“What say you?” The 1 minute challenge (5)

“A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer”
Bruce Lee

A quick reminder about how to do it:

  • Have a look at the position for 1 minute (watch the clock)
  • Think about the choices in front of you and pick the one you feel it is right
  • Verify it in your mind the best you can
  • Compare it with the solution

Are you ready? Below is this week’s position, a rook and pawns endgame between players rated 2400+ FIDE. It is white to move and the quest is to decide if White can play the tactical rook sacrifice or not?

This one feels real because it is from a game instead of a study. Dhopade probably had a better understanding of the position since he played the game; still the 1 minute we have is enough time to evaluate the position and come up with a good answer. Here are my thoughts:

  • Material is equal
  • There are no passed pawns
  • Both Black pieces (king and rook) are very well placed, one attacking Rd4 and the other one the a3-pawn
  • Black is threatening to win a pawn on the queen side and create a passer
  • It becomes obvious Black is better and playing for a win
  • Reading the question again leads me to believe White did not like his position at all and wanted to do something unexpected to surprise his opponent
  • Considering a sacrifice of this magnitude means White was thinking of getting a serious return for it or the game would be lost
  • What serious return could White think of? With only pawns left on the board, the only serious return could be promoting one of them
  • Which pawn is the most likely candidate to promote? A quick glance from left to right identifies the b4-pawn (and the possible b4-b5) plus the c4-pawn (and the possible c4-c5) as options
  • In both cases Black can ignore the sacrifice and choose to deal with the pawn situation created; the difference is after 1. b5 c5 Black is in a better position than after 1. c5 b5
  • The last detail to ponder is if Ra2 can come around and cover the 8th rank in time to stop the promotion; Black would consider using the e-file or h-file for that purpose
  • Kf1 is the only one capable to defend either file, meaning it won’t be able to cover them both

Conclusion: White should not sacrifice its Rook. Please see how the game ended below:

In general a sacrifice like this smells desperation. If anyone tries it against you, the first indication is they are desperate. This should give you confidence because it is an immediate confirmation your position is much better and you should play for a win. What you need to do is figure out if you can accept it (first step) and how you would win in that case; if you are not sure and accepting it feels too risky, see what is the best way to ignore it (second step). Normally the opponent offering the sacrifice has spent a lot of time to come up with it and brushed aside (most of the times) what to do if you simply ignored it. A sacrifice like this one works better for the player offering it with little time on the clock; in the same time the option to ignore it backfires on the same player with little time on the clock because he needs to look for something else, spending time to do it and trying to not forget what he had planned when it all started.

Valer Eugen Demian

This entry was posted in Improver (950-1400), Intermediate (1350-1750), Strong/County (1700-2000), V.Strong/Master (1950 plus), Valer Eugen Demian and tagged on by .

About Valer Eugen Demian

The player - my first serious chess tournament was back in 1974, a little bit late for today's standards. Over the years I have had the opportunity to play all forms of chess from OTB to postal, email and server chess. The journey as a player brought me a lot of experience and a few titles along the way: FIDE CM (2012), ICCF IM (2001) and one ICCF SIM norm (2004). The instructor - my career as a chess teacher and coach started in 1994 and continues strong. I have been awarded the FIDE Instructor title (2007) for my work and have been blessed with great students reaching the highest levels (CYCC, NAYCCC, Pan-Am, WYCC). I am very proud of them! See my website for more information. I have developed my own chess curriculum on 6 levels based on my overall chess knowledge and hands-on experience. A glimpse of it can be seen in my first chess app: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/chessessentials/id593013634?mt=8 I can help you learn chess the proper way if this is what you seek!