One of the Prospect players today was experimenting with the Sicilian Defense, which gives me a chance to took talk about the Thematic Sicilian Exchange Sacrifice which happened to arise in my one game from the Illinois Open that gave me a brief flicker of hope for a decent result.
The Thematic Sicilian Exchange Sacrifice is ...Rxc3. It is most frequently scene in the Dragon Variation but it can arise in any of the Open Sicilians where White plays 2. Nf3 followed by 3.d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 and 5. Nc3. Here are a couple of typical examples from the Dragon Variation. The first arises after 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 Nc6 8. Qd2 O-O 9. Bc4 Bd7 10. O-O-O Qa5 11. Bb3 Rfc8 12. h4 Ne5 13. h5 Nxh5 14. g4 Nf6 15. Bh6 Bxh6 16. Qxh6 Rxc3:
By removing the knight on c3 after White castles has castled queenside, Black disrupts the White king's pawn cover and stops the White knight from joining the attack on the kingside with Nd5.
The second arises after 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be2 Bg7 7. O-O O-O 8. Kh1 a6 9. Nb3 Nbd7 10. a4 b6 11. f4 Bb7 12. Bf3 Rc8 13. Qe1 Re8 14. Qg3 Rxc3:
When White has castled kingside and played f4, the exchange sacrifice ruins the White pawn structure and weakens the e4 pawn.
Any player who is considering playing the Dragon variation must be ready to sacrifice the exchange on c3 at the drop of a hat. The sacrifice also arises in other Sicilian variations, just not as frequently. In my case, it came up in the Najdorf variation, however, as a former Dragon player, my instinct was to grab the chance when it came after
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be3 e5 7. Nb3 Be6 8. f3Nbd7 9. Qd2 b5 10. g4 Nb6 11. Qf2 Nfd7 12. O-O-O Rc8 13. Kb1 Rxc3
As White has castled queenside, Black's compensation consists of the disruption of the White king's pawn cover as well as reducing White's control of the d5 square which is often one of Black's most vulnerable points in the Najdorf. In neither White's knight on b3 nor his light squared bishop have any convenient way to get into the action. On the other hand, unlike in the Dragon, Black's dark squared bishop is not bearing down on the White king on the long a1-h8 diagonal and Black needs to finish developing. White's best course of action in this position might well have been to simply continue his pawn storm on the kingside.
It often happens after players castle on opposite sides that each player launches an attack on the other's king. These can be very exciting games in which time is of the essence. The players often disdain to make defensive moves which might slow down their attack. In my game my opponent tried unsuccessfully to secure his own king's position and never gave me any threats to worry about.