Sacking The Citadel

The History, Theory, and Practice of the Classic Bishop Sacrifice

Jon Edwards

Reviewer: John Donaldson
Russell Enterprises
400 pages

All too often there is a tendency to praise the present as the best of all possible times, but for chess books a good case can be made that it really is. One cannot help but notice that while the number of players using books as their primary method of study is shrinking each year, the force that is driving this change – computers – is also making the books that do come out that much better. Authors that used to have to spend most of their time gathering examples and organizing material are now freed to devote more time thinking about what they want to say. Having Silicon oracles playing centerfield also has to help the cause.

A good example of how chess literature has progressed can be seen in noted correspondence player Jon Edward’s new book Sacking The Citadel. This work, devoted to the life of Greco and his famous sacrifice Bxh7 (or …Bxh2), is light years more comprehensive and focused than earlier treatments of the theme by Voellmy, Znosko-Borovsky and Vukovic.

Edwards uses 308 heavily annotated games to systematically analyze the consequences of the sacrifice depending on how Black answers the “gift”. There is lots of explanatory prose with concrete analysis given as needed. Edwards has a clean writing style, which coupled with historical asides sprinkled throughout makes what could have been a dry tome a fun read.

While the classic Greco sacrifice normally has a Bishop on c1 or c8 the following two new interpretations of the sacrifice caught my eye.

Prie (2504) – Svetushkin (2615) [D02], France 2009
1.d4 Nf6 2.Bf4 e6 3.e3 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 d5 6.Nbd2 Bd6 7.Bg3 0–0 8.Bd3 Be7
9.Ne5 Nd7 10.Nxd7 Bxd7 11.Bxd6 Bxd6 12.dxc5 Bxc5 13.Bxh7+ Kxh7
14.Qh5+ Kg8 15.Ne4!

The point! I remember Prie annotating this game at but can’t remember if he came up with the idea himself or was assisted by a computer program. In any case it’s a very pretty idea that is very effective precisely because Black’s Bishop is on d7. Were it on c8 Black would be able to draw with a timely …g6 as we will see in the next game.

15……Qc4 16.Ng5 Rfd8 17.Qxf7+ Kh8 18.Qh5+ Kg8 19.Qf7+

A latter game played at the Khanty Mansiysk Olympiad last year suggests that 19.Rd1 might possibly be stronger.

19……Kh8 20.h4 Ne5 21.Qh5+ Kg8 22.0–-0–-0 Qxa2 23.Qh7+ Kf8 24.Qh8+ Ke7
25.Qxg7+ Kd6 26.Ne4+ Kc6 27.Qxe5 Qa1+ 28.Kd2 Qxb2+ 29.Ke1 b6
30.Nd6 Qa3 31.c4 Qb4+ 32.Rd2 Qc5 33.h5 Be8 34.cxd5+ exd5 35.Nf5, 1-–0.

Brechin (1999) – Shaw (2469) [D02], Edinburgh 2009
1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 Nf6 3.e3 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nd2 e6 6.Ngf3 Bd6 7.Ne5 0–-0 8.Bd3 Be7
9.0–-0 Nd7 10.Nxd7 Bxd7 11.Bxd6 Qxd6 12.dxc5 Qxc5 13.Bxh7+ Kxh7
14.Bh5+ Kg8 15.Ne4 g6!

The point, although I’m guessing that Shaw was not happy drawing with someone rated 450 points lower than him. But Black has no choice in the matter as the text is the only defense.

16.Bg5 Be7 17.Nf6+ Kg7 18.Nh5+ Kh7 19.Nf6+ Kg7 20.Nh5+ Kh7 21.Nf6+, ½–

Sacking The Citadel is a valuable contribution to the literature of attacking the King and will prove quite useful for players from 1800 on up.