When it comes to the typical sacrifices in the Sicilian defense, the Nd5 sacrifice is by far the most common and most complex of all thematic sacrifices in the Sicilian. The c3 knight, often the piece that cannot get into the action as easily as the remaining white forces, jumps into the middle of black’s camp and causes an immediate disharmony.
It can, however, be played even if the king has castled either side, in which case its nature will be positional, and the immediate compensation will not be as apparent. One of the most common positional advantages that white has if the knight is taken, is the poor prospects of black’s bishop.
Often Nd5 simply leads to a position in which white is able to cause discombobulation and regain his material immediately afterwards. Those positions are easiest to assess, as white, as GM Seirawan would say, “gets a free attack”.
I have chosen three games to illustrate the power of Nd5. Two of them are very thematic, and they feature the sacrifice as it occurs most frequently. A small center position for black, an uncastled king, and great development for white.
The first example though, is slightly different. I chose it to open your imagination when it comes to playing white against these types of setups in the Sicilian. It features a kingside fianchetto for white. A factor that made the sacrifice atypical and very powerful.
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.
At the end of the article, you will find two very hard exercises. 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 time and, if necessary, take notes. Do not move the pieces and try to solve them in tournament conditions, over a real board.
Finally, you might find other interesting articles: the Nf5 sacrifice in the Sicilian, the Rxc3 sacrifice in the Sicilian, and the Bxe6 sacrifice in the Sicilian are thematic ideas in the Sicilian defense you do not want to miss !
Francisco Vallejo Pons vs Ian Nepomniachtchi, Pamplona International (2008)
This game features a closed Sicilian, much less common than the open variant starting with 3. d4.
This is why this game is a perfect example of just how positionally powerful Nd5 can be. By giving up one piece you are making black’s entire position suspicious !
This game shows how disturbing the Nd5 sacrifice can be for the black pieces. White did not get his piece back quickly, but Black soon found themselves unable to organize their development properly. A great example of a long term sacrifice !
Hikaru Nakamura vs Loek van Wely, Corus Group A (2010)
As opposed to the sideline played in the previous game, the opening featured here is a mainstream Najdorf defense !
The rest of the game is a combination of Nakamura’s brilliance and van Wely’s imprecision under pressure. He resigned in 15 moves.
In this game, White’s attack after the sacrifice was strong enough to force Black to give back a piece almost immediately. Of course, with the attack and the material balanced, a tactical beast like Nakamura rarely lets his opponent escape !