Pawns, Charge Up! Episode 8

Charge! Military bugle call to execute a rapid progression into harm’s way with a deadly intent

We all have experienced the situation at the chessboard where we sort of get stuck and seemingly can’t do anything active. Yikes! What to do about this?

Well,  last time in episode Seven we saw that infantry could do impossible things, sometimes sacrificing themselves for the good of the Army.

One option is the so called charge up sacrifice when, as IM Tim Taylor put in his Pawn Sacrifice! Winning at Chess the Adventurous Way, “you feel your position come alive, your men are up and raring to go, your game is electric with possibilities.

All pieces suddenly get activated overcoming every obstacle.”

For Tim, the charge-up is one of the most useful types of pawn sacrifice. They are hard to evaluate though, as the sac is intuitive by nature.

Master of risk strategy

To see the charge up in action, today we are going to examine a game by the late GM Leonid Stein.

Stein was among the world’s top ten players in the 1960s. He was “famous for the ease and elegance of his attacking play.

Even more surprising than the speed of his game was the impetuosity of his attacks, which seemed to originate from nothing and were frequently accompanied by beautiful sacrifices,” Gufeld, Leonid Stein, Moscow, 1980.

He who risks, may lose, but he who does not risk, loses. –GM Saviely Tartakower

Stein would often “offer light material sacrificies (varying from one pawn to the exchange) not for immediate or even readily tangible rewards, but in order to charge up, or electrify his positions.” Ray Keene, Leonid Stein: Master of Attack. 

Here is the game where Stein demolished the great Tigran Petrosian, known as an almost unbeatable player, in only 26 moves (commentary from Gufeld’s book).

Stein, Leonid – Petrosian, Tigran
USSR Ch, Moscow 1961

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 Ne7 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 c5 7. Qg4 Nf5 8. Bd3 h5 9. Qf4 Nc6 10. Ne2 Nce7 11. Ng3 Ng6 12. Qd2 Bd7 13. Rb1 Rb8 14. O-O c4 15. Be2 Nxg3 16. fxg3!

Opening the f-file for the rooks. At the same time, there is a direct threat 17.h4! and 18.Qd1 winning a pawn. Black has no choice.

16…h4 17. Bg4!

Stein possessed an extraordinary skill in generating attack out of moves with no perceptible threat, like this one. In the end, the bishop will assume the role of first violin in a fierce attack on the Petrosian’s, typically impenetrable defense.

17…hxg3 18. hxg3 Qe7 19. a4!

Stein-Petrosian, Moscow 1961 (after 18…Qe7)

“Charging up the whole position! – note that the white rooks, both bishops and the queen all become more active after this,” IM Tim Taylor.

19… Bxa4

This seems to offer the stiffest resistance in practical terms. Although the bishop will be out of play now, this at least allows the queen rook to be able to defend the 7th rank.

20. Ra1 b5 21. Ba3 Qd7 22. Rf2 Rb7 23. Raf1 Qd8

Looks like Black has covered everything.

24. Qd1!

A quite move hiding the serious threat 25.Rxf7! Rxf7 26.Rxf7 Kxf7 27.Qf3+! Ke8 28.Bxe6 Qc7 29.Bd6 Qb7 30.Bxd5 with a decisive attack. By parrying the threat Black weakens the back rank.

24…Rh6 25. Bc1 Rh7

Position after 25…Rh7

26. Bxe6!

The bishop fulfilled his role as the first violin – after 26…fxe6 27.Qg4! the entire white orchestra is giving a blazing creschendo finale. Black king resigns 1-0 

As Tim put it, the best way to learn this type of sacrifice is to try it – if you feel you can electrify your whole position for a pawn, go for it!


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