Attack! ... When? Where?

  • GM thamizhan
  • | Sep 5, 2011

Hello, I have a question:

I have always been taught that when both kings are castled on opposite sides, you should go for an attack on the opposite wing. Recently, however, I played a game in which, after I castled king side and my opponent queen side, I found most of my pieces were located near the king side, in which I also had more space (and he on the queen side). Should I have been trying to play on the king side, or the queen side in this kind of situations? 

Thank you. 


Dear Reader,

You have learned right, it is a common rule for one to launch an attack on the other wing if both the kings are castled in opposite side, however all rules have exceptions. Like we have mentioned in several other articles before, it is important for one to understand the rule well enough to be able to break it and get away with it.

To begin with, we are going to determine a few important criterias that are essential to be able to launch an attack.

  • Closed center – This is also a general rule, open positions would give too much counter play for your opponent and you will not able to focus your resources just on his/her king

  • Space – Forget about any attacking ideas if you do not have enough space to maneuver around your pieces near your enemy's king

  • Piece coordination – To be able to crack through the enemy wall of defense, you will most likely need more than just a couple of pieces. If all your pieces cannot be in harmony and communicate with each other properly, then the attack will be a definite failure.

I was thinking about adding one more criteria as 'Potential Weakness in enemy camp', but that is somewhat implied. For example, if you have more space and you are able to maneuver your pieces well around his king, that itself puts his king under sever pressure.

Anyways, this point can be demonstrated using two of the most popular openings of modern chess era, the Sicilian defense and the King's Indian Defense.

Take a look at this position that arises out of the Dragon variation in the Sicilian defense.


The king's are indeed castled on opposite wings, but there are several other things that actually facilitate the possibility of an attack. The center even though not closed, I would say is stable and definitely not open. Both sides seem to have their pieces well developed to be able to mobilize them for an attack if need be. Other than the e4-pawn that gives white a tiny tiny space advantage, I would say both sides have enough space to be able to launch an attack on the opposite wing.

Here is a sample game that demonstrates the attacking ideas of both side. In this game, Grandmaster Judit Polgar, known for her attacking skills got the better of Grandmaster Kaidanov.


Now let us take a look at this game from the King's Indian Saemisch variation.


The position is very similar to a normal King's Indian Defense except for one major difference, the white king is castled on the other side. From our normal knowledge we would think white should start attacking on the king side at the black king and black vice versa. Before we blindly follow that rule, let us go back and take a look at the check-list we had prepared for launching a successful attack.

The first point was to make sure if the center was closed and this case it is pretty obvious. The center is completely closed. The second point was to see if we had enough space to maneuver our pieces around. White has extra space on the queenside while black has more space on the kingside. Even though the enemy king is located on the other side of the board, in this case it would be wise for one to just work around their extra space rather than launching an attack on the king.

Here is the rest of the game for you to see Petrosian at work.




The three main factors that we have given here as the criteria for attack are also more of a guideline, there are a few exceptions always.


  • 5 years ago


    cookie Nxc7 Qxc7 Rb7 Rxa3! your missing.

    Also my engine says BLACK is winning at that point slightly haha xD

  • 5 years ago


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  • 5 years ago


    This question is covered authoritatively and in detail by Kotov and Keres, "The Art of the Middlegame".

  • 5 years ago


    A trully great game by the unique genius Tigran Petrosian, maybe the master of profilaxis and defense in chess. His games are both complex and sometimes with very stange positions and concepts.

    Is this game 31. b4! is a very rare and profund move, that takes a lot of corage to do: it's completely incredable that in the concret position on the board, he wanted to free his a pon, to open the b file, and he's not afraid of loosing nothing by the way! He latelly decide, in the line of thougt of Steintz, that his King can defend himself, and put the moarc in the center of the board where it is safe, and finaly in the end the a pon got the way to start his march to coronation. This was the triunph of a great strategy, by one of the best players of ever. What a masterpiece!

  • 5 years ago

    CM Data_Pillars

    The idea is that if 33.Nxc7 Qxc7 34.Rb7, then 34...Rxa3+, followed by Qxb7+

  • 5 years ago


    Thank you for the excellent article!  I have a question and a couple points.  First the question:  In the game with Tigran Petrosian as white, why not on moves 32 or 33 did white take the pawn on c7?  If the queen takes the knight, then Rb7 sets a royal pin, if not, then it seems to be a free pawn.  As for the couple of points: 1) "The Art of the Middle Game" by GMs Keres and Kotov has an excellent section on dealing with opposite side castling.  2)  Perhaps some annotations with the example games may help us a little more.

    Again, thanks for your time!  Much appreciated!

  • 5 years ago

    CM Data_Pillars

    31.Qf6 Qxf6 32.gxf6 Rh5 seems to defend.

  • 5 years ago


    Thank you very much for your time and effort as always, I find myself reading articles more than playing lately.

    And great to hear a more detailed explanation of how to treat opposite side castling, I knew that it can often turn into a race to bust open the opponents king,while trying to limit your opponents mobility and quality of the pieces, but your article shines more light on this subject.Smile

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