Understanding before Moving 170: Chess history in a nutshell (51)

by ChessBase
3/24/2024 – Herman Grooten is an International Master, a renowned trainer and the author of several highly acclaimed books on chess training and strategy. In the 170th episode of his ChessBase show "Understanding before moving" Herman continues his series "Chess history in a nutshell" and continues to take a look at the unique style of Tigran Petrosian, World Champion fro 1963 to 1969. | Photo: Pascal Simon

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Tigran Petrosian (3)

Tigran Petrosian's particular talent was in strategy. He was particularly good at swapping the right pieces. One of his opponents once said that he could not understand why he always ended up with the wrong pieces against Petrosian!

The Armenian's positional sense was unsurpassed, but that does not mean that he did not have an eye for dynamic possibilities. Indeed, his strategic insight served him well when he sacrificed the exchange, which he liked to do. He was always looking for positions where, after such a sacrifice, his minor pieces were better than the rook he had sacrificed.

A well-known example is the exchange sacrifice in the Sicilian, where Black gives up his rook for a knight with ...Rxc3, a sacrifice that often allows Black to also take a pawn on e4 after bxc3, after which Black has a pawn and a strategic advantage (the doubled pawns on c2/c3) for the exchange.

Also famous is the so-called "Russian exchange sacrifice", where a player simply places a rook on a square covered by the opponent's minor pieces. We saw Botwinnik do this in a game against Lyublinksky. Here, the player who sacrifices does not get a pawn in return, but he does get some strategic advantages.

In the position shown in the diagram below, Petrosian played against none other than Spassky and confronted him with the famous exchange sacrifice by playing ...Rc4! If White accepts the sacrifice, Black gains some strategic advantages in return. Can you list what these advantages are and how Black might use them in a possible continuation?

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