Chess Pattern Recognition: Your Shortcut to Victory

Chess pattern recognition is a crucial element of your chess strategy. Recognizing chess patterns allows you to unleash tactical blows that take your opponent by surprise.

The Chess Patterns You Need to Know blog image

Sacrificing material is difficult for all of us, but if you recognize a pattern and know the sacrifice is sound, then it is much easier to play the sacrifice.

The more chess experience you gain, the easier it becomes to play sacrifices. You can make it even easier to play them by increasing your chess pattern recognition.

Closely connected to chess pattern recognition is the positional sacrifice. Unfortunately, not every sacrifice we play will lead to checkmate.

Improving as a chess player means taking a step up and including positional sacrifices in your play. GM Bryan Smith leads us through a wonderful game that proves draws in chess can be exciting!

Bxb5 is a thematic sacrifice in the Sicilian Defense and one of the must-know patterns in this opening. Chess pattern recognition makes it easier for you to remember these tactical strikes.
Bxb5 is a thematic sacrifice in the Sicilian Defense and one of the must-know patterns in this opening

Chess Pattern Recognition in the Sicilian Defense

One of Black’s main opening strategies in the Sicilian Defense is to expand on the queenside with …a6 and …b5. White must always be vigilant for the opportunity to sacrifice a bishop with Bxb5!

Many chess players, even those above 2000 Elo, play the opening without thinking. Along with the opening strategy, you must learn the tactical opportunities for your opponent too. 

Becoming fixated on your own plans can end with you being part of an embarrassing miniature. In the position below, John Sugden played the seemingly natural 10…Bb7 and got checkmated five moves later.

Raymond Keene (2455) – John N Sugden (2217), Dulwich, England, 1961, 1-0

The sacrifice of a bishop on b5 by White in the Sicilian Defense is thematic. Keene achieved a quick victory with it against Snugden, but it is not unusual for White to only obtain positional compensation.

Below is a game from 1954 played between Bronstein and Najdorf. Bronstein sacrificed his bishop and, in return, obtained three connected passed pawns on the queenside.

Studying middlegame patterns is essential to help you understand what compensation you get for the sacrificed material. By carefully studying games like this one, you will also learn how to convert the win.

Learn from the great players of the past and use their ideas in your own games.

Najdorf even managed to exchange queens in this game, but it didn’t prevent him from losing. Notice how Bronstein first regroups his pieces before rushing to advance his passed pawns.

David Bronstein – Miguel Najdorf, ARG-URS (1), 1954, 1-0

Forty-nine years later, Wei Yi used this same strategy to defeat the strong chess grandmaster Alexey Shirov in a very similar fashion. Once again, this was not a quick win.

Wei Yi – Alexey Shirov, World Cup (2.2), 2013, 1-0

Chess Pattern Recognition in the French Defense

Black will often play an exchange sacrifice on f3 to open up the White king. A very important pattern to keep in mind if you are a French Defense player.
Black will often play an exchange sacrifice on f3 to open up the White king.

Again, we learn the importance of learning the moves and the typical strategies of your chosen opening. Chess pattern recognition and strategy are two aspects of your game you need to know before starting a game.

Thanks to the f6 pawn break Black often obtains a semi-open f-file for his rook. When White castles short, there is always the opportunity to play an exchange sacrifice with …Rxf3.

Black’s compensation from this exchange sacrifice is enough to ensure that even if White survives the attack, Black need not fear the endgame.

Black will try to combine a queen and bishop battery with the exchange sacrifice. The queen on c7 and bishop on d6 take aim at White’s h2-pawn.

The exchange sacrifice on f3 was known to French Defense players well over 100 years ago.

In this game, played in 1902, Olland takes the time he needs to bring all his pieces into play. First, sacrificing the h7 pawn before getting the rook from a8 to f8 in preparation for the exchange sacrifice.

Hugo Suechting – Adolf Georg Holland, 13th DSB Kongress (Hanover)(1), 1902, 0-1

Viktor Korchnoi played the French Defense for many years and was well aware of the need for a patient build-up. In his game against Sergey Kudrin, the exchange sacrifice proved decisive, with White resigning one move later.

Sergey Gennadyevich Kudrin – Viktor Korchnoi, Ba’er Sheva, 1984, 0-1

The Double Bishop Sacrifice

The opportunity to play a double bishop sacrifice is not commonplace, and if you didn’t have this chess pattern recognition, would you dare to play it? As you would expect, the double bishop sacrifice often leads to a win within a few moves.

King safety is the first thing you must consider when evaluating a chess position.

A material advantage is of no use if you find get checkmated. When you sacrifice two minor pieces, it is good to have checkmate as your goal.

The knight on f3 or f6 is a vital defender of the king after short castle. When you notice this piece has moved away, it is a signal to consider the double bishop sacrifice to open the king.

We are all familiar with the bishop sacrifice on h7 or h6. When playing Black, we need to remember it is possible to sacrifice a bishop on h2 or h3.

As far back as 1855, Charles Kenny was willing to sacrifice both his bishops to leave the White king wholly exposed. Checkmate followed three moves later.

Franciscus G Janssens – Charles Kenny, Match, 1855, 0-1

Because the bishop is a long-range piece, your sacrifices are likely to take your opponent by surprise. Especially if there are none of your other pieces close to your opponent’s king.

The Colle System might not be the most aggressive of chess openings, but if you have good chess pattern recognition, you can make good use of its attacking potential. Steven Mayer, rated 2246 Elo, resigned on move 18!

Leonid Filatov (2301) – Steven F Mayer (2226), 28th World Open(5), 2000, 1-0

Final Thoughts

There are many more examples of chess patterns for you to learn. Improving your chess pattern recognition will make you more alert to winning opportunities in your games.

Chess pattern recognition must become an essential part of your middlegame training if you want to improve at chess!

We are fortunate to have powerful chess engines to help us and point out new moves as we play through games. Pay attention to moves the chess engine suggests while playing through games, and you may discover a new chess pattern.

Act Now! For a Limited Time get 50% Off! 80/20 Tactics Multiplier: Positional Sacrifices the 31 examples included in this course are lesser-known games, which means there is added surprise value when you play them in your games. Positional sacrifices are a part of chess you must master to take your game to the next level. Now you can get 8+ hours of instruction from GM Bryan Smith for Only $29.95!

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