Monday, May 11, 2009

Sacrificing the Queen for Two Minor Pieces (Part 1)

The long-term positional sacrifice of the queen for two minor pieces is perhaps the most fascinating and difficult to evaluate type of material sacrifice. According to the counting scheme inculcated in all of us from very early in our chess education, two minor pieces (6 points) should be completely inadequate compensation for the queen (9 points). After all, even rook and a minor piece (8 points) is insufficient compensation for the queen.

Some creative players have attempted to show, however, that in the right kind of position, two minor pieces can hold their own against the queen.

One of the earliest, most famous, and most important games to feature this kind of sacrifice was played between Boris Spassky and David Bronstein at the Amsterdam Candidates' Tournament in 1956.

Boris Spassky-David Bronstein
Candidates Tournament (12), Amsterdam 1956

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. f3 e5 6. d5 Nh5 7. Be3 Na6

At the time, the normal moves in this position were 7...f5 or 7...O-O. Tal had played the former move against Spassky a couple of months earlier at the 23rd USSR Championships; Spassky won in 38 moves. Ragozin had been the first to play 7...Na6, in a game against Tolush from the same Soviet Championship tournament. Ragozin had reached a passive position, however, after 8. Qd2 Bd7 9. Bd3 c5 10. Nge2 Qh4+ 11. g3 Qe7 12. a3 Nc7 13. O-O-O a6 14. g4 Nf6 15. h4.

Bronstein had a different idea. What if, rather than waiting for White to play Nge2 and cover g3, he played the queen check a couple of moves earlier? Of course, if Black plays ...Nxg3, White can also pin it with Qf2...

8. Qd2 Qh4+ 9. g3

9...Nxg3!!?? 10. Qf2 Nxf1 11. Qxh4 Nxe3 12. Kf2 Nxc4

Black has two bishops and two pawns for the queen, but no trace of an attack. Bronstein later wrote that "I wanted to demonstrate that the two bishop are a great force." It was a revolutionary idea at the time to consider this position even playable for Black. Bronstein ended up losing this game, but improvement were later found for Black and other players have taken up Bronstein's idea with success.

13. b3 Nb6 14. Nge2 f5 15. Rhg1 O-O 16. Kg2 Bd7 17. a4 Bf6 18. Qg3 Nb4 19. a5 Nc8 20. exf5

In "Bronstein on the King's Indian," he wrote that he had not expected this move, "became nervous and took with the bishop." He gives instead 20...Ne7! (a move also proposed by Goldberg in the Russian tournament bulletin) 21. Ne4 (21. fxg6 Nf5 22. Qe1 [22. gxh7? Kh8! 23.Qe1 Nd3 24.Qd2 Nh4+ 25.Kg3 Rg8+! and Black's attack breaks through] Nd3 23. Qd2 Nh4+ leads to a draw by repetition.) Nxf5 22. Nxf6+ Rxf6 23. Qg5 Raf8 and Black "has a very strong position. He has a mass of threats- ...Nd4, ...Nc2, and ...Nd3. It seems to me that here Black's position is considerably better, as his pieces are dominant."

20...Bxf5 21. Ra4

Bronstein says that he became rattled after this move and is very critical of his subsequent play.

21...Nd3 22. Rc4 Nc5 23. Ne4 Na6 24. Nxf6+ Rxf6 25. f4 e4 26. Nc3 Ne7 27. Re1 Raf8 28. b4 c6 29. Nxe4 Bxe4+ 30. Rcxe4 Nxd5 31. Re8 Nac7 32. Rxf8+ Kxf8 33. Kh1 Rf5 34. Qh4 Nf6 35. Qf2 Nb5 36. Qe2 Nd5 37. a6 bxa6 38. Qe8+ Kg7 39. Qxc6 Kh6 40. Qxa6 Nxb4 41. Qb7 Nd3 42. Re7 Nxf4 43. Rxh7+ Kg5 44. Qe7+ Kg4 45. Qe3 Kg5 46. h4+ Kg4 47. Kh2 Nh5 48. Rh6 1-0

Although unsuccessful in this game, Bronstein's idea became an inspiration for later players. For example, Seirawan employed it in a similar position against Kasparov in 1989:

Gary Kasparov-Yasser Seirawan
World Cup Barcelona (4) 1989

11...Nxg3 12. Qf2 Nxf1 13. Qxh4 Nxe3 14. Ke2 Nxc4 15. Rc1 Na6 16. Nd1 Nb6 17. Ne3 Bd7 18. Nh3 f6 19. Nf2 Nc8 20. Rc3 Ne7 21. Rhc1 Rac8 22. Rb3 Rb8 23. Nd3 Rf7 24. Qe1 Nc8 25. Qa5 Nb6 26. Rxc7 f5 27. Rc2 fxe4 28. fxe4 Rbf8 29. Rxb6 axb6 30. Qxb6 Bh6 31. Qxd6 Rf3 32. Nf5 gxf5 33. Qxh6 fxe4 34. Ne1 1/2-1/2

White actually looks better in the final position, and 34. Qg5+ was probably even stronger. Perhaps Kasparov offered the draw in time trouble?

In the type of position seen in these games, Black's compensation is in part material (two bishops plus two pawns are worth almost as much as a queen), in part the power of the two bishops, and in part the fact that the closed position and Black's unbroken pawn formation leaves the White queen with few opportunities to invade the Black position.

From this perspective, far more adventurous is the sacrifice played by Hikara Nakamura in the U.S. Championship over the weekend.

Jaan Ehlvest-Hikara Nakamura
U.S. Championship (2) St. Louis 2009

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 b6 4. Bg2 Bb7 5. O-O Be7 6. b3 O-O 7. Bb2 d5 8. e3 c5 9. Nc3 Nc6 10. cxd5 Nxd5 11. Nxd5 Qxd5 12. d4 Rad8 13. Ne5

This is a well-known position from a line of the English that is considered to give White a slight edge. The usual move is 13...Qd6, played, for example, by Carlsen in a rapid game against Ivanchuk last autumn. Nakamura played

13... Qxg2+?!?!

This move is, incredibly enough, not a novelty. It was played in Andrijevic-Jovicic, Belgrade 1980. That game went:14. Kxg2 Nxe5+ 15. f3 Ng4 16. Qe2 cxd4 17. exd4 Nf6 18. Rfc1 Nd5 19. Rc4 Rfe8 20. Kf2 Bg5 21. h4 Be3+ 22. Kg2 Bf4 23. Bc1 Bd6 24. Bd2 h6 25. Kh2 Ba6 26. Qe4 Nf6 27. Qc6 Bxc4 28. bxc4 Bc5 29. dxc5 Rxd2+ 30. Kh3 bxc5 31. Qxc5 Rb8 32. a4 Rbb2 33. Rh1 Rf2 34. Qxa7 h5 35. a5 Rfd2 36. a6 Ra2 37. Qb8+ Kh7 38. a7 1-0.

14. Kxg2 Nxe5+ 15. f3 cxd4 16. exd4 Nc6 17. Qe2 Rd5

Here Black has bishop, knight, and one pawn for the queen. White has an isolated d-pawn and a bad bishop. If Black ever takes the d-pawn, however, the position could open up to the advantage of White's queen. In fact, there are already many open lines that White's queen can use. In short, Black's compensation is much more questionable here than in Spassky-Bronstein. Ehlvest, however, appears rattled by the unexpected turn of events.

18. Rac1 Rfd8 19. Rc4?!

Returning some material. 19. Rfe1 Nxd4 20. Bxd4 Rxd4 21. Rc7 looks good for White.

19...Ba6 20. Qe4 Bxc4 21. bxc4 R5d6 22. Rd1 Bf6 23. Ba3 Rxd4 24. Rxd4 Nxd4

Now Black has a more conventional rook, knight, and pawn for the queen. This material, combined with the weak White pawn on c4, should give him sufficient compensation if he can stabilize the position. In the next couple of moves, White could try to mix things up by invading with the queen at Qb7, but Ehlvest plays it safe. After 25. Qb7! h5 26. Qxa7 Nf5 27. Qxb6 Rd2+, Black's counterplay appears menacing, but the computer shows that White is safe after 28.Kh3 Bd4 29. Bc5.

25. Bc1?! h5 26. g4?! hxg4 27. fxg4 g5 28. Be3 e5 29. a4 Rc8 30. Qd5 Ne6 31. Kf3

Now Black is fine. Nakamura's next move is risky, as it allows White to invade and win a pawn. As compensation, however, White's king becomes exposed. He might have considered instead biding his time with moves like ...Rc7 and ...Kg7.

31...Be7!? 32. Qxe5 Rxc4 33. Qb8+ Kg7 34. Qxa7 Bd8 35. Qd7 Rb4 36. h3 Bf6 37. Qd1 1/2-1/2

It is hard to see how either side can make much progress in the final position.

No comments:

Post a Comment