Last week I wrote an article on Attacking Chess and spoke about how an often used attacking device by strong players is the mysterious Exchange Sacrifice.

Shortly after sharing this post on Facebook (with the statement that “my secret is out 😉 “, some Negative Nancy commented something along the lines of “Its only a secret if you’re 2700+ and the world champion”.

Typical internet dweeb trying to pull another person down.

So many of them.

What this “Negative Nancy” didn’t understand was that:

  1. Calling it my “secret” was only a half serious comment, intended as a joke (hence the ” 😉 ” emoticon!).
  2. I actually DO have a reputation in some chess circles as a specialist in exchange sacrifices.

I can remember several years ago I was at a chess gathering where several strong players and I were drinking beer, eating pizza and playing blitz (is there anything else in life?  😆 ) and one of the players at our “chess party” (an FM) pointed out that mine and another guy’s chess style were basically the same.

This guy who supposedly shared the same style as me (and was also a former state champion) said:

“Brendan’s style is basically the same, but he also has all of those crazy exchange sacs as well!”

And indeed I do.

Sometimes, anyway…

Today I’ll be showing you a couple of recent examples of this.

I’ll also be explaining my step-by-step thought process for assessing Exchange Sacrifices.

First, a little story.

Last Wednesday I was visited in Jinan by a Chinese friend from Nanjing (China’s pre-WW2 capital) named Andrew to discuss possible future business cooperation.

Andrew owns the largest chess school in Nanjing and is as much of a chess addict and I am and whilst he was visiting with us, he showed me a chess app that a lot of Chinese people use.

I must admit, that this app is more comfortable to play on than any chess app I have ever used and full of strong players to test my skills against.

This app is called 国象联盟 or Guo Xiang Lian Meng.

Played lots of games with exchange sac!

The main Dashboard screen with most recent games played.

So within a few days I’d started playing some games on this app (as well as recommending it to the kids I train here in Jinan) and one day I played two consecutive games, somehow both as black.

Funnily enough, in both games I sacrificed the exchange and got excellent compensation as well.

Some people have told me that they rarely if ever get the chance to sacrifice the exchange, so how did the chance come up twice in a row in my games?

It comes down to the fact that I am always on the lookout for the opportunity!

I also have the knowledge of how to make it work in a wide variety of positions.

This is all you need to develop too.

And these posts will attempt to develop in your chess these attributes.

Let’s go!

You may remember the “What should I get in return for the exchange sac?” table in Part 1?

It looks a little something like this.

So what should the sacrificing side get as compensation?

Here are some forms of compensation the sacrificing side can expect when giving his rook for a minor piece.

  • Initiative (easy attacking play and ability to create threats. The opponent may be tied up or on the defensive for some time)
  • Mobile Passed Pawn/s (sometimes it is worth giving an exchange if it means your passed pawn/s can run and threaten to promote)
  • Reduction in King Safety (the enemy king is weakened to the point that he will be permanently exposed and subject to attack)
  • Domination of Colour Complex (light squares or dark squares of opponent permanently weak)

Lets compare these two games I played against the compensation table above.

By the way, full video analysis of these games is at the bottom of the post.  😉

Exchange Sac Game 1: Zamandaxla vs Brendan J. Norman

In this game, I played the black side of a Sicilian Najdorf and equalised pretty easily with accurate play, yet later on played 21…R8c6, giving white the change to “win” the exchange.

Obviously I had foreseen the consequences of the exchange sacrifice, but what did I get in return for the material investment?

Initiative? Yes! (my central pawns, rook and soon bishop allow my to play very forcefully)

Mobile Passed Pawns? Yes! (although they played only a small part in deciding the matter, besides making space for the monster bishop)

Reduction in King Safety? Yes! (in fact, the game is decided by a direct attack on my opponent’s king)

Domination of Colour Complex? Yes! (just look at the dark-square control of the bishop on f6!)

Here’s the game.

Exchange Sac Game 2: Duan Tian Ya vs Brendan J. Norman

This game is a fairly standard IQP (isolated queen’s pawn) position and is in fact, a Queen’s Gambit Accepted in reverse if you wanna know the opening.

Therefore white goes about trying to keep the IQP blockaded, while I was seeking counterplay in the centre and on the kingside.

The key moment comes when white plays 29.Bd7 allowing me the chance to sacrifice an exchange with 29…Rxe3.

What did I get in return for this exchange sacrifice?

Initiative? Yes! (white’s pieces were caught with lack of co-ordination and I was able to create some threats almost immediately.)

Mobile Passed Pawns? Yes! (My passed d-pawn was a deciding factor in tying up his rook and ultimately, winning the game.)

Reduction in King Safety? Yes! (my knight on h4 and the queen on the second rank created mate threats which tied up the white queen significantly)

Domination of Colour Complex? No  🙁

Here’s the game.

Now for a deeper insight, watch the video of my analysis of these games.

So what do you think?

TWO consecutive games where black sacrifices the exchange in vastly different positions means that I actively and deliberately use this dynamic imbalance as a weapon to create complications and outplay opponents.

YOU should definitely add this to your attacking repertoire too.

What’s stopping you?

Action Steps:

  1. Restudy all the games from part one (over the board).
  2. Study my two games from this post.
  3. Rewatch the video in this post (repetition is the mother of skill 😉 )
  4. Develop the habit of being conscious of every moment in your games where a rook can capture (or be captured by) a minor piece and make a point of analyzing the consequences of the decision.
  5. Let me know how you went. 😉

Good luck fellas, can’t wait to see some great games from you.