How to Master the Greek Gift Sacrifice (Bxh7+)
The Greek Gift sacrifice – a Bishop sac on h7 or h2, usually with check – is perhaps the most famous in chess. The idea is simple: open the h-file and bring the King forward; jump a Knight into g5/g4 with check, follow up with the Queen and force checkmate.
In reality, there’s a lot more to it. Sometimes the King can refuse the Greek Gift sacrifice. Other times it can be accepted as the King can escape to f8 then e7. In some situations, the King can even come forward to g6 and be safe.
The temptation to play the Greek Gift sacrifice must, therefore, be balanced with careful analysis. Indeed, the subtleties of this combination are such that an entire book has been devoted to the subject. That’s surely overkill, however. There are a few rules and patterns which, when learned, will help you decide whether the Greek Gift sacrifice works. And GM Susan Polgar explains them in this video, a free preview of her Secrets of Chess Tactics (Advanced) course.
The first thing to consider is whether our opponent can decline the Greek Gift sacrifice by playing …Kh8. If we already had another piece under attack, we’d now have 2 pieces en prise. Then, if we saved the other piece, Black wouldn’t have to capture on h7 with his King. Instead, he could play …g6, trapping the piece and preventing Qh5. So that’s something to watch out for. If there are no other pieces en prise, we can simply retreat the Bishop and we’ve won a pawn and still have some dangerous threats on the h-file.
In most cases, Black accepts the Greek Gift sacrifice and we follow up with Nf3-g5+. It’s important to make sure the Knight is supported on this square; our dark-squared Bishop usually does this job. This Knight move also opens the diagonal for Qe1-h5 on the next move. There are lots of different patterns depending on where the Black King moves to when checked by the Knight, Kg8 is most common.
Now White plays Qh5 and, if there’s still a Rook on f8, mate is threatened. When Black moves the Rook we can still mate in 2 if e7 is blocked (often by a Bishop) with Qh7+ and Qh8#. If e7 is free then 4.Qxf7+ Kh8 5.Qh5+ Kg8 6.Qh7+ Ke7 7.Qxg7+ usually mates pretty quickly.
GM Susan Polgar goes on to demonstrate the tactical patterns and winning methods for other variations of the Greek Gift sacrifice, including a brave King advance to g6 or h6. You’ll also learn how to checkmate or win material when key squares are defended, making this a very useful lesson whether you find yourself playing or defending the Greek Gift sacrifice.
Enjoy this video and check out the complete Secrets of Chess Tactics (Advanced) course.