The fourth round of the 2017 Altibox Norway Chess tournament was nothing short of entertainment. Although there were three decisive games out of five, the top notch was Levon Aronian’s win over Magnus Carlsen with an amazing bishop sacrifice (more precisely, Greek Gift Sacrifice). Also, he went on to win the tournament with a fantastic score of 6.0/9 points!
(Photo: Lennart Ootes)
The Greek Gift Sacrifice
After a nine-year war on the beaches of Troy between the Danaans (Greeks from the mainland) and the Trojans; Greek won the war with a trick. They built a huge wooden horse and sailed away from Troy as if in defeat. They hinted that the horse was a gift for the Trojan great warriors and a votive offering for a safe journey home.
In the reality, the Trojan horse contained elite of Greek warriors hidden in its wooden belly. The goal was to open Troy’s main gate in order to enter the Greek army. A Trojan priest suspected the Greeks trick and begged not to accept the gift. He was right and his quote remained in the history: “Fear the Greeks even if they are bringing gifts!”
After that, we use the phrase “Greek gift” or “Greek sacrifice” in chess terminology. It is also called the classic Bishop sacrifice and the Trojan horse sacrifice.
The main mechanism of this sacrifice is based on 3 pieces: the Bishop, Knight, and Queen. First, the Bishop is sacrificed on h7 and King should capture the piece. After that, the Knight comes to g5 with a check and frees the Queen’s diagonal d1-h5. The King must retreat and after that Queen joined the attack.
In the above diagram, we can see the right conditions for the attack. Black’s Queen is far away and the d7-knight cannot protect the Black’s monarch. Therefore, Aronian brought to light an absolutely brilliant sacrifice! Can you calculate the variations as accurately as you can? 🙂
Aronian – Carlsen [D45]
Norway Chess 2017
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.e3
By the term “novelty” I mean that it is a new move and no one had used it before. The idea behind it is to prevent the 10…e5 from Black. Thus, White tries to squeeze Black’s position. After the usual 10.Qc2 Black has time to play e5 because he’s threatening e4. [10.Qc2 e5 11.– e4] 10…Rd8 11.a3 Bxa3 12.Rxa3 Qxa3 13.c5
This was Aronian’s idea. He sacrificed the exchange in order to keep Black’s Queen away from the main battlefield. We can see that White’s pieces are extremely more active. Professional chess players do not rely only on the general ideas but in more specific elements and threats. White’s threat is Nb1, as we can see in the following variation.
Suggestionyou may also like to see Magnus Carlsen’s very important win against Anish Giri in Bilbao Chess 2016.
13…b6 14.b4 Ne4 This is a logical move; Magnus creates complications in order to free his Queen. 15.Nxe4 dxe4 16.Bxe4 Rb8 [16…bxc5 17.bxc5 Rb8 18.Bxc6±; 16…a5!? Black has a very interesting option, the immediate a5, in order to liberate the queen-side position and his Queen. 17.b5 bxc5 18.bxc6 Nf6 19.c7 It seems that the White is winning in the spot, however, Black has a very brilliant move Rd5! 19…Rd5!]
17.Bxh7+! Here is the starting position of the Greek gift sacrifice. After this sacrifice White is the whole Rook down; however Black’s pieces are disorganized and his Queen is out of the game, out of the main action. 17…Kxh7 18.Ng5+ Kg8[18…Kg6 Indeed the best move is to try to escape with the king, but White’s attack is also very strong in this line. 19.Qg4 f5 20.Qg3 Kf6 21.d5 The d5 is a brilliant resource, with two main forcing variations. Black is forced to capture the pawn on d5 because White is threatening Nxe6. 21…exd5 22.Qd6+ Kxg5 23.e4+ Kh5 24.Qf4 bxc5 25.Qg5#] 19.Qh5 Nf6
20.Qxf7+ Kh8 21.Qc7 Bd7 22.Nf7+ Kh7 23.Nxd8 Rc8 24.Qxb6 Nd5 25.Qa7 Rxd8 26.e4 Qd3 27.exd5 Qxd2 28.Qc7 Qg5 29.dxc6 Bc8 [29…Be8? 30.Qb7+- Black cannot stop the powerful c6 pawn which will promote in a new Queen.]
30.h3 Qd5 [30…e5 31.f4 exf4 32.Qxf4 Qxf4 33.Rxf4 White has four pawns for the pawn and a powerful “c” pawn. Black cannot eliminate this “criminal” on c6, so White has a huge advantage.] 31.Rd1 e5 [31…Rf8 32.Rd3 Qe4 33.Rg3] 32.Rd3 exd4 33.Qe7!
White clears the way for the c-pawn and prepares the attack on g7 at the same time. 33…Bf5 [33…– 34.Rg3] 34.Rg3 Bg6 35.Qh4+ 1 – 0 [35.Qh4+ Bh5 (35…Kg8 36.Rxg6 d3 37.Qe7 Qd4 38.Rxg7+ Qxg7 39.Qxd8+ Kh7 40.Qxd3+ Kg8 41.Qd8+ Kh7 42.c7 Qa1+ 43.Kh2 Qe5+ 44.g3 Qe2 45.Qf8+-) 36.Rg5] 1–0
You can check the complete analysis of this game by downloading the PGN here.
Aronian has seven classical wins against Carlsen. When interviewed after the game, Aronian indicated that he had thrown away other wins against Magnus. Are you familiar with any of those games? 🙂 If you know them, feel free to write in the comments below.