Sacrifice on f7, followed by knight intrusion on e6, smothering the queen: Sacrifice at f2, followed by discovered check, winning the queen:
I was watching Dennis Monokroussos’ commentary on How Not to Play the Pirc, in which he discusses the idea of blockading a pawn with a piece so as to restrict enemy piece mobility. Black’s bishop blocks the pawn on c3 and remains active and at the same time thwarts White’s plan to intrude with his knight at d5 via c3 once the pawn moves.
A guide to quick calculation found in Josh Waitzkin’s Attacking Chess.
In my experience, nothing benefits the aspiring patzer as much as listening to more experienced players playing over games and articulating their thoughts, ideas and plans. These days, luckily, YouTubers around the world provide us with plenty of opportunities to do just that. Three of my favourite contributors in that respect are Kingscrusher, GreenCastleBlock and Claus Jensen. Claus, I discovered today, also has an excellent blog at clausjensen.com. First, I would like to thank them for sharing their experience with the rest of us.
Second, I would like to point you to a video by Claus that ties in nicely with the Greek Gift and kingside attacking ideas that I have been concentrating on lately. The video features a game he played against the French Defence, and his commentary contains a host of ideas relevant to kingside attacks. An excellent training exercise, I believe, would be to set up the board whenever Claus says “decisive attack” or “Black’s lost here” and find the correct moves to prove him right (or wrong). Here’s the video in question. (I refrain from embedding as I prefer not to slow down the blog unnecessarily.) Enjoy!
I commented on a queen versus pawn endgame over at In Honor Of Nezhmetdinov and I’m going to seize the opportunity to refresh my endgame knowledge (most of which I’ve acquired through Jeremy Silman’s Complete Endgame Course). Previously, I posted the idea of getting the queen in front of the bishop/rook pawn. A second strategy versus the bishop/rook pawn is closing in with your king first. Since we’ve just acquired a queen, we’re tempted to check the hell out of the enemy king, somehow hoping to squeeze our queen in between the pawn and the king. But this often leads to a draw. A more promising way is to activate our king. Remember this: you can only win this kind of endgame if you can either block or snatch up the pawn immediately with your queen, or if your king is close enough to participate in the attack. In other words: whenever you play with a queen against a bishop/rook pawn on the seventh, consider the king moves. Here’s the sequence I suggested for Nez’s game; notice how White’s king does all the work while White’s queen patiently awaits her chance:
If I calculated this position accurately, then at no point can Black afford promoting his pawn because it would allow White’s queen to move in for a decisive attack thanks to the proximity of White’s king. Here are the variations I posted at Nez’s blog:
[…] I think the endgame is winning for White because White’s king’s already closing in. But it’s still tricky: After 54. … h2 (which I think is the correct move) 55. g8Q (also correct) Kf2 (what else?) White misses the winning shot 56. Kf4! If (A) 56. … h1Q 57. Qa2+ Kf1 58. Kg3! and it’s either mate or losing the queen for Black. And if (B) 56. … Kf1 57. Kg3! h1Q 58. Qc4+! or 57. … Kg1 58. Kh3+! (once again the king move wins; if the queen moves, Black has some annoying defenses by promoting his pawn to a knight) Kf1 59. Qg2+ Game over.
Edit: Ah, endgames are hard. Chesstiger made me go over my variations again. 56. … h1Q 57. Qa+ Kf1 58. Kg3? is a blunder! Instead, White must bring his queen closer: 58. Qb1+ Kg2 and the queen gets closer and closer with checks until …Qe2+ Kg1 Kg3! Also, White has an alternative plan: 56. Qh8! For variations, I refer you to the Nalimov endgame tablebase.
The Greek Gift sacrifice crops up in isolated pawn positions every now and then in combination with a knight on e5. Here’s another position from Bruce Pandolfini’s Weapons of Chess, which illustrates the application of the Greek Gift in isolated pawn positions; it also demonstrates the power of a well-known zwischenzug, the infamous rook lift:
Note that Black moved his knight to d5, leaving h7 undefended. The knight blockade of the isolated pawn is a common theme when defending against the isolani, so if you want to be vily in your attack, you may use it as a bait. In this case, the natural move Nf6-d5 leads to disaster. Note that here the Greek Gift doesn’t produce a decisive mating attack. The off-shot is a simple gain in material (in the above example, White wins two pawns in a superior position). In other words, don’t lose yourself in mating nets if you see a straight-forward path to victory or at least a better position (unless, of course, you’ve got ample time on your clock and strive for the beauty prize). The same goes for tactics that rid yourself of the isolated pawn: do not hold on to the isolani just because you’ve deluded yourself into thinking that you can steamroll your opponent with a powerful attack. If you can trade it off to reach a superior endgame, then that’s frequently the best path to tread.
In Honor of Nezhmetdinov recently posted on what is arguably one of the best known sacrificial attacking ideas in chess: the classical bishop sac at h7/h2, also known as the Greek Gift. I have chosen to illustrate the Greek Gift with an animated move sequence from the Wikipedia article that features another hugely important idea: the zwischenzug. To play a zwischenzug during an attack basically means to move a piece without giving check. The more I study attacking chess, the more I realise that the art of attack is the art of knowing which zwischenzugs you can afford to make without jeopardising your attack. Such zwischenzugs, in my experience, are ten times harder to spot and consider in your calculation, at least for beginners, because you’re (a) so immersed in your desire to force things and overwhelm your opponent in one seamless chain and (b) because making a zwischenzug often means your opponent has several rather than just one potential responses. (Perhaps I ought to add c) because it takes patience and audacity — a peculiar combination.) To consider the zwischenzug is the antithesis to “patzer sees check, patzer gives check”, and while the following example may be blatantly obvious to advanced players, to me it illustrates very succinctly the idea of the zwischenzug in the attack. Timeo danaos et dona ferentes!