Chess Terms
Sacrifice

Sacrifice

In a game of chess, few moves happen that are more exciting than a sacrifice. Learn more about this thrilling tactic and how it can help you to win more games.


What Is A Sacrifice In Chess?

A sacrifice happens in chess when one player intentionally gives up material to achieve a different or larger goal. Sacrifices are usually a part of a combination of moves that result in a better position or a more comfortable position for the player who performs it.

A knight sacrifice.
GM Judit Polgar vs. GM Ferenc Berkes, Hunguest Hotels Super Chess Tournament of 2003. Polgar sacrificed a knight to open up the h-file and launch a crushing offensive against the black king.

Why Are Sacrifices Important?

Finding a great combination that involves sacrificing a piece is one of the best feelings in chess. When it is sound, this tactic can lead to impressive wins! Let's explore a few uses of the sacrifice during different parts of a chess game.

One of the most common types of sacrifices happens in the opening. Players often choose to play gambits and offer a pawn to gain a lead in development. In the video below, IM Daniel Rensch explains a well-known pawn sacrifice called the Smith-Morra Gambit. To develop a minor piece with a gain of tempo, White lets Black take a free pawn.

Other opportunities for playing a sacrifice happen during the middle game. Usually, a player performs this type of move when they want to attack the enemy king. In the game below, we see a beautiful demonstration of this concept by the genius of sacrifices, GM Mikhail Tal. The Magician of Riga sacrificed a rook and a queen to checkmate his opponent.

Sacrifices are also useful during endgames, especially when a player wants to simplify the game to avoid any counterplay by their opponent. In this game, GM Hikaru Nakamura sacrificed a rook against GM Veselin Topalov to enter a winning endgame where White's connected passed pawns made all the difference.

Test Your Skills

Now that you know more about the potential of the sacrifice in chess, it is time for you to test your skills. Solve each of the puzzles below and prove you can also use a sacrifice to be a dangerous attacker!

Puzzle 1: In this famous game, a brilliant move played by the genius Paul Morphy allowed White to deliver checkmate. Can you sacrifice like Morphy?

Puzzle 2: GM Judit Polgar, playing as White, was a minor piece and a pawn down in this game. Can you spot the same idea the strongest female chess player of all time exploited in this position?

Conclusion

You now understand the concept of sacrifice in chess, and you are more prepared to use it successfully during a game. Try out our premium membership for free and watch our lesson about sacrifices you can use to win a game!