In the previous article, we talked about the first way to play when behind in material. That way involved taking advantage of whatever benefits and possibilities your position offers you. It involved a lot of self-confidence and positive thinking in order to figure out what advantages, however small, you have in a situation. The second way of playing when behind in material that we’re going to talk about, is to cause as many problems and create as many threats against your opponent as possible.
This way of playing involves you trying to mix up the game as much as you can. You want to keep your opponent on his toes, constantly reacting to as many threats as you can cause. The goal with this method of playing is to have your opponent mess up in their defense and allow you to turn the position from a disadvantage to an advantage. This is done through threats against your opponent’s pieces, checkmate threats, tactics and defensive counterattacks. This is a tricky way to play, but can be highly rewarding if your opponent is not expecting it.
I learned a lot about how to play when behind in material by watching the “Insane Chess Sacrifices” DVD by GM Timur Gareev and would highly recommend it if you want to learn more about the topic!
Let’s look at the position to the right taken from the game Smith vs. Fernandez (2006). Right now, it’s equal material, however White looks like he’s in a lot of trouble.
His kingside is under fire, his rook is attacked and it’s not easy to defend as White here. However, instead of playing defense, White lashes out for a counterattack by sacrificing some material with the move 1.Rxf4! Nxf4 2.Rxf4 White’s immediate threat is 3.Rf8+ followed by mate. 2…Rg8 3.Ne4 Qh5 4.h4 axb5 5.Bb3 Rg6 6.Rf8 Be6 7.Qe7 and White went on to win within the next few moves using this nice counter attack. Despite being down material, White did not give up. He threw everything at his opponent and caused him to eventually mess up and allow White to win the game in the end.
So, if you find yourself in a position where you are down material, whether it’s because you lost it due to a tactic or you sacrificed it and didn’t get enough compensation, you need to have a positive attitude and never back down. Fight your opponent to the end and make them work for the win. Push them as hard as possible and they might just end up making the key mistake that allows you to turn the game around for a win.