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ideas behind openings

Typical Sacrifices in The Middlegame: The Greek Gift Sacrifice E-mail
Written by WGM Raluca Sgîrcea, IM Renier Castellanos   
Monday, 20 July 2015 00:00

h7 sacrificeToday we are going to discuss a theme that can occur relatively frequently during the games of any chessplayer. Commonly known as the classical bishop sacrifice, or the Greek gift sacrifice, it can turn out to be a lethal weapon. No matter how easy it might look, this tactical idea still needs a decent degree of accuracy.

There are certain characteristics that a position should have for this sacrifice to work. In order to help you understand which factors should be present in the position, we have elaborated a short list:

  • The h7 pawn must be vulnerable, meaning that the opponent cannot defend or is not defending it with a knight or a bishop. It should only be defended by the king;
  • Piece coordination. The attacking side must be able to quickly bring their knight to g5 (g4) in just one move, followed by the queen move to h5 and, in some cases, g4. If this none of this squares are reachable for your queen, then you should at least make sure that it can join the attack via d3 or c2 (the b1-h7 diagonal);
  • The dark squares bishop (light squares for black) plays a very important role in this sacrifice. It not only protects the knight on g5 (g4), but also prevents the king from going to h6 due to the potential discovered check by the knight;
  • In most cases, the presence of a pawn on e5 (e4) restricts the opponent’s position. It not only eliminates the knight from the protection of h7 (h2), but also prevents the king from fleeing via f6-e7 (f3-e2);
  • When there is no bishop on c1 (c8), a pawn on h4 (h5) or f4 (f5) might also work.

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Keeping this in minds, let’s see a few example by grandmasters who have executed the sacrifice Bxh2 (Bxh7) under different circumstances.

h7 sacrifice

White to move

In the diagram above, black has just played 14...Qb6, confident that the square g5 is protected by the bishop on e7, so the sacrifice on h7 is not going to work immediately. However, white has a strong idea worth knowing, to play 15.Bg5! first threatening to win a piece by 16.Rxc6 and in case of 15...Bxg5 then white can continue by 16.Bxh7+!

***

h7 sacrifice

White to move

The same scenario as the previous game. Avrukh plays 16.Bg5! Since the sacrifice does not work immediately, he must eliminate the defender Be7 first.

***

h7 sacrifice

White to move

Black has just played …Qb4? hoping to trade the queens. However, white has a strong response. In this case, we can see how white can use a rook lift to deliver the final blow and mate the black king.

***

h7 sacrifice

Prie – Giffard

White to move

Black's castle is without defenders, the h7 spot is weak and only defended by the king. The position meets all the requirements for the “Greek gift” to work.

***

h7 sacrifice

White to move

This is another example of how Bxh7 is just the first step to a decisive attack with four pieces participating in the attack against the black king. Very instructive play by the greatest player of all times.

***

h7 sacrifice

White to move

Here white does not have Bxh7 just yet. However, this is an unusual situation where he can begin by sacrificing his knight on h7 then recapturing with Bxh7, leading to an open attack. Black was forced to give back the material, but even then he was caught under a second sacrifice. A brilliant game by the strong GM Julio Granda.

***

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  • tactics
  • positional play
  • attacking skills
  • endgame technique
  • classical games analysis
  • psychological preparation
  • and much more

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About the Authors:

Raluca Sgîrcea


WGM Raluca Sgîrcea is an active chess player and teaching chess for over two years.  European champion U10, winner of several Romanian national championship medals, Woman International Master title since 2011. One Woman Grandmaster norm. Highest FIDE rating 2302.


Renier Castellanos


IM Renier Castellanos is an active chess player and trainer for over 10 years, have worked for Chessbase and done live commentary on several major events, winner of many international tournaments. One Grandmaster norm. Highest FIDE rating 2529.

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Last Updated on Monday, 20 July 2015 09:55
 

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