Instructional game featuring the "greek gift" sacrifice.

Dec 19, 2012, 4:49 PM |

This was a game I played as white on FICS. My opponent, rated a couple hundred points higher than me, outplayed me in the opening but I was able to create the necessary pre-conditions for the classic "greek gift" sacrifice that resulted in a very satisfying win. I was able to quickly and accurately calculate the sacrifice thanks to The Art of Attack by Vladimir Vukovic. I highly recommend the book, especially if you are struggling to create winning attacks in your games.

1.e4 Nf6

The Alekhine Defense. Black is going to entice white to push his pawns too far forward in an attempt to create chances for an early complicated counter attack. My last game with this defense as black was against Hikaru Nakamura in a casual game in a Starbuck's in Seattle I think 3 years ago.

2.e5 Nd5

3.c4 Nb6

4.c5 Nd5

This is the "Two Pawns Attack". This is how Nakamura handled the same position when we played so I figured I could give it a shot.


I misplayed the move order here a little bit. 5.Nc3 might have been a better option.

5. ... e6

Black defends the knight and puts some pressure on c5. I actually missed the importance of the bishop's influence and fumbled a bit.


Now it is a little late for this move. I should have at least played d4 first to protect the pawn on c5.

6. ... Nxc3!

7.bxc3 Bxc5

8.d4 Be7

9.a4 d5

I have tried to create some play on the queenside to gain some compensation for my pawn but black is hitting back in the center. I decided to retreat my bishop to d3 where it puts some pressure on h7. After all, white will probably be inclined to go kingside sooner or later.

10.Bd3 c5

11.Nf3 0-0


This seemingly inocculous move actually contains quite a punch as it is the final pre-condition for the classic sacrifice. The other pre-conditions are my rook still on h1, my queen on the d1-h5 diagonal, my bishop on the b1-h7 diagonal, my knight on f3 (ready to come to g5), and my dark bishop on the c1-h6 diagonal (to also help support a knight or pawn on g5).

We also must take into account black's lack of defense as further pre-conditions. For example the rook on a8, knight on b8, bishop on c8 are all far away from the defense and do not have easy access to the kingside. Finally, the black queen is on d8 which can become a very important weakness***.

12. ... c4??

Black doesn't see the knockout punch waiting for him.

13.Bxh7!! Kh8

13.Bxh7+ is the classic "greek gift sacrifice". But wait! Why didn't black take back? Let's step into the TARDIS and cross through the void into an alternate green universe where black took the bishop.

Note: if you are familiar with the sacrifice and want to skip over the variations where black recaptures the bishop on h7 continue on to the next "sandy" colored diagram for the game continuation.

13.Bxh7!! Kxh7

14.Ng5+ Kg8

We will soon take a look at a few other universes where black still recaptured the bishop but handled his 14th move differently. Red universe - where black's king blundered to h8. Pink universe - where black's king fumbled to h6. Orange universe - where black's king slyly stepped to g6.

15.Qh5 Bxg5


White now threatens mate with 17.Qh7# or 17.Qh8# so black must try to create some space. Re8 fails to Qh8# so he must try f6 or f5 making a space for his king to run.

16. ... f6

17. g6! Re8

18. Qh8# 1-0

Let's make our way over to the red universe where black still captured the bishop but went to h8 after the knight check.


13.Bxh7+!! Kxh7

14.Ng5+ Kh8

15.Qh5+ Kg8

16.Qh7# 1-0

Now I see why this is the red universe...let's head over to the pink universe to see how h6 worked out for black's king.


13.Bxh7+!! Kxh7

14.Ng5+ Kh6


This double check wins the black queen.

15. ... Kg6

16. Nxd8 1-0

Perhaps the orange universe will be more promising.


13.Bxh7 Kxh7

14.Ng5+ Kg6


White is preparing Nxe6+ with a discovered check winning the black queen. Here black tries f5 to create a space to run while preventing the immediate 16.Nxe6+ (16.Nxe6+ fxg4 with some chance to defend perhaps)

15. ... f5

16.h5+! Kh6



A double check. Black must move the king.

17. ... Kh7


18.Qg6+ Kg8


19.Nxd8 Bxd8

Black captures with the bishop in order to keep the rook on the f-file for the defense of g7.

20.h6 Rf7


21.hxg7 Rxg7

22.Qe8# 1-0

That was quite the adventure through space and time. We saw that after 13. ... Kxh7 that there is no way to defend as black. Now let's go back to the game to see why 13. ... Kh8 didn't quite work either.

13. Bxh7+!! Kh8

14.Ng5 g6

Not 14. ... Bxg5 15.hxg5 and black is going to fall victim to a blend of Qh5, or the bishop moving anywhere with a discovered check by the rook.

15.Nxf7+!!* Rxf7

Forced, otherwise black loses the queen.

16.Bxg6 Rg7

17.Qh5+ Kg8

18.Bh6 1-0

And here Black resigned.

I hope this article will help you recognize, and even strive to create, the pre-conditions for sacrificing your bishop on h7 in an effort to attack (bishop on b1-h7, queen on d1-h5 diagonal, knight on ready to come into g5, a pawn on h4, a rook on h-file, the enemy pieces away on the queenside, the queen on d8, enemy castled kingside, etc.). Thanks to my opponent for being a good sport after the game and thank you reader for taking the time to go over this. Please leave any question, comments, analysis, or feedback. Thanks!