Author's note:Hampstead was at Golders Green this weekend. More on that later in the month. In the meantime, here's something from 2013.- JMGB
JMGB - Ali Zarrar, Hampstead u2200 October 2013
I don't have many examples of exchange sacrifices from my own games that I can include in my year of exchange sacs. Neither I nor my opponents have shown much inclination to give up a rook for a knight or a bishop. It's part of the reason for doing this series, I suppose.
I did come closeish at the Hampstead u2200 back in October. One of those games when a couple of amateur hacks blundering about in the dark manage to (very nearly) reproduce the opening moves of a game played in a World Championship match. An infinite number of monkeys and all that.
Close, but no ISE as it turned out.
Game 7 of the 2010 Anand-Topalov World Championship match.
The guy I was playing in Hampstead didn't have a rating and struck me as rather inexperienced. I got the impression he played a fair bit on the internet and was just starting to take his first steps playing face to face games. For that reason alone, I felt I didn't need to worry about him giving up the exchange because those kind of guys really don't like to give up material for abstract compensation.
White to play
JMGB v Some Guy, Croydon League ages ago
Pretty early on during those three minutes that I was thinking about playing my knight to e5, that old Croydon League game came to mind. I recalled Black playing 5 … Be6 and then telling me after the game that as soon as he'd released the bishop from his hand he realised that he'd allowed 6 Nxe5 fxe5, 7 Bxb7 "winning the rook".
Black to play
My feeling during the game was that he could simply go 7 … Nbd7 when after 8 Bxa8 Qxa8
White to play
it looked to me that for my tiny material plus I had no development, nowhere obvious to put my pieces and not much in the way of light squares on the long diagonal. When I told my opponent that he shot me the sort of disbelieving frown that I might have expected had I said that I'd made friends with the pixies who live at the end of his garden. He clearly felt that I'd simply missed a chance to get a winning advantage right out of the opening.
Back to Hampstead
So, returning to the Hampstead game, I was fairly sure that I wasn't going to see 7 … b5, 8 Nxc6 Nxc6, 9 Bxc6+ Bd7
White to play
and that Black would in fact just castle or perhaps develop his queen's knight to d7 instead. That proved to be correct. Almost immediately 7 … 0-0 appeared on the board and I breathed a sigh of relief, grateful that I wouldn't have to find out what was going on if he had provoked me into grabbing the rook.
Hampstead variation: 10 Bxa8 Qxa8
Now unlike the Croydon league guy, I believe in this kind of exchange sac. I'm just not equipped to evaluate whether any particular instance of it is any good or not, that's all. It's an improvement of sorts, I suppose, albeit not a massively helpful one.
I felt at the time, and it still seems to me now, that the position I might have got at Hampstead is better for White than the line that I had rejected all those years ago. The relative development of the two sides is about the same in both cases, but White seems considerably more cramped in the Croydon League position.
Hampstead and Croydon
The should have led to me feeling optimistic about taking on a8, I suppose, and yet still the prospect that the game might actually proceed this way rather alarmed me. The reason why was because the position that I might end up with reminded me of a famous game from the Anand-Topalov game. Not so famous that I could recall the actual moves, but I did have a strong memory of Black giving up the exchange and getting an enormous amount of play - not to mention an hour on the clock - in return.
When Hampstead was all over I discovered that my position and the one from the World Championship were even more similar than I'd imagined. In fact all you have to do is move White's bishop to f4 and have Black castle and you get an exact replica.
u2200 and World Championship
Had I realised this I think I'd have been even more worried than I was at the time although, on sober reflection, the one small difference between Anand-Topalov and JMGB-Zarrar seems to push the position further in my favour. With my queen's bishop still at home I could continue with f2-f3 like Vishy did and Topalov's … Nf6-d5 wouldn't gain a tempo. I suppose the fact that Black's rook is still on its starting square means that it can support a banzai attack with … h7-h5-h4. That would mean leaving his king in the centre of the board, though, and when White eventually gets his pieces out that's going to prove to be problematic, isn't it?
About to demonstrate a slightly higher standard of play than you get from me at Hampstead
So, to recap:-
I never got to grab an exchange in the end, and had I done so I've no idea how the game would have gone, but if I had happened I reckon I would have had an improved version of Anand-Topalov and better than I would have got had I chopped that rook in the Croydon League.
I'm not (quite) as scared of giving up my fianchettoed rook as I once was and if an opponent plays down the same line again I'd certainly give 7 Ne5 another punt. Still, it's early days with this exchange saccery. Anybody who wants to point out precisely how and why I've got it completely wrong is more than welcome to make a contribution to the comments box.
2014 ISE COUNT: 4
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Hampstead tournament hall from Adam Raoof's Flickr
Vishy & Toppy from Chess Vibes