Saturday, September 15, 2007

Queen sacrifice

In his heyday Mikhail Tal used to watch the televised chess lessons that were aimed at beginning players. The World Champion declared in an interview that it can never do any harm to review the fundamentals of chess strategy and tactics, no matter what a player's ranking may be. Given his outstanding accomplishments it is hard to argue with this claim.

A couple of weeks ago I went back and started working through Fred Reinfeld's two-volume set of combinations and mating attacks. I honestly can't remember looking at these books anytime since my days as an A-class player. But I well remember the important role they played in helping me break the 2000 barrier.

The first chapter of 1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate is completely given over to queen sacrifices. Having solved perhaps 200 of these mating combinations over a period of several days, I decided to take a break and play a few games of online blitz. In one of those games... you guessed it: I managed to force mate by sacrificing my queen.

I am playing White in the first diagrammed position. My kingside pressure has already induced my opponent to sacrifice a piece. However, his remaining forces are quite active and on top of that my king is rather exposed. I have to play aggressively without being too reckless.

1.Bf4! Qa5+
White was threatening to increase the pressure with 2.Qh2! since whenever Black takes on f4 the immediate result is mate on h8. The queen check is designed to break the pin and here the most accurate reply is undoubtedly 2.Ke2! intending 3.Rag1. But I saw an opportunity to set up a mating combination and couldn't resist it...
2.Bd2 Qb6 3.Bc3!? Qe3+
The best defence is the prosaic 3...Bxc3 4.Nxc3 Qd4 but since Black has only one pawn for the knight this cannot promise any happiness.
4.Kf1 Qf3+ 5.Kg1 Qe3+ 6.Kg2
Here too Black can exchange bishops and then queens but as before the endgame is hopeless. Whether by design or oversight Black decides to continue his “attack” with:
6...Rxd3? (second diagram)
Now it's White to play and win!
7.Qh8+! Bxh8 8.Rxh8 mate!

A satisfying combination but one likely to be realised only in a blitz game.

1 comment:

Ryan Emmett said...

A nice finish. It's interesting to me that you credit 1001 Brilliant ways to Checkmate with helping you break 2000 Elo. I have the book, so maybe I should try going through it again, because I'm certainly not over 2000 Elo yet. :)

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National master (Canada) since 1984. B.C. Champion 1977 and 1984. Runner-up 1991 and 2002. B.C. Open Champion 1972 and 1982. B.C. U/14 Champion 1964-65-66. Mikhail Botvinnik once wrote that publishing your analytical work forces you to be accurate because it exposes you to criticism. Hence this blog.