I had the great honor of meeting former World Champion Mikhail Tal, during the 1990 Kasparov - Karpov World Championship match in New York City.
I had volunteered to work in the press room so that I could be a part of the event, and see the games for free. Many GMs and chess luminaries visited the press room to chat, analyze, and watch the games. But I experienced a sense of 'shock and awe' when I was introduced to Tal, who was hanging around the press room, and we shook hands.
I'll never forget the smile he gave me, and the friendly, joyful glint in his eyes that accompanied it. Tal looked much older than his fifty odd years, and not in the best of health (he would pass away in 1992, just two years later). But he still had the legendary fire in his eyes, and I think he got a kick out of the fact that a young chessplayer was so obviously in awe of him.
Why am I relating this story? Because recently I had the opportunity to give Tal some homage, twenty one years later, at the Marshall Chess Club Masters Tournament in New York. The first fourteen moves followed the famous game Bobotsov - Tal, Varna 1958. I was quite familiar with this game, and fortunately for me, my opponent was not:
IM Justin Sarkar (2431)
NM Miro Reveby (2212)
[E81] King's Indian Defense
Marshall Masters New York, N.Y.,
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.f3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nc3 0-0 6.Be3 Nbd7 7.Qd2 c5 8.Nge2 a6 9.0-0-0 Qa5 10.Kb1 b5 11.Nd5 (D)
The queen sacrifice Tal played against Bobotsov over fifty years ago. No doubt Bobotsov also felt 'shock and awe' when Tal left his queen hanging on a5. Since then this sacrifice has been repeated by other players enough times, that I believe it can be placed in the rare category of a 'theoretical queen sacrifice.'
In every game I've seen with this sacrifice, Black's long term compensation has been tremendous. So much so, that I believe White's most prudent course is to decline the sacrifice, and simply recapture the knight. But 'prudence' can often look like cowardice, and many players simply cannot resist taking a queen just hanging on a5 like that. Like waving a cape in front of a bull....
Before continuing with the Sarkar - Reverby game, I suggest the reader first play through the Bobotsov - Tal 'stem' game. It will provide the proper reference, and perhaps illustrate even more clearly that Black has great play no matter how White continues. 12.Qxa5 Nxe3 13.Rc1 Nxc4 14.Rxc4 bxc4 15.d5 [Bobotsov - Tal continued 15.Nc1 Rb8 16.Bxc4 Nb6 17.Bb3 Bxd4 18.Qd2 Bg7 19.Ne2 c4 20.Bc2 c3 21.Qd3 cxb2 22.Nd4 Bd7 23.Rd1 Rfc8 24.Bb3 Na4 25.Bxa4 Bxa4 26.Nb3 Rc3 27.Qxa6 Bxb3 28.axb3 Rbc8 29.Qa3 Rc1+ 30.Rxc1 Rxc1+ 0-1] 15...Rb8 16.Nc3 f5 17.exf5 Ne5! Obviously activation is far more important than material in this situation. 18.fxg6 Bf5+ 19.Ka1 Bxg6 20.h4 h5 An important move. Black wants to secure the bishop's on the b1-h7 diagonal and also wants to recapture, after a future Nd3, with the pawn, not the bishop! 21.Be2 Nd3 22.Bxd3 cxd3... 23.Rd1 Rf4 All systems go! White realizes that the threat of Rfb4 is much more dangerous than the threat to the 'h' pawn. 24.a3 Rxh4 25.Qxa6 Rh2 26.Qa7 Rb3 27.Ka2 c4 28.Qg1 Be5 29.a4 h4 30.a5 Rb8 31.a6 h3 32.a7 Ra8 33.Qb6 Rxg2 34.Qb8+ Rxb8 35.axb8Q+ Kf7 So White has just won a rook, and Black now 'only' has a piece and two pawns for the queen. But these two pawns are passed and far advanced; Black has the bishop pair, and numerous other threats. His compensation is still overwhelming! 36.Qb4 h2 37.Rh1 Rg1 38.Rxh2 Bxh2 39.Qxc4 d2 40.Qe2 Bf4 41.Qe6+ Kf8 42.Qc8+ Kg7 43.Qe6 Bg5 44.f4 Bf6 45.f5 Bxc3 46.fxg6 d1Q And Black's sacrificed queen returns from the dead! White gave a few more checks in the ensuing time scramble before capitulating. It is easy to see White has no perpetual. 0-1