In chess, sacrifice has a very similar meaning to that which it has in real life. It is the state of giving up a chess piece in order to gain potential tactical or positional compensation. A chess sacrifice could also be a loss of a higher piece for an opponent’s lower valued piece.

Besides the king, any piece can be sacrificed. As chess players are concentrating on keeping all their pieces, making a sacrifice could catch them off guard which will confuse them or trick them into making calculations whether or not to accept the sacrifice. Sacrificing your queen or a sequence of pieces can lead to outstanding results and tactical praise.

There are different types of sacrifices; they can either be True or Pseudo (bluff).

True sacrifices

Consist of the player making a sacrifice which often leaves the player playing with less to work with during most of the game. Since true sacrifices don’t produce as many results or less direct results, at times it isn’t clear if the sacrifice put the player in a better off position than he started. This is the reason why true sacrifices are often called speculative sacrifices.

Attack on the king

A player will often sacrifice a pawn or piece to ensure open line around his opponents king, to gain a kingside space advantage, to destroy or damage his opponents king pawn cover or to make sure that hi opponents king remains in the center. This move is not a guaranteed path to checkmate. If the opponent manages to fend off the attack while still keeping his pieces intact, he will probably be able to win the game. A good example to this sacrifice is the ‘Greek Gift sacrifice’


It isn’t rare for a player to give up a pawn or a piece in the game opening in order to speed up game development. Developing sacrifices are something one’s opponent might return during the game; otherwise the development edge could be promoted creating more threat such as a kingside attack.

Strategic/ positional

The aims of all true sacrifices are to potentially gain a positional advantage. Though some speculative sacrifices don’t really achieve positional advantages when they are made in a way that just weakens the opponent’s pawn structure, they are not even clear on how they could be an advantage when the game unfolds. That’s why these are the most difficult sacrifices, they need deep strategic comprehension.

Pseudo sacrifice

A pseudo sacrifice consists of the player making an offering but in order to regain the sacrificed piece and even more material than was originally sacrificed.


As the main goal of the game is to achieve a checkmate, sacrificing pieces to achieve this result is common, even if the opponent is in an advantage of pieces and material.

Avoiding loss

This type of sacrifice might not achieve checkmate but it can be made to avoid loss of material on the sacrificial player’s behalf by creating a fortress and forcing the game to a draw.

Material gain

A sacrifice that could lead to moves which in the end gain material for the player who initially sacrificed. A pawn promotion is a type of this sacrifice.


Benefiting from sacrificing material could be possible for a player who is already ahead in material and the exchanges could simplify the positioning to win.