The Greek Gift Sacrifice | Chess Middlegames

The Greek Gift Sacrifice | Chess Middlegames


Hi everyone! Stjepan here. In this middlegame video I’m going to talk
about the Greek gift sacrifice, one of the most important and most thematic sacrifices
in all of chess, and a very important attacking pattern you need to know to be able to find
quick attacking solutions during your own middlegames. The position is never going to be ideal, the
position is never going to be as if it came from a textbook, but learning the patterns
behind the Greek gift will help you find similar ideas in your own games. The Greek gift refers to sacrifices on h7
and on h2, when one side sacrifices the bishop for the king’s rook pawn, and then goes on
to create a menacing attack. The name Greek gift refers to the episode
from the Trojan war. In the conflict between Troy and the Greeks,
you are probably all familiar with the fact that the Greeks infiltrated Troy using the
Trojan horse, which they gave to the Trojans as a gift and had soldiers hidden in it. So the Greek gift in something concealed,
which isn’t that obvious in the position and which you should look out for. The Greek gift is probably the wrong name,
because in this example, in chess, the Greek gift sacrifice refers to the sacrifice on
h7. And the Greek gift shouldn’t be taken, in
the Iliad, and in chess it most often should and not taking on h7 is just bad. Even though it most often loses, it’s always
wrong not to take the bishop because you lose either way. So the Greek gift sacrifice. This position I have set up comes from the
Classical French, the Steinitz Variation of the Classical French. And this is the best was and the easiest way
to show you how the sacrifice works. I’m not going to go into the opening, of course. If you want to look at the Steinitz French,
I have covered the variation, you have it in a separate video. After e4, e6, normal developing moves, black
can make a horrible mistake in this position, after Bd3, of castling. There are other moves here, but if black castles,
then the Greek gift is ideal here! Now what do you need for the Greek gift sacrifice? Firstly, you need the bishop. And this is probably the only thing you need
to make the sacrifice work, because you can do that either with the knight and the queen,
or you can do it with the rook and the queen, you can do it with the knight and the rook. And there are several setups we are going
to look at in game examples. But the most thematic piece constellation
which is used to create the Greek gift sacrifice are the knight on f3, the bishop on d3 or
on c2, and the queen on d1. Most often the Greek gift is going to be supported
by the c1 bishop, because it controls the key g5 square. Ok. And the Greek gift sacrifice is Bxh7! After Bxh7, if you don’t take the bishop,
if you play Kh8, then you are going to lose anyway because the thing works anyway. So it’s always correct to take the bishop
because sometimes you can survive. In this exact position you can’t, but sometimes
players are going to be wrong. The Greek gift is so tempting that very often,
in your own games, you are going to see possibilities for it where it doesn’t work, and you are
going to have your opponents play it when it doesn’t work. I myself have spent 45 minutes in one game
trying to make the Greek gift work. You can find that game. It’s against Krsto Kovačević, played last
summer. You can find it in the Road to GM series. And ok, lets continue. So Kxh7. The point of the sacrifice is that you have
Ng5+, checking the king and threatening to enter the position with your queen for a deadly
checkmate. Key is to have this knight defended, of course,
otherwise the queen could take. And then black gets to choose. Most often during games, black is going to
play the best move. The best move is Kg6. And sometimes, sometimes, this could save
your position. Lets go over the horrible blunders first. If the king goes to h8, then of course Qh5+
and checkmate. If after Ng5+ the king goes to g8, then once
again just Qh5 and that’s it. You don’t have any other moves, you have
to take the knight. Because if you try f6 then it’s still checkmate,
because the knight is controlling these two squares. If you try moving your rook then queen check
and queen checkmate. You can’t do anything. And the best move is to give up your queen. So this doesn’t work. After Ng5, therefore, the king cannot go back. You have one option, and that’s to take
the knight immediately, which might be the best way to play, which is playing a queen
down, because now you don’t allow your opponent to checkmate you, but after Ng5+ the most
challenging way is Kg6. And this is what you have to learn to employ
the Greek gift properly. The most common way for the defending side
to defend from the Greek gift is to play Kg6 and f5. Or conversely, Kg3 and f4. And this gives black best chances and this
is the only way to defend. To continue this attack you have two options
as white. And depending on the position one of the two
is going to be better and more effective. One option is to play h4. Just not allowing the king to escape and getting
another attacker into play. Or you can play Kg4, this is another way to
play. After h4, in this example from the French
Defense, it’s quite straightforward. Black only has one move and that’s the move
f5. Otherwise the move h5 is going to be devastating,
winning the queen or checkmating because the king is restrained from these two squares. If the king goes to h6 then Nxe6+ wins the
queen. So f5 is the best attempt, but now h5+ anyway,
and the king still has to go to h6 and you play Nxe6+ winning the queen and winning the
game. So this is the most thematic way the Greek
gift works. After Ng5, h4, f5, h5+ is the key move, Kh6,
and now you get to take here. There are no other moves for black. After Kg6, Qg4, which also sometimes works,
black’s best defense is once again f5, you play Qg3 threatening all sorts of discoveries
and winning the queen in the process, so black can play Qe7, trying to save the position. And this is considered the best defense. Even though it’s completely losing, this
is the best defense. And now white continues with h4, Kh6, because
now this check isn’t that annoying, it isn’t winning the queen. The king can go back to h7. Bf4, trying to get your other pieces into
play and to castle. And now the Greek gift has actually become
a longer attack. You are not checkmating or winning the queen
in two moves. Black should continue with Nc6, castles queenside,
removing some of the pieces from the board, and now Nf6 is considered the best defense. H5, Ne4, Nxe4, checking the king and winning
a piece. Kh7, Ng5+ and etc. This position is just winning for white and
you are going to win long term. Lets go over the best defense once again. After Ng5+, Kg6, if white continues with Qg4,
which is often going to be the way to play, because sometimes you are not going to have
your h pawn, sometimes the position is going to be different. Be prepared for f5, which is the best defense. Qg3, Qe7, black has to get away from this
sacrifice, h4, Kh6, Bf4, Nc6, castles. And this is the long term plan for the Greek
gift because this king is going to get checkmated or black is going to lose a lot of material. But, very often, your position is going to
be better and you are going to be able to play h4 immediately, which wins on the spot. Because after f5, h5+ wins the queen, Kh6,
Nxe6+ winning the queen. The best move is Kh7 and now Nxd8. You can see that black stands no chance. So this is the Greek gift. Lets go over the position once again. The requirements you need is the defended,
or blocked for black, g5 square to support your knight. You need the absence of the f6 knight, so
French Defense is a perfect example because the move e5, in many variations of the French
Defense, removes the knight from f6. So this could work in the Tarrasch, in the
Advance, in the Classical, whatever. It could work in almost every French variation. You need to have this knight removed, because
otherwise Bxh7+, Nxh7. And the three most common pieces you do the
sacrifice with are knight, queen and bishop. Those three pieces, when set up like this,
in this deadly triangle, support the Greek gift. Now lets look at some examples. The first example game I wanted to show you
comes from 1985 and it was played between Dizdarević and Anthony Miles. Anthony Miles had the black pieces. And now you can see that since this is from
a real game, it’s not the classical French setup from a textbook, you have to find the
Greek gift sacrifice slightly differently. This actually comes from the Spassky System
in the Queen’s Indian; white opened with the English but they transposed. So the Greek gift can arise from many openings. Now lets look at the requirements for the
sacrifice. The knight isn’t here, so the sacrifice
works, that is the first thing. But, notice that the knight isn’t on f6
so it’s not really bishop takes, king takes, knight check and getting the queen in. So it’s slightly different. The Greek gift is sacrificing the bishop on
h7, and most lower rated players often miss this opportunity if they don’t have the
identical setup – the knight on f6 and the queen on d8 or vice-versa with the white pieces,
like this. So, very often, if you don’t have this identical
setup with the knight on f6, you might miss this opportunity. And don’t! You can also include your rook, you can include
your other bishop, and your queen can still come to h5. So lets look at how Anthony Miles sacrificed. Bxh2+. Once again, you have to take; Kxh2, Qh4+,
Kg1. And now it’s not as simple because you don’t
have your knight on g4. Had the knight been placed on g4, then this
would be checkmate. But now he continued with a marvelous move
– Bf3, trying to remove this defender. And if you take it’s very scary because
this is coming. So you can’t really take. He played Nd2, trying to take the bishop with
the knight. But now Bxg2! And still it’s too scary. If you take here then a deadly attack is coming. F3 was tried as the best defense. Rf6 anyway, Nc4, Bh3, and the deadly checkmate
is coming. So you don’t really need all of those pieces
to sacrifice the Greek gift. Remember that if you are able to include two
attackers into play after you have sacrificed your bishop, that might be enough. In this case Tony Miles used his rook, his
queen, and his other bishop. So Bxh2+, Kxh2, Qh4+, Kg1, Bf3, the key move. Opening up lines. Remember patterns like this. In the Queen’s Indian setups and in openings
where black has played b6 and fianchettoed, this will support the Greek gift this way. And I wanted to use this example because it’s
quite unusual for the Greek gift, and it’s often missed. Sacrifices like these are often missed. The second example I wanted to show you comes
from the game Alekhine – Drewitt from 1923, and Alexandar Aljohin, or Alekhine, as he
is also known, has the white pieces. Now this position is slightly more obvious. Once again you don’t have our knight on
f3, but you have a rook on f3 which is able to support the sacrifice brilliantly. Three moves later, black resigned. Of course black has no defenders around his
king. So Bxh7+, Kxh7, Rh3+, Kg8, and now, I hope
you can see the final blow – Bxg7 and game over. There is nothing black can do. Lets just look at the sample variation. If king takes bishop. If king takes bishop, queen check. The queen would have to lose itself, and if
the king goes back then this is just checkmate. There was nothing Drewitt could have done
to save the position. Lets look at this once again. Once again look at your attackers. This position might be too simple, because
you have five attackers which could come into play, four which could come immediately. Four long-range pieces. So this sacrifice is fairly simple, but the
point I’m trying to make is don’t be stuck in a box of thinking that you need your knight
on f3 and the ideal setup. The Greek gift can work in many, many positions. The second example… The third example, I’m sorry, is a game
in which it actually didn’t work. So lets look at this. This is from Miguel Quinteros – Yasser Seirawan,
played in Biel in 1985. And even though this setup seems almost perfect… Lets look at what happened. In this game Yasser Seirawan defended perfectly
and actually won the game. Now, you have these three pieces, that’s
clear enough. The g5 square is undefended so Ng5 actually
works. Now lets look at how Yasser Seirawan defended. He used the thematic defense we saw in the
first example. Bxh7+, Kxh7, Ng5, Kg6, ok, Qg4. H4 doesn’t really work because you have
castled already, so you don’t have your rook on h1. And in most cases when you have castled you
are going to play Qg4, as we discussed. Another this is that the queen is here on
this square where the knight can take it with the discovered check, but there was something
else in the position. F5, the only defense. Qg3 as we discussed. We looked at this exact move order. F4, this was played, Qh3. And now, well, your knight is hanging but
black can’t really take it because the other knight can come into the game, N7f6, the best
defense, Nde4, cxd4, exf6, Nxf6, Nxf6, gxf6, and where is your attack? Nxe6, Bxe6, Qxe6, Qe5. The Greek gift was defended against! Now lets look at how this happened once again. Nd5. Lets look at what the engine says. Now… The engines think that the sacrifice could
work, and I’ve studied this game with the engine, but they don’t agree that it’s
winning, and it should be slightly better for white but black can defend. This is what’s going to happen in your games
most often. This example, Quinteros versus Seirawan, should
be the key thing you study. This is a realistic situation, and this will
happen during a game. You will have a perfect piece constellation,
you are going to think that the attack works, but black can defend. So lets look at the position with the engine. Bishop takes, king takes, Ng5+, Kg6, Qg4,
a mistake. F5, a mistake. But they are both using their thematic patterns. So lets look at Ng5, Kg6, Qg4. And the engines don’t really know whether
this works. Look at this: +3, +1, +3, Qg4, all zeroes
almost. F5, a mistake. And now white is supposed to be better after
Qg3. But still… Nothing happened. F4, the best move, Qh3, the best move, N7f6,
the best move, tempting white into taking the sacrifice here. Nde4 a mistake which cost him the sacrifice. You can see that it can get quite complicated. After Qh3, N7f6 was a great defensive try,
and white was winning, but Nde4 sort of ruined things for white. Had he played the best move, Ndf3, what would
have happened? Lets say knight here, lets have the engine
win the game. Takes, here, taking with the bishop is too
scary, and winning the queen is the best move. If you take with the bishop, then queen takes. The king has to run away, and knight check,
king here, and I guess you can just win the other knight. Ok. So it could’ve worked. Qh3, N7f6, Nde4 was the unbelievable mistake. This is what you have to be prepared for. In real games, the Greek gift isn’t as simple
as when somebody is showing you how to checkmate on h7. It will most often come to this. Even when the position is perfect and it seems
that you have all your pieces ready for the attack, black has some defenses. Lets go over that once more. Just so that we could repeat the position. Bxh7,, Khh7, Ng5+, Kg6, Qg4, f5, the main
defenses that we looked at, f4, Qh3. Here Yasser Seiraway found the best move,
which is unbelievable; N7f6, and now one simple mistake, Nde4, which seems more active instead
of Nf3. And after Nde4, cxd4, exf6, Nxf6, Nxf6, gxf6,
Nxf6, all zeroes, black defended and went on to win the game. Now, this position can be extremely complex
and my advice to you would be, study the openings which you play and try to find possibilities
for a sacrifice like this. And you are going to see that in your play
and you are going to know whether you play an opening in which this can happen. If you play e4, then you definitely have chances
to do that. Apparently you have chances if you play d4
as well because this came from the Bogo-Indian Defense, so it could happen from many openings. My advice to you would be to try setting up
practice positions on the board in which you think the Greek gift might work. Just set up the pieces the way you want to,
it doesn’t really matter. Try to make up a position and try to checkmate
or win the queen with the Greek gift sacrifice. And do that with the openings you play. Set up a position from the opening you play. Play against yourself. Try to find a position like this in which
you think it might work. And here Yasser Seirawan survived, so it’s
not always as simple. And to finish off with, I’m going to show
you the game Spassky – Geller, in which Boris Spassky sacrifice brilliantly. So this was a miniature, and this came from
the Ruy Lopez. I’m going to show you the whole game so
that you can see how the Greek gift can happen from the Ruy Lopez as well. I’m not going to go into the opening too
much. The classical closed Ruy Lopez. These moves have been played a million times. This is the Keres Defense, which is slightly
rare, but very often played in Soviet Russia on the highest level. D4, opening up the center, here, here, here. Normal Ruy Lopez moves. More normal would’ve been for white to develop
his knight to g3. Exd4, cxd4, Na5, Bc2, ok, we have the bishop
here. C5, Ng4, Bxg4, hxg4, cxd4, g5. And now that the bishop has moved, after e5,
Bf8, now you have the makings of the Greek gift sacrifice. What do we need? We need the bishop; the bishop is here. There is no defender on f6. We need the knight, but the knight can’t
come into g5. The thing is that after the bishop takes,
this pawn can move with check. So that’s another thing to bear in mind. And the queen is set up here, getting ready
to come into play on h5 or on g4. So Boris Spassky sacrificed here. Bxh7+, Kxh7, and now the idea to free up the
square, g6+. Kg8, taking the pawn is just suicide. Ng5. Fxg6, and now Qf3. And now what do you do with black? Yeah… This is probably my favorite example of the
Greek gift, because it was so peacefully played and there was just nothing black could do. In this position Geller gave up the queen,
that’s the best move. Qxg5, and just lost the position a queen down. However, after Qf3 if he tries to defend with,
lets say dxe5, lets just give him a move, then Qf7+, Kh8, and Re4. There is nothing you can do. Once again you have to give up your queen
to survive the attack for a few more moves, but you can’t really because once Rh4 comes
you are going to be checkmated. So yeah… This is my favorite. After e5, another pawn sacrifice, semi pawn
sacrifice, he freed up the diagonal and Efim Geller just… He probably didn’t know it was coming. I’m not sure. Yeah. There is nothing he can do here. E5 is a great move. He played Bf8 which is not a very good try. He could’ve tried this. But still the position is much better for
Spassky. Ok! I hope you liked this video on the Greek gift. Let me know what you think. I would advise you to study games of your
own. And try to find whether you had an opportunity
to sacrifice on h7. And I would advise you not to rush in your
own tournament games, and sacrifice for nothing, because you can lose games. And also don’t repeat my mistake of using
up 45 minutes to try to make a sacrifice like this work when it didn’t work. Play this only if you are sure and don’t
waste too much time during the game trying to make it work. Thanks very much. I hope you liked it, and stay tuned for more
chess. See you later! Bye, bye!

28 thoughts on “The Greek Gift Sacrifice | Chess Middlegames

  1. 4:42 Qxf7-h5-h8xg7#
    7:14 0-0-0 probably best but I was attracted to h5 with the idea of Nf7+ then Qg6 and Ng5…black prob must give up the Queen but gets some material back.
    11:49 …Bf3 is a nice move. It's more of a blockading sacrifice, not allowing white to move the f2 pawn to create luft and the Queen defends on the 2nd rank
    13:14 Nice example of double bishop sac, Lasker vs Bauer of course the most famous example of same pattern.

  2. Great video. I think videos like this that are less about specific lines and more about pattern recognition in games are invaluable to chess fundamentals. Very well done Hanging Pawns.

  3. At 4:40 with Re8 there is a mistake:

    if rook e8 then Qh7+
    Kf8 then Q h8+ and K e7 !!! The king escape !!! because the pawn in f7 is protecting the king. you must take it before doing the mating patern !!!

    if rook e8 you must play Qxf7 !! then K h8 or h7 then Qh5+ !!!
    Kg8 and here it works ^^ Qh7+
    Kf8 Qh8+
    Ke7 and Qxg7# ^^

  4. Hi Stjepan, I have a question for you. I also played my first tournament with my school team 1month ago and we managed to win it ๐Ÿ™‚ and after that chess fly also bit me really hard and I'd like to start to improve siriously and don't know where to start. So Im asking where should I start my progressive improvement? Thank you for your answer for advance ๐Ÿ™

  5. awesome! thank you again for a great video. I am going to look into this tomorrow, too sleepy right now, but will add to my study for tomorrow,

  6. One thing always bothers me with the name "Greek gift". In Troy they gifted a horse, yet in chess you gift a bishop. Makes no sense!

    Thank you for everything you do btw. This channel is beyond awesome.

  7. I'm confused about what the best move is from my game which I played the greek gift. https://lichess.org/fAh1sn0M If he had played kg6

  8. I have just won my last tournament game thanks to the Greek Gift idea ๐Ÿ™‚ It is a great feeling if you manage to establish required position and the only thing left is to pull the Bxh7 trigger ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Amazing video, I learned a lot!

    I recently joined a blitz 3+0 tournament in chess.com for fun. I faced this opponent rated 1700 and my rating was only 1470. I wasn't hoping to win, he played an opening I didn't know and I just followed basic opening guidelines. He moved his pawns so much and abandoned his queen side knight and rook development, in exchange for space advantage on his queen side. Eventually, I managed to reach a position where the center is closed, and one of my knight of the board traded for his dark squared bishop.

    He moved his king side knight, was about to castle king side when I realized both of my bishop pointing at his king side, my queen was ready to jump to, and my knight was on f3. I remembered the greek gift sacrifice in this video, and I was thinking just do it, because if I lost the game the rating impact will be small, so nothing to lose. I moved my queen to e2 and then he castled. Now is the time. I took the h7 pawn and he played the best move not to take my bishop, but after that I managed to play good moves (although not the best move, both of us under time pressure) and sacrificed my other knight to break his king side open. His king tried to run to the queen side (where he had space advantage), otherwise he would get mated soon. He had to give up his queen (due to skewer), I checked him and took all free pieces I could get. I pressured him more with one of my passed pawns, he was defending with two rooks, until we reached a position where I would get a fork or he trapped his king in the back rank. He chose to trapped his king in the back rank, and I deliver edthe final blow, the checkmate.

    I was so happy I could beat such a higher rated player, and what I didn't expect was it turned out not only the engine agrees with me about the greek gift sacrifice, but I did not make any blunder or mistake after the sacrifice (I thought I did at least one for each of them). It is my best game ever, with the lowest blunders, mistakes, inaccuracies, and average centipawn loss. I really do enjoy your videos, especially the middlegame and opening ideas. I hope this channel get more subs and I can't wait to watch another video from you.

  10. I love sacing all my pieces for this mating pattern, every opponent sits there, sucks their teeth, sighs, and resigns hahaha ty again for the video!

  11. Great video.

    About this video : You should add the mating sequence for the attacker. That is missing. If the defender moves the rook then the f2/f7 pawn should be taken and not the h1/hi pawn. That sequence is completely missing.

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