5 Greatest Queen Sacrifices of All Time
Tactics & Calculation

5 Greatest Queen Sacrifices of All Time

5 Greatest Queen Sacrifices of All Time

Chess is a game of strategy, tactics, and sacrifice, and one of the most exciting moves in the game is the queen sacrifice. A queen is the most powerful piece on the chessboard, and sacrificing it can be a risky move, but it can also lead to a glorious victory.

Chess history is full of amazing stories!
And even though nobody yet knows where chess exactly was born, it has being recorded how the game and its rules have evolved.
☉ An amazing thing that not many players know is about a puzzle which forced an important change in the chess rules: The Vertical Castling


In this article, we will explore the five greatest queen sacrifices of all time, including the famous sacrifice by Richard Reti against Savielly Tartakower in 1910 and the queen sacrifice by Gioachino Greco in 1620. We will also learn about the Légal Trap, a chess opening trap characterized by a queen sacrifice, followed by checkmate with minor pieces.

Get ready to be amazed by the bravest and most beautiful sacrifices in the history of chess.

5 Greatest Queen Sacrifices of All Time

Game-1: Reti vs Tartakower

The queen sacrifice number one happened in a game between Reti against Tartakower, two of the really strong players of the past. The opening is the Caro-Kann Defense.

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nf6

Nf6 is one of the options for Black here, and it’s a move which often leads to an exchange and a fairly simplistic game afterwards. Very often, Black can achieve an easy draw here.

But in this game, White played another interesting move. Instead of trading the knights, White played 5.Qd3 to protect his knight, and Black probably decided that Qd3 was a weird move.

Greatest Queen Sacrifices, Reti plays Qd3 against Tartakower
Reti plays Qd3 and Tartakower reacts in the center with e5

Normally, you don’t develop your queen too early, and Black decided to strike back in the center, by playing 5…e5. That is not really a pawn sacrifice as they are gonna get it back on the next move with the help of a little tactical trick.

6. dxe5 Qa5+

The queen double attacks the king and the pawn.

7. Bd2 Qxe5

Black probably thought that they achieved a really great position as currently, due to the pin the White knight cannot escape; and Black is attacking it two times with their queen and the knight; and it looks like White is kind of in trouble. In addition to that, the queen is also taking aim at that weak pawn on b2. But, all of a sudden, White just castled queenside!

8. O-O-O Nxe4

Black probably decided that White did that out of desperation, and they grab the knight with their own knight. Just to mention that Qxe4 does not work for Black because of Re1, installing a pin along the e file, and then winning the queen on the next move.

Greatest Queen Sacrifices, Tartakower plays Nxe4 against Reti
Tartakower takes the knight, thinking about winning a piece…

In the game, Black took this knight with their own knight, probably thinking that they are actually winning the game and White should resign. However, White sacrificed one more piece: this time the queen!

9. Qd8+ Kxd8 10. Bg5+ Kc7 11. Bd8# 1-0

Qd8+ is one of the greatest queen sacrifices of all time. White had prepared a really strong discovered check. The check is delivered with the rook as well as the bishop. The black king has to move.

Greatest Queen Sacrifices, Reti sacrificed the queen and the knight to checkmate Tartakower
Reti sacrificed the queen and the knight thinking about winning the game!

Game-2: Mate with Bishop and Knight

The second game was played between Henry Thomas Buckle, playing White against an unknown opponent. Here we can see the Sicilian Defense. Black closed the center and got supposedly a really well protected position.

Greatest Queen Sacrifices, Henry Buckle attacks the f7-pawn with minor pieces
Black is trying to play the Sicilian Defense with a closed position

So far, everything is more or less standard; both players are just developing their pieces. Black played 5…Ne7, which is already inaccurate. In fact, White could have played 6.Ng5, which he didn’t in the actual game, but White could have played Ng5 to attack the f7-pawn. Black is already somewhat in trouble.

That didn’t happen in the game. White played 6.Bg5, which is also a normal move. Black played symmetrically with 6…Bg4, and continued responding symmetrically.

And, all of a sudden, instead of just trading some pieces, White played a very sudden move, Nxe5, sacrificing their queen; and, after the queen was captured with Bxd1, White sacrificed one more piece to get to the black king.

Greatest Queen Sacrifices, Henry Thomas Buckle sacrifices the queen to deliver checkmate
Henry Thomas Buckle sacrifices the queen to deliver checkmate with the knight and the bishop

Game-3: Greco’s Queen Sacrifice in 1620

The third game of this series of the greatest queen sacrifices of all time was played back in 1620 by Greco ―which was one of the strongest players of the time.

Greco started the game with 1.e4 and his opponent played 1…b6, to play something like the so-called Owen’s Defense.

Here Black plays pawn to f5, which is actually something a lot of Black players still do up to this very date. Black’s idea here is that their bishop can potentially take aim at White’s pawn on g2 to, hopefully, then grab the rook on h1. With that being said, this undermining with the f5-pawn looks very strong.

It’s not that easy for White to protect the pawn. But White can actually take the f5-pawn and allow Black to grab his pawn on g2.

Greatest Queen Sacrifices, Greco is not worried about Black's threats
Black’s bishop attacks everything over the long diagonal

If Black is happy with their achievement, thinking that they are going to win the rook on the next move, then you play Qh5. It’s really worthwhile to remember this line because, just like I said, a lot of players still got into this trap up to this date.

They play …g6 now because there is no other way they can cover their king. White takes the pawn. Black plays Nf6, trying to move your queen away. And, instead of retreating your queen, you actually sacrifice it, by playing gxh7 and, after Black captures the queen, we go Bg6: a really beautiful smothered checkmate developed just with one bishop.

Greatest Queen Sacrifices, Greco sacrifices the queen to deliver a checkmate
The queen doesn’t matter. White wins by checkmate!

It’s quite funny that White has brought actually just one piece into the game, which is a bishop, and it delivers checkmate.

Game-4: Legal Trap or Legal Checkmate

Now let’s have something for Black as well. In this game, Black played the Alekhine Defense.

1. e4 Nf6 2. Nc3 d5 3. exd5

This position could arise from the Scandinavian Defense as well. And, after White took the pawn, instead of recapturing, Black decided to play in a gambit style with 3…c6; a fairly interesting way to gain more activity to get advantage in development and trying to develop an attack afterwards.

4. dxc6 Nxc6

Greatest Queen Sacrifices, starting position from the Scandinavian or the Alekhine Defense
Starting position from the Scandinavian or the Alekhine Defense

5. d3 e5 6. Bg5

This is the move that most of the amateur players love to play so much, putting this pin on your knight. However, Black just ignored it and developed their bishop to an active square.

6…Bc5 7. Ne4

White played Ne4, trying to take advantage of this pin, but also to attack Black’s bishop. Probably, White expected that Black would move their bishop backward, which would allow White to trade a lot of the minor pieces on f6.

But, in the game, instead of retreating with the bishop, Black just sacrificed the queen in a pretty cool tactical shot!

7…Nxe4 8.Bxd8 Bxf2+ 9. Ke2 Nd4# *

Greatest Queen Sacrifices, Black finds the way to deliver Legal check mate
Legal checkmate | Blackburne Trap by Black!

Beautiful checkmate with two knights. It’s quite a common tactical pattern known as the legal checkmate. Usually, it’s White who delivers it but, in this case, Black found the way to deliver it as well.

Game-5: Checkmate with Two Bishops

The final game in this series of the greatest queen sacrifices of all time is between Alekhine ―one of the world chess champions― against Vasic. Here we see the French Defense. Alekhine didn’t go for the main line.

Black decided to trade their bishop for a knight, which is actually a mistake even though the classical chess books told you that a bishop is equal three pawns, such as a knight and, therefore, it’s an equal exchange; but in reality, the bishop is a bit  stronger. So, you should avoid making trades like these.

White’s bishop on a3 takes advantage of Black’s inaccuracies and cuts off Black’s king from the eventual castling in the future. White too takes advantage of the pin along the e-file.

Greatest Queen Sacrifices, checkmate with two bishops by Alekhine
Alekhine sacrifices the queen to deliver checkmate with the two bishops!

There is just one problem here in Black’s position. White can sacrifice the queen! Another beautiful checkmating construction delivered with two bishops from different sides of the board! These bishops have perfect harmony here to deliver this beautiful checkmate!

Quiz for You: Find the Best Move

Finally, I’ve got a short quiz for you. It is Black to move, and your task is to find the right move for Black here and to write it down in the comments below.

This is a position from the game between Wesley So, playing White against Magnus Carlsen, playing Black. The position is really intense. Both players are attacking each other currently. White is attacking the rook and the bishop, so Black really needs to do something about it.


Of course, you shouldn’t just guess the move, but really define the entire continuation. If you want to know what the solution is, I actually have a dedicated video with the 5 greatest queen sacrifices played by Magnus Carlsen. You can see this game analyzed there.


The five greatest queen sacrifices in chess history have been analyzed, each with unique features and strategies. Richard Reti’s queen sacrifice against Savielly Tartakower in 1910 and Henry Thomas Buckle’s queen sacrifice against an unknown opponent are notable for the strategic use of minor pieces to checkmate the opponent’s king.

In contrast, Greco’s queen sacrifice in 1620 and the Légal Trap both use the queen to create a tactical advantage that leads to victory. These games demonstrate the importance of creativity and boldness in chess, as well as the willingness to take risks to achieve victory.

5 Greatest Queen Sacrifices of All Time (Video Lesson)

To fully learn this lesson about the greatest queen sacrifices of all time in deep analysis, watch this video lesson.

Below you can play the moves of these analyzed games to recreate the greatest queen sacrifices by yourself on the board.

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want GM Igor Smirnov to help you get better at chess, watch this Masterclass.

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