After looking at the basic setup making Bxh7+ possible in the introduction to the Greek Gift, we can look at more advanced examples of Greek Gift featuring high level games.
The simplest and most common positions in which it’s possible to give up a bishop are those with a white pawn on e5.
They will most often come from the French Defense, but can occur from most openings in which the e pawn is not exchanged. The important thing is that by advancing the pawn to e5, white has forced the black knight away from f6, and restricted the c8 bishop.
Stjepan Tomić is a strong player and famous youtuber with his Hanging Pawns channel. His goal is to become a Grandmaster and to share his new Chess knowledge with the community.
A First Game With The Greek Gift
Now we are looking at real games examples of the Greek Gift. Next articles will be about advanced patterns that can appear in the Bxh7+ Greek gift and you will have the ability to test yourself on the Greek Gift !
Here is a blitz game of mine featuring a Greek Gift, for the first example. It was played in the Exchange variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined (albeit a weird one since my opponent took on d5 with the knight). I wanted to show it to emphasize the difference between ideal positions and what actually happens in games most of the time.
The moves following the Greek Gift in this game are explained in my introduction to the Greek Gift.
I am playing white here. This position should be very familiar by now. I played a very normal continuation after Bxh7, and my opponent played the best defensive moves. But. This position is equal ! White is not winning here! I knew that before giving up the bishop, but I knew that I had ample compensation for the piece and I have a lot of experience in such positions, so anything could happen. What is different to the ideal position we have seen before ?
These three major differences make this position much easier to defend. Normal plans of h4-h5 simply don’t work here. Black should simply continue with Rh8, challenging the open h file, accepting a harmless check with Nxe6. The queen is not on d8, so white doesn’t win decisive material.
So why go for the Greek gift if the two factors mentioned above are in black’s favor (connected rooks and no white bishop on c1) ? Tricks ! Often these positions will not be possible to calculate until a certain win. The defender is human, so most often they will make mistakes. It is much easier to attack than to defend !
In the above game, my opponent went badly wrong and lost quickly. Here is how. Instead of Rh8, he played Kh6??, trying to escape a discovered check. That was a losing blunder. White is now winning by force. It is checkmate in six moves.
Was the decision to sacrifice on h7 incorrect then ? That is a philosophical question really. I knew that I don’t have a forced win, but I also knew that it is very likely that my opponent will make a mistake.
Miguel A Quinteros vs Yasser Seirawan, 1985 Biel Interzonal
This game was played in 1985, in one of the most important tournaments, the World Championship cycle. The stakes were high, and it surely wasn’t an easy decision to give up a piece !
We will start in the position after 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Bb4+ 4. Bd2 c5 5. Bxb4 cxb4 6. Nbd2 O-O 7. e4 d6 8. Bd3 Qc7 9. O-O Nbd7 10. c5 dxc5 11. e5 Nd5.