Queen sacrifice

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In chess, a queen sacrifice is a move giving up a queen in return for tactical or positional compensation.


Queen sacrifice: real versus sham[edit]

In his book The Art of Sacrifice in Chess, Rudolf Spielmann distinguishes between real and sham sacrifices. A sham sacrifice leads to a forced and immediate benefit for the sacrificer, usually in the form of a quick checkmate (or perpetual check or stalemate if seeking a draw), or the recouping of the sacrificed material after a forced line. Since any amount of material can be sacrificed as long as checkmate will be achieved, the queen is not above being sacrificed as part of a combination.[1]

Possible reasons for a sham queen sacrifice include:

  • a forced checkmate after the opponent takes the queen;
  • more than adequate material compensation (say, a rook and two knights) after a forced continuation;
  • clearing the way for a pawn's promotion to a replacement queen;
  • the subsequent capture of the opponent's queen, resulting in some positional or material gain.

On the other hand, "real" sacrifices, according to Spielmann, are those where the compensation is not immediate, but more positional in nature. Because the queen is the most powerful piece (see chess piece relative value), positional sacrifices of the queen virtually always entail some partial material compensation (for example, sacrificing the queen for a rook and bishop).

An opportunity may arise where a player trades off his queen for other pieces which may together be of equal or greater value than the queen. Bent Larsen remarks that giving up the queen for a rook and two minor pieces is sometimes called a "queen sacrifice", but since a rook plus two minor pieces is more valuable than the queen, he says it should not be considered a sacrifice.[2]

Examples[edit]

Anderssen vs. Kieseritzky, 1851
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8
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a8 black rook
c8 black bishop
d8 black king
g8 black knight
h8 black rook
a7 black pawn
d7 black pawn
f7 black pawn
g7 white knight
h7 black pawn
a6 black knight
d6 white bishop
b5 black pawn
d5 white knight
e5 white pawn
h5 white pawn
g4 white pawn
d3 white pawn
f3 white queen
a2 white pawn
c2 white pawn
e2 white king
a1 black queen
g1 black bishop
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7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
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White to move
  • A celebrated game by Adolf Anderssen, the Immortal Game, featured a queen sacrifice as part of White's final mating combination. In the diagram position Anderssen gave up his queen with 22.Qf6+! to divert Black's knight: the game continued 22.. Nxf6 23.Be7#. This is an example of a sham queen sacrifice, as the sacrifice resulted in checkmate only one move later. White was able to mate since his minor pieces were clustered around the Black king, while Black's pieces were either undeveloped or trapped in the white camp and so unable to defend.
Anderssen vs. Dufresne, 1852
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b8 black rook
e8 black king
g8 black rook
a7 black pawn
b7 black bishop
c7 black pawn
d7 black pawn
e7 black knight
f7 black pawn
h7 black pawn
b6 black bishop
f6 white pawn
a4 white queen
a3 white bishop
c3 white pawn
d3 white bishop
f3 black queen
a2 white pawn
f2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
d1 white rook
g1 white king
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
White to move
  • In another celebrated game by Anderssen, the Evergreen game, Anderssen once again sacrificed his queen for a mating combination, playing 21.Qxd7+!!: the game continued 21...Kxd7 22.Bf5+ Ke8 23.Bd7+ Kf8 24.Bxe7#. The game is another example of a sham queen sacrifice. Although Black is on the verge of checkmating White, his defences around his king are weak, so White was able to mate.
  • In the "Opera game", Morphy gave his queen in a final deflection sacrifice in order to mate.
  • In a friendly game Edward Lasker played against George Alan Thomas,[3] Lasker found a celebrated queen sacrifice which forced the black king on a march to White's first rank where it was mated.
  • Philidor's Legacy refers to a smothered mate involving a queen sacrifice.
Rudolf Spielmann vs. Jorgen. Moeller, 1920
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a8 black rook
c8 black bishop
e8 black king
f8 black bishop
h8 black rook
a7 black pawn
b7 black pawn
c7 black pawn
f7 black pawn
h7 black pawn
c6 black knight
b5 white bishop
d5 black pawn
e5 white pawn
g5 black pawn
d4 white pawn
e4 black knight
f4 black pawn
h4 black queen
c3 white pawn
f3 white queen
a2 white pawn
b2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
a1 white rook
b1 white knight
c1 white bishop
f1 white king
g1 white knight
h1 white rook
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7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
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White to move
a b c d e f g h
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a8 black rook
d8 black king
f8 black bishop
h8 black rook
a7 black pawn
b7 black pawn
c7 black pawn
f7 black pawn
h7 black pawn
c6 black knight
f6 white knight
h6 black queen
b5 white bishop
d5 black pawn
e5 white pawn
g5 black pawn
d4 white pawn
f4 black pawn
h4 white pawn
c3 white pawn
f3 white knight
a2 white pawn
b2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
a1 white rook
c1 white bishop
f1 white king
h1 white rook
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7 7
6 6
5 5
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1 1
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Position after 13. h4
  • For an example of a "real" (positional) queen sacrifice, Rudolf Spielmann presented this game against Jorgen Moeller in Gothenburg 1920. In the first diagram Black threatens 9...Bg4 winning the queen, since she must not leave the f2-square unguarded under threat of checkmate. But Spielmann played 9.Nd2! allowing Black to win his queen, and after 9...Bg4 10.Nxe4 Bxf3 11.Nxf3 Qh6 12.Nf6+ Kd8 13.h4 the position in the second diagram was reached. White has only a knight and bishop for his queen and pawn, but his minor pieces are very active and the black queen is out of play. White won on move 28.[4]
Pilnik vs. Reshevsky, 1942
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f8 white queen
a7 black king
b7 black pawn
a6 black pawn
a5 white pawn
c4 black pawn
e4 black pawn
e3 black queen
h1 white king
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7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
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White to move
  • A queen sacrifice can sometimes be used as a resource to draw. Here Herman Pilnik (White) is defending an endgame three pawns down, but played Qf2!, when Samuel Reshevsky (Black) had nothing better than ...Qxf2 stalemate.
Donald Byrne vs. Bobby Fischer, 1956
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a8 black rook
e8 black rook
g8 black king
a7 black pawn
b7 black pawn
f7 black pawn
g7 black bishop
h7 black pawn
b6 black queen
c6 black pawn
g6 black pawn
c5 white bishop
c4 white bishop
d4 white pawn
g4 black bishop
a3 white queen
c3 black knight
f3 white knight
a2 white pawn
f2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
d1 white rook
f1 white king
h1 white rook
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7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
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Black to move
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e8 black rook
g8 black king
b7 black pawn
f7 black pawn
g7 black bishop
h7 black pawn
b6 white queen
c6 black pawn
g6 black pawn
a4 black rook
c4 black bishop
f3 white knight
a2 white pawn
f2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
d1 black knight
g1 white king
h1 white rook
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7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
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Position after 25... Nxd1
  • In The Game of the Century, Bobby Fischer uncorked a sham queen sacrifice to obtain a winning material advantage. In the first diagram, White's king is stuck in the center and Black has control of the open e-file. Fischer ignored the threat to his queen and played 17... Be6!!: the game continued 18.Bxb6 Bxc4+ 19.Kg1 Ne2+ 20.Kf1 Nxd4+ 21.Kg1 Ne2+ 22.Kf1 Nc3+ 23.Kg1 axb6 24.Qb4 Ra4 25.Qxb6 Nxd1 and Black has emerged with a large material and positional advantage. He can threaten back-rank mate to win even more material; his pieces are coordinated and White's rook is trapped in the corner.[5]
  • In a whirlwind of tactics, Bent Larsen sacrificed his queen to defeat World Champion Tigran Petrosian.[6]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Rudolf Spielmann. The Art of Sacrifice in Chess. 
  2. ^ Bent Larsen. Lærebok i sjakk.  (Norwegian)
  3. ^ Edward Lasker vs G A Thomas, 1912
  4. ^ The game can be played through here The game was annotated by Spielmann in The Art of Sacrifice in Chess.
  5. ^ Graham Burgess, John Nunn, and John Emms, The Mammoth book of the World's Greates Chess Games, 2010
  6. ^ Larsen vs Petrosian, 1966