Monday, April 14, 2014

Blue or Red Pill? XXIX

Black to play
Rizvi - JMGB, Surrey League 2010

Well that’s 13 posts in already. 25% of the way through the project is perhaps not a bad time to review progress made so far. In truth, I’m having a bit of a crisis of confidence and am not hugely convinced that I’m making much progress.

Actually I’m wondering if players of my strength should even be trying to get a handle on this exchange sacrificing business.

Ray leads the way

I don’t sacrifice the exchange (or anything else for that matter) too often in my games. A game I played at Couldson at the fag end of 2010 is still the first that springs to mind when I ponder my own efforts in this aspect of our game. Partly, I suppose, because at the critical moment I was inspired by a game RDK had played a quarter of a century earlier.

So there I was playing Black in the second of the two diagrams above. White had just played 19 Ne3-f5 and I thought that I was starting to get on top.

19 ... Nxe4, 20 Bxe4 Bxf5 is the obvious line.  White follows up with 21 Bxb7 Rb8, 22 Bd5+ Kh8 then would have to do something about h3.

White to play

I thought this would be very pleasant for me. I have a protected passed pawn in the centre, the bishop pair, pressure down the f-file (especially if I were to push the d3 pawn then go ... Bb6) and my rooks seem to be more active than White’s. What’s more, none of White’s pieces really seem to be doing anything. Well, none except for that Bishop which he’s got cemented in the middle of the board.

I thought that line must give Black an advantage, but I thought I would struggle to win the game because of that one minor piece. Pretty quickly, though, I recalled Keene - Wirthensohn from 1976. I’d blogged about it a couple of months before (Ray Could Play VI) and the memory of how Our Man had sacrificed a rook solely to get rid of a bishop on d5 - the opposition's best piece in that game too - was still fresh in my mind.

So what about 19 ... Nxe4, 20 Bxe4 Rxf5 instead? White can’t take on b7 now, so if he doesn’t accept the material he’ll just be a pawn down. And if he plays 21 Bxf5 Bxf5,

White to play

then for a small material investment I get pretty much the same position as I could have in that other variation, except that this time there’s no bishop on d5 to worry about.  Once again White does something about h3 and if that’s 22 g3-g4 it seemed that I could either drop back to g6 or try something like ... Bc2 and ... d3.

That’s what I thought at the time, anyhoo. Looking back at it now, it strikes me that the absence of a rook on the semi-open f-file is a fairly obvious difference that necessitates a change in strategy from Black. That is, focus on the queenside where the rook is already handily placed to support a move like ... a5-a4.

Either way, during the game I couldn’t resist the temptation to sacrifice the exchange and ... followed up with some truly horrible moves and lost. Chess being the cruel game that it is, White finished things off by realising that in this position,

White to play

if he gave up his rook for my bishop he’d reach a won pawn ending. Such is chessic life, I suppose.

Might this help?

Going back over this old game, I’m wondering whether that exchange sacrifice,

  1. was just not very good;
  2. wasn’t a terrible plan, but not as good as playing normally and taking on f5 with the bishop;
  3. was a good idea, but it was followed by some extremely mediocre chess.

If option number three is the best I can do I wonder if I should bother try at all. I mean, even if it turns out that letting White have his bishop on d5 is objectively inferior to giving up a rook to get rid of it, in practice I’d probably have had more chances of winning - and certainly less likelihood of losing - than by playing as I did.

So, should I ...

Accept that I’m not really good enough to understand exchange sacrifices
and rather than over-reaching myself, stick to playing within my limits


Get out of my comfort zone (BORP? XXVIII) more often,
Take risks a little more frequently,
Play some more exchange sacrifices and see how it goes:
I might lose a few more games,
but even if I do it will  be beneficial for my chess in the long run.

Right now, I’m not so sure.

2014 ISE count: 37
TISE Index
BORP? Index


Anonymous said...

Is it more to do with evaluating the resulting ending? In the position after the exchange sacrifice, I would have thought Black struggling to draw. That type of sacrifice to eliminate the fianchettoed Bishop usually needs the Queens on, so there are mating threats. Without the sacrifice, it's level material and you have a Bishop pair. That's usually enough to be comfortable because of the possibility of bailing out to an opposite Bishop ending. Equally a Bishop on d5 isn't so much of a problem without a Queen to support a mating attack.


Anonymous said...

To me the position after the exchange sac looks entirely playable.
The bishop pair and a protected passer and no open files for the white rooks. Even if black isn't better, he should be pretty much ok.
Bb6 next maybe and already Bc2 with d3 and Bd4 is a threat.
So maybe the problem is rather precise play in an unbalanced position, i.e. mostly a calculation issue?

The blue or red pill question depends solely on your level of ambition, I would say. If you really want to improve, I guess you should try to master these dynamical aspects of the game.
On the other hand, learning to steer games into your area of expertise is a completely valid method of playing strength improvement as well.


Jack Rudd said...

I don't know what your series is doing for your chess, but it seems to be working well for mine. Not so much because I'm making more exchange sacrifices - though I think I am - but because I'm considering and analysing them.