Classical Bishop Sacrifice
Classical Bishop Sacrifice
Tournament players must understand the risks associated with advancing the King's protective pawn-shield. For every advance pawns made, left the unguarded squares behind which become prime outpost for the opponent's pieces in near future. White king side castle pawn shield include f2, g2 and h2, when we fianchetto our King's Bishop with g2-g3, we have weakened our control of the f3 and h3 squares. Similarly, if we advance our g2-pawn to the g4-square, then in turn f4 and h4-squares will become prime target for our opponent. When we advance our h2-pawn to the h3-square, we take control of the g4-square but, our g3-square got weakened. Therefore, master players are reluctant to weaken there vital squares around their King and they carefully examine the pros and cons of making space in castle to prevent back rank checkmate. Experienced players are happy to keep their pawns, protecting their King, on their original squares. This is where the “Classical Bishop sacrifice” or "The Greek Gift" plays important role. This technique should be in your armory, which can wreck the sturdiest-looking castled position.
In this Blog, I would like to explore this combinative theme of “Classical Bishop sacrifice” or "The Greek Gift". This sacrifice is one in which every player should become fluent. Following diagram shows the skeletal position of the Classical Bishop Sacrifice.
This position can be achieved by
- e4 e6
- d4 d5
- Nc3 Nf6
White's fourth move seems to be just another simple opening move. Few other stronger moves are 4. e5 or 4. Bg5, pinning Black's Knight. 4. ... Bh4, here Black should play 4. ... c5, with good chances to equalize the game, but game continue as
- e5 Nfd7
- Nf3 O-O
The six moves just played result in above position. Here, everything seems to be normal. Black has developed his Kingside pieces, castled early, safely tucking away his King, and in general is comfortable with his game. But reality is different what is seems to be, Black has just put his King in a death trap! What "advantages" does White has, that permit him to uncork a winning combination? The answer is not as obvious as being ahead on material or having superior development or a wrecked pawn structure.
There are two important factors here:
- The first and most important is that Black's h7-square is a potential weakness as it is defended only by the King.
- White's e-pawn is performing important role in the game: It is not allowing Black's Knight to come back on the f6-square, which would guard the h7-square. White's Knight has free and clear access to the g5-square.
Yet even these advantages are not so much visible enough to trigger the combinative adventure if we are not familiar with the following Bishop Sacrifice:
- Bxh7+! A stunning shot that blasts open Black's Kingside pawn-shield. Now Black is in dilemma whether “to take the bishop” or “not to take the bishop”. If Black declines the sacrifice with ... Kh8, he loses a pawn for no compensation. After the further moves 8. Ng5, Queen is ready to jump into the battle, Black's King would be under horrific fire. But if Black accept the sacrifice. 7. ... Kxh7.
- Ng5+ the Knight check presents Black’ King with an awkward choice: Retreat by ... Kg8, or move up the board.
I will explain both the situation one by one. First, let us examine 8. ... Kg8.
- Qh5! The most important move in the Bishop sacrifice, is that the Queen immediately joins the battle. If anyhow Black is able to guard the h7-square, the Bishop sacrifice would fail. Here e5-pawn is doing an excellent job, covering the f6-square. So black is left with only one choice to avoid check mate ... Re8 to make some room for the king.
- Qxf7+! It is the strongest move in the position. The mistake Qh7+? Kf8 11. Qh8+ Ke7 12. Qxg7 Rf8 would have allowed Black's King to escape. So black moves 1O. ... Kh8
- Qh5+ Kg8
- Qh7+! Kf8
- Qh8+ Ke7
- Qxg7 checkmate.
Now analyze, capturing the f7-pawn with check at 10th move makes all the difference.
Now come to second situation, if Black’s King moved up the board.
- … Kg6
Don’t make the mistake of 8. ... Kh6?? 9. Nxe6+ or 9. Nxf7++ is a discovered check from the c1-Bishop and would cost Black his Queen. The c1I-Bishop plays a key role. It controls the g5-square, while also stops Black's King to going on to the h6-square. It the right time to introduce the Queen into battle.
White is preparing for a discovered check.
Black should play a crafty defense like.
9 ... f5!
Black must attack White's Queen at once.
White is not ready to release any kind of pressure, still threating for a discovered check. It would be horrible mistake if 10. exf6?? Nxf6 11. Qg3 Nh5, this would allow the knight at d7 to participate in the defense of his King.
- ... Qe7!
Black has nothing better than to put his Queen beyond the reaches of the g5-Knight. Here a common defensive idea for Black is to play 10. ... f4, again attacking White's Queen. This move is not so smart because 11. Bxf4 Rxf4 12. Nxe6+ wins Black's Queen!
- Nxe6+? Kf7
- Nxc7 Nb6
- Nxa8 Nxa8
White has won material, three pawns and a Rook for Bishop and Knight, but his checkmating forces have pulled out the king in middle of the board. Taking the e6-pawn allows the Black’s King to escape. Instead, White should try to bring more pieces into the attack.
Let's move back to 11th move.
White’s move forces Black's King onto the c1-h6 diagonal and into a discovered check. Now Black cannot prevent White’s h-pawn from advancing as 11. ...Rh8 12. h5+ Rxh5 13. Rxh5 Kxh5 14. Qh3Kg6 15. Qh7 results in checkmate. Black may be able to block the discovered check by the c1-Bishop with the f-pawn.
- ... Nc6
Black decides that his only chance is to develop a counter-attack in the center.
- h5+ Kh6
- Nxe6+ Kh7
Black couldn't block the Bishop check with 13. ... f4 because of the h5-pawn, Qg6 mate was the threat as well.
- Qg6+ Kg8
- Ng5 Nf6!
Black taking the advantage of the pin on the e-file in order to defend the h7-square and to keep his hopes of defending alive. Black intends to play: 16 ... Qe7-e8, in order to break the attack.
Somewhere white missed trick and can do better. Let's go back to move eleven.
- Be3! A much better move than Nxe6, as White develops a piece, blocks the potential pin on the e-file and once again leaves it up to Black to find a good move. If Black tries:
- ... Nb6
- h5+ Kh6
- Nxe6+ Kh7
- Qg6+ Kg8
And this is the winning position for white.
All these variations and the themes should be carefully explored and practiced, so that you became familiar with as many as possible patterns that emerges from the Bishop Sacrifice. Now let's return to 9th move. White’s strongest move is actually
White’s intention is to push Black's King to the h6 - square, where the discovered check is lethal. Here White could also have tried 9.Qd3+ f5 1O.Qg3, which transposes to the above lines. White should avoid 9.Qd3+ f5 1O.exf6+? Kxf6, which gives the Black’s King an opportunities to escape.
9 ... Qe7
Black wants protect his queen from the discovered check by the Knight.
- h5+ Kh6
Black has no choice. If Black goes 10. ... Kf5. Then with 11. Qf3 Black is finished.
- Qd3! Qxg5
Defeat is admitted.
- Bxg5+ Kxg6
- Qe3+! Kf5
- g4+ Kxg4
And Black's King will be mated shortly.