The Classic Bishop Sacrifice - Part One

  • IM Silman
  • | Dec 18, 2012

Continuing our theme of “mating tactics,” this time we’ll explore one of the most famous sacrifices in chess, the Classic Bishop Sacrifice. In our beginner mating patterns trilogy, we took a good look at the h7-square and how Qh7+ (supported by Rook, pawn, Bishop, or Knight) can easily lead to a strong attack or a stone cold mate. In this version of the war against h7, the Knight offers the Queen support (thus the minimal “team” to make this sacrifice a reality is a Queen, Knight, and light-squared Bishop aiming at h7). Other major “helpers” are a Bishop on the c1-h6 diagonal, a Rook that can make its way to the kingside, a pawn on h4, and a pawn on e5. Over the course of this Classic Bishop Sacrifice (CBS) series, we’ll take a close look at all of these “extra piece/helper” factors.

 Here are the barebones visuals of the various setups:


A pawn on e5 is an extremely useful addition to white's attack since it doesn't allow Black to defend with ...Nf6 and it also stops the black King from running for its life (after Bxh7+ ...Kxh7) to g6, f6 and e7.
A Bishop on the c1-h6 diagonal is always a nice addition. It gives the Knight on g5 support (after Bxh7+ followed by Ng5), and it also makes the ...Kh6 defense a suicidal proposition.

These are the basic skeletons that make up the CBS, but there are times when Bxh7+ can’t be considered a real sacrifice at all; instead it’s played for quick material gain. This will be our initial topic, with the crazed attacks occurring in subsequent articles.
The following puzzles are made possible by an enemy piece that is undefended – its vulnerability is made real by the creation of a double attack. Almost all tactics (not just CBS tactics, but ALL tactics) are based on some form of weakened enemy King, double attack, and inadequately defended pieces. Thus it will pay dividends if you really ponder each and every puzzle and soak up the double attack pattern.

Though I place notes inside most of the puzzles, this next one has some very interesting extra material that should be checked out.

Rules for the Classic Bishop Sacrifice

* The minimal CBS gang is a Bishop on the b1-h7 diagonal, a Knight that can leap to g5, and a Queen that can check on h5 or, in some instances, along the b1-h7 diagonal.

* Other factors that strengthen the attack are a Bishop on the c1-h6 diagonal, a Rook that can join in the festivities, and a pawn on e5.

* A pawn on e5 is a very important addition to the attack since it prevents the defensive …Nf6. 

* In general, a defending Queen on d8 or Bishop on e7 might prevent the attack since Ng5+ can be met by Black snapping it off. There ARE instances where this can be ignored by White, and the attacker must judge each situation on its own merits.

* A pawn on h4 (with a Rook behind it) adds a whole new dimension to the attack.

* As we saw in this article, chopping on h7 with your Bishop is often just a small tactic designed to win material, and has little to do with an actual mating attack.

* Almost all tactics (not just CBS tactics, but ALL tactics) are based on some form of weakened enemy King, double attack, and inadequately defended pieces.


  • 11 months ago


    Silman is an achary but not a king yet.

  • 13 months ago


    great refresh and it never gets old......

    Thanks again.

  • 3 years ago


    interesting,as always.

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  • 4 years ago


    Nice article.

  • 4 years ago


    I learned this fundamental from your book, A complete book of chess strategy Jeremy Silman. It was the first chess book I ever read, and I recommend it very highly to beginners. I then went on to reasess your chess, and that was more difficult lol, but I did understand alot of it. I thank you for being such a great instructor, and look forward to much more of your teaching!!!!

  • 4 years ago


    You are an amazing teacher Silman. I learn so much from the way you both humoroous, and are able to pare down your instruction to the very basic pattern or convention of the chess concept without muddying the water with a million side variations and discussion of their merit. I wrote you about three or four years ago with some questions regarding a technical writing paper I had to do for a college class I was wrting. I chose the subject of chess. Both then and now, I find your instruction regarding the game some of the best I have found.

  • 4 years ago


    terrific! Thanks!

  • 4 years ago


    I don't get this technique.  Would it be possible to have  a youtube play by play to show how it would work?

  • 4 years ago


    Personally this is one of the articles that I have enjoyed most, very very constructive, very clear and well organized, very very good. Thank you so much!! :D (Happy new year by the way)

  • 4 years ago


    tnx sir

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  • 4 years ago


    Thanks. I will share this with my chess coach.Great article

  • 4 years ago



  • 4 years ago


    thanks. great article.

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  • 4 years ago


    This is only the first part people, great article!!!

  • 4 years ago


    Decent article, but I really became good this attack after reading: Sacking the Citadel by John Edwards.  A 300 page book devoted to the Classic Bishop Sacrifice.  Incredible read.

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