Thursday, September 4, 2014

When in doubt, Bxh7 (Part 6)

In our last section on the Greek Gift sacrifice articles, we shall take a look at a sample game featuring this gambit. Our hero of the day is the tenth World Champion, Boris Spassky. Born in the Soviet Union, he won the 1965 Candidates Tournament Cycle which earned him the right to challenge reigning world champion Tigran Petrosian for the crown. Although Spassky lost the match, he returned in 1969 to defeat Petrosian and claim his title. Spassky was known as an all-rounded player with a flexible style, which allowed him to adapt easily to the playing styles of his opponents. He is currently the oldest living (ex) World Champion at the time of writing.

Boris Spassky, the 10th World Champion

In the following game from the 1965 Candidates Tournament Cycle, Spassky demonstrates his keen tactical vision through the execution of a Greek Gift Sacrifice.

Spassky, Boris vs Geller, Efim
Candidates Tournament 1965, Game 6

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 a6
4. Ba4 Nf6
5. O-O Be7
6. Re1 b5
7. Bb3 O-O
8. c3

For those of us who are unfamiliar with the Ruy Lopez, 8. c3 is a prophylactic move that prevents White from falling into the Noah's Ark Trap (see,_Noah%27s_Ark_Trap for more information)

8... d6
9. h3 Nd7
10. d4 Nb6
11. Nbd2 Bf6
12. Nf1 Re8
13. N1h2 exd4
14. cxd4 Na5
15. Bc2 c5 (D)

Position after 15... c5

16. Ng4

After 16. dxc5, the continuation suggested by Fritz was 16... dxc5 17. e5 Be7 18. Qe2 h5 (to "restrain" the knight on h2) 19. Rd1 Qc7 20. Ng5 g6 (20... Bxg5 21. Bxg5 and White's pieces are clearly more active; 21...Rxe5?? loses immediately after 22. Qxe5 Qxe5 23. Rd8+ with mate on the next move!) 21. Nhf3. At first, it seems that White has the advantage because of his prospective passed pawn, coupled with active pieces that are poised to strike the kingside. But Black also has chances for counterplay with moves like ...Nc4, ...Bb7 followed by ...Rad1, which attempts to restrain White's activity and mobilizes his own pieces. Fritz gives this position a score of 0.14, which is roughly equal for both sides.

16... Bxg4
17. hxg4 cxd4
18. g5 Be7
19. e5 Bf8 (D)

Position after 19... Bf8

White's centre looks like it's about to collapse. But does it matter for him?

20. Bxh7+!! Kxh7

Collapsing pawn centre? Ok can (:

GM Valeri Beim: "The combinative motif present in this is clear to any player, even one with little experience. It is probably the best-known of all tactical motifs: The bishop sacrifice on h7. The calculation of the variations is also not terribly difficult in this case. Why Geller, himself a brilliant tactician, should have allowed such a possibility is another question."

21. g6+ Kg8

Here we see once again the main challenge of the Greek Gift sacrifice: The numerous variations to calculate so as to stop the enemy king from escaping the attack. In this case, 21... fxg6 22. Ng5+ Kg8 23. Qf3 leads to the same position in the main line, while after 21... Kxg6 White wins quickly with 22. Qd3+ f5 23. exf6+ Kf7 24. Ng5+ Kxf6 25. Qf3+ Kg6 26. Qf7+ Kh6 27. Re6+.

22. Ng5

The familiar knight motif we see as part of the follow-up attack.

23. Qf3 (D)

Position after 23. Qf3

23... Qxg5!

Black finds the correct route to prolong the fight. Other variations such as 23... Qe7? 24. Qh3 and 23... Be7? 24. Qf7+ Kh8 25. Ne6 lose quickly.

24. Bxg5 dxe5
25. Rac1 Ra7
26. Qd3 Re6
27. f4 Nac4
28. fxe5 Nxe5
29. Qxd4 (D)

Position after 29. Qxd4

White hasn't been able to launch a decisive mating attack on the Black King, but his gain in material (Queen vs two Knights) is good enough. Nevertheless, Geller will continue to put up a resilient defence for the next 15 moves before succumbing to his material deficit. I will now show the rest of the game without any commentary:

29... Rd7
30. Qe4 Be7
31. Be3 Nbc4
32. Rcd1 Rxd1
33. Rxd1 Nxb2
34. Qd5 Kf7
35. Rb1 Nbc4
36. Bf2 g5
37. Re1 Bf6
38. Kh1 Nb2
39. Re3 Nbc4
40. Re2 Nd6
41. Bd4 Ndc4
42. g4 Ke7
43. Bc5+ Kf7
44. Qb7+ (D)

Position after 44. Qb7+

A truly remarkable calculative ability as demonstrated by Boris Spassky!


And with that we close off this series on the Greek Gift Sacrifice. Hopefully you now have a better understanding of how this well-known tactical motif works and when is it appropriate to unleash it. Who knows, you might even get to use it in one of your own games one day!

Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:
Part 4: 5:

"How to Calculate Chess Tactics" by Valeri Beim

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