The main focus of the present article is a selection of little-known specimens of the queen sacrifice which have appeared in Chess Notes.
Page 11 of the January 1931 BCM quoted from a letter written by Major Claude Chepmell ‘a few years before his death’:
‘A point affecting the young players of my generation, notably Locock and Wainwright: I think we placed the queen’s sacrifice in the “ordinary player’s” hand as an effective weapon and that in so doing we brought the queen’s power into much more correct perspective.
Before the ’80s the queen was over-estimated, and even in ’86 J.H.Blackburne told me that he thought the queen was "too strong for the board”.
Footnotes to games used to mention “Mates or wins the queen” as if they were absolute synonyms. (I think that one edition, Capt. Crawley’s Handbook of Games, had some allusion to this.)
And the queen sacrifice was looked on as something occult, and only permissible to Masters!
By the middle ’90s everybody was sacrificing queens quite joyfully. (I remember Wayte commenting to me on the matter.) I am inclined to claim that change for my generation – though perhaps we were inspired by Howard-Taylor to some extent.
This is scarcely meat for Who’s Who, but may be useful to anyone who is daring enough to write a history of the game from the tactical point of view rather than the antiquarian.’
From Alekhine in Europe and Asia by John Donaldson, Nikolay Minev and Yasser Seirawan (Seattle, 1993) here are four little-known queen sacrifices from simultaneous games:
White to move
A. Alekhine v L. Litov, Serpukhov, November 1915
32 Rxb5 Qa6 (if 32...cxb5 then 33 c6 mate) 33 Bc3 Qxa3 34 Rb7+ Kd8 35 Nxc6 mate.
White to move
A. Alekhine v F. Segovia, Buenos Aires, 19 August 1926
26 Qxe6 Nc6 (or 26...dxe6 27 Be5+) 27 Be5+ Nxe5 28 Qxe5+ Resigns.
White to move
A. Alekhine v Maurer, Vienna, 4 October 1930
25 Nxe8 Rxc2 26 Nf6+ Kg7 27 Rxd7 Rc1+ 28 Kh2 Qb6 29 Ng5 Kh6 30 Nxf7+ Kg7 31 Nd6+ Kh6 32 Rxh7+ Kg5 33 Nde4+ Kf4 34 Rh4+ Resigns. (Alekhine made heavy weather of the mating net.)
A footnote on page 15 of Kings, Commoners and Knaves observed that whereas the Alekhine book gave ‘33 Nde4+ Kf4 34 Rh4+ 1-0’, according to page 1042 of the October 1930 L’Echiquier Alekhine played the faster 33 Nfe4+.
White to move
A. Alekhine v Kohn, Subotica, 28 December 1930
21 Nxe6 Black resigns. (If 21...Qxd3 then 22 Rc7 mate.)
A rare case of a master finding himself on the sharp end of Legall’s trap:
V. Sjöberg – Siegbert Tarrasch (simultaneous?)
Skifarp [modern spelling: Skivarp], 24 May 1911
Dutch Defence, Staunton Gambit
1 d4 f5 2 e4 fxe4 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 f3 c5 5 d5 e5 6 dxe6 d5 7 fxe4 d4 8 e5 Nd5 9 Ne4 Bxe6 10 Nf3 Nc6 11 Bd3 Bg4 12 O-O Nxe5
13 Nxe5 Bxd1 14 Bb5+ Ke7 15 Bg5+ Ke6 16 Bxd8 Kxe5 17 Ng5 Bh5 18 Rae1+ Ne3 19 Bc7+ Bd6 20 Ba5 Raf8 21 Rxe3+ dxe3 22 Bc3+ Kd5 23 Bxg7 Bxh2+ 24 Kxh2 Rxf1 25 Bxf1 Rg8 26 Nxh7 Rxg7 27 Nf6+ Ke5 28 Nxh5 Rf7 29 Ng3 Kf4 30 Bd3 a6 31 a4 Rc7 32 b3 Rc6 33 Ne2+ Kg4 34 Kg1 Rf6 35 Be4 Rf7 36 Nc3 b6 37 Bf3+ Kf4 38 Nd5+ Ke5 39 Nxe3 Resigns.
Source: Tidskrift för Schack, September-October 1911, pages 155-156, which contained brief notes by the winner.
White to move
From a game won by O. Loerbroks in Soest in 1893
1 Qe5 Nxe5 2 Ne6+ Bxe6 3 Bh6 mate.
Source: Deutsche Schachzeitung, March 1893, page 85.
See pages 16-17 of A Chess Omnibus. A footnote mentioned that this was not a forced conclusion, and that the Fritz computer program showed that 1 Nh7+ would have given mate in, at most, seven moves.
Can the beauty of chess moves be defined or classified? For now, just one aspect will be examined: the relative aesthetic value of two forcing lines. We take as an illustration a forgotten game of extreme brevity:
Centre Counter Game
1 e4 d5 2 e5 d4 3 Bd3 Nd7 4 e6 fxe6 and White mated in three moves.
Source: Revue d’échecs, November 1902, page 40, which indicated that it took the gamelet from the Illustrated London News.
Above is the position after 4…fxe6 5 Qh5+ g6. Is the heavyweight sacrifice 6 Qxg6+ more ‘aesthetically pleasing’ than the restrained 6 Bxg6+ line? A similar question may be asked about the next position:
White to move
V.L. Wahltuch-R.C Griffith, Richmond, 1912
In this position (taken from page 364 of the September 1912 BCM) Wahltuch preferred 60 Qg7+ to 60 Qxg8+. Is his choice aesthetically better, perhaps because it is a shorter move and less showy? Or is showy the word to describe 60 Qg7+, because it leaves Black with more redundant material? Or again, might 60 Qxg8+ be favoured for leading to a more refined form of stalemate, the a2 square then being covered only once? Conversely, is it all much of a muchness?
Richard Forster (Winterthur, Switzerland) has found that the Fraser game was published on page 634 of the Illustrated London News, 24 December 1881, with the following introduction:
‘The vast majority of brief games are by no means brilliant, and there are many brilliant games that are only comparatively brief. Here is an example of the former class, in which the late Dr Fraser, of Edinburgh, played the white pieces:-1 e4 d5 2 e5 d4 3 Bd3 Nd7 4 e6 fxe6 White mates in three moves. This is brief enough to satisfy the most exacting taste for that quality, but there is nothing very new or very brilliant in the mating moves …’
The aesthetics issue is also illustrated by the forgotten game below, which Keres annotated on pages 10-11 of the January 1941 Deutsche Schachzeitung:
Paul Keres – Jānis Viļķins (‘J. Wilkins’)
Correspondence game, 1933
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Bc4 Nc6 4 d4 exd4 5 O-O Bc5 6 c3 Nxe4 7 Re1 d5 8 Ng5 dxc4 9 Rxe4+ Be6 10 Nxe6 fxe6 11 Qh5+ g6 12 Qxc5 dxc3 13 Nxc3 Qd7 14 Bg5 h6 15 Rd1 Qf7 16 Rf4 Qg8 17 Nb5 Rc8
18 Qxc6 bxc6 19 Nxc7+ Rxc7 20 Rd8 mate.
White’s 18th and 19th moves could have been inverted, hence giving a choice of whether to begin with the ‘heavy’ sacrifice.
Regarding the identity of Black, see C.N. 5777.
C.N.s 2257 and 2285 (see too pages 144-145 of A Chess Omnibus) discussed ‘the relative aesthetic value of two forcing lines’, i.e. the question of whether it is preferable, in artistic terms, to sacrifice heavily or lightly. Now Neil Brennen (Spring City, PA, USA) quotes to us another illustrative position, from page 12 of Storming the Barricades by Larry Christiansen (London, 2000):
Regarding the Lone Pine tournaments (and this position from the 1977 event in particular) Christiansen wrote:
‘There was some grumbling that the judge for the brilliancy prizes, tournament director Isaac Kashdan, tended to favour quantity over quality. For instance, a simple rook or queen sacrifice would be selected over a more complex piece or pawn sacrifice. I once had a game against Eugene Meyer where I had the choice between sacrificing a rook or queen to deliver mate and chose the queen to grab Kashdan’s attention. Sure enough I received a brilliancy prize for that game, despite competition from games with far more complex but less generous combinations.
I finished this game for “business reasons” with 25 Qxh5 gxh5 26 Rxh5 1-0.’
A queen sacrifice leads to a double check and a quick mate:
White to move
36 Re4 gxf6 37 Qh7+ Kxh7 38 Re7+ Kh8 39 Rh7 mate.
Below is the full game:
S. Lurie and E. Wagenheim – J. Bastin and O. Bolotow
Riga, 8 and 9 April 1898
Evans Gambit Accepted
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 b4 Bxb4 5 c3 Bd6 6 d4 Nf6 7 Bb5 Qe7 8 O-O O-O 9 Re1 h6 10 c4 Bb4 11 Re2 Nxd4 12 Nxd4 exd4 13 e5 Nh7 14 Qxd4 c6 15 Ba4 d6 16 Bb2 dxe5 17 Rxe5 Qd6 18 Qe3 Nf6 19 c5 Qd8 20 Qf4 Ba5 21 Na3 Bc7 22 Nc4 Nd5 23 Qg3 f6 24 Rxd5 cxd5 25 Nd6 Qe7 26 Bb3 Qe6 27 Rd1 Qe2 28 Bc3 Kh8 29 Qg6 Qg4 30 Nf7+ Rxf7 31 Qxf7 Bd7 32 Bc2 Bc6 33 Bxf6 d4 34 g3 Rg8 35 Re1 Qh3 36 Re4 gxf6 37 Qh7+ Kxh7 38 Re7+ Kh8 39 Rh7 mate
Source: Baltische Schachblätter, Heft 11, 1908, pages 17-19.
The game-score below, from a simultaneous display, appeared on page 154 of Schachjahrbuch 1914 I. Teil by L. Bachmann (Ansbach, 1914), but we wonder if it is correct, given that, at move 23, White could have forced mate with a standard queen sacrifice.
Joseph Henry Blackburne – E.S.
St Petersburg, 9 May 1914
1 e4 e5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Bc4 Nc6 4 d3 Be7 5 f4 exf4 6 Bxf4 Na5 7 Nf3 Nxc4 8 dxc4 d6 9 O-O Bg4 10 Qe1 Nh5 11 Be3 O-O 12 Nd5 a6 13 Rd1 c6 14 Bb6 Qd7 15 Ne3 Bxf3 16 Rxf3 Qe6 17 Nf5 Rae8 18 Bd4 Nf6 19 Qg3 g6 20 Nxe7+ Qxe7 21 Bxf6 Qxe4 22 Qh3 Re6
23 Bc3 f6 24 Re1 Resigns.
How early in a game has a player sacrificed his queen? Below is a case at move three:
Ressel – Piperno
New York, 1933 or 1934
1 f3 e6 2 h4 Bd6 3 Rh3 Qxh4+ 4 g3 Bxg3+ 5 Rxg3 Qxg3 mate.
4…Qxg3+ would have given a five-move game with two consecutive queen sacrifices.
In venturing to publish this game we are at least in the company of the American Chess Bulletin (January 1934, page 10), which received the moves from an eminent eye witness, F.J. Marshall.
Alan O’Brien (Mitcham, England) draws attention to this position from L. Kavalek v L. Polugayevsky, Havana Olympiad, 1966:
The continuation was 26 Qg6 Qf2, and our correspondent points out that on page 160 of his book The Sicilian Labyrinth, volume 1 (Oxford, 1991) Polugayevsky wrote:
‘A very rare instance from a practical game where both queens simultaneously sacrifice themselves. Had there been a prize not for the most brilliant game, but for the most brilliant move, this “dying” duet of the queens would have had every chance of winning it ...’
The game was eventually drawn.
We recall only one other such occurrence, in the 1917 correspondence game between A. Rhode and W. Schlage given on pages 62-63 of A Chess Omnibus:
Play went 21...Qxf6 22 Qxd7+, and Schlage commented: ‘The only move. These successive queen sacrifices, which are also the first moves by both queens, are most likely unique in chess literature.’ White resigned at move 29.
Below are some other instances of unusual queen offers, starting with a game (R. Swiderski v H. Caro, Barmen, 1905) in which both players gave up their queens, although not ‘simultaneously’ or ‘successively’. It was given on pages 44-45 of Chess Explorations:
1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 g3 Bc5 4 Bg2 O-O 5 e3 Nc6 6 Nge2 Re8 7 O-O e4 8 Qc2 Qe7 9 Nf4 Nb4 10 Qb1 c6 11 a3 Na6 12 d4 exd3 13 Qxd3 d6 14 b4 Bb6 15 Bb2 Ng4 16 Ne4 Ne5 17 Qc3 f6 18 Rad1 Bc7 19 h3 Bf5 20 g4 Nxg4 21 Ng3 Nh6 22 Kh1 Rad8 23 Rg1 Bg6 24 Nxg6 hxg6 25 Be4 Qe6 26 Rg2 Qxh3+ 27 Rh2 Qg4 28 f3 Qxg3 29 Rg1
29...Qxh2+ 30 Kxh2 d5+ 31 f4 Rxe4 32 cxd5 Kh7 33 dxc6 Nf5 34 Bc1 Rde8 35 b5 Nxe3 36 Rh1 Bxf4+ 37 Kg1+ Bh6 38 bxa6 Rg4+ 39 Kf2 Rf4+ 40 Kg3 Nf5+ 41 Kg2 Re2+ 42 Kg1 Rg4+ 43 Kf1 Ng3+
44 Qxg3 Rxg3 45 axb7 Rgg2 46 Rxh6+ gxh6 47 b8Q Rgf2+ 48 Kg1 Rf5 49 Qxa7+ Kg8 50 Bxh6 Re1+ 51 Kg2 Re2+ 52 Kg3 Resigns.
Two consecutive queen sacrifices (by promotion) occurred in K. Gilg v K. Lamprecht, Karbitz, 1924 (see pages 11-12 of Kings, Commoners and Knaves):
Black played 68...f1(Q) 69 Qxf1 h1(Q) 70 Qxh1 Stalemate.
Source: Österreichische Schachrundschau, September 1924, page 270.
The next position arose in the game C.W. v Kostrovitsky, St Petersburg, 1893 (?), as given on pages 15-16 of A Chess Omnibus:
Black offered his queen on three consecutive moves: 1...Qxf6 2 Qc1 Qb2 3 Qf1 Qxf2 4 Qxf2 Re1+ 5 Qxe1 f2+ and mate in two.
Source: Deutsche Schachezeitung, May 1893, page 148.
A game in which ‘White sacrifices both queens within three moves and wins’ appeared on page 105 of Mastering Tactical Ideas by Nikolay Minev (Seattle, 2000), headed ‘Keller – Jaser, corre. 1976/78’:
1 Q8xd4 Nxd4 2 Bh6 Ne6 3 Qxe6 and wins.
The final position comes from a 2002-2003 league match in London between L. Trent and D. Tan:
The last move of the game was 27 e8(Q), and on page 21 of issue 37 of Kingpin Jonathan Rogers wrote:
‘A novel situation, as far as I know. Has anyone before seen a serious game where one side has two queens, both en prise and unprotected even, to the same enemy piece, with each queen being able to deliver mate in one upon the capture of the other?’
Yossy Fallakh (Or-Yehuda, Israel) recalls the game between L. Pachman and J. Timman, Geneva, 1977:
Play went 40...Qe1 41 Qxg6+, and the game was eventually drawn. Pachman annotated the conclusion on pages 310-311 of the July 1977 BCM, and it should be noted that some modern sources misdate the game 1978.
From page 22 of Relax with Chess by Fred Reinfeld (New York, 1948):
‘It was that exuberant phrase-maker and paradox-monger Dr Tartakower who once remarked that a pawn sacrifice requires more skill than does a queen sacrifice. The reason? Sacrificing the queen calls for exact calculation of a quick finish. The pawn sacrifice, on the other hand, involves an intuitive flair possessed as a rule only by the great masters.’
Where did Tartakower make such a remark?
From page v of Chess Brilliants by I.O. Howard Taylor (London, 1869):
‘Position is everything. To give up a pawn is sometimes a bolder venture than to abandon a queen.’
‘A pawn sacrifice may be more brilliant than a queen sacrifice ...’
Source: Australasian Chess Review, November 1936, page 314, from the introduction to Reshevsky v Vidmar, Nottingham, 1936.
Below is the text of C.N. 3049 (see page 54 of Chess Facts and Fables), concerning a familiar miniature:
Lukomsky – Pobedin
Queen’s Fianchetto Defence
1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 b6 3 Nc3 e6 4 e4 Bb4 5 e5 Ne4 6 Qg4 Nxc3 7 bxc3 Bxc3+ 8 Kd1 Kf8 9 Rb1 Nc6 10 Ba3+ Kg8 11 Rb3 Bxd4
12 Qxg7+ Kxg7 13 Rg3+ Resigns.
Some sources (including the Wiener Schachzeitung, June 1929, pages 184-185) gave Pobedin’s name as ‘Podebin’.
The game illustrates how prominent masters may differ in their appreciation of games and positions. Annotating the miniature on pages 122-124 of the June 1930 Ajedrez, Tartakower gave White’s 12th move two exclamation marks and referred to ‘this splendid queen sacrifice’. On page 178 of 1000 Best Short Games of Chess (New York, 1955) Irving Chernev reported that Marshall ‘was fond of this game’. In contrast, Réti found the combination ‘banal and uninteresting’. He was writing in Morgenzeitung, and his notes were reproduced on pages 218-219 of the July 1929 Deutsche Schachzeitung. See also page 5 of Réti’s Best Games of Chess by H. Golombek (London, 1954).
For ease of reference, we add here the Tartakower and Réti texts:
Finally, the text on page 5 of Golombek’s book on Réti:
In some databases White was named as Lugowski or Lukowski. What is the earliest known publication of the game in a Soviet source?
Salo Landau – N.N.
Simultaneous display, Dordrecht, 29 February 1928
Four Knights’ Game
1 Nf3 Nf6 2 b3 Nc6 3 Nc3 e5 4 e4 Bb4 5 Nd5 Nxe4 6 Qe2 f5 7 Nxb4 Nxb4 8 d3 Nf6 9 Qxe5+ Kf7 10 Ng5+ Kg6 11 Qg3 Nh5 12 Qh4 h6 13 Nf3 Nxc2+ 14 Kd1 Nxa1
15 Qxh5+ Kxh5 16 Ne5 g5 17 Be2+ g4 18 h3 Qh4 19 hxg4+ fxg4 20 Bxg4 mate.
Source: page 74 of Combinaties uit de Schaakpartij by Lodewijk Prins (The Hague, 1935):
A curiosity is the Legall queen offer when the opponent has castled on the queen’s side:
O. Prochazka (Dornachbrugg) – K. v. Wattenwil and H. Geiler
49th Swiss correspondence tournament
1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qa5 4 d4 e5 5 dxe5 Bb4 6 Nf3 Nc6 7 Bd3 Bxc3+ 8 bxc3 Bg4 9 O-O O-O-O 10 Bf4 Nge7 11 h3 Bh5 12 Rb1 Ng6 13 Bh2 Ngxe5
14 Nxe5 Qxe5 15 g4 Qg5 16 f4 Qc5+ 17 Kh1 Bg6 18 f5 Qxc3 19 Qf3 Resigns.
Source: Schweizerische Schachzeitung, November-December 1918, pages 141-142:
A database search provides these further specimens of the Legall queen offer after the opponent has castled on the queen’s side:
Ludwig Herrmann v Max Eisinger, Hamburg, 1937: 11 Nxe5
Erwin L’Ami v Mark Smits, Utrecht, 1999: 18 Nxe5
Davorin Komljenović v Isaura Sanjuan Morigosa, Dos Hermanas, 2002: 10 Nxe5
Erik van den Doel v Sergei Tiviakov, Leeuwarden, 2005: 12 Nxe5
Vassily Ivanchuk v Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu, Foros, 2007: 10...Nxe4.
The penultimate game was a short draw, and the other four were won by White. Herrmann annotated his game against Eisinger on pages 194-195 of Deutsche Schachblätter, 1 July 1937.
Eduardo Bauzá Mercére (New York, NY, USA) has found this game on page 7 of La Nación, 31 August 1914:
Our correspondent believes that Black was Teodoro Becú, who was mentioned in, for instance, a crosstable on page 115 of the October-December 1909 Revista del Club Argentino de Ajedrez.
José Raúl Capablanca – [Teodoro] Becú
Buenos Aires, 30 August 1914
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Be7 5 O-O b5 6 Bb3 d6 7 a4 Bd7 8 axb5 axb5 9 Rxa8 Qxa8 10 Nc3 Qb7 11 d4 b4 12 Nd5 Bg4 13 dxe5 Nxe5
14 Nxe5 Bxd1 15 Ba4+ Kd8 16 Nc6+ Kc8 17 Ndxe7+ Nxe7 18 Nxe7+ Kd8 19 Nc6+ Kc8 20 Rxd1 f6 21 Be3 h5
22 Rd5 Rh7 23 Ra5 Kd7 24 Nd4+ Ke7 25 Bc6 Qc8 26 Nf5+ Kf7 27 Bd5+ Resigns.
Australasian Chess Review, 27 February 1937, page 26
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Nh6 4 d4 d6 5 Bxh6 gxh6 6 O-O Bg4 7 Nc3 Nxd4 8 Nxe5 Bxd1 9 Bxf7+ Ke7 10 Nd5 mate.
Eduardo Bauzá Mercére has sent three forgotten games with a common theme:
Philadelphia Times, 15 October 1882, page 8
Michaelis v N.N.: 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 b4 Bxb4 5 c3 Bc5 6 O-O d6 7 d4 exd4 8 cxd4 Bb6 9 d5 Na5 10 Bb2 Ne7 11 Bd3 O-O 12 Nc3 Ng6 13 Ne2 c5 14 Qd2 Bg4 15 Ng3 Bc7 16 Nf5 Bxf3
White gave mate in three moves.
New Orleans Times-Democrat, 18 December 1892, page 19
Orchard v Harris: 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 b4 Bxb4 5 c3 Ba5 6 d4 exd4 7 O-O dxc3 8 Qb3 Qf6 9 e5 Qg6 10 Nxc3 Nge7 11 Ba3 Rb8 12 Ne2 b5 13 Bd3 Qe6 14 Qb1 b4 15 Bb2 Ng6 16 Ned4 Nxd4 17 Nxd4 Qb6 18 Nf5 O-O 19 Qc1 c5 20 e6 dxe6
21 Qh6 and mate next move.
Reading Observer, 1 April 1911, page 7
Walcker v Patchoffsky: 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Nxe5 d6 4 Nf3 Nxe4 5 Nc3 Nxc3 6 dxc3 Be7 7 Be3 Nd7 8 Bd3 O-O 9 O-O Nf6 10 h3 Be6 11 Nd4 Bd5 12 Nf5 Qd7 13 c4 Bc6 14 Qd2 Rae8 15 Bd4 Be4 16 Bxe4 Nxe4
17 Qh6 Resigns.
We add that the last game was published on pages 79-80 of the March 1911 Deutsche Schachzeitung with a precise date, a Russian source and different spellings/transliterations of the players’ names (Walker v Paschkowski):
The Qh6 motif is discussed in chapter 18 of L’art de faire mat/The Art of the Checkmate by Georges Renaud and Victor Kahn (various editions).
See too the many queen sacrifices in various classic games discussed in our feature articles.
Latest update: 26 December 2021.
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