We showcase a strong and unexpected exchange sacrifice in a typical structure that can arise from many openings: Caro-Kann, Scandinavian, Alekhine’s and even Modern. Knowing this idea might just net you a quick win against an incautious opponent!
Some moves bring back memories… some good, some traumatic! This one is a little bit in the middle! We join the game RubiChess-rofChade TCEC Season 21 Divison 1 (https://tcec-chess.com/#div=l1&game=13&season=21) after Black’s 12th move.
Black’s pawn structure is reached from many systems against 1.e4: the Caro-Kann, the Scandinavian, Alekhine’s Defence and the Modern. It is characterised by the exchange of Black’s d-pawn for White’s e-pawn and the move …c6 to hold back c4 and d5 from White. This solid setup creates a dilemma for Black’s light-squared bishop which struggles to find a good spot. Black often exchanges the bishop for a knight with …Bg4xf3 but conceding the bishop pair is not to everyone’s taste.
Leaving the bishop on c8 is not a long-term option so e6 seems like a sensible compromise, covering the e7–pawn against the attack of the rook on e1 and ensuring that Black’s queenside is developed after …Nd7.
There is however a concrete problem to this development approach, and RubiChess doesn’t miss the chance to demonstrate it.
This exchange sacrifice weakens the light squares around Black’s king (g6 loses the protection of the f7-pawn) and provides White with easy follow-up play, attacking the doubled e-pawn on e6, using the free access to the e5-square and exploiting Black’s weakened kingside structure along the b1-h7 diagonal together with h4-h5. Stockfish is already at +1.62!
14…Qc8 15.Ne4 Nd7
This allows a neat tactic which nets RubiChess 2 pawns for the exchange; the exchange of a set of minor pieces does nothing to alleviate the weakness of Black’s kingside.
16.Bxe7 Nxe7 17.Nd6
17…Qc7 18.Qxe6+ Kh8 19.Qxe7 Bf6 20.Qe6 Kg7 21.c3 Nb6 22.Ne4 Rae8 23.Qh3
and RubiChess ground out a win in 75 moves.
23…Qe7 24.Qg4 Qe6 25.Qxe6 Rxe6 26.Nc5 Re7 27.Nd2 Rfe8 28.Nce4 Re6 29.f3 Bd8 30.Nb3 Nc8 31.Kf2 Rf8 32.g3 Nd6 33.Nxd6 Rxd6 34.h4 Re6 35.Bc4 Re7 36.Nc5 Kh8 37.Ne6 Rfe8 38.Re1 Bc7 39.g4 Bb8 40.Re2 h5 41.g5 Kh7 42.f4 Bd6 43.Kf3 Bb8 44.Re3 Kh8 45.b4 axb4 46.cxb4 Bc7 47.b5 Bd6 48.b6 Kh7 49.Bb3 Rf7 50.Re5 Rfe7 51.Nc7 Bxe5 52.dxe5 Rd8 53.Ke3 Kg7 54.a5 Kf8 55.Bc2 Kf7 56.e6+ Rxe6+ 57.Nxe6 Kxe6 58.Bxg6 Rd7 59.Bxh5 Rd5 60.Bg6 c5 61.Be4 Rd7 62.h5 Rd1 63.Bxb7 c4 64.a6 c3 65.Be4 Re1+ 66.Kd3 c2 67.Kxc2 Rxe4 68.b7 Re2+ 69.Kd3 Rb2 70.a7 Rb3+ 71.Kc2 Rxb7 72.a8Q Rc7+ 73.Kb2 Rf7 74.Qe8+ Re7 75.Qxe7+ 1–0
Why does this game bring back memories? Well take a look at this game I played in 2011 with Black against the experienced Dutch player Ivo Timmermans.
I remember weighing up the likelihood that White would sacrifice the exchange after 13…Be6 – I didn’t like the look of it! – and thinking eventually, “Ah whatever!” 🙂
14.Rxe6 fxe6 15.Ng5 Qb6
I’d spotted this idea – which turned out to be much less clever than I thought! – when playing 13..Be6 and it perhaps influenced me too much into risking it!
16.Nxe6 Qxb2 17.Bb3 Kh8 18.Rc1 Qa3 19.Qg4
and I was in all sorts of trouble! I have never forgotten the Rxe6 sac after that!