greek gift

Greek gift sacrifice

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+. The position to the right, which might occur after the moves 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Nf3 Bb4 6.Bd3 O-O, is a simple case where the Greek gift sacrifice works. White can play 7.Bxh7+! Kxh7 8.Ng5+ and wins:

  • 8...Kh8 9.Qh5+ Kg8 10.Qh7#
  • 8...Kg8 9.Qh5 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+

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

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 - 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 - Bauer, Amsterdam 1889.

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.

Further reading

  • Vladimir Vuković, Art of Attack - chapter 6 is dedicated to the classical bishop sacrifice
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