In chess, a desperado is a piece that is doomed to be captured, but can capture one or more enemy pieces before it is taken. The term “desperado” comes from Spanish, where it means “desperate” or “hopeless”.
Basically, there are two definitions of a desperado:
- En prise or a trapped piece.
- A crazy queen/rook to enforce a stalemate.
A classic example of the first type. From the fifth to the eight move, both players just kept capturing more and more opponent’s pieces.
Let’s try something different. In the position below, it is Black’s turn to play. Although such an endgame is usually lost for the player who possesses only a rook against a queen, Black can enforce a draw in this special case:
The point of Black’s strategy is to give a perpetual check over the g and h files:
1. … ♜h7+ 2. ♔g6 ♜g7+ 3. ♔h6 ♜h7+ etc. If White decides to break the check sequence and captures ♔xh7, the game ends as a stalemate:
So, the desperado rook saved the draw. Of course, if White tries to escape these two files and gets the king to f6, Black cannot follow the same pattern: 1. … ♜h7+ 2. ♔g6 ♜g7+ 3. ♔f6 ♜f7+?? 3. ♕xf7#
The correct outcome would be: 3. … ♜g6+! 4. ♔xg6 stalemate
The final example is from a real game, and demonstrates how an apparently lost situation can be suddenly turned to a draw if your opponent overlooks the desperado moves:
Desperado tactics are often used in chess games to create complications and confuse the opponent. By sacrificing a piece for tactical reasons, a player may be able to turn the tide of the game in their favor.