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Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts!

Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts!

The Greek Gift is a common theme in chess puzzles. Where did the name come from?

In the legend of the Trojan War, the Greeks had assailed the City of Troy for 10 years. Many of the heroes on both sides had died in battle. The Greeks had lost mighty Achilles and the Trojans had lost War-like Hector. The Greeks were on the verge of giving up when cunning Odysseus cooked up a plan to create a giant horse as a gift to the Trojans. The Greeks then left the horse at the gates of Troy and pretended to sail away. The Trojans accepted the gift triumphantly as they saw the Greek ships leaving. The Trojans then led the horse into the city and celebrated with lots of food and drink. Unbeknownst to the sleeping Trojans, the horse was hollow and in the early morning, while they still slept from their drunken carousal, Greek warriors led by Odysseus came out of hiding from the belly of the horse and slaughtered all the soldiers thus conquering Troy.

The moral of the story is do not accept gifts that seem free, especially in chess. They are usually a way to open the doors to your fortress.

Here are some examples:

Kamsky,Gata (2709) - Shankland,Samuel L (2611) [D02]

Eastern Class 23rd Sturbridge (4), 16.03.2014


 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bf4 d5 3.e3 e6 4.Nd2 c5 5.c3 Nc6 6.Ngf3 Bd6 7.Bg3 0–0 8.Bd3 Qe7 9.Ne5 Nd7 10.Nxd7 Bxd7 11.Bxd6 Qxd6 12.dxc5 Qxc5


What do you think white played next?


13.Bxh7+! The Greek gift!


13…Kxh7 14.Qh5+ Kg8 15.Ne4 Qc4 16.Ng5 Rfd8 17.Qxf7+ Kh8 18.Qh5+ Kg8 19.Rd1 e5 20.Qf7+ Kh8 21.e4 Ne7 22.Qxe7 Bb5 23.Rd2 Qxa2 24.Qf7 Qa1+ 25.Rd1 Qxb2 26.Qh5+ Kg8 27.Qh7+ Kf8 28.Qh8+ Ke7 29.Qxg7+ Kd6 30.Rxd5+ Kc6 31.Qf6+  1–0


Most times when we talk about a Greek gift in chess it normally refers to the Bishop sacrifice as in the game above but other pieces can also be sacrificed to assail the fortress as in this old game:



Yanovsky, A – Tornerup, J 1947


 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0–0 8.c3 d5 9.exd5 e4 10.Ng5 Bd6 11.Nxe4 Nxe4 12.Rxe4 Bf5 13.Re3 Ne5 14.h3 Qh4 15.Bc2 Ng4 16.Re2 Bxc2 17.Qxc2 Rae8 18.d4


How does Black to play now assail white’s citadel?



18…Qxf2+! 19.Rxf2 Re1+ 20.Rf1 Bh2+ 21.Kh1 Rxf1# 0-1


And finally, one typical double bishop sacrifice that was so spectacular at the time the name of the two protagonists has been cemented forever with this style of play:

Lasker,Emanuel - Bauer,Johann Hermann [A03]

Amsterdam VAS Int–01 Masters Amsterdam (1), 26.08.1889

[Annotated by Kasparov,G]


This game contains one of the beautiful combinations of the young Lasker which created a blueprint for future similar double bishop sacrifices that destroyed the lives of dozens of his opponents' kings.

1.f4 d5 2.e3 Nf6 3.b3 e6 4.Bb2 Be7 5.Bd3 b6 6.Nf3 Bb7 7.Nc3 Nbd7 8.0–0 0–0 9.Ne2 c5 10.Ng3 Qc7 11.Ne5 Nxe5 12.Bxe5 Qc6 13.Qe2 a6

 After very passive Black play in the opening White's army is ready for action, and Lasker begins the final storm


14.Nh5 Nxh5 [14...d4 15.Bxf6 Bxf6 16.Qg4 Kh8 (16...e5 17.Be4!) 17.Rf3 Rg8 18.Bxh7!]