Sacrifices in The Endgame

When we talk about sacrificing some material the first thought that comes to mind is that it is for a mating or crushing attack (sac sac and mate – Fischer). However sacrifices are also possible in the endgame, but what is the fundamental basis for that? I started studying the endgame seriously when I manage to draw a Rook endgame with three pawns more in 2010. So here I am sharing few fine practical points that I have derived from my own experience, reading & guidance from Nigel.

Whenever I see any endgame the first thing I check for is the availability of a passed pawn or the possibility to create a passed pawn. You can consider sacrificing some material in order to gain a dangerous passed pawn. It has a huge impact in deciding the activity of other material on the board.

Activity could be piece activity, but in order to play the endgame better one should focus more on activity of the king. A recent example of this could be Aronian’s game against Caruana in Norway chess 2015. I have already discussed this game here so I am not going to repeat it. Similarly you can think about giving up some material if it forces your opponent to take a very passive positions. Here are some examples that illustrate my thoughts

Gelfand Boris against Bareev in 1992 at Linares

At first glance it is hard to draw up a plan but the availability of the passed pawn on c4 makes it very simple. Gelfand choose Rxe6. Why? Because the pawn on c4 forces Black’s rook to take very passive position on c8. On the other hand White’s king’s activity can decide the game easily once he reaches b6. Here are the rest of the moves:

1. Rxe6+ fxe6 2. c5 Kf6 3. c6 Rb8 4. c7 Rc8 5. Ka4 Ke5 6. Kxa5 Kd4 7. Rc6 Ke3 8. f4 Kf2 9. Rc3 Rxc7 10. Rxc7 Kxg3 11. Rxg7+ Kxf4 12.Rh7 1-0

Garry Kasparov against Timman in 1992 at Linares


In this position, Kasparov choose to sacrifice his knight for a pawn (and only a pawn!) in order to get a free hand with his king on the queenside as Black’s king has to stay on kingside in order to prevent h7 to h8 with promotion. Here are the rest of the moves:

1. Ne8+ Kf7 2. Nxf6 Kxf6 3. g5+ Kf7 4. h6 Ba4 5. Ke5 Bd1 6. Kd6 Bb3 7. Kc5 Ba4 8. Kb6 Bb5 9. a4 Bxa4 10. Kxa6 Bd7 11. b5 Bc8+ 12. Ka7 1-0

Ashvin Chauhan