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Boris Garfinkel vs Fred Montelle Wren
Buffalo (1933)
King's Gambit: Accepted. Muzio Gambit Sarratt Defense (C37)  ·  0-1



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Premium Chessgames Member
  al wazir: <AccDrag>: I'm pretty much in agreement with you.

Because I'm not Saemisch or Spielmann, much less Kasparov or Carlsen, I often make moves that offer material for what I hope will be ultimate advantage without having calculated the outcome in detail. I prefer to think of these as sacrifices, even if (by good luck) they turn out to be totally sound, as shown afterward by detailed analysis.

I think it's neither useful nor fair to me to downgrade such moves _a posteriori_ to sham sacrifices. And I think the same standards should apply to the games presented here on <CG>. Since we have no way of knowing what's going on inside players' minds, I'm going to continue calling the offer of material a sacrifice under all circumstances.

Premium Chessgames Member
  OBIT: With all the discussion in this thread about what constitutes a sacrifice, I'll throw in my two cents and say this is just semantics. Develop a precise definition if you want, but it won't help my game or anyone else's.

As for this game's queen sacrifice (or whatever you want to call it), after thinking about it, I think it was justified, seeing as Black was about to get killed anyway. The sacrifice allowed him to throw a few punches, which at least gave the appearance that he had the initiative for the moment. With lesser players, as his opponent obviously was, this might allow him to steal the game. And, if this opponent is unfazed and is in total control in another ten moves, at least the game ended quickly and he can go out for pizza with his buddies.

Feb-11-10  YouRang: <Once,AccDrag,al wazir,Patriot,OBIT> My two cents too:

I think the main issue is one of "terminology theory". We define terms all the time. If we do a good job defining terms, those terms will make it possible to clearly express an idea in a natural way. A poor selection of terms will be awkward and confusing.

In this case, we are struggling with a poor choice of chess terms. We have "sham sacrifice" and "true sacrifice", which leaves the base term "sacrifice" dangling with no clear meaning. First, one should clearly define the base term, and then add qualifiers if necessary.

Also, I dislike the qualifier "true". If a sacrifice is not a "true sacrifice", what is it? Is it a wrong to call it a sacrifice at all?

Finally, I think that when the definition of a term depends on subjective ideas, it greatly reduces the communication value of the term. The definitions of "true sacrifice" and "sham sacrifice" are loaded with subjective ideas. Worse, the subjectiveness belongs to the players, not to us observers. So, we really have no right to be throwing these subjective terms around.


All that to say this: I don't use the these terms because I don't want to propogate poorly defined terminology. I prefer to define "sacrifice" as any deliberate surrendering of material to achieve some purpose. It's simple and unambiguous.

If a player wants to distinguish between sacrifices based on how he/she felt about it, they can add subjective qualifiers, such as "speculative" or "clever". Fine, but we shouldn't let the subjective terms be part of the base definition of "sacrifice".

Premium Chessgames Member
  Once: The root problem here appears to be how we handle language. One school of thought is that language ought to be fixed by a standard definition; but another viewpoint is that language changes and evolves so standard definitions can only be a guide.

I saw a similar argument a couple of years ago on an aviation website. One group quibbled with the english habit of referring to a concorde as just "Concorde" as if it were a proper name. This group argued that we don't talk about other aircraft in this way, so we shouldn't make any distinction for Concorde.

Ranged against this group were the Brits who argued that Concorde was called concorde, and that was that.

This argument got very heated and unpleasant, with people who had previously been good friends insulting each other (in similar terms to those that have been used agaist me recently). And no-one really understood why it had got so heated over such a small issue. Eventually the mods had to step in, close the thread and ban any further discussion on the subject.

What was really happening was a clash of cultures and different treatments of language. American English is generally rule-based, so the American posters could not understand how Concorde could be treated differently from other aircraft. By contrast, UK English is precedent-based, so under this way of thinking Concorde is called concorde because it just is.

Another example of this is that American pronunciation is generally phonetic, but UK pronunciation is based on custom and usage with many exceptions to the rules. So lieutenant is pronounced "leftenant" in the UK and "lootenant" in the US.

I don't think there are any rights or wrongs here, just different points of view. And I am left a little bewildered because all I have tried to do is to respect that, but people have started shouting at me.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Domdaniel: I suspect the confusion is between chess itself - which is regular, formally consistent, rule-governed and akin to mathematics or logic - and chess *terminology*, which isn't. It uses natural language, and is therefore prone to all the fuzziness and ambiguity that pervades language.

<Once> was being kind and gentle when he wrote < One school of thought is that language ought to be fixed by a standard definition; but another viewpoint is that language changes and evolves so standard definitions can only be a guide.>

No serious linguist gives the first idea any credence at all. Its adherents are simply misinformed about how language works. The second 'viewpoint' - that language changes and definitions are only a guide - is so basic it's not worth debating.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Once: <Domdaniel> Unless you are French, of course, vainly trying to hold back the tide of "le weekend", "les blue jeans", etc ...
Feb-11-10  YouRang: <Domdaniel: I suspect the confusion is between chess itself - which is regular, formally consistent, rule-governed and akin to mathematics or logic - and chess *terminology*, which isn't. It uses natural language, and is therefore prone to all the fuzziness and ambiguity that pervades language.>

Well, I agree with all of this, and also with what <Once> said about the nature and evolution of language.

I admit that my background is not in linguistics, but in mathematics and software development. I know that in these fields it behooves us to define terms that can be clearly understood, and that are distinct from other terms in ways (and only in ways) that are meaningful. If not, it makes communication error-prone and inefficient -- often resulting in arguments of semantics rather than the subject actually in question.

As you say, fuzziness and ambiguity are pervasive in natural language. Still, when we have an opportunity to define new terminology, it is to our advantage to give it some careful thought such that fuzziness and ambiguity are minimized, no?

It's true that language evolves, but like any other evolution, it does so because there is some 'pressure' to improve. Maybe it is unrealistic, but what I am suggesting is that the means by which language evolves should also evolve. That will happen when we are more thoughtful about constructing terminology. :-)

Premium Chessgames Member
  Domdaniel: <Once> Ca, c'est l'Academie Francaise, pas l'homme sur le Clapham omnibus. To put it another way, language changes from the bottom up.

<YouRang> Fine ideas, in principle. In practice, it's actually surprising how few deliberate constructions survive in the language. Most changes seem to come from slang, euphemism, and sound-changes which are themselves caused by everything from laziness to over-scrupulous care for correctness.

I find it's useful to pause occasionally and remember that every single word we use today was once a 'nasty' novelty -- slang, jargon, slipshod pronunciation, or whatever.

In this specific case, the word 'sacrifice' has connotations that vary between speakers. Any attempt to define it precisely will be influenced by these connotations, whether the definers know it or not.

Mathematics and mathematical logic can be defined as what remains when the connotations are removed.

Feb-11-10  YouRang: <Domdaniel> Being a language issue, and conceding that you have more understanding of language issues than I do, I shall bow to your wisdom on the matter.

For my own purposes, however, I shall still avoid terms like "true sacrifice" vs. "sham sacrifice", and my use of the word "sacrifice" (in chess) will be based on the precise and unambiguous definition I offered above.

In the meantime, I will patiently wait for language evolution to catch up with me. ;-)

Premium Chessgames Member
  Domdaniel: <YouRang> - <In the meantime, I will patiently wait for language evolution to catch up with me.> Great idea. I might try it myself.

< the precise and unambiguous definition I offered above.> And on *my* screen, 'above' is exactly where it is. But have you noticed how some people say 'above' (meaning 'below') and vice versa?

All terribly confusing. Maybe if CG used different colours for different orientations we'd know when it was necessary to stand on our heads.

Feb-12-10  jussu: Aww, only now did I look at the game itself, and this sure is one cute fluffy ball of rubbish.
Feb-12-10  YouRang: <DomDaniel> lol :-D

Anyway, I understand and agree with what you are saying about languages and how they are ambiguous and constantly evolving.

However, I still think there is such a thing as a poorly defined term and a well defined term. The difference between the two may be relative and temporary, but communication tends to flow better when using the terms that are well defined at the time.

One way to tell if a term is well defined or poorly defined is this: If it's well defined, then most people we easily agree to adopt that definition and use it. If it's poorly defined, then many people will resist using it and argue about what it really means -- such as what we have seen here.

This takes me back to my point: The way some people want to define 'sacrifice' (in chess) appears to be poorly defined simply because it prompts resistance and debate.

For me, the resistance is due because the word hardly has any meaning at all unless you precede it with the word 'true' or 'sham', and even then its use is questionable because these terms are subjective (i.e. my 'true' might be your 'sham', and nobody even knows for sure what it was to the player -- which is the case that really matters!)

This suggests to me that it could be defined better, for example, the way I propsed it <earlier>. :-)

Premium Chessgames Member
  Once: <YouRang> I like your pragmatic approach: a term is well defined if people use it. Using the same logic, although I tend towards the "sham" side of the argument I will not insist on it. There seems to be far too much debate going on for any one of us to say that we are right.

But I do wonder if there's a cultural split happening here. UK English is such an evolved language that we have no problem accepting ambiguity, sloppy definitions, evolution, difference of opinion. UK English sometimes seems to have far more exceptions than rules.

By contrast, US English is far more orderly and rule-based, both for meanings and pronunciations.

So when people from opposite sides of the pond argue about definitions, the UK contingent tend more to ambiguity and evolution, and the US contingent insist on adherence to rules and definitions. It doesn't mean that either side is right or wrong. It's just a difference of approach.

I've developed this thought a little more on <domdaniel>'s forum, if you're interested.

So I actually have a lot of respect for people who say that the meaning of "sacrifice" is set because a particular authoritative book says so. Or advance a logical argument as you have done. In some cultures those would be compelling arguments.

But I can also respect the argument that the meaning of the word is ambiguous and evolves as usage changes.

I think that is partly the reason that this debate has become so heated - and probably will be heated whenever it comes up. The difference is not so much about the words themselves, it is about how different cultures handle ambiguity versus precision.

Not wrong or right, just different.

Feb-13-10  laskereshevsky: Good bless U please, mrs Wren....
Feb-13-10  YouRang: <Once> First of all, let me say that I know some comments by someone else earlier got a bit rude. But from my perspective, there is no need for heatedness, and this is just a friendly discussion about language theory. I suspect we agree on that point. :-)

Perhaps you're right that it's a cultural thing, although it might also be a 'professional' thing (for lack of a better word). Those of us steeped in fields that depend on precise communication may have less tolerance for slippery definitions.

The extreme case is software development (my profession) where you must communicate precisely with a machine, and there is no room for ambiguity.

I also have a background in mathematics, and there too, great care is taken to formally construct definitions.

From my perspective then, if the practice of making carefully constructed definitions is necessary in cases where clear communication is important, then it must be a Good Thing in general. And yet, I would not want to deprive language of its colorful historical, cultural, and sometimes wacky aspects either.

Also, I jumped into the discussion because I too once used the term 'sacrifice' in a post, only to have someone (I can't recall who) jump out and tell me I was wrong because it wasn't a 'true' sacrifice. Perhaps the most important point then is to seek sensible terminology without becoming obnoxious about it. :-)

Premium Chessgames Member
  Once: <YouRang: it might also be a 'professional' thing (for lack of a better word). >

A very good point, and I fully agree. As well as differences in approach between nations, there are also clear differences between professions.

For example, I work with engineers and politicians. The engineers usually deal in precision terms and rules, where the politicians are more interested in emotions and stuff that can't be measured. I often have to act as a buffer between the two - the engineers work for me, but the politicians are the ones who make the big decisions.

I find that I have to use a different language when I talk to engineers compared to talking to the politicians. The two groups also often take very different ways to tackle a problem.

And don't even get me started on lawyers and media/ marketing experts...

Amen to the point about not being obnoxious!

Feb-13-10  YouRang: I know just what you are talking about regarding engineers vs. politicians.

Software developers frequently must interact with marketing people. That relationship is the wellspring of inspiration for the 'Dilbert' comic strip. :-)

Premium Chessgames Member
  Once: Dilbert is a comic strip? I thought it was a documentary/ management manual!
Feb-13-10  I play the Fred: Anybody need these two pennies?

The idea of the sham sacrifice, I think, came from the tendencies of patzers/noobs to label any kind of combination beginning with a material giveaway as a sacrifice. If my combination starts with QxPe7 and ends with me winning a pawn, that doesn't mean I sacrificed a queen. That was just the first, admittedly dramatic, step toward my goal of winning a pawn. But people who haven't reviewed games involving "true" sacrifices just see 15. Qxe7 Nxe7 and think, "OMG he just sacked his queen holy crap!!!" Combinations which begin with a material giveaway and end with a forced mate/win of material cannot possibly be said to be a sacrifice.

Think about the reasons for sacrifice in the real world, outside of chess. No one considers working additional hours for overtime pay "a sacrifice".

Premium Chessgames Member
  Once: <I play the Fred: Anybody need these two pennies?>

That's where all this started! Seems like a long long time ago, in a galaxy far far away ...

A quick recap (and a bit of a summary). I've spotted four different definitions of sacrifice:

1. Any move which temporarily gives up material is a sacrifice.

2. A true sacrifice gives up the material for some considerable time and for an incalculable benefit. A pseudo or sham sacrifice gives up material as part of a calculable line (often leading to a forced mate or material win).

3. There is no such thing as a sacrifice, because with perfect play any position is either a forced win or a forced draw. Admittedly, this is a minority view!

4. There is no clear definition of sacrifice and any of the above could be true.

We've tried several different ways to "prove" that one or other of these is correct. First there's the proof by authority. The definition of true/ pseudo sacrifice is given in Rudolf Speelman's book "The Art of the Sacrifice" and also, BTW, in Wikipedia's entry on chess sacrifices. One point for definition 2. But then again other books use the simple "any deliberate material loss is a sac", so definition 1 takes a point too. Then we started arguing about whether one book was more authoritative than another...

Then there's the dictionary argument. The word "sacrifice" involves giving something up or enduring a hardship, which kind of points to point 2 because a line that leads to a forced mate ain't a hardship. I think that most closely fits your thinking.

Point 3 was argued on a point of logic. Given a perfect super-computer, nothing is incalculable so we cannot base our definition on whether the benefits can be calculated or not.

<yourang> argued on the basis of the need for precision. Definition 1 is simpler to understand and less subjective so it ought to be the one that we choose. After all, whether something is true or sham depends on how much of the follow-up the player saw. This makes for a messy definition. An amateur's true sacrifice could be a computer's or GM's sham sacrifice (because they have seen further).

A number of people argued on the basis of democracy and usage. The most popular definition should prevail. This sort of kills version 3, but is not so clear whether 1, 2 or 4 wins this point.

Language is constantly changing and evolving, so stack up a point for 4.

And finally, a number of people argued on the basis of personal feeling. This tended towards 1, but was not conclusive.

So what's the verdict from all of this? I'd like to posit a fifth version:

"There is no agreed definition of sacrifice. Some believe in a distinction between pseudo and true sacrifices; some don't. Until and unless we have an agreed definition, we each need to make up our own mind about which definition we prefer. And we all need to respect the fact that others may not share our point of view."

So no more quibbling when <patzer2> and others refer to "sham sacrifices" - whether you agree with the term or not, it has enough credibility to be a perfectly valid point of view. As does the contrary view.

Feb-14-10  YouRang: Ah, language evolution at work before our very eyes!
Feb-14-10  I play the Fred: <Then there's the dictionary argument. The word "sacrifice" involves giving something up or enduring a hardship, which kind of points to point 2 because a line that leads to a forced mate ain't a hardship. I think that most closely fits your thinking.>

Yes it does most closely align with my thinking. I would prefer, however, that we get rid of the term "sacrifice" when talking about pseudo-sacs. Because you're right, there is no hardship in sacking the queen on move 23 when it leads to mate on move 26. It's simply part of the combination.

I like the way Soltis described Tal's approach to sacrifice. "Compensation is in the eye of the beholder. Whereas some players would never consider the position after 18 Nd5 acceptible for white because there are no concrete variations that show white winning, Tal reasoned the other way: There are no concrete variations that show black consolidating." (The game was Tal-Letelier, 1963)

Soltis is touching on, for me, the essence of sacrifice: giving away material for non-material compensation where no forced win is in view.

FWIW, that's my definition.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Once: <I play the Fred> Personally, I agree with you, but I think we would strugge to delete the word "sacrifice" altogether. There are too many of our friends and colleagues on this site who believe in the "all deliberate matreial loss is a sacrifice" definition.

That's why I quite like "sham sacrifice" or "pseudo sacrifice" - in other words, it only looks like a sacrifice.

I guess it all boils down to personal choice.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: A chess sacrifice is a work of art. Impossible to define, but we recognize one when we see it.
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: A horrid game. Black sacs a queen and knight for nothing - and wins! As <chillowack> said, after 13.Rf2 Black could resign.
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