Alberto Chueca, FIDE Trainer & International Master 
the sacrifice in chess pieces
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The sacrifice in chess

If there is something that we all love in chess is sacrificing pieces on chess. Mastering the sacrifice in chess can report many wins and improvements for your game.

Sacrificing all of your pieces and keep attacking until you checkmate the king with the 2 pieces you have left. That’s the beautiful fantasy of every chess player in the world, I can read your mind.

Even though it is very satisfactory to sacrifice your pieces is not always the best move. Some people tend to sacrifice in vain, falling for their impulses in the game.

Learning how to control this urge to get the initiative will turn you into a more conscious player. Just sacrifice when it is necessary or the nature of the position demands it.

This is key, most of the amateur players have an attacking spirit and want to put an end to their games quickly. This ends up costing them unnecessary losses or complications at least.

Mastering the sacrifice in chess is an art, it goes along with the mastery of other chess abilities like calculation and tactical vision. We will explain the types of sacrifices there are, how and when to use them effectively against your opponent.

Of course, you can sac… But just when is necessary

the sacrifice in chess mikhail tal

A sacrifice in chess only needs to be played in the following two scenarios, otherwise, think of something else:

  1. The sacrifice in chess is correct when you confirm by cold calculation that it leads to a critical advantage, normally decisive advantage or checkmate.

The second scenario is more practical than theoretical, and we consider it as an “emergency exit” in desperate positions.

  1. In a position in which you want to create winning chances, you can sacrifice material to create a weakness in your opponent’s field. This is called getting practical chances and can be also applied when we are positionally tied up and we want to release the pressure.

This kind of sacrifice may not be completely right, but at least is giving you some practical chances in a condemned position. Remember that humans are not machines, maybe your opponent has a decisive advantage but that’s nothing if he doesn’t exploit it.

Sacrificing material in chess when there are other better moves, may cost you a point. Remember that the best way to do things is a simple way.

Mikhail Tal’s sacrifices

Mikhail sacrifices
Mikhail Tal sacrifices in chess

Speaking about chess sacrifice without mentioning the legend and ex-world champion of chess Mikhail Tal is almost impossible. The brilliants sacrifices and bold tactical sense of this master were not to compare.

Mikhail Tal was called the Rega’s Magician, because of the crazy sacrifices and tactics he would bring up in any position. His games were so excitingly beautiful and coordinated that is a must-study master when it is about sacrifices!

Their style of play was a little controversial among the master of that time, and it is still questionable nowadays, but it has a great lesson for us to learn.

We are not going to lie, some of Mikhail Tal’s sacrifices were so wrong, but he ended up winning anyway. How do you become a chess world champion giving away pieces like a kid? Mikhail Tal did it.

The psychological impact a chess player experiments when they are offered a sacrifice is huge. This can make you think “holy smokes, Bxh2+ this guy has me cooked and served!”

This is the part in which chess players must be strong and try to prove wrong your opponent, or at least, don’t lose easily. But this is easier than done, and this impact was so tough Tal won games in which he should have lost.

But the psychological pressure he funded on his opponents with his wacky sacrifices was really a thing. So, we could say that, from the practical point of view, this is a unique tactic that works and we haven’t seen in any other player.

Different types of sacrifice in chess

chessboard

We could say there are two main types of sacrifice in chess that you must know, these are useful weapons to win some games with style.

Positional sacrifice

The positional sacrifice in chess is the one we use to win a positional advantage over our opponent. This advantage must be more important than the worth of the material sacrificed so the sac is justified.

The most common positional sacrifices are the exchange sacrifice (trading a rook for a minor piece) and the positional pawn sacrifice.

There are many positional sacrifices you can use in your games; they are even part of the main ideas in openings. Like the positional sacrifice on c3 in the Sicilian defense, is a very common way to destroy the white’s center and gain the initiative.

Tactical Sacrifice

The tactical sacrifice in chess is a straighter way to approach the point of getting the initiative for the material sacrificed. This is the kind of sacrifice we all like to do, and it involves several processes to get it right.

You have to calculate correctly; you also need to have a very wide tactical vision to get through the position. It is not enough by realizing the sacrifice is beautiful and strong, you have to know the follow-up.

A good sacrifice in chess with no follow-up is like French fries with no ketchup. You have to be aware of how to follow up on the position.

How to always make the correct sacrifice

chess tactics

If you like to sac all of your pieces and you just want to get the initiative that is fine, that is your playstyle and is important. Don’t try to change that, because that how you feel comfortable playing your chess.

But before you sacrifice put the right conditions, if you want to sac play a sharp opening like the Sicilian. And also understand that not always you will be able to sacrifice.

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