Greek gift sacrifice

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In chess, the Greek gift sacrifice (or classical bishop sacrifice) is a typical sacrifice of a bishop by White playing Bxh7+ or Black playing Bxh2+.

Greek gift sacrifices, or the threat of them, occur relatively frequently in play, especially at the lower levels. One of the most famous examples of the sacrifice is found in the game Edgard Colle versus John O'Hanlon, Nice 1930. Less commonly, a Greek gift sacrifice may be the prelude to a double bishop sacrifice, as seen in the game Lasker versus Bauer, Amsterdam 1889.


Illustration[edit]

a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
a8 black rook
b8 black knight
c8 black bishop
d8 black queen
f8 black rook
g8 black king
a7 black pawn
b7 black pawn
c7 black pawn
d7 black knight
f7 black pawn
g7 black pawn
h7 black pawn
e6 black pawn
d5 black pawn
e5 white pawn
b4 black bishop
d4 white pawn
c3 white knight
d3 white bishop
f3 white knight
a2 white pawn
b2 white pawn
c2 white pawn
f2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
a1 white rook
c1 white bishop
d1 white queen
e1 white king
h1 white rook
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
After 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Nf3 Bb4 6.Bd3 0-0??, the Greek gift sacrifice wins.

The position after the moves 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Nf3 Bb4 6.Bd3 0-0?? (see diagram) is a simple case where the Greek gift sacrifice works. White can play 7.Bxh7+! Kxh7 8.Ng5+ to force Black to give up the queen to prevent mate:

  • 8...Kh8 9.Qh5+ Kg8 10.Qh7#
  • 8...Kg8 9.Qh5 Qxg5 (9...Re8 10.Qxf7+ Kh8 11.Qh5+ Kg8 12.Qh7+ Kf8 13.Qh8+ Ke7 14.Qxg7#) 10.Bxg5 wins the queen.
  • 8...Kh6 9.Nxe6+ wins the queen.
  • 8...Kg6 9.h4 and there is no satisfactory way to meet the threat of 10.h5+ Kh6 (10...Kf5 11.Qf3#) 11.Nxf7+, winning the queen.
  • 8...Qxg5 9.Bxg5 wins the queen.

Black could play 7...Kh8 instead, but due to poor king safety, it also leads to a lost position:

  • 7...Kh8 8.Ng5 g6 9.Qg4 Qe7 10.Qh3 Kg7 11.0-0 Nc6 12.Nge4 f6 13.Bh6+ Kf7 14.exf6 Nxf6 15.Ng5+ Ke8 16.Bxg6+ Kd8 17.Bxf8 Qxf8.

These variations are typical of many Greek gift sacrifices, though the outcome is not always so clear-cut.

"Greek gift"[edit]

The etymology of the phrase "Greek gift" in this context is not entirely clear. The obvious explanation is that it alludes to the Trojan Horse, and specifically to Virgil's famous "timeo danaos et dona ferentes" ("I fear the Greeks even [when they are] bringing gifts", Aeneid II.49). The Oxford Companion to Chess, however, suggests that one explanation is that the sacrifice often occurred in Gioachino Greco's games.

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