“In chess, a queen sacrifice is a move giving up a queen in return for tactical or positional compensation.”
The queen is the most powerful piece, so it is understandable players of all levels think really hard before sacrificing it. I remember one of my OTB games from the junior years where I could have exchanged it for 3 pieces (2 bishops and a knight) and end up in a very good position. I got scared at the idea of parting with my queen, chose a different continuation where my queen would be saved and lost. My students follow this simple rule of thumb: “Sacrifice your queen if you can checkmate your opponent”. This gives them the opportunity to look for such checkmates and slowly become more comfortable with the idea of sacrificing their queen.
Playing better pushes a player higher and higher on the chess pyramid. On the way to the top one faces better players in games where the difference between winning and losing becomes smaller and smaller. It is normal queen sacrifices are much rarer at GM level and once they happen those games become instant gems. There are many games with spectacular queen sacrifices in the Worldwide database, some well known and others long forgotten. It depends what each one of us likes and how much time we have to look for the golden needle in the haystack. A top 3 games of all time involving queen sacrifices must include the famous Byrne vs Fischer game played when Fischer was only 13 years old:
Coming closer to the point of this article, I have found the following lesser known yet spectacular queen sacrifice in a game between 2 top GMs of that time. The complete game can be enjoyed and downloaded from here:
Finally the point of my article. Magnus Carlsen has retained the World Chess Champion title after beating Sergey Karjakin 3-1 in the rapid games tie-breaker. That followed a totally disappointing game 12 of classical chess where Magnus with White just swapped pieces any chance he got and Karjakin followed, content to keep the match tied at 6. It was a rather sad and normal end to the classical chess part of the match given the overall play. Luckily the 4 rapid games forced players to change their approach and this clearly made the difference. Karjakin simply could not keep up. The last rapid game ended with a queen sacrifice by Magnus:
Magnus’s queen sacrifice provided a nice ending to a rather dull match. I have a feeling the chess World is exaggerating a bit with their accolades. The reason is the overall situation when it happened. Carlsen was leading 2-1 before the game; also the position before the final combination is clearly won by Magnus. Karjakin had no chance and he knew it. Another reason might be the dull match up to the rapid games. The World was desperate to see better chess and normally queen sacrifices tend to impress a lot. For the regular player it is good to remember this sacrifice ending the match and keep in mind my rule of thumb mentioned at the beginning. If you have any games and/ or positions you would like me to look at, please do not hesitate to let me know. I will gladly include them in my column for everyone’s benefit. Looking forward to your messages!
Valer Eugen Demian