Alexander the Great

Whilst working on a recent book translation, I was struck by the extraordinary quality of some of the game examples by Alexander Khalifman.  The former FIDE knockout champion is a slightly odd mixture. Various personal demons have meant that his career has not developed as well as it might have done, and he has a few off-days, but at his best, he is an absolutely tremendous player: deeply prepared in the opening, highly imaginative, a brilliant attacker, and with top-class technique.

His book of best games is well worth getting hold of and studying carefully. The following was an early brilliancy, against a junior rival who also became a top-level GM. Black’s very early exchange sacrifice brings purely positional compensation – there are no open files for the white rooks, whereas Black has great knight outposts on d4 and f4. Khalifman plays calmly and just builds up, until the chance comes for an inventive tactical blow. 15…c6! decides the game, as White has no good defence to the threat of 16…Bd8, winning his queen. His response gives the lady a retreat, but loses back the extra exchange and a pawn, after which Khalif’s technique does the rest.

Steve Giddins