Does the Sacrifice Work? | Road to GM, Game 99

The sixth round of Split was a very unusual English Opening. My opponent surprised me with a very rare move on move 2!

2019 Split Open, Round 6, 08/08/2019, N. Livesey (1743) vs S. Tomic (1920), English, Caro-Kann Defensive System

1. c4 c6 2. Qa4 Nf6 3. Nf3 e6 4. d4 d5
5. e3 Nbd7 6. c5 Qc7 7. b4 e5 8. Bb2 exd4
9. Bxd4 Be7 10. Nbd2 O-O 11. Bd3 a5 12. a3 b5
13. Qc2 axb4 14. axb4 Rxa1+ 15. Bxa1 Re8 16. O-O Bf8
17. Bc3 h6 18. Ra1 Ng4 19. Qb2 Nge5 20. Nxe5 Nxe5
21. Bxe5 Rxe5 22. Nf3 Re8 23. Ra8 g6 24. Qa2 Bg7
25. Ra7 Qd8 26. h3 Be6 27. Nd4 Bxd4 28. exd4 Qb8
29. Qa1 Kg7 30. Ra6 Bd7 31. Ra2 Qf4 32. Qc3 Qg5
33. Kf1 Qf4 34. Kg1 Qf6 35. Kf1 Qh4 36. Ra7 Re7
37. Bc2 Qf4 38. g3 Bxh3+ 39. Kg1 Qc1+ 40. Kh2 Qf1
41. Qf3 Rxa7 42. Bd3 Qg2+ 43. Qxg2 Bxg2 44. Kxg2 Ra4
45. Kf3 Rxb4 46. Ke3 f5 0 – 1

My opponent was lower rated than me. He always plays the English Opening and he must have prepared his novelty for me. He played Qa4 on move 2! I play the Caro-Kann defensive system against the English most of the time so he must have expected it.

Now Qa4 is a funny looking move. It really only stops d5 if the Knight is on c3 already. And I had time to prepare d5. I played Nf6, e6, d5 after having spent about 15 minutes to make sure I understood the position.

I equalized out of the opening. It was a pleasant position… Until it wasn’t. I made a bad call of not playing my queenside expansion before finishing development. I wanted to castle first and the moment was lost. He was slightly better and we played on. After that I tried to complicate things and managed in the end. My pieces were better placed than his and I had a few targets to attack. In the end he crumbled under the pressure and I won.

One key point in the game was a bishop sacrifice I was calculating for 30 minutes and ended up giving up on it. I saw that it was good. I just couldn’t see all the way until the end. Can you calculate it correctly?

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