Chess Tactics: Attacking castled King with the classic Bishop sacrifice Part 1

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In the game of chess, bishops play a very important role both in attacking the opponent’s King as well as in defending one’s own King, especially using its unique capability of moving along the diagonals.

Before dwelling further into the attacking aspects of the bishop, let us recollect some of the basic features of the opening principles. In the opening stages of the game, we were taught that the pawn movements should be kept to the minimum such that the minor pieces such as knights and bishops are developed. Then the next thing one is advised to do is to go for castling either on the kingside or in the queenside, whereby the King is safeguarded, and the rooks at the flanks are brought to the center of the first or last ranks.

Mere castling of the king will not guarantee 100% safety and the castling should be followed with adequate precautionary measures in order to avoid devastating attack on the kingside by the bishops along the diagonals, especially the light-squared white bishop. Sounds strange – is it not? Read on.

This attack is primarily suitable for the player using white pieces when and only when the opponent castles on the kingside and the king is placed at g8 with pawns placed at f7, g7 and h7 respectively. The broad idea is to sacrifice the light-squared bishop of white by capturing the pawn at h7, drawing the king out and using the knight at g5 and the Queen moved to the “h” rank to say checkmate.

This attack on the castled black king by sacrificing the light-squared white bishop at h7 is called as the classic bishop sacrifice. This is one of the oldest attacks on the castled king, tried and tested as early as early 1600s, as writing about this attack is found in Gioachino Greco’s handbook in 1619. It is believed that Greco introduced this classic bishop sacrifice and as such the attack is also referred to as Greco’s sacrifice by some of the writers.

Before exploring more about this Greco’s sacrifice or classic bishop sacrifice, let us look at the game played by Greco where he employed this attack successfully. As per Greco’s handbook of 1619, he reached the position in the game as given below after six not particularly intelligent moves.


(White to move)

Now, here comes the brilliant display of white involving the classic bishop sacrifice.

The mainline of the game is as follows :

7. Bxh7+ Kxh7
8. Ng5+ Kg8
9. Qh5 Re8
10. Qh7+ Kf8
11. Qh8# 1 – 0 There ends the game in white’s favor after the sacrifice of the light-squared bishop.

In Part 2 of Attacking castled King with the classic Bishop sacrifice we will look at some of the variations and how to play those variations for a win. Continue reading Part 2 of Bishop Sacrifice.


  1. Andy Collin says:

    I am a starter and I have seen many players try it against me I now know how to do it also, thank you.

  2. Paul says:

    good one i love this bishop sacrifice

  3. Ross says:

    Best series so far, loved all the variations and this whole concept I will certainly try it out on my friends.

  4. Anil says:

    Put up some full games of some high level games in this certain position? I can hook u up from megabase if you want?

  5. Goro Larzen says:

    While reading this post i asked myself so many time if you will tell when is good to start this attak and your part 4 just shows it .. great job

  6. Hunter says:

    I always loved this sac, there are so many ways to get to this position it is just amazing how some combinations can result in such a quick win.

  7. Roger says:

    It can happen at a club level but I doubt this could happen at IM level. But you never know it is all about a killer combination.

  8. Robert says:

    Oh yeah. I remember driving many a kings out in the open using that technique.

  9. ChessTeacher says:

    Glad readers of our blog loved this recent work.

  10. ChessMaster says:

    You are welcome to give reference of master games that are illustrative of such Bishop sacrifice.

    However, if you go through our Chess Sacrifice as a Chess Tactics: to open files or lines of attack, you will find example of a game from a Belgian Chess Champion where two Bishops were sacrificed to open lines of attack. Though the game file is available with my colleague, he could not find time to prepare the video due to his other pressures. If you find it useful, I’ll put your request to him to post a video of that game.

  11. sahir khan says:

    i wanted to play the chess and became a grand master please give some information


  1. Chess Tactics: Attacking castled King with the classic Bishop sacrifice Part 4 | PoPChess
  2. Chess Tactics: using the diagonals to break enemy King’s castle |
  3. Chess Tactics: more on Zwischenzug |