Dec 15, 2007, 7:35 PM |
When the Sacrifice of a Queen Leads to a Checkmate Victory
Published: November 4, 2007

There is no moment in chess that is more magical than the queen sacrifice, especially when it leads to checkmate.


Although it might seem that opportunities for such sacrifices occur more often in games among lower-ranked players because of their shortcomings in defense, effective sacrifices require a high degree of precision. So it is not a given that they will naturally arise in games among amateurs. And there are quite a few examples of “parting with the lady” in the annals of top-level chess.

The latest queen sacrifice occurred in the Casino de Barcelona tournament in Spain, which ran from Oct. 18 to Oct. 26. It was won by Hikaru Nakamura of the United States, who uncorked a beautiful queen sacrifice in Round 2 against Michal Krasenkow of Poland.

In the top diagram at left, it looks as if Black is in trouble: His black-squared bishop is in trouble, and White is ready to uncover an attack on Black’s queen by moving his own dark-squared bishop. In fact, Nakamura had played for just this position, setting a trap that Krasenkow walked into.

After 20 ... Rc6 21 Bf6, Black struck with 21 ... Qf2. If White plays 22 Kh1, then 22 ... Rf6 23 Ne4 Qa7 24 Nf6 Nf6, after which White would be far behind.

So White played 22 Kf2, but after 22 ... Bc5, all roads led to doom. For example, 23 Kf1 c3 24 Re2 c2. Or, 23 Re3 Be3 24 Ke1 Bd2 25 Kd2 Rd6 26 Kc3 Rd1 27 Rd1 Nf6, which would lead to an easy win.

Instead, Krasenkow went down in flames, playing 23 Kf3 Rf6 24 Kg4 Ne5 25 Kg5 (25 Re5 fails to 25 ... Bc8) Rg6 26 Kh5 f6 27 Re5 Re5 28 Kh4 Bc8, when he resigned because checkmate was inevitable.

Another good example of a queen sacrifice occurred in a game between the grandmasters Robert Fontaine and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave during the French national championship in August.

In the lower diagram, Vachier-Lagrave, who is only 17 and who tied for first in the championship, played 23 ... Qd5, which was a wonderfully intuitive sacrifice.

The game ended 24 cd Be5 25 Qc1 Bh2 26 Kh1 Rh8 27 Qc4 Bd6 28 Kg1 Bh2 29 Kh1 b5 30 Qb5 (the losing move; White had to play 30 Qc6 e3 31 Bf3 Nf2 32 Rf2 ef 33 Kg2 Bg3 34 Qc1 Bh3 35 Kg3 f1/Q 36 Qc7, after which Black had no way to escape) e3 31 Bf3 Nf2 32 Rf2 ef 33 Kg2 Bg1 34 Qc6 Rh2 35 Kg3 f1/N 36 Kf4 Rh4 37 Kg5 Be3 38 Kh4 g5 39 Kh5 Ng3.

In the face of 40 Kh6 g4 mate, White resigned.