White needs to choose how to handle the position. Defend with 22. Rd3 or counterattack?
White to move. What would you do?
This choice is aggressive but chancy. White decides to abandon the c3-pawn. Instead of defending it, he brings his pieces into Black's territory. This is often a practical way to steal the initiative against an opponent who has been pounding away at your position.
Here's a look at what could happen with the defensive move:
22. Rd3 c5. Of course Black could move his knight with a discovered attack on the rook. But since the knight can't threaten anything by moving, that allows the simple Re3. So Black threatens to win the bishop. 23. Re1. White meets Black's threat to his bishop with a threat to the Black knight, incidentally getting his last piece into play. 23…. Ncd2. Finally Black plays the discovered attack. 24. Rxd2. And White gives back the Exchange in order to break the Black initiative. 24…. Nxd2 25. Bxc5 Bxc3 26. Re7.
With the converging attack on a7, White will get the third pawn for his piece again.
Rooks can be very strong on the seventh rank (or second rank if it is a Black rook). Anything on the seventh rank is not defended by a pawn. Thus it is often desirable to get rooks into enemy territory.
Back to the Game
It is Black to play after 22. Rd7. He has the initiative. How can he keep it?
Black in his turn finally captures the pawn, setting up a discovered attack on the long dark diagonal. But by doing so, he lets the initiative slip out of his grasp. In fact, this powerful-looking capture turns out to be the losing move.
So what should Black play? Why, he should ignore any White threats and make more of his own! 22…. c5 does the job quite nicely. The pawn on c3 and the bishop on b4 both hang. Here is a sample of what could then happen:
White gives the bishop on b4 somewhere to go.
23…. Bxc4 24. Ba3 Nxc3.
Black threatens that discovered attack by checking on e2.
The fierce fight for the initiative continues in this variation.
White saves the rook and threatens to get a second rook to the seventh rank, which would ruin Black's whole day.
This check blocks the e-rook from the seventh rank.
26. Kh1 Re8.
Black now threatens a horrible check on g3 with a discovered attack on the hanging rook.
27. Red1 Bd4.
This is the type of play Black should aim for. With two minor pieces for a rook and pawn, his material advantage isn't much, but his initiative is hard to contain. Lots of pawns are hanging in these positions, but the Black center looks awesome, and his pieces are very active.
How can I follow separate variations when playing over a game?
A good way is to use two boards and sets to follow the game. Make the actual moves of the game on one board, and go over the variations on the other board.
This is the position in the game after 22…. Nxc3. White to play. What would you do?
The premature capture on c3 gives White a chance to turn the tide of the game once again. Do you see White's winning combination?