14th World Champion Alexander Khalifman present
Position of the day

White to move and win.


Nikolay Yakovlev

The attack of the square h7.

It is well-known that from all squares, surrounded the King, before the castling the most assailable is square f7. But after the castling we can add here also the squares g7 and h7, especially with the Pawns, standing on them and protected only by the King, what happens pretty often.

The specialty of the Black Pawn h7 is it's location on the diagonal b1-h7, where the opponent's Bishop often acts. This piece can be used like a ram-attack, if we can sacrifice it on the square h7. In result for a while h7 and h8 are open for the opponent.

It is very important for other pieces to work well with each other and to be able to get quickly to the head of the attack. Such actions usually end up with the mate or gain a lot of material. Of course, it is possible with the abidance of the precise counting, what is very difficult with the long combination.

1. Bogoljubow E. - Rubinstein A.
Bad Kissingen (Germany), 1928

At the position from the diagram (1) almost all Black pieces are crowded together on the Queen's side, while on the opposite area of the board White is dominating.

1. Bxh7+ Kxh7

The refusal to except the sacrifice, of course, doesn't save: 1...Kh8 2. Qh5 g6 3. Bxg6+ Kg8 4. Qh7#.

2. Qh5+ Kg8 3. Ng6!

Black gave up. The Bishop was sacrificed in order to make the square h8 open for White pieces.

2. Gelfand B. - Kramnik V.
Sanghi Nagar (India), 1994

In the example (2) White gets the result not so quickly, but avoidlessly:

1. Bxh7+ Kxh7 2. Qf5+ Kg8 3. Rh3 Rfe8 4. Qh5 Kf8? 5. Qg5 Kg8 6. Rg3 g6 7. Rh3!

Like the result of the certain "dance" of the queen and rook, the mate to the back king is approaching. Don't be confused, if not every move in this line you get at once. Even the grandmaster Gelfand during the hot struggle couldn't find the move 4. Qh5 and forced the draw after 4. Qh7+.

3. Christiansen L. - Campos M.
Malta, 1980

On the diagram (3) the square h7 is protected by the knight. It is possible to try to abstract it, using the combination:

1. Nd7! Qc7 2. Bxh7+

Why was this move impossible before and White applies it only now? The point is Black had the defence 2...Ndf6. But now White will just exchange the knights.

2...Nxh7 3. Qh5

There is nothing to protect the knight, and White breaks into the square h8.

4. Tal M. - NN
Berlin, 1974

In the diagram (4) Whit wins.

1. Bxh7+ Kxh7 2. Rh3+ Kg8

White doesn't know what to do. If he will play like this: 3. Qh5, then after 3...f6 nothing good can be seen. We need to add one more piece to the play.

3. Kf5! Qg5 4. Qh5!

Black gave up. The following lines are possible: 4...Qxh5 5. Ne7+ Kh7 6. Rxh5#; 4...Qh6 5. Nxh6+; 4...f6 5. Ne7#.

The attack on the king, using the queen, which acts together with the knight, became very famous. It can be prepared with the sacrifice of the bishop on the square h7. It is here not in order to open the file, like in the previous cases, but to attract the King.

5. Pestallozzy - Dum
Bern, 1908

In order to reach position, like in the diagram (5). White made big preparations. For example, moving the pawn "e" he kicked away the knight from the square f6, then abstracted the black bishop from the square e7. The combination didn't appeared from the air.

1. Bxh7+ Kxh7 2. Qh5+ Kg8 3. Ng5

Each move of White has one opposite answer from the opponent. The mate threatens in one move.

3...Re8 4. Qxf7+

Pay attention to this move of White. Only if we will follow the game till the end, we can value this move.

4...Kh8 5. Qh5+ Kg8 6. Qh7+ Kf8 7. Qh8+ Ke7 8. Qxg7#

We just have seen the typical position, where the main attacking piece is in the head of attack. But the destructive sacrifice can be used also when the queen is in the rear of it's army. In this case both sides will have a new opportunity.

6. Theoretical position.

The position on the diagram (6) appears in the French defense after well-known moves:

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 c5 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 Qc7 7. Nf3 Ne7 8. Bd3 Nbc6 9. O-O

9...Bd7 is considered like right continuation, developing the pieces. But what will happen if Black will decide to castle here?

9...O-O 10. Bxh7+ Kxh7 11. Ng5+ Kg6

Deciding to sacrifice the bishop, the player has to ponder the consequences of another diversion: 11...Kh6 12. Nxe6+; 11...Kg8 12. Qh5 Rd8 13. Qxf7+ Kh8 14. f4! with following Rf1-f3-h3.

12. Qg4 f5 13. Qh4 f4

The change of even one piece position can strongly affect the results of an already started combination. In our case, when the bishop is on d7, but not on c8, Black would defend himself by 13...Rh8.

14. Qh7+ Kxg5 15. h4+ Kg4 16. f3+ Kg3 17. Bd2

and there is no defense from 18. Be1.We already pointed to the important role of the pawn e5, which limits the resources of the defending side, taking the square f6. However the position, where there is not this pawn's structure, is possible, but anyway the combination with sacrifice of the bishop is pretty real.

7. Miculka - Nahtigal
Brno, 1908

1. Bxh7+ Kxh7 2. Ng5+ Kg8 3. Qh3

This time the queen participates in the attack through the clean third rank.

3...Bxf2+ 4. Kh1

The exception of the sacrifice would allow Black to add to the defence of the queen the following: 4. Kxf2 Qd4+ 5. Be3 Qf6+ and 6...Qg6.

4...Bh4 5. Qxh4 Qd3 6. Re4!

and it is possible to escape the mate, only by leaving the queen on square e4, which will prolong the opposition, but not for long.

The success of the combination mostly depends on the existence of the strong point for the knight - the square g5. It needs to be weakly protected by the defensive side. But, having the black bishop on the square e7, the attack is possible, if White will put the pawn on h4. In this case on the "h"- file should be the white rook, which after exchange on g5 will participate in the attack. Also the existence of the White queen bishop on the diagonal c1-h6 is important, otherwise the offence have to bring in other reserves (8):

8. Rihter - Darga
Berlin, 1950

1. Bxh7+ Kxh7 2. Qh5+ Kg8 3. h4!

Now it is impossible to escape 4. Ng5

3...Re8 4. Ng5 Bxg5+ 5. hxg5 Kf8 6. g6

- with the aim to destroy even more the king's position.

6...fxg6 7. Qxg6 Bd7 8. Rh7

And Black gave up, because there is no way to escape the mate.

9. Averbakh Y. - Furman S.
Moscow, 1961

On the diagram (9)

1. Bxh7!

- is deciding. How you can see, the capture on the square h7 is possible even without the check.

1...Kxh7 2. Qh5+ Kg8 3. Nf5 Bf8 4. Qg6

It is the quiet move. Threats 5. Nh6+ Kh8 6. Nf7+ Kg8 7. Ng5 with the inevitable mate. The White's return move is enforced.

4...Kh8 5. Ne4 Ne6!

After 5...Nxe4 6. Rxe4 there is no protection from the mate. If 5...Nxe5, then 6. Qh5+ Kg8 6. Nh6+! gxh6 6. Nf6+ Kh8 9. Bxe5.

6. Nf6!

The capture of the knight 6. Qxe6 after 6...Nxe5! 7. Qxe5 Rd5 8. Qe8 Bxf5 9. Qh5+ Kg8 leads to the unclear complications. White prefers to sacrifice one more piece, in order to shake the position of the black king.


On 6...gxf6 it should be 7. Re4 Bg7 8. Rh4+ Kg8 9. Nh6+ Kh8 10. Nf7+ Kg8 11. Rh8#.

7. exf6 Ra7 8. Re4 Nf4 9. Rxf4 Bxf5 10. Rxf5 Rd5 11. Rxd5

Black gave up.

The sacrifice on the square h7 is possible to meet in our time as well (10).

10. Nielsen P. - Ulibin M. 1991

1. Bxh7+ Kxh7 2. Ng5+ Kg8 3. Qd3 Rfe8

White is preparing the fallback of the king. On 3...g6 it would be 4. Qh3.

4. Qh7+ Kf8 5. Rhe1

Blocking 5...Qe3+ and 6...Qxf4.

5...Nc4 6. Qh8+ Ke7 7. Qh4!

This is much more powerful than 7. Qxg7 Kd8 8. Qxf7 Kc7, and it is necessary to look for the defence from Qb4, and from the maneuver Rg8, Rxg2.

7...Rh8 8. Nh7+ f6 9. exf6+ Kd8 10. fxg7+ Kc7 11. gxh8Q Rxh8

In this position the opponents agree to a draw. White has the material advantage, but the knight will not be able to participate in the play for a while. And also, the threat 12...Qb4 is very strong. The game could develop in following way:

12. Rd3 Qb4 13. b3 Qa3+ 14. Kd1 Nb2+ 15. Ke2 Nxd3 16. Kxd3 Nb4+ 17. Kd2 Qb2

with the more active position of black.

11. Khenkin I. - Sher M.
Geneva, 1995

On the diagram (11) the best continuation is:

1. e5 Bxd5

The capture of the pawn in a different way leads to the defeat:1...Rxd5 (or 1...exd5 2. Bxh7+ Kxh7 3. Ng5+ Kg8 4. Qh4) 2. Bxh7+ Kxh7 3. Ng5+ Kg8 (or 3...Kh6 4. Qh4+ Kg6 5. Qh7+ Kxg5 6. f4+ Kg4 7. Qh3#) 4.Qh4.

2. Bxh7+ Kxh7 3. Ng5+ Kg8 4. Rxd5

On the innocent 4. Qh4 Black prepared 4...Be4! and smashed the attack. After the move

4...Rxd5 5. Qh4 Qxg5

Black can't win. Black has to give up the queen, but, fortunately has enough pieces to balance the chances.

12. Anand V. - Kasparov G., 1995

In the position on the diagram (12). White played 1. Bxc5, not deciding on the obliging.

1. exf6 Bxf6 2. Bxh7+!

But it is a pity!

2...Kxh7 3. Ng5+ Bxg5 4. fxg5 Rxf1+

On 4...Kg6 it is good enough for White 5. Qd6 Nce4 6. Qxb4.

5. Rxf1 Qe8

5...Be8 6. Qh4+ Kg6 7. Bxg7! With the defeat.

6. Qh4+ Kg8 7. Bxg7! Kxg7 8. Qh6+ Kg8 9. Rf6!

Win of White is clear.

It is time to define the legitimacies in the examples shown above. One of the important conditions of the right sacrifice: the squares f6 and f8 don't have to be available for the knight of the defending side, and the squares on the diagonal b1-h7 - for the bishop and the queen. After the knight's move on g5 the attacking side has to consider not only the retreat of the king on g8, but the moves Kg6 and Kh6 as well. In the first case, the common method - this is the creation of the threat of the discovered check by using Qg4, at the second case - the role of the White's black bishop is important. The additional tactic method, which makes the sacrifice successful, is to consume the knight d7 or d5. The position of the king rook is very important also. In the initial position of the castling on f8 it blocks the way of it's own king. At another cases it useful to remember that after Ng5 and Qh5 the point f7 can be open. And the last one: the role of the pawn e5 is very big. It pushes the king from the square f6 and keeps this important point under control.

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