Oddities In The Classic Bishop Sacrifice

Oddities In The Classic Bishop Sacrifice

| 61 | Tactics

Every chess player knows about the classic bishop sacrifice. And everyone wants to smash that light-squared bishop into h7, drag the screaming-in-terror enemy king from its pawn cover, and execute it as its army helplessly watches.

In general, the victimized king gets mated on squares like e7, f8, g8, h8, h7, h6, g6, and f6. And, in general, sequences like Bxh7+, Ng5+, Qh5 (or Qg4 if the king runs to g6) make the CBS (classic bishop sacrifice) easy to play and as smooth as silk.

Here’s a classic setup:
A checklist:
  • Bishop ready to explode on h7 via Bxh7+. OH YEAH!
  • Bishop streaming down the c1-h6 diagonal. OH YEAH!
  • Rook on e-file ready to join in the bloody festivities. OH YEAH!
  • Pawn on e5 preventing defenses like …Nf6. OH YEAH!
  • Knight on f3 ready to leap to g5 after the explosion on h7. OH YEAH!
  • Queen ready to leap into action on g4 or h5. OH YEAH!

Kool-Aid Man image via Wikipedia.

Another version features a pawn on h4 (and I'll throw in a mystery too!):

Why did Greco play 11.Qh7+ (which mates in three moves) instead of 11.Qh3+ (which mates in two)? Chess scholars have pondered this for hundreds of years, without ever finding a concrete answer.

Now the unknown is shockingly known, as I have cracked the mystery! After many years of painstaking pondering I suddenly realized that 11.Qh3+ clearly shows the path Black’s king took to get to the center of the board. That would be boring for a player of Greco’s creativity. But 11.Qh7+!! g6 12.Qh3+ Ke4 13.Qd3 mate is far more mysterious (no longer boring) since the pawn on g6 leaves you wondering how in the world Black’s king got to e4!

You might not think that a classic bishop sacrifice will appear in our next game, but it will only take a blink to show you just how wrong you are.


Sometimes players are so excited by the classic bishop sacrifice that, if they are losing anyway, they toss the bishop at h7 just for the fun of it. However, in this game I don’t see any fun at all for White:


Here’s a case of a mutant CBS:


Now we come to our main game. IM Elliott Winslow won a somewhat odd (but epic!) classic bishop sacrifice by sacrificing on h7 when he had no dark-squared bishop. Instead, he made use of a rook lift on the c-file (usually if there is a rook lift in the classic bishop sacrifice it’s on the e-file).

Also, a decisive classic bishop sacrifice usually ends with the enemy king dying on the kingside. Elliott chased the poor king all the way to the d4-square when his opponent gave up. Black should have given the spectators a rush since the king might well have died on a2! One doesn’t see a king run from h7 to its demise on a2 very often!

This is as good a classic bishop sacrifice game as I’ve ever seen! I bow in awe at the might of Winslow.

Finally, the promised solution to salvation in the Medley vs. Finch, Ries Divan 1849 game:

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