Dreev’s brilliant long-term sacrifices

An experienced coach, Ivan Sokolov worked with the Iranian team for several years, helping Alireza Firouzja and Parham Maghsoodloo to develop their talent. In his first FritzTrainer series for ChessBase, he exhibits a pragmatic style, focusing on general ideas rather than specific lines. Undoubtedly, the games presented are immensely instructive.

In Volume 1 of his 4-part series on middlegames, Sokolov explores four key themes involving pawns – minor sacrifices, pawn rolls, voluntary creation of a pawn island, and ideas related to g and h pawns.

One of the games analyzed in the third section on pawn throws is Boris Gelfand against Aleksey Dreev (pictured) from the 1993 Tilburg tournament, which included some magnificent long-range sacrifices from Black.

Boris Gelfand vs Aleksey Dreev

Tilburg 1993

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 e6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 8. Bd3 Bb7 9. OO a6 10. e4 c5 11. d5 c4 12. Bc2 Qc7 13. Nd4 e5 14. Nf5 g6 15. Nh6 Nh5

The game began as a Semi-Slav Meran, a very popular opening line at the time.

In this critical position, Sokolov points out that Gelfand misjudged the position when he placed his queen on f3. Eighteen years after that game, none other than Magnus Carlsen entered this line with White against Alexei Shirov, and his 16.g3, preventing the knight from reaching f4, proved to be an excellent answer — which led to a fairly quick victory.

16. Qf3 Nf4 17. Nxf7 Kxf7 18. g3 g5 19. gxf4 gxf4

Sokolov considers Gelfand probably thought he had a good position here, but points out that it wasn’t as good as he could have hoped. Although the black king is weakened, white does not have many pieces ready to attack. There is no clear path to activate the white army.

20. Qh5+ Ke7 21. Qh4+ Kf7 Black is apparently happy with a repeat, but it’s Gelfand who decides to play on.

22. Bd1 Rg8+ 23. Kh1

This is the first position Sokolov uses to show the potential strength of thrown pawns. White attacks h7, and there’s nothing wrong with just defending with 23…Rg7, preparing to hide the king on g8.

Instead, however, Dreev goes for a deep position idea, which was not forced at all.

23… Nf6 24. Bh5+ Rg6 Abandon an exchange!

25. Bxg6+ hxg6

Sokolov stops here to expand on Dreev’s idea. He’s opened up the h-file, somewhat protected his king, and more importantly, threatens to push his b-pawn to kick out the c3 white knight, creating a path to activate his dangerous clear bishop on the long diagonal.

26. Rg1 Be7 27. Qh6 Rg8 28. f3 b4 29. Ne2

By forgoing a trade, Black took the initiative, and he used it brilliantly. Here an inspired Dreev made another sacrifice, capturing on d5 with his knight to activate the aforementioned bishop.

29… Nxd5 30. exd5 Bxd5 Black now has two pawns for a rook, but his moving pawns and active pieces give him more than enough compensation. Additionally, it will be incredibly difficult for Gelfand to deal with his opponent’s threats.

Sokolov points out that black has no direct way to win, which shows how deep Dreev’s ideas were, both when he sacrificed a rally and when he gave up a piece for two pawns in the center .

31. Rf1 Bf6 32. Qh7+ Rg7 33. Qh3 Be6 34. Qg2

How do you improve black’s position now? Roll these pawns on the board!

34… g5 35. a3 g4

It was Gelfand’s last chance to fight to a draw. After watching his opponent sacrifice material for the initiative, it was his turn to defensively give up something to get at least some counter chances. White had to play 36.Bxf4, when after 36…exf4 37.fxg4 Rxg4, White has 38.Qf3, hoping to save half a point. “It was urgent,” as Sokolov says.

Instead, white opened the a-line for his turn by capturing at b4.

36. axb4 Bd5 37. Nc3 gxf3 38. Qf2 Bb7 39. Ra5 Qd7 40. Nd5

White tries to block the long diagonal, but it’s now too late. In fact, Dreev doesn’t avoid a queen trade, as he has a winning attack even with the queens off the board!

40… Bxd5 41. Qd2 Bc6 42. Qxd7+ Bxd7 43. Rxa6 Bh3

There is no escape for Gelfand. Sokolov calls it “one of the best pawn-throwing games I’ve seen in my life.”

44. Rf2 Bh4 0-1


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