Initiating a knight sacrifice can be an exciting and rewarding experience for a chess player. This is particularly true when your opponent doesn’t see it coming. There is nothing like seeing the long pause your opponent takes in trying to understand what he miscalculated. This is usually proof that the move took him by surprise. It is quite a different feeling when you are on the receiving end of the sacrifice though, which is what happened to me in this game.
The unexpected knight sacrifice
Calculate all captures. Part of the thought process involved in making a chess move is to calculate all possible captures. This is true when it is your turn to move but it also applies when you analyze your opponent’s intentions. In the following position, I never even considered Nf2 as a possibility. This is a problem. All captures should be considered both on the offensive or defensive side of play.
Have your pieces work together. We’ve all been victims of a crazy attack where your opponent tries to mate you with only a couple of pieces. This rarely works but it underscores the importance of integrating all your pieces before committing to an all out assault. In this game, I was up a piece and needed to either trade off material or overpower my opponent with superior piece play. In the diagram below, I missed Nh2 with the idea of rotating the knight to g4, hitting h6 and f6.
Now, you might be thinking, “So what? You played Bc3 which seems like a reasonable move.” Yes, Bc3 isn’t bad but it is inaccurate. It is these tiny inaccuracies that need to be improved upon to take my game to the next level. Never be too proud of any one move. Always look for something better.
When to trade material. If your opponent hits you with a knight sacrifice, he had better be close to winning material or mating you. In this case, neither happened. There was no follow-up to the knight sacrifice so I started to offer trades – which, strangely, my opponent accepted. This led to a position where I was simply up a piece and was able to quickly invade his position and deliver checkmate.
Getting better at chess requires many different skills. Primary among these is calculation – being able to accurately see the board several moves ahead. As amateurs, we will never have the calculating abilities of a Magnus Carlsen and that’s ok. We still need to make efforts to improve our game.
Part of the chess thinking process is to calculate all captures in the position first. This means looking at where your pieces can capture your opponent’s and vice versa. Each move your opponent makes is a possible threat and you need to consider and evaluate. I go back to what Daniel Naroditsky said in his book, Mastering Positional Chess , “If it was your opponent’s move, what would he play?” This is a mantra that should be burned into our brain every time we play a game of chess. It doesn’t even matter if it is our move or not – always ask this question to yourself!
In my game, I should have asked, “After Ng4, is Nf2 a move I should worry about?”. Ultimately, the answer is no but that doesn’t I mean I shouldn’t have considered it. What if Nf2 was a winning attack? A knight sacrifice is common enough in that you should always be looking out for it.
Have you ever been the victim of a knight sacrifice? Did the sacrifice work or was it a dud? If so, please post the game below.