Defending Against the Barbecue Sacrifice

  • GM BryanSmith
  • | Oct 27, 2011

This week I am going to discuss a particular kind of sacrifice. This is usually a piece for one or two pawns. There are no clear-cut immediate threats and the defending side has many possible defenses. However, the defender’s king is perpetually exposed and the attacking side has some lead in development and can attack freely. Threats can come at any part of the board, and even if they are not decisive, they are very hard to defend, and the game can easily get out of control. Tal was an expert at these sacrifices.

Why did I call it a ‘barbecue sacrifice’? Good question! I was playing foosball (table soccer) recently. Basically you use a bar with a handle to turn the ‘players’ to try to hit a ball. It is possible to spin the players around constantly, so that if the ball comes near they will certainly hit it, but we made it against the rules. The people I played with called it ‘barbecuing’. This reminds me of the sacrifice I am talking about.  There is no clear variation, but the side making the sacrifice can constantly create threats, and if the ‘ball’ comes close, it will hit it! Of course, the difference is that in chess this is legal…

Quite often such a sacrifice is not fully correct. Nevertheless, for humans in a practical game, trying to play with an exposed king long-term is not easy. In the following game against the champion of Bosnia, IM Zelko Bogut, I had to face such a sacrifice. I found the proper way to defend and reached a won position. But then we will see the practical difficulties such a position poses. I missed the most accurate way of transforming the position, by sacrificing my queen. A second oversight forced me to return the piece and go into a difficult ending. The ending was, however, not lost, and after my opponent missed the point where he needed to make a draw, slowly I took over again. Unfortunately, right near the end I missed the win and the game ended in a draw. Rather disappointing, but a very interesting fighting game.


At first I thought this sacrifice must be unsound. But after a few minutes the difficulties began to pile up. The a6 pawn is hanging; Rhe1 or Rde1 is coming; Qe2-h5 is another possibility. ...Kf7 is usually met by Rh7+. But worst of all, Black seems to have no counterplay whatsoever. There are no targets as important as White's target - the Black king. Sure Black can take an irrelevant pawn on f2, but this is not important. I can surely calculate variations and keep my king alive in the short term, but the problem is that the attack goes on and on, and there is no where to hide the king. Thus in a practical game between humans it is a terribly difficult task to play black here.

I was pretty proud to find perhaps the only way to play. Black needs counterplay. The only relevant target is c2. The light squared bishop must be activated. So first Black grabs control of some squares by threatening to exchange queens, and then plays ...f4 activate the bishop on f5. One's first impulse in these situations is to try to hurry the king to safety. But really, there is no long-term safety, and the only way to play is to take the battle to White.


A lot has happened in a short time, typical of such a volatile position. After I found the correct plan I felt sure I would win. Nevertheless, the position remained tricky. As it turned out, I needed to find the way to sacrifice back my queen to finally take over the initiative and stop the foosball player from spinning! But I missed the moment, imagining that such measures were not necessary. As a result, White continued to have a strong attack. After a further mistake, I had to return the piece and go into a difficult ending where I was a pawn down. Luckily the ending was not lost. The remainder of the game is not relevant to our theme, but it was interesting anyway. My opponent overpressed in the ending and I had a chance to win, which I - again - missed.


Despite some mistakes, I think this was a great fighting game. The main point is that in such situations as occured after White's sacrifice (where the Black king will never find any safety) it is crucial to make some counterplay. My first impulse was to somehow try to run my king to the queenside or the kingside, but in all cases White had a lasting attack. Only when I realized that my king could look after itself in the short term (including even allowing discovered checks in some variations) and that what my position really needed was some counterthreats - then it was possible to play. Nevertheless, as you see, even after reaching a won position, such situations need strong nerves - stronger nerves than I had at the moment.


  • 5 years ago

    NM BMcC333

    Ed Frumkin, although he has played many fine games, has been punished before in dramatic fashion. In addition to this "Spassky" game, I saw (and heard him scream) Ed Kopieki mate him in the Caro Qe2 trap at the Marshall Chess club.  e4 c6 d4 d5 nc3 (d2) dxe4 Nxe4 Nd7 Qe2 Ngf6 Nd6 mate!

  • 5 years ago


    These games remind me of a game I played with that opening (as Black):

    It shows that White can go wrong right in the opening if he gets a little lazy.

  • 5 years ago


    Great article!

  • 5 years ago


    Good, Good, The more I read about chess, the less I know Surprised

  • 5 years ago


    the bf8 did not move till move 50 ... odd game in some respects. i always like your writting Byran. when are you entering one of those 9 rounders in the EU?

  • 5 years ago


    If anybody wants to play a combination chess / foosball tournament, let me know.

  • 5 years ago

    NM BMcC333

    It is already illegal in foosball to spin the men.

  • 5 years ago


    @r_heaivilin:  Bxc2+ Qxc2 Rxc2 and now not your suggested Kxc2, but d7+ with white planning on getting a new queen.  Bryan gives a complete analysis of this position, and you even quoted it in your post!


    fyi, Houdini says Rh7!! is best for white by over 2 pawns (-0.33 vs -2.51 at a depth of 17).  In response, Rd8!! is best for black by over a full pawn as well (-0.73 vs +0.49 at a depth of 18).  The whole line amazing line starting with Rc1+ is great and holds up to computer analysis.  In fact, I suspect Bryan already went over the analysis with an engine as these lines are amazing.

  • 5 years ago


    25. Rh7! Rd8!  REALLY?!   BBQ smoke in your eyes? (waiting 20 min+ for a move would put me into a blinding comma too)

    The discussion says it's "the only move", but i would have played 25. Rh7! Bxc2+!!   (I think 25. Rde4 was a better move for white and Rh7 a bit of a blunder.)   

        I see 25. Rh7  Bxc2+ forcing  white to defend with an unfavorable exchange losing it's queen.  26. Qxc2  Rxc2   27. Kxc2 Qxd5  28. ??? 

       Or 25. Rh7 Bxc2+  26. Kc1 Bxh7+ (h7 rook captured, discovered check)  27. Kb2  Qxe5+  forces white to trade queen with black up by 2 pieces.  Note: Ka1 / Kb2 are answered with Qxd5+ ; mate / back to Kc1 only down a bishop before the rook or queen trade before Rh7 is lost.

    So is the BBQ smoke in my eyes?  What did i not see with 25. Rh7  BxC2+ ?  Because It's not only what you see, but when you saw it, and then how you moved.

    diagram is from the text;  advance to move 25. then think through move Bxc2+ instead of the rook, cause i couldn't manage to make changes to the pgn thingie.

  • 5 years ago


    I tend to see players (in the 1500-1700 range) sacrifice a bishop with a queen behind it for a pawn on a castled king to achieve a similar scenario. Sometimes, they'll bring a knight into play to aid the advancing queen, and it can be difficult to defend against. Plus, you're forced into defending the vulnerable king instead of developing an offense. Maybe the counter-attack strategy is the best way to go.

  • 5 years ago


    "In move 57 why didnt white pawn or rook take black rook on A7 ? Thanks"


    If White took Black's rook, then white's only pawn would be left exposed without any defense, and black would be up a pawn.  The end result would be a king and queen (black's left over pawn which would be promoted) checkmate.  Black would win.

  • 5 years ago


    Yeah, the pawn goes the other way, and by taking the rook white would only have lost the pawn ending.

  • 5 years ago


    virdi1966 - as a white pawn takes rook on a7? It's in the second file. And if rook takes rook, white loses.

  • 5 years ago


    In move 57 why didnt white pawn or rook take black rook on A7 ? Thanks

  • 5 years ago


    I used to sacrifice "barbecue-style" a lot, but lately, since i moved up in elo, it getting harder and harder to win with it. Its fun to play it nevertheless Wink After reading this, i reckon i migth be sacrificing to early in the game...

    Great article bytheway!

  • 5 years ago



  • 5 years ago


    yes both of you had a good game so. just focus on concentrating. i remember mr.fischer even he is not in good postion. he can make things happen also win the game. and keep practice. .

  • 5 years ago


    If only all wars would end like this one: just the presidents left to battle it out...

  • 5 years ago


    Barbeque sacrifice is only when you can expose the king to an inevitable check mate. There could be a chess piece blocking a king. By sacrificing a piece (of higher value or lower value) with the one blocking the king, you expose the king, and then through a series of checks, catch the king into a checkmate. I think the barbeque sacrifice here was taken much earlier.

  • 5 years ago


    For white move 48 Ra7+ bad move. White Rook should stay on that line, black King can not cross it to be a factor.

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