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Chess Corner - Queen Trades and Sacrifices

The queen is the most powerful piece on the board. She is an important factor in almost every game. However, using the queen is not always the best option. We looked at this in the last column, seeing why the queen should not be brought out early in the opening. Today, we will look at queen sacrifices, realizing that the queen is not always the most important part of the game. 

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First, what is a sacrifice? A sacrifice is a move where you give something up to get something else back. For example, you might sacrifice a pawn so you can get a lead in development. Another example is  sacrificing a bishop to draw your opponent’s king out into the center. Or to sacrifice a knight so you can win a rook in a few moves. The pawn and bishop sacrifices in these examples both lose material, but they both gain something different yet better. The knight sacrifice here wins material, but it is a sacrifice because the material is not won immediately. Be careful when you’re making sacrifces, because sometimes what looks like a sacrifice can turn out to be a blunder. 

Queen sacrifices are rarer that most other sacrifices, and this is because not a lot of things are worth a queen. However, world champion Paul Morphy shows a queen sacrifice that loses a queen to get something much better: checkmate. See diagram 1 for the starting position.

If White can get his rook to d8, Black is mated. However, Black’s knight stands in the way. White used deflection to get the knight away: 1. Qb8+!! Why is this a good move? Well, Black will have only one legal move: 1… Nxb8. Now, the d-file is clear, White can freely play 2. Rd8#.

An easier choice than sacrificing your queen is trading it. Two rooks or three minor pieces is well worth a queen, but why not your opponent’s queen? A queen trade, where you lose your queen to win your opponent’s, can be good and bad. Let’s look at a good example in diagram 2: 1. e4 e5 2. d4 d6 3. dxe5 dxe5. The d-file is open. White has the option to trade queens, which he does: 4. Qxd8+ Kxd8. Wait! Look at the board! Black’s king is exposed in the center, and he cannot castle (his king was moved and it therefore cannot castle with either rook). White has used a queen trade to get not only Black’s queen, but another advantage: his king will be safer. 

The queen is the most powerful piece on the board. It is said, “with great power comes great responsibility,” and I think this best expresses how to use the queen. She can be a great and powerful weapon, and a lot of times the queen can be deadly to your opponent. Just be careful with her and don’t lose her due to careless mistakes.

In this week’s puzzle, Black’s pieces are breaking into White’s queenside. With the right move, he can ensure his victory in three moves at most or win White’s queen. How does Black win?

Answer to the previous puzzle: The move is the stunning 1. Qg8+!! It is defended by the knight, so it can’t be taken by Black’s king. He will have to play 1…Rxg8. Then White finishes Black off with 2. Nf7#: a smothered mate.