The Nerd Club - Attacking Chess

Dec 3, 2015, 12:57 AM |
This is the blog for the CMT-group chess club. The idea is to teach a bunch of theoretical phycisists how to play chess.

Thanks for a nice session last thursday, I really enjoyed the buzz that was there even though I was pretty busy playing chess a lot of the time myself ;)

This week, first and foremost I want you to read this article:

(You may also like to read his follow-up article for fun:

The article is very entertaining with a very interesting game from the European Youth Chess Championship. In my mind, that game shows some of the things I find most beautiful in chess - look at the power in Black's play. Look how White is not allowed to breathe. Look how Black finishes his developement while making sure White cannot finish his, all while Black activates all his pieces in the battle against the White king. When a king hunt is conducted this nicely, I personally think it is beautiful.

Especially one quote from the article struck me: "A young chess player must first learn how to grab the center with his pawns, develop his pieces to their best places, seize the initiative and conduct an attack! And the best way to learn how to do it is to play the classical openings that start with 1.e4 or 1.d4."

Even though you are not young in the sense of age, you are still quite young in your chess career and thus the above applies to you as well I gather. And although I have taught you how to seize the center and develop your pieces, I have not yet taught you how to conduct a succesful attack - one of the most beautiful things in chess (in my opinion). So that will be the topic of today.

Here I want to teach you to recognize the trademarks of a possible attack; and also some of the basic principles that often form the basis of a succesful attack.

Attacking the uncastled king

According to the chess-bible 'How to Reassess Your Chess' by Jeremy Silman, the single most common example (in amateur chess) of a king begging to die is the uncastled, central king. Therefore Silman begs us to see the central, uncastled king as a target, and immediately try to see if there is a way to bring it down. Let's take the first example from the book:

Comparing this game and the one from the European Youth Chess Championship, you maybe notice some similarities. Silman cooks this down to a cookbook that one should typically follow when ones opponent refuses to castle his king to safety:

  • Seeing that the enemy king has stayed in the center for too long, immediately get excited and target it for destruction;
  • Don't allow him to castle to safety;
  • Bring as many pieces to the embattled area as possible and prepare for some form of decisive penetration;
  • Rip open some lines and go for the throat!

Above all (in my opinion), you have to play actively if you want to punish your opponent for not getting his king to safety. Safe and slow play will usually not do the job; active, dynamic and often tactical (or even sacrificial) play on the other hand will. 

Right after reading this chapter in Silman's book, I played the following two games, which I feel are quite good at exemplifying the above.

Attacking the castled king

Atttacking a castled king is more difficult - that is why we want to castle. But it is possible still. One key feature of a king attack is always that you have to open up lines/diagonals to the enemy king somehow. With a castled king, sometimes you have to do this by pushing your pawns towards the enemy king. Other times you can do this by sacrificing pieces. Also, you need many pieces to attack a castled king. Just having your queen close to the king will not help. Let's look at a famous example:

Also I found a good example from a game of mine:

So as you can see, attacking a castled king also requires tactical ability and active play, as is the case for the uncastled king.
And as a last example we have a beautiful sacrifice by Asbjørn. This game/king hunt exemplifies the rule of thumb that if you have more pieces participating in a kingside attack than the opponent has defenders, you have good chances of succes. In this game it is exactly the lack of White defenders (and the small details like the h2-h4 pawn advance) that enable White to get a succesful attack going.

I hope these examples were fun, and I look forward to seeing some attacking games from you guys! :)