Avenues of Attack: Cut Them Open or Cut Them Off?

Avenues of Attack: Cut Them Open or Cut Them Off?

Dec 20, 2014, 12:52 PM |

The secret of war lies in the communications. –Napoleon Bonaparte

In a combat situation when lives are on the line, the lines of communications may mean life or death.

Open and secure lines of communication are vital for any (military, chess, sports team) force to operate effectively. Think football for example, without being able to pass the ball to the forward, or wide receiver, your game sucks.


Map with three avenues of attack

Which Avenue of Attack to Choose?

The same is true in chess. The communication lines allow your troops to extend their operational range and mobility in order to fight successfully the opponent. The lines are routes that also connect your fighting units operating deep in the enemy territory with their “supply base” from where reinforcements are transported along these routes to strengthen the grip on the enemy.

Both line opening and line closing are a natural consequence of each move you make on the chessboard. The line opening is the result of a piece leaving a square. The closing is a consequence of occupying another square with the same piece.

There are useful and harmful sides of this effect. Increased moblity and scope of action are normally associated with line opening. Line closing has a reverse effect restricting fighting potential of chessmen.

While line opening is a well recognized topic and is given due attention in chess literature, line closing is kind of neglected a little. That is why I wanted us to cover it today.


chess cartoon - Avenues of Attack

This guy simply doesn't get what we are talking about here - it simply defies comm lines laws, while being watched by the rest of its army open-mouthed (chess cartoon by Jovan Prokopljević, Serbia)


It follows from what is already said, that you may benefit from a line closing maneuver if it eventually restricts the activity and mobility of the enemy pieces without interfering with the freedom of your men (understandably, this may be sometimes a conflicting task).

There are two ways you can use line closing effectively:

1) You play a piece that obstructs a mobile enemy piece,
2) You force the opponent to make a move which closes the operating line of his own piece.

On top of this, sometimes you also want to:

3) Spare a hostile piece (by not taking it out) if it has a harmful effect to its own camp, and
4) Block such a piece on its square to prevent the opponent from freeing up himself (by opening lines).

The justification for #3-4 above is that any encircled or blocked enemy units, in warfare in general, want to recover and attempt to break out and regain contact with their main force. As always, you must plan for the enemy’s most probable reactions (which is just a part of your overall strategic handling, ever watchful for enemy intentions).

Chess study by Henri Weenink - Avenues of Attack

Henri Weenink 1917

Henri Gerard Marie Weenink, born 1892, was both a problem composer and player. In the 1931 Amsterdam tournament he was 1st in a field that included Max Euwe and Rudolf Spielmann.

So how can Black stop the pawn, the careerist, after an obvious


Well, the White’s king is controlling the entry points on the a-file, so it seems Black must use the g-file to transfer his Rook to the back rank.

But, if he tries it immediately, it won’t help: 1…Rg8 2.Bg3+! and if the King moves, then 3.Bb8 with queening. Here we see an instance of line closing, actually an example of #1 above.

But Black can put up a more stubborn resistance.


The king must stay away of the 3rd rank as after 2.Kb3 follows 2…Rg8, and 3.Bg3+ won’t work now – the bishop is taken out with check, 3…Rxg3+.

The White’s Monarch is to keep control of the entry points on the a-file (a1, a2). Looks like a perpetual?

Not really as White has a clever trick up his sleeve!

2.Kb1! Rg1+

Position from Weenink's study - Avenues of Attack

After 2...Rg1+

Now what?


Line closing again! Black must accept the sacrifice as another try with 3…Rg8 isn’t working again, 4.Bg3+


Now we see the main point of the sacrifice: the rook is driven on the e-file. Incidentally, the Black’s ruler is there too, so we see the harmful effect (mentioned above) that a friendly piece may have on its army effectiveness. It’s kind of self-restriction, or self-interference (#2 above).

Now, it’s few more checks left and it’s all over:

4.Kb2 Re2+ 5.Kb3 Re3+ 6.Kb4

Of course, not 6.Ka4? Re1! and Ra1

6…Re4+ 7.Rb5 and wins.

Now, master line handling on the battlefield and your game will sure pick up!

Sometimes, just cut it off!


I wrote the article for the OnlineChessLessons.net and it was published on Sep 22, 2012