In the last few articles, we have been looking at the most common sacrifices in the Sicilian defense. These sacrifices are, in no particular order, the Rxc3 sacrifice in the Sicilian with Black and, with White, the Nd5 sacrifice in the Sicilian, the Nf5 sacrifice in the Sicilian, and the one we will have the pleasure to study today: the Bxe6 sacrifice ! To add to our pleasure, there will be no less than two games played by the great Mikhail Tal
Black’s position in the Sicilian defense is very positionally sound and unsound at the same time.
But. That comes at a cost. White gets to develop his pieces to very natural squares, he gets to castle quickly, and he gets better piece play early on in the middlegame.
The reason for that lies in black’s options when it comes to pawn formation. There are three main setups black could aim for in the open Sicilian positions.
- A Dragon setup, with g6 and d6
- A Najdorf setup, with d6 and e5
- Or a Scheveningen setup, with d6 and e6
All three have downsides.
Bxe6 is among the most powerful and most thematic ways to do so. As opposed to the other sacrifices we have gone over, this bishop sacrifice often, if played timely, means the end of the game. The reason for that is that white automatically gets two (mostly three) pawns for the piece, the e6 and the f7 pawn (if the bishop is captured, that is), and the ensuing attack is unbearable despite the near material equality.
The sacrifice can be smelled from miles away, as the elements that make it possible are easy to list, remember, visualize, and recognize during play. It is key that they exist in the position! If one or two are missing, the sacrifice may just be a blunder.
Stjepan Tomić is a strong player and famous youtuber with his Hanging Pawns channel. His goal is to become a Grandmaster and to share his new Chess knowledge with the community.
Elements that make Bxe6 powerful
Here are the elements that make Bxe6 powerful.
I have chosen three example games in which Bxe6 decided the outcome. The first example had all the ideal conditions for the sacrifice due to black having made a common opening mistake. Even if it seems simple, study it first, before moving on to “real life” examples.
The other two examples are by the master of sacrifices Mikhail Tal. I hope that this gives you a good basis for playing against or with the small Sicilian center. This should only be used as an introduction to serious study, though. Try to analyze similar games and try to make the sacrifice work. You will then be able to better understand how white goes about preparing it, and what black does to make sure it cannot be played !
There are two hard exercises at the end of the article. Take your time. They have no “one solution”. Your task will be to delve deep into the position, assess it, understand it, and play well. You are not looking for the one correct move ! Each exercise should take around an hour. Measure your ime and, if necessary, take notes. Study them over a real board and without moving the pieces.
Amonatov Farrukh vs Tuzhik Artem, 2007
In this first example, Black makes a decisive mistake in the opening, leading to a clean win for White.
This example was a chemically pure example of a successful Bxe6 sacrifice. It will not get as obvious each time ! Notice though that even in this case, Black had some very decent resources that could have made White’s attack a lot harder.
Mikhail Tal vs Tigran Petrosian, Candidates (1959)
This game was played by two of the greatest players ever, even if at the time the game was played, non of them had yet become World Champion ! Mikhail Tal is widely regarded as the greatest attacker in the history of Chess, while Tigran Petrossian is considered as the greatest defender. We can hardly find better players for a demo of the Bxe6 sacrifice.