Isolani Weapons: The Greek Gift

The Greek Gift sacrifice crops up in isolated pawn positions every now and then in combination with a knight on e5.  Here’s another position from Bruce Pandolfini’s Weapons of Chess, which illustrates the application of the Greek Gift in isolated pawn positions; it also demonstrates the power of a well-known zwischenzug, the infamous rook lift: middlegame_iso_greekgift

Note that Black moved his knight to d5, leaving h7 undefended. The knight blockade of the isolated pawn is a common theme when defending against the isolani, so if you want to be vily in your attack, you may use it as a bait. In this case, the natural move Nf6-d5 leads to disaster. Note that here the Greek Gift doesn’t produce a decisive mating attack. The off-shot is a simple gain in material (in the above example, White wins two pawns in a superior position). In other words, don’t lose yourself in mating nets if you see a straight-forward path to victory or at least a better position (unless, of course, you’ve got ample time on your clock and strive for the beauty prize). The same goes for tactics that rid yourself of the isolated pawn: do not hold on to the isolani just because you’ve deluded yourself into thinking that you can steamroll your opponent with a powerful attack. If you can trade it off to reach a superior endgame, then that’s frequently the best path to tread.


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