Greek gift sacrifice

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In chess, the Greek gift sacrifice (or as it is more commonly called, the 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 ColleJohn O'Hanlon, Nice 1930.[1] Less commonly, a Greek gift sacrifice may be the prelude to a double bishop sacrifice, as seen in the game Lasker–Bauer, Amsterdam 1889.[2]


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
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 threatening 10.Qh7#, to which the only feasible responses are
    • 9...Qxg5 10.Bxg5 wins the queen, and
    • 9...Re8 10.Qxf7+ Kh8 11.Qh5+ Kg8 12.Qh7+ Kf8 13.Qh8+ Ke7 14.Qxg7#
  • 8...Kh6 9.Nxf7+ 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.


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 Laocoön's famous timeo danaos et dona ferentes ("I fear the Greeks even [when they are] bringing gifts", Virgil's Aeneid II.49). The Oxford Companion to Chess, however, suggests that one explanation is that the sacrifice often occurred in Gioachino Greco's games.


  1. ^ "Edgar Colle vs. John James O'Hanlon, Nice (1930)".
  2. ^ "Emanuel Lasker vs. Johann Hermann Bauer, Amsterdam (1889)".

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