An Excellent Positional Sacrifice

Excellent Positional SacrificeLet us look at a position that shows an excellent positional sacrifice. Such examples help us understand the concept of a positional sacrifice – which means giving away a higher value piece for the enemy’s lower value piece to attain a good advantage for a win or at times a draw (in case the game seems lost).

Excellent Positional Sacrifice

At first sight, White’s chances are preferable. He has two bishops, and although the one at b2 is passive, it is free to come into play via c1. Black’s pawn majority on the queen-side is ephemeral (the move b4 doesn’t give anything in particular), whereas White is ready for activity in the centre.

He can first strengthen his position by the advance of the h-pawn, but White’s main aim is the e5-e6 breakthrough. This threat is highly unpleasant and it is not altogether clear how to combat it.

But on a close examination of the placing of the black pieces and the features of the position, it will be noticed that its evaluation could change if the black knight were able to occupy the d5 – square.

Here the knight not only blocks the d4 – pawn, but also takes away some good squares from the white pieces (for example, f4 from the queen).

However, it is not so easy for the knight to reach d5: for this the rook has to move from e7.

For example, 25…Ra7!? – after 26. e6 f6 27. Bf3 Ne7 everything is still far from clear; in any event, there is no apparent way of forcibly exploiting the powerful passed pawn.

Black retains control of the light squares, and even if the pawn should advance to e7, the g6 – bishop can come to the rescue. But this would have been falling in with White’s plans!

And Black makes a move which many players, unfamiliar with this games, would consider a blunder and at which the computer would ‘laugh its heart out’ if it had one!.

 In this position, Black played 25… Re6!!.
The move is indeed incredible: the rook simply place itself en-prise. For the sake of what? In order to block the advance of the pawn and also to open the way for the knight to d5.

Let us ponder over the position and ask us ourselves: 

Why should a rook be stronger than a minor piece here?

After all, a rook requires open lines, it needs to have something to attack, whereas minor pieces require strong points and pawn support.

In the given instance there is a shortage of open lines, and it is no longer possible to prevent the knight from reaching d5, where it will be impregnable. In addition, from d5 the knight will be attacking the c3 – pawn, and if the white bishop does not manage to switch to d2, it will remain ‘vegetating’ at b2.

It is practically impossible to break Black’s light square defenses; white simply does not have sufficient resources to do so.

Thus, when this staggering move is made on the board, we can understand perfectly well the reasons that induced Black to give up the exchange, and we can grasp the deep strategic meaning of what has occurred.

After 25… Re6, White played 26. a4. An attempt, by creating tension on the queen-side, to open lines and exploit the exchange advantage. The game was agreed to a draw after 41 moves.

This game featuring an excellent Positional Sacrifice was played between S. Reshevsky and T. Petrosian, Candidates Tournament, Zurich 1953.

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