What is the Best Sacrifice in the History of Chess?

The position before move 22. Qxf4!!!!
The position before move 22. Qxf4!!!!

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” Helen Keller

My answer to “What is the Best Sacrifice in the History of Chess?” as asked on Quora.

Before I explain my choice for the best sacrifice in the history of chess, I need to elaborate on the difference between: 1) what is the best move? and 2) what is a beautiful sacrifice? I define “beauty” in chess as a move played for the sake of art and not of necessity. Exciting moves should not be confused with beauty as exciting play is often the only correct path hidden by more natural looking moves. Many refer to such moves as “beautiful” but if a computer had played it the move would just be considered “best.” Therefor, a beautiful sacrifice in chess should be a move which loses material in route to a win for the sake of art and not because the position requires the piece to be sacrificed for victory to be achieved. It is my hope that what is “best” according to a computer will never become the standard for what is “beautiful” to a human.

Below is my favorite example of when the most beautiful piece sacrifice is not considered best by a computer, but still remains an ultimate achievement in human chess:

[Event “Ch Western”]

[Site “Detroit (USA)”]

[Date “1924”]

[Round “”]

[White “Torre Carlos (MEX)”]

[Black “Banks Newell”]

[Result “1-0”]

[Eco “A46”]

[Annotator “Chris Torres”]

[Source “”]

{[ 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3,A46] Torre Carlos (MEX) +4 =2 -0 Banks Newell +0 =0 -1 Torre Carlos (MEX)-Banks Newell +1 =0 -0}

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d6 3.Nc3 {Carlos Torre delays his signature Bg5 for one move. The opening with 1. d4 2. Nf3 and 3. Bg5 is known as the Torre Attack.}

Bf5 4.Bg5 Ne4 {Some other moves worth thinking about are:}

( 4…Nbd7 5.Nh4 Bg6 6.Nxg6 hxg6 7.e4 c6 8.Be3 Qa5 9.f3 e5 10.Qd2

Be7 11.O-O-O exd4 12.Bxd4 b5 13.Kb1 b4 14.Ne2 Nb6 15.Nc1 c5 16.Nb3

Qa4 17.e5 cxd4 18.exf6 Bxf6 19.Re1+ Kf8 20.Nxd4 Rh5 21.Nb3 Rd5

22.Qf4 Qc6 23.Bd3 Na4 24.Be4 {…0-1, Hebden Mark (ENG) 2550  – Hanley Craig (ENG) 2396 , Halifax 2003 Ch Great Britain (active)}


( 4…c6 5.Bxf6 exf6 6.e4 Bc8 7.Bd3 Be7 8.O-O O-O 9.Qd2 Re8

10.Rfe1 Nd7 11.Rad1 a6 12.Ne2 Nf8 13.h3 b5 14.Ng3 g6 15.Nf1 Bb7

16.Ne3 d5 17.exd5 cxd5 18.Ng4 Bc8 19.Rxe7 Qxe7 20.Re1 Be6 21.Qf4

Nd7 22.Nh6+ Kh8 23.g4 Qf8 24.g5 {…0-1, Tasic Zoran (SRB) 2200  – Radlovacki Jovan (SRB) 2407 , Belgrade  1/24/2010 Ch City (open)}


( 4…d5 5.Nh4 Be6 6.Qd3 c6 7.f4 Ne4 8.f5 Nxg5 9.fxe6 Nxe6

10.O-O-O g6 11.e4 Bg7 12.exd5 Nf4 13.Qg3 Nxd5 14.Nf5 Bf6 15.Nh6

Nxc3 16.bxc3 Qa5 17.h4 Nd7 18.Bc4 Rf8 19.Rhe1 Qa3+ 20.Kb1 Nb6

21.Bb3 O-O-O 22.Ng4 a5 23.Ne5 Bxe5 24.Rxe5 {…0-1, Hebden Mark (ENG) 2567  – McShane Luke J (ENG) 2531 , Southend 2001 It “Redbus” (KO-system)}


5.Nxe4 Bxe4 6.Nd2 {A clever retreat which allows Carlos Torre to dominate the center.}

Bg6 7.e4 {Carlos Torre has established complete control of the center.}

f6 {Mr. Banks is trying to be a little too clever here. Better would have been just attacking the center with “d5.”}

( 7…d5 8.Bd3 c6 9.Qg4 dxe4 10.Bxe4 Nd7 11.O-O-O Nf6 12.Bxf6

gxf6 13.f4 Bxe4 14.Nxe4 Qd7 15.f5 O-O-O 16.Kb1 Qd5 17.Rhe1 e6

18.fxe6 f5 19.Qh3 fxe6 20.Ng5 Re8 21.Re5 Qd7 22.Rde1 Bg7 23.Rxe6

Rxe6 24.Nxe6 Re8 25.Qxf5 Bxd4 26.a3 Bb6 27.g4 {…0-1, Miles Anthony J (ENG) 2600  – Hickl Joerg (GER) 2535 , Calcutta 1994 It (open)}


( 7…c6 8.f4 f6 9.Bh4 e6 10.Bd3 Na6 11.O-O Be7 12.f5 exf5

13.exf5 Bf7 14.Bxa6 bxa6 15.Qe2 O-O 16.Qxa6 Qb6 17.Qd3 d5 18.b3

Ba3 19.Rae1 Rfe8 20.c3 a5 21.Nf3 Qb5 22.Qd2 Bd6 23.Rxe8+ Rxe8

24.Re1 Ra8 25.Bg3 Bf8 26.h3 a4 27.b4 {…1-0, Miles Anthony J (ENG) 2590  – Pedzich Dominik (POL) 2435 , Cappelle la Grande 1998 It (open)}


( 7…h6 8.Bh4 Qd7 9.Bd3 e5 10.c3 Be7 11.Bg3 exd4 12.cxd4 O-O

13.O-O d5 14.Qb3 dxe4 15.Bxe4 Bxe4 16.Nxe4 b6 17.Rfd1 Nc6 18.d5

Na5 19.Qe3 Rfe8 20.Rac1 Bg5 21.f4 Bd8 22.Qf3 f5 23.Nf2 Bf6 24.Nd3

Re4 25.Ne5 Qd6 26.Qh5 Rf8 27.Qxf5 {…1-0, Tregubov Pavel V (RUS) 2602  – Honfi Karoly (HUN) 2365 , Hungary 1992 It (open) “Duna Kupa”}


8.Be3 e6 9.Bd3 {White’s pieces and pawns are better.}

( 9.c3 Qc8 10.h4 d5 11.h5 Bf7 12.Bd3 Nc6 13.Qf3 Qd7 14.exd5 exd5

15.h6 Bg6 16.Bf4 O-O-O 17.O-O-O Ne7 18.hxg7 Bxg7 19.Nf1 Qa4 20.Kb1

Be4 21.Bxe4 dxe4 22.Qe2 Nd5 23.Ng3 Rde8 24.Bc1 Qd7 25.Rh5 Kb8

26.Rdh1 Rhf8 27.Nxe4 f5 28.Nc5 Qc6 {…1-0, Tregubov Pavel V (RUS) 2545  – Van Esch Sebastian (NED) 2206 , Groningen 1994 It (open)}


Be7 10.Qg4 {Despite the fairly tame opening that is named after him, Carlos Torre was a master of attacking chess.}

Qd7 11.O-O {The three opening goals are:^013^010

} {1) Maintain a center pawn.^013^010


{2) Castle^013^010

} {3) Unify Rooks.^013^010

} {Carlos Torre has accomplished all three. Black has accomplished none.}

e5 12.Qg3 exd4 13.Bxd4 Nc6 {Black forces some concessions but still has not accomplished any of the three opening goals.}

14.Bc3 O-O-O 15.b4 {Again, we see Carlos Torre play extremely aggressively.}

Rdf8 {And again we see Mr. Banks fail to thrust his pawn to “d5.”}

16.b5 Nd8 17.Qe3 b6 {?} {Defending by playing Kb8 would have not created weaknesses around black’s king.}

18.a4 {Carlos Torre controls the center so he focusing on a flank attack. Attacking on

the flank with “pawn storms” is an important strategy when the two players are castled on opposite sides of the board.}

Qg4 19.a5 Ne6 20.axb6 axb6 21.Bc4 Nf4 {Black finally has a serious threat of his own. I imagine he was expecting pawn to g3 or Queen to g3.} {%08DA}

22.Qxf4 {!!!!!} {

And now we have the most beautiful sacrifice ever played on a chessboard. The

strongest chess engines of 2013 still fail to completely comprehend the winning lines which are forced to follow.}

Qxf4 23.Be6+ {!} Kb7 {?} {mate in 9!} ( 23…Kb8 {This would be better but there still is no escape for black.}

24.Bd5 c6 25.bxc6 Bf7 ( 25…Rc8 26.Rfb1 Rxc6 27.Bxc6 Kc7 28.Bd5

Rb8 29.Nf3 Bxe4 30.Bxe4 Qxe4 31.Re1 ) 26.Ra6 Bxd5 27.exd5 Qg5

( 27…Qf5 28.Rxb6+ Kc8 29.Ra6 Qxd5 30.Ba5 Qb5 31.Ra8+ Qb8 32.Rxb8+

Kxb8 33.Rb1+ Kc8 34.Rb7 d5 35.Rxe7 Re8 36.Rxg7 Re1+ 37.Nf1 Rb1

38.Rc7+ Kb8 39.Rf7 Re8 40.Rxf6 Ra1 41.Bd2 d4 42.Rf7 {and white wins easily.}

) 28.Rxb6+ Kc7 29.Rb7+ Kd8 30.Nc4 Ke8 31.Re1 )

24.Bd5+ c6 25.Bxc6+

{?} {Slightly inaccurate. Better was bxc6+.} ( 25.bxc6+ Kb8 26.Ra8+

Kc7 27.Ra7+ Kd8 28.Rd7+ Ke8 29.Ra1 Bd8 30.Ra8 Qxf2+ 31.Kxf2 b5

32.Raxd8# )

Kc8 26.Ra8+ Kc7 27.Ra7+ Kc8 28.g3 {Again a slight inaccuracy.}

( 28.Nc4 d5 29.Nxb6+ Kd8 30.Nxd5 Qxh2+ 31.Kxh2 Bd6+ 32.e5 Bf5

33.Ra8+ Bc8 34.Ba5+ Bc7 35.Bxc7# )

Qg4 29.Rfa1 Kd8 30.Bd4 {and black resigned as there is no way to stop mate.}


Published by chessmusings

Chris Torres is a nationally renowned scholastic chess coach working in the San Francisco Bay Area. His classes have attracted players of strengths ranging from rank beginners to world champions. A chess professional since 1998, Chris is widely recognized as one of the main driving forces behind the explosion in popularity and sudden rise in quality of scholastic chess in California. Chris Torres served as the President of the Torres Chess and Music Academy from 2005-2020 and currently is recognized as a correspondence chess master with the United States Chess Federation. Since 1998 Chris Torres has taught 6 individual national champions as well as led multiple school teams to win national championship titles. In addition, Chris Torres has directed and taught at 10 different schools which have been California State Champions at chess. In 2011 and 2012, several former and current students of Chris Torres have been selected to represent the United States at the World Youth Chess Championships. Mr. Torres’ hobbies include playing classical guitar and getting his students to appear on the national top 100 chess rating lists.

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