Friday, July 4, 2014

When in doubt, Bxh7 (Part 1)

For a moment I wanted to add #yoloswag but I guess the title speaks for itself. The legendary bishop sacrifice on h7 (or h2 for Black) has become one of the classical motifs that symbolizes the art of attack in chess. In practice, the sacrifice of the bishop helps to open a file in the enemy's castled position, thus allowing the attacker's pieces (usually the Queen and the Knight) to deliver the mating attack.

As such, I want to dedicate the next couple of articles to this classical sacrificial attack, which is so well-known that it has been given a name of its own: The Greek Gift Sacrifice (named after the legend of the Trojan Horse).

Commander, I think I need the toilet...

For the uninitiated, here is the sacrifice presented in its pure, unadulterated form after  1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. Nf3 Bb4 6. Bd3 O-O?

Position after 6... O-O

7. Bxh7+! Kxh7

White could decline the sacrifice with 7... Kh8, but due to poor king safety his position falls apart after 8. Ng5 g6 9. Qg4 Qe7 10. Qh3 Kg7 11. Bxg6!

8. Ng5+

And now Black is forced to choose between mate and the loss of enormous amounts of material:

8... Kh8 is suicide after 9. Qh5+ Kg8 10. Qh7#

8... Kg8 9. Qh5 forces Black to give up the queen with 9... Qxg5 in order to prevent mate on h7

8... Kh6 loses the Queen after 9. Nxf7+

8... Kg6 is the most resilient reply, but after 9. h4 Black has to face the threat of 10. h5 Kh6 (10... Kf5? 11. Qf3#) 11. Nxf7+ forking the king and queen. With Black's king in the open it should not be too difficult for White to find a lasting attack.

Looks elegant? That was simply a kickstart to whet our appetite. In subsequent articles, we will take a deeper look into what conditions are required for this sacrificial attack to work, and examine cases where this classical motif had been successfully (or unsuccessfully) executed.

"How to Calculate Chess Tactics" by Valeri Beim
"Art of Attack in Chess" by Vladimir Vukovic

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