The Art of Attacking, Part the First

The Art of Attacking, Part the First

May 29, 2016, 3:51 PM |

Hi guys, I'm back today with the first part of my blog series: The Art of Attacking. This is the first blog of four, so stay tuned to catch each part! Just as a reminder, I am not a top-level player, so don't take everything I say as the final word on this matter, and I'm always open to suggestions! So, let's get started! happy.png

First, before we start to dig into the material, a little monologue by Jeremy Silman from his book "The Complete Book of Chess Strategy" which, by the way, is an excellent book. I highly recommend it, and I'll be pulling lots of examples and diagrams from it. "Attacking an enemy King is not something you just decide do; you must have a sufficient strategic justification. Yes, I know that everyone loves to launch kingside attacks. Everyone dreams of dragging the enemy monarch down with a series of brilliant sacrifices. But, unfortunately, desire and personal inclination must take a back seat to logic and the ability to read the board correctly." In this article and its following ones, I will explain what exactly will need to be done, so lets move on with this!


In this issue, I'll be talking about the general rules for attacking a castled king. In the later articles, I'll follow up on these with more specifics and details.



It's important that, when we consider the study of attacking a castled king, to review the rules and principles that we can consider as general principles that help us to understand the dynamics of this stage of the fight.

We can summarize these general principles that can guide us in the conduct of attack as thus:

  1. Possession of a positional advantage such as:
    • Better coordination of your pieces
    • Greater mobility of pawns
    • Control/occupation of open files or diagonals
    • Local superiority in a section of a board being either:
      • Majority of pawns
      • Concentration of pieces
  2. The attack must be directed towards the weak points of the castle, and shouldn't be chosen at a will or whim
  3. A requirement to attack on the flanks is to have control of the center, or to have a closed/locked center.
  4. The attacking side must try to open the game, maximize the power of his pieces, and avoid simplifications(the trading off of pieces)

The following diagrams show examples of these principles:

Both White and Black have significant positional advantages, and whoever attacks first will be well on his way to victory
In this position, White should play Ng5, focusing his attack on h7. See if you can find the winning combination after 1. Ng5 Nf6
In this position, White should focus his attack on g7, by playing Qg4
Here, the center is locked, so White should play g2-g4, taking advantage of the closed center
However, here, the center is open, so White's g2-g4 advance did more harm to him than to his opponent
The first point (possession of a positional advantage) is crucial to how we attack, because you CANNOT attack the enemy king if you do not have a positional advantage. Don't even consider attacking if you don't have a positional advantage, because it will fail (unless your opponent plays abysmally). This is why attacking the king is related to the other struggles of the board, as I mentioned in the introduction. As you struggle to gain control, you can be planning an attack so that, when you gain a positional advantage, you can be ready to strike a crushing blow.

Because the attack must be directed at the weak points of the castle, it is essential that we analyze the characteristics of the main structures of pawns that make up the pawn shield of the castle:

1. f7, g7,h7                                                                                         

  This type of pawn structure is most resistant to the attack because it avoids all approaches of the opponent's pieces. It is often necessary to sacrifice pieces and/or pawns to be able to penetrate the pawn shield. Often, the collaboration of a minor piece, mainly a Knight on f6, is able to reject part of the threats that may arise. A common problem of this structure is the ability to mate on the 8th rank. 

2. f7, g6, h7                                                                                                                    

This structure is less robust than the previous one because of the weaknesses in f6 and h6, that may be later occupied by the pieces of the attacker that may give pass to different mating threats. The advance of g6 gives the attacker the possibility of opening the "f" or "h" columns by advancing h4, h5 or f4, f5. However, the castle will not be considered weak if there is a Bishop on g7, being essential to eliminate this bishop in order to gain success in the attack

3. f7, g7, h6
The weakness of castling with h6 is less sensitive, but has the following tactical disadvantages
  1. Possibility for the h6 pawn to become a target, with sacrifices of pieces on f6, g7, or h6
  2. Creating favorable conditions for an assault with a pan by g4, g5  to open the g or h column for the attack
  3. Attack on the b1-h7 diagonal to provoke g6 and exploit the weak h6 pawn

As more pawns move, the castle becomes weaker and more vulnerable, because it facilitates breaks for subsequent locations for the pieces of the attacking side. 



So, that's all of the general rules for attacking the castled king. That's probably a lot of information at once, so I encourage you to reread this. I'll stop here now, and my next issues will contain specifics on how to attack in different positions and situations. Thanks for reading, and I hope you found this useful. As always, I'm open to suggestions or anything you have to add to this article. Remember, there are more coming, so stay tuned! See you next time!grin.png  phpoKiz51.jpeg