The Chess Sacrifice

A sacrifice is a move giving up a piece in the hopes of gaining tactical or positional compensation in other forms.  A sacrifice is usually a deliberate exchange of a chess piece of higher value (queen or rook) for an opponent’s piece of lower value (bishop, knight, or pawn).  A sacrifice usually comes as a surprise to one’s opponent, who must now calculate whether the sacrifice is sound or not and whether to aceept it or not.  Usually, the most brilliant type of sacrifice is when one sacrifices the queen to win the game.

Sacrifice can be made to achieve one of the following:

-        To threaten mate

-        To drive the enemy king into the open where it can be attacked by other pieces

-        To remove protective pawns to expose the king to attack

-        To draw a defending piece away to free up the line of attack

-        To divert a piece from a certain square that could enable an attack on your  own position

-        To gain space for other active pieces that can be used in an attack

-        To free a square needed for one’s own pieces

-        To open files or lines of attack

-        To gain time to attack

-        To start an attack after enough accumulation of power to sustain it

-        To gain initiative

-        To gain tempo

-        To create passed pawns that yield a winning endgame advantage

-        To gain time to promote a passed pawn to a queen or other piece

-        To get back more material that what was given up in the original sacrifice


To carry out a successful sacrifice, plan out the combination with your opponent’s possible reactions in mind and calculate all forced moves first.  Calculate the risks to losing one of your pieces.  Accumulate your forces and position them through tactical maneuvers.  You may have to make secondary sacrifices.  Sometimes sacrificial attacks involves a series of sacrifices.  Try to maintain the surprise element by trying to hide your intention.  Make sure, while you are planning a sacrifice, that you forget to notice what your opponent is doing and its impact on your plans.  Don’t overlook a mate threat.  As soon as you think that your preparation is ready, initiate your attack with a sacrifice.  Sacrifice a chess piece if you can gain a valuable check or checkmate out of the deal.

Here are some nice sacrifices.




CarlsenHarestad, Copenhagen 2003


                      White to play

Solution: 1.Qxg5! fxg5 2.Rxf7+ Kxh6 3.Rxh7 mate



AnderssenKieseritsky, London 1851


                  White to play

Solution: 1.Qf6+! Nxf6 2.Be7 mate




ForgacsTartakower, St. Petersburg 1909


                          White to play

Solution 1.Rf5! fxe6 2.Nf7+ Qxf7 3.Rh5+ Kg7 4.Rxg6 mate




NavaraHelbich, Czech Republic 1998


                     White to play

Solution: 1.Bg6! Qf6 2.Bxf6 gxf6 3.Rxf6 Rxe8 4.Bf7 mate