The Classic Bishop Sacrifice - Part Three

The Classic Bishop Sacrifice - Part Three

| 21 | Tactics

In Part One of this series, the main topic of the Bxh7+ thrust concerned the win of material. In Part Two, we explored what happens after 1.Bxh7+ Kxh7 2.Ng5+ Kg8 and 2…Kh8. In Part Three, we’ll move on to 2…Kh6 and 2…Kg6, which often leads to far more complex positions than the previous King moves.

At times a walk to g6 is simply suicidal. This is particularly true when White has a pawn on h4 and a Bishop patrolling the c1-h6 diagonal:

Gioacchino Greco - NN [C01], Europe 1620

7.Bxh7+ Kxh7 8.Ng5+

The game is already over, but black’s next move slams the stake through his own heart!


Allowing the h1-Rook to join in the festivities. Other moves last longer, but won’t save the game:

8…Kg8 9.Qh5 Bxg5 10.hxg5 f5 11.g6 is a very important concept. The pawn takes f7 away from black’s King and ensures a quick mate on h7 or h8.

8…Kh6 (rarely a good idea when white’s dark-squared Bishop is patrolling the c1-h6 diagonal) 9.Nxe6+ (winning black’s Queen, which is enough to win by itself. However, White also enjoys a monster attack: 9…Kg6 (9…Kh7 10.Qh5+ Kg8 11.Ng5 Bxg5 [11…Re8 12.Qh7+ Kf8 13.Qh8 mate] 12.hxg6 f6 13.g6 and mates.) 10.Qg4+ (Much stronger than 10.Nxd8, which of course also wins.) 10…Bg5 (10…Kh7 11.Qxg7 mate) 11.hxg5 fxe6 12.Qh5+ Kf5 13.Qh7+ g6 14.Qh3+ Ke4 15.Qd3 mate.

8…Kg6 (the best defense) 9.Qd3+! (9.h5+ Kh6 10.Nxe6+ Kh7 11.Nxd8 wins the enemy Queen and the game, but 9.Qd3+ is far, far stronger) 9…f5 (9…Kh6 10.Qh7 mate) 10.exf6+ Kxf6 (10…Kh5 11.g4+ Kxg4 12.Qf3 mate) 11.Qf3+ Kg6 12.h5+ Kh6 13.Qe4! (threatening mate on h7 and g6) 13…Rf5 14.Nxe6+ (this wins the house) 14…Kh7 15.Qxf5+ Kg8 16.Nxd8 (threatening Qxd5+) 16…Nf6 17.Qg6! (nothing wrong with 17.Nxc6 with an obscene material advantage) 17…Nxd8 18.h6 Ne6 19.d5 Bf8 20.dxe6 and Black really needs to resign here since a beating like this might well ruin him forever.

9.hxg5+ Kg6

As usual, 9…Kg8 10.Qh5 f5 11.g6 mates.

10.Qh5+ Kf5 11.Qh7+

Even faster is 11.Qh3+ Kg6 (11...Ke4 12.Qd3 mate) 12.Qh7 mate.

11...g6 12.Qh3+ Ke4 13.Qd3 mate.

This example showed us:

* The importance of the g5-g6 push if Black takes the Knight on g5 via …Bxg5 (opening the h-file) and then steps back to g8 with his King.

* That moving the King to h6 when White has a Bishop on the c1-h6 diagonal is usually a prelude to suicide.

* That moving the King to g6 is usually fatal if white’s attack is bolstered with a Bishop on the c1-h6 diagonal, a pawn on h4 (with a Rook behind it), and a pawn on e5 (not allowing the enemy King to run to f6).

Our next example demonstrates the defects of white’s attack if White doesn’t have a pawn on e5 and/or a Bishop on the c1-h6 diagonal:

Rudolf Teschner – Boris Spassky, Riga 1959


This fails since White lacks the two key factors that I mentioned earlier (no pawn on e5 and no Bishop trolling the c1-h6 diagonal).

11…Kxh7 12.Ng5+ Kh6!

The only move, but it wins for Black! 12…Kg6?? 13.Qd3+ Kh5 14.g4+ Kxg4 15.Rg1+ Kxh4 16.Qh7 mate would be a disaster, while 12…Kg8?? 13.Qh5 gives White the usual monster attack.

12…Kh6 is effective since, without a Bishop on the c1-h6 diagonal, the black King is remarkably hard to reach!

13.Qc2 (The game Rudolf Spielmann – S. Rubinstein, Trebitsch 1933 saw 13.Qd3 g6 14.h5 and now Black played 14…Bxg5 and went on to lose [though black’s still much better], but 14…Kxg5 simply refutes everything as in the Spassky game) 13…g6 14.h5 Kxg5 15.f4+ Kh6 16.hxg6+ Kg7 17.Rh7+ Kg8 18.0-0-0 Bg7 19.Rdh1 Qf6 20.gxf7+ Rxf7 and it’s over: 21.g4 cxd4 22.g5 Qf5 23.Rxg7+ Kxg7 24.Qh2 Rf8 25.g6 Qxg6 26.Rg1 Nd7 27.Rxg6+ Kxg6 28.Nb5 Rac8+ 29.Kd1 Rf6 30.Nd6 Rxd6 31.f5+ Kxf5 32.Qxd6 Nf6 33.exd4 Bc6 34.Qa3 Ra8 35.Qh3+ Kg6 36.Qg3+ Kf5 37.Qh3+ Kg6 38.Qg3+ Kf7 39.Qc7+ Bd7 40.Qb7 Rh8 41.Qxa7 b5 42.Kc2 Rc8+ 43.Kb3 Rc4 44.a3 Ke7 45.Ka2 Ne8 46.Qb8 Nc7 47.Qb7 Kd6 48.Qb6+ Bc6 49.Qb8 Kd7 50.Qh8 Ba8 51.Qh3+ Kc6 52.Qh6+ Kb7 53.Qg7 Ka7 54.Qd7 Bb7 55.Qe7 Bc8 56.Qg7 Kb7 57.Qe5 Bd7 58.Qd6 Be8 59.Qf6 b4 60.axb4 Rxb4 61.b3 Rb6 62.Qh8 Re6 63.Ka3 Re4 64.Kb2 Kb6 65.Qf6+ Ne6 66.Qe7 Bc6 67.Qd6 Rxd4 68.Kc3 Nc7 69.Qd8 Kb7 70.Qe7 Re4 71.Qg7 Bb5 72.Qh7 d4+ 73.Kb4 Re5 74.Qh2 Rd5 75.Qd2 d3 76.Kc3 Rc5+ 77.Kb4 Rc2 78.Qd1 Nd5+, 0-1.

Here’s another example of the …Kh6 defense (White still doesn’t have a Bishop on the c1-h6 diagonal, but he does have a pawn on e5), though this time white’s attack offers a bit more bang thanks to the e5-pawn (though Black can still defend).

John De Soyres – Arthur Skipworth, Boston 1880

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.Bxf6 Bxf6 6.Nf3 0ñ0 7.Bd3 c5 8.e5 Be7 9.h4 c4

Black dares White to sacrifice on h7!


White can’t resist.

10…Kxh7 11.Ng5+ Kh6! 12.Qd2 Bxg5??

12...Qd7!, which allows the discovered check without losing the Queen, seems to be black’s most dependable option: 13.0-0-0 b5 14.Qf4 (14.Nxe6+ Kh7 15.Nxf8+ Bxf8 and white’s CBS mating attack is over and the game suddenly reverts to a Rook and two pawns vs. two Bishops battle.) 14...b4!? (Other moves are also possible.) 15.Nce4 dxe4 16.Nxe6+ Kh7 17.Qxe4+ Kg8 18.Nxf8 Bxf8 (18...Qb7 19.Qh7+ Kxf8 20.Qh8#) 19.Qxa8 Qa4 20.Qe4 (20.Qxb8?? Bf5 gives Black a winning attack.) 20...Qxa2 21.Kd2 Qxb2 when we have an odd material imbalance: Black has 3 minor pieces and 5 pawns vs. white's two Rooks and six pawns. Of course, Black also has a nice initiative against white's King.

13.hxg5+ Kg6 14.Ne2 Qxg5?

15.Nf4+ Kf5 16.Rh5 Qxh5 17.Nxh5 g5 18.c3!

Threatening Qc2+.

18...Kg6 19.Qc2+ Kxh5

19...Kh6 20.0-0-0 followed by Rh1 also leads to eventual mate.

20.Qh7+ Kg4 21.Qh3+ Kf4 22.Qf3 mate.

Here's another example of the ...Kh6 defense. White is forced to play extremely well to keep his attack going:

The examples (featuring the CBS with white’s pawn on h4 and Rook on h1) we’ve seen so far have shown us that:

* The CBS is usually crushing if White has a pawn on e5 and a Bishop on the c1-h6 diagonal.

* The CBS is usually still very dangerous if White has either a pawn on e5 but no Bishop on the c1-h6 diagonal, or a Bishop on the c1-h6 diagonal but no pawn on e5.

* The CBS is often unsound if White doesn’t have both a pawn on e5 or a Bishop on the c1-h6 diagonal.

We’ll now look at the effectiveness of the CBS when there is no pawn on h4 (usually White is castled instead) and the defending King runs to g6 (we’ve already explored the g8 retreat in the previous articles).

Carl Schlechter – Heinrich Wolf, Ostend 1905

19.Bxh7+ Kxh7 20.Ng5+ Kg6

20...Kh6 is even worse since, with white's pawn on h2 and not h4, the h4-square is available to the white Queen: 21.Qg4 Ng6 (Not allowing Qh4+) 22.f4 Qc8 23.f5 (Threatening 24.Nxf7+! Rxf7 25.Qxg6 mate.) 23...Qa6 (Guarding g6 and stopping the Nxf7+ threat.) 24.e6! (Now the threat of Nxf7+ is once again “on.”) 24...Qb6 25.Nxf7+ Kh7 (25...Rxf7 26.Qxg6 mate) 26.Qh5+ Kg8 27.fxg6 Qxd4+ 28.Kh1 and Black will be mated.


The most common way to handle the attack in this kind of position. Now Ne6+ followed by Qxg7 is threatened.


* 21...Qc8 22.Ne6+ Kh6 23.Qxg7+ Kh5 24.Qg5 mate.

* 21...Rg8 22.Nf3+ Kh6 23.Qg5+ Kh7 24.Qh5 mate.

22.exf6 Nf5

* 22...Kxf6 23.Re1 Qc8 24.Re6+ Qxe6 25.Qxe6+, 1-0.

* 22...Rxf6 23.Ne6+ Kf7 24.Qxg7+ Kxe6 25.Re1+ is crushing.

The actual game continued 22…gxf6 23.Ne6+ Kf7 24.Qg7+ Kxe6 25.Re1+ and Black got splattered.

23.Ne4+! Kf7 24.Ng3!

Trying to pull the f5-Knight away from the defense of g7.


24...Nxg3 25.Qxg7+ Ke6 26.Qe7+ Kf5 27.fxg3+ Kg6 28.Qg7+ Kh5 29.Rf5 mate.

25.Nxf5 Qxf6 26.Re1 Re8 27.Qh5+ g6 28.Nd6+ Qxd6 29.Qh7+ Kf8 30.Qh8+,1-0. A very nice, snappy attack!

Here’s another typical example of how to handle the …Kg6 defense:

Carlo Salvioli – Crosara, Venice 1883

13.Bxh7+ Kxh7 14.Ng5+ Kg6 15.Qg4 f5 16.Qg3 Qe8 17.Nxe6+

17.Rae1! is even more precise since Black, who is helpless, has no way to stop Nxe6+. One sample line: 17…Rh8 18.Nxe6+ Kf7 19.Nxg7 Qg8 20.e6+ Kf8 21.Bxe7+ Kxe7 22.Qg5+ Kd6 23.exd7 and the Rook on e1 is suddenly looking pretty good!

17…Kf7 18.Nxg7

In the actual game White blundered with 18.Qxg7+?? which actually loses to 18…Kxe6 19.Qh6+ Qg6. However, after 18.Qxg7+?? Black found the worst move on the board – he resigned!


18...Qd8 19.e6+ Kg8 20.Nxf5+ mates.

19.Nxe8 Rxg3 20.Nd6+ Ke6 21.hxg3 and white’s an Exchange and 3 pawns ahead!

As we saw, when Black uses the …Kg6 defense white’s most common move is Qg4 (though other moves are also important, depending on the exact position) when the reply …f7-f5 either makes or breaks the second player.

Okay, are you ready to see if you understood how to deal with the ...Kh6 and ...Kg6 defenses? If so, it’s puzzle time! 



More from IM Silman
The Downs And Ups Of GM Elmars Zemgalis (Silman's Last Article)

The Downs And Ups Of GM Elmars Zemgalis (Silman's Last Article)

How To Build Winning Chess Positions

How To Build Winning Chess Positions