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Frequently Asked Questions

We cannot resist the fascination of sacrifice, since a passion for sacrifices is part of a Chessplayer's nature.
   ---  Rudolf Spielmann
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  1. What is a sacrifice?
    A sacrifice in chess is the action of intentionally losing material with the expectation of future benefit. A sacrifice for intiative, with no clear route to recovering the material, is sometimes called a speculative sacrifice. A sacrifice which can be conclusively demonstrated to recover the material with an advantage is referred to as a temporary sacrifice, a sham-sacrifice, or simply a combination.

    For our purposes, a sacrifice is any move which causes the player who makes it to lose material in the short-term, but ultimately win the game.

  2. What is the Sacrifice Explorer?
    The Sacrifice Explorer is a tool of which allows you to search the database for combinations and sacrifices. You can quickly find sacrifices in your favorite openings, players, recent events, and more.

    The following diagram illustrates the basics of the Sacrifice Explorer:

  3. Is the Sacrifice Explorer free?
    No. The Sacrifice Explorer is available only to Premium Chessgames members. For our rates, and a brief tour of other features available to premium members, please see the Premium Membership Tour.
  4. How do I use it?
    Like all premium Chessgames features, members can find the link to the Sacrifice Explorer on Premium Membership Page. You can fill out some or all of the fields on the search form. For example, to find Queen sacs by Morphy, enter MORPHY in the "Player:" field, and select Queen sac on the "Sacrifice Type:" field.

    You do not need to fill out all of the fields! Just fill out what you want, and the Sacrifice Explorer will do the rest.

    The results is a list of games which conforms to your search request. A new column is added to the results which gives you a preview of the kind of sacrifice made, and the move to look out for.

  5. How do I find sacrifices by a certain player?
    Type the last name of the player in the "Player:" field, and click on Find Sacrifices. Also, premium members will find that all player pages have a link "Search Sacrifice Explorer for..."

    Please note that the Sacrifice Explorer will find sacrifices associated with a player whether they are on the "giving" or "receiving" end.

  6. How do I find sacrifices in my favorite opening?
    Type an ECO code in the "ECO:" field. If you are uncertain what ECO code to use, click on the link "ECO help" found next to the field. For more information on ECO codes see Chessgames Help.
  7. What do you consider a sacrifice?
    We have software which can scan games for what it believes to be a sacrifice. Simply stated, it watches the material balance in the game and finds when a piece is swapped for one of lessor value. The algorithm is not flawless; sometimes it will interpret a move as a sacrifice due to in-between moves, counter threats, and other factors.

    In order for a move to be considered a sacrifice:

    1. The side who plays the move must win the game.
    2. Material is lost (not simply offered, but actually lost.)
    3. Recovery of lost material is not immediate.

    While many sacrifices we find are brilliancies, many are mundane, and some are outright errors. We leave it to you to use this tool to find the most instructive and interesting attempts at sacrifice.

  8. What kinds of sacrifices are there?
    In the game of Chess, there are many kinds of sacrifices, from the pawn gambit to wild multiple piece sacrifices. For the purposes of the Sacrifice Explorer, we consider only the following fundamental types of sacrifices:

    sacrifice type symbol notes
    Exchange sac Trading a rook for a bishop or a knight, sometimes gaining a pawn or two in the process. For example, see Anand vs Kasparov, 1995 27.Rd5!!
    Knight sac Giving up a knight, sometimes for a number of pawns. For example, see Karpov vs Larsen, 1982 42.Nf5!!
    Bishop sac Giving up a bishop, sometimes for a number of pawns. For example, see Tal vs Unzicker, 1961 24.Bxf7+!!
    Rook sac Giving up a rook, sometimes for a number of pawns. For example, see Harrwitz vs Horwitz, 1846 29.Rxh7+!!
    Queen sac Giving up a queen, for a rook, minor piece(s), and/or pawns. Trading a queen for two rooks, or a queen for three minor pieces, is not considered a sacrifice. For example, see Byrne vs Fischer, 1956 17...Be6!!
    Double Knight sac The sacrifice of two knights in succession. For example, see Gligoric v Bidev, 1946 22.Nxh7!!
    Double Bishop sac The sacrifice of two bishops in succession. For example, see Lasker vs Bauer, 1889 15.Bxh7+!!
    Bishop+Knight sac The sacrifice of both a bishop and knight in succession, in either order. For example, see Blumenoff vs Keres, 1933 26...Nxe3!!
    Double Rook sac The sacrifice of two rooks in succession. For example, see Quinteros vs Henley, 1976 36.Rxg6+!!
    Rook+Minor sac + The sacrifice of a rook and a minor piece (bishop or knight) in succession, in any order. For example, see Kasparov vs Topalov, 1999 24.Rxd4!!
    Queen+Rook sac The sacrifice of a queen and a rook in succession, in any order. For example, see Anderssen vs NN 19.Qxg7+!!
    Queen+More sac + The sacrifice of a queen and at least one other minor piece in succession. For example, see Kaufmann vs Charousek 15...bxc4!!

    Pawn sacrifices (also called "gambits") are not considered, not even multiple pawn sacrifices. This is because they occur so frequently it's fruitless to try to enumerate them all with any accuracy.

    When a piece is swapped for pawns, it is considered a sacrifice regardless of the number of pawns captured. A queen is considered sacrificed when it is exchanged for pieces (e.g., a rook and/or a bishop), however a queen is not considered sacrificed when exchanged for two rooks or three minor pieces.

  9. What about sacrificing for a draw?
    Our database has many beautiful examples of players in seemingly losing positions, sacrificing material to secure a draw. (See the end of Kasparov vs McDonald for a beautiful example.) Unfortunately the Sacrifice Explorer does not make any attempt to detect these brilliancies; they are simply not included.
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