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Grandmaster Sacrifices the Queen E-mail
Written by WGM Raluca Sgîrcea, IM Renier Castellanos   
Friday, 30 December 2016 00:00

gm queen sacSacrifices are the salt of the chess battle. There is nothing wrong with clean positional victories, but when you execute a sacrifice the adrenaline high, not only for you but also for the spectators passing by. Chess has had several players famous for their sacrificial style, with Tal being perhaps the most notorious among the classics, but Shirov and Topalov also produced some fantastic gems.

The most common sacrifices are of pawns and exchanges, followed by minor pieces ones, but what about queen sacrifices? Is there anything higher than to win a game by sacrificing your queen? It’s an opportunity that comes only once in a while and yet in most cases it takes great courage to play it. Remember that most of the times you have a safer option available, but the temptation of winning in such a spectacular style is too big to refuse it.

In this article we are going to go through some beautiful queen sacrifices, but before moving on to the examples let us describe the ideal conditions that have to be present for such a sacrifice to work. We think that there are 3 aspects of major relevance:

  • Material: Be realistic about the material; the minimum you should expect for your queen is a rook + piece and perhaps a pawn. This represents decent compensation. Anything less than that already involves a greater risk if you are unable to outplay your opponent.
  • Piece coordination: The most important of all aspects, this outweighs the material factor. If you have a better piece coordination and all of your pieces work together, then the material deficit surely won’t matter. It should also be said that very often the lack of piece coordination of your opponent is equally beneficent for your own position.
  • King Safety: An opponent with a permanently weaker king is an element of great relevance to the position. In most cases this factor will be the main cause why he will not be able to use his mighty queen on the attack, as the need to defend comes first.

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It is now time to have a look at some examples where one of the sides was tempted by a queen sac and this led to a win. First, I’ll start with an example of my own games:

Example 1:

gm queen sac

Castellanos,R –Briet,A
Cappelle la Grande 2016

Optically, the position is clearly better for white; he has the two bishops, a very much alive pawn on e7, a better king, and an active rook. However, there are concrete problems to solve – the threat against the white queen and the invasion of a black knight on c2. Here white has a pacific solution with 22.Qd1! which leads to a clearly better (almost winning) position, but in the game I felt tempted to give up my queen for two pieces and the promise of the e7 pawn staying alive like a needle in my opponent’s position. This decision was correct, although it led to a much more complex battle that I almost didn’t win. See the details here:

The next example is highly instructive:

gm queen sac

Topalov, V – Vallejo, F
Tromso 2014

We have an unclear position that arose from a Dutch Defense. Black’s last move 17…Rc8 is a not so obvious mistake. Topalov found a way to refute it convincingly. Can you guess how? See the details here:

A classic:

gm queen sac

Bobotsov, M – Tal, M
Varna 1958

In the diagram above the magician of Riga was carrying an attack against the white king, but with his last move 11.Nd5 white is either forcing him to retreat his queen back to d8, which would slow down the attack, or play something crazy, like a queen sacrifice.  Tal sacrificed his queen for two minor pieces, a pawn and initiative and the compensation proved to be sufficient for a win. See the details of this fabulous game here:

In conclusion, queen sacrifices are always double edged but they are one of the beauties of chess. It is very important to consider the main conditions of the position and evaluate correctly if the queen will be compensated enough. We hope you enjoyed the examples above and, as always, feel free to comment and share!

If you want to improve your chess level, you need to have a clear study plan. If you aim for a dramatic improvement at chess you need to work on all of the elements of the game in a systematic way:

  • tactics
  • positional play
  • attacking skills
  • endgame technique
  • classical games analysis
  • psychological preparation
  • and much more

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Last Updated on Friday, 30 December 2016 13:35

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