Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Double Bishop Sacrifice

Not long ago I wrote about an old episode of Blake’s 7 which featured a game of chess that ended in perpetual check following a double bishop sacrifice.

In an old Pergamon book, Master Chess: A course in 21 Lessons, Geoff Chandler gives a very simple example of the combination taken from Miles – Browne, Lucerne Olympiad 1982.

1. Bxh7+ Kxh7, 2. Qh5+ Kg8, 3. Bxg7 Kxg7, 4. Qg5+ Kh8, 5. Qf6+ Kg8, 6. Rc4

Chandler quoted Tartakower as to the circumstances required for the idea to work

“The defending king must be exposed and his pieces not readily available for defence. The attacker’s rook must serve a double purpose; to prevent the king’s escape to the other wing and to take part in the final assault without any loss of time.”

then went on to call such sequences, “a fairly rare occurrence in over-the-board play ….” (a phrase he may well have lifted from Tartakower and Du Mont’s classic book, 500 Master Games of Chess).

Fairly rare? I'll say. I first learned to play chess nearly 35 years ago and I've been playing club chess for more than two decades - but in all that time I’ve only twice played Bxh7+ immediately followed by Bxg7, and both of those were in casual blitz games.

As I mentioned before, one of those games was a draw against Justin. The other time was actually on the very first evening I ever came to Streatham & Brixton Chess Club. I don’t remember too much about the game other than it was a 3. … dxe4 French Defence and my opponent took both Bishops allowing me to mate him a couple of moves later.

So has anybody actually played this double sacrifice in a real game?


Tom Chivers said...

No. Never in blitz, casual, internet, whatever...

Anonymous said...

I haven't. And I don't think I've played the Greek bishop sacrifice either... I wonder if it's because I haven't had the opportunity or have missed the opportunity?


Tom Chivers said...

I've delivered the Greek gift many times in blitz and so forth. I don't recall if I've ever done it in a serious game: I have a strong hunch I did as a junior, but my memory is far from reliable.

The only 'textbook' sacrifice I've done in the last two years, ie since I've been playing for S&BCC, was a Bxb5+ versus the Sicilian.

Anonymous said...

I've got a feeling I did it against Andy Thake once - although perhaps it was one of those when he had a Bishop on g4 and after Kxh7 you play Ng5 + then Qxg4.

In any event he played ... Kh8 instead of taking the bishop. If I recall correctly I was just a pawn up for nothing (and he had an open king) but I messed up and he won in the end.

Talking of AT, as anybody heard from him recently. Is he still hanging out with the ladyboys?

Anonymous said...

Forgot to say I've definitely played a greek gift once or twice in blitz chess on line. Haven't done it in a real game though.

Anonymous said...


Martin C said...

As far as I know, this double bishop sacrifice was first played in a game Lasker-Bauer (Amsterdam 1889) and has since been known as the Lasker Combination. Unfortunately in that game there wasn't such a neat finish as Black was able to give up his queen to avoid the immediate mate.
p.s. I once played the Greek gift sacrifice in a Surrey League match against Crystal Palace about 20 years.

Anonymous said...

Hello Martin C,

I'll be coming back to the Lasker-Bauer game in the next couple of weeks as it happens. You're quite right though, there are a few examples of the sacrifice that end up in material gain rather than a mate - which certainly sees a shame to me.

BTW: I've never heard of the comibation being named after Lasker before. Do you have a source? I'm planning a series of articles on the theme and any information you have will be useful.

Martin C said...

I remember seeing a whole book on this combination in the BCM shop titled 'Lasker's Combination' and published by Pickard. Not sure if we've still got it in stock; I'll have a look tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

I just made double bishop sacrifice in 15 min game in FICS. I would have to say that it was my most beautiful game ever even considering all my real tournament games. It's very rare to get these kind of multible sacrifices. The mate took so long that I didn't calculate all lines just had a good feeling. So here it is:

1. b3 Nf6 2. e3 e6 3. Bb2 Be7 4. g4?! O-O? 5. g5 Ne4 6. h4 Nd6 7. Bd3 b7? 8. Bxh7+! Kxh7 9. Qh5+ Kg8 10. Bxg7! Kxg7 11. Qh6+ Kg8 12. g6 fxg6 13. Qxg6+ Kh8 14. Qh6+ Kg8 15. Nf3... And now there is no salvation from Rg1. Game continued: 15...Rf6 16. Rg1+ Kf7 17. Qh5+ Kf8 18. Qh8+ Kf7 19. Ne5# Neat mate with knight.


Lauri said...

The salvation comes in the form of 15..Bf6!