he does better than I do and I am learning from him. (I am emphasising ‘Invasion’ because this seems to be the point of having the open file)
My son’s chess teacher wrote a chess book and chapter four is titled “The Open File”. In it he shows great examples of games where the open file is key. Here is one such example, it comes from “The Other Immortal Zugzwang” where Capablanca as Black invades Nimzowitsch’s position (all the notes come from the book).
Later in the book he sets problems . Here is one simpler one.