Exchange sacrifice (chess)
An exchange sacrifice occurs when one chess player gives up a rook for a minor piece (bishop or knight). It is distinguished from a pure sacrifice that leads to mate in the sense that an exchange sacrifice, properly speaking, leads to a long term positional or strategic advantage as opposed to a short term tactical advantage.
Exchange sacrifices are often used to destroy the enemy pawn structure, to establish a minor piece on a strong square (often threatening the enemy king), to improve one's own pawn structure (creating, for example, connected passed pawns), or to gain time for development. Tigran Petrosian, the World Champion from 1963 to 1969, was well known for his especially creative use of this device; in the game Reshevsky-Petrosian, Zurich 1953, he exchange-sacrificed on move twenty-five, only for his opponent to sacrifice in return on move thirty (the game ended in a draw); this game is perhaps the most famous and most frequently taught example of the exchange sacrifice.
Because the exchange sacrifice leads to long-term positional advantages, it is often referred to as the positional exchange sacrifice.
Notable chess games involving the exchange sacrifice
- Samuel Reshevsky vs Tigran Petrosian, Zurich 1953, Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3, Main line with 8...Bxc3 (E58), 1/2-1/2 A famous example, mentioned above, that features two exchange sacrifices.
- Mikhail Tal vs Tigran Petrosian, Riga 1958, Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin (C97), 1/2-1/2 Two future world champions battle for victory; Petrosian offers an exchange sacrifice on move thirty-one.