The main goal in chess is to mate the opponent. This can be done indirectly by creating a decisive material advantage, or via a straightforward mating attack. However, one shouldn’t aim for an assault in any position. If there are no prerequisites for it, you will probably run into trouble by forcing matters.
In most cases mating attacks occur in the middlegame, but sometimes in the opening (due to careless play) or the endgame (even without queens on board). Let’s review the typical prerequisites of a mating attack:
- Prerequisites based on the position
1) Location of the king
If the king is in the centre, hasn’t castled or is exposed, it is worth considering attacking it. A king is a very slow piece. Should it get stuck in the centre while many pieces are in the game, it has great chances to be eliminated soon.
2) Lead in development
A player with a lead in development has more active pieces. This may become a good factor for starting an attack.
3) Pawn structure
When the king is safely hidden by a chain of pawns on their initial squares (e.g. f2-g2-h2), it is one thing. Typical pawn moves (g3, h3) create weak squares that can be exploited by the opponent.
4) Location of pieces
When most of your pieces are targeting the opponent’s king, it may serve as an indication of an upcoming attack. The rule of thumb is that it’s better to have more pieces in the attack than your opponent has in the defense. To simplify matters, some American authors assign $ value to pieces and calculate how large an “investment” each player has in the conflict.
5) Space advantage
Advantage in space allows one to maneuver and relocate the pieces quickly. In such situations the defender may not be able to regroup his forces as quickly as the attacker, and thus lose.
6) Command of the centre
This item is similar to the previous one. The player who has control of the centre has no difficulty transferring his pieces to attacking positions. When a piece is located in the center, it is usually more effective (especially knights).
7) Opposite-side castles
Opposite-side castles often lead to races on different sides of the board, when each player is trying to find the right balance between defending and attacking the opponent. Opposite-side castles allow the attacker to use pawns actively (e.g. sacrificing them to open up files) since his own king’s pawn shield won’t suffer (due to being placed on the other side of the board).
- Prerequisites that are not based on positional factors
1) Your opponent is afraid of attacks
By studying your opponent’s games, you may find out what types of positions he prefers and dislikes. If you see that he is a very poor defender, you may want to play actively.
2) Time trouble
It is very hard to defend well in time trouble, so the time factor can be used to one’s advantage too. However, one shouldn’t rely on reckless attacks and cheap tricks (hoping that the opponent will fall for them in time trouble) unless one is completely lost.
Sometimes a single prerequisite is enough for starting an attack, while in other cases a few are required. It is also important to keep an eye on your partner’s options. Quite often people are so excited about their attack that they go all-in, create structural weaknesses in their position and lose to counter-attacking players.
The following game was played in 2007. By reviewing it you will see a few methods of collaboration between pieces in an attack.
Most of the White pieces were aimed at the Black king, which led to a choice of an attacking scenario. This is quite typical for such structures in the Ruy Lopez. Other factors: a strong knight on f5, a Black pawn on h6. Black kept playing rather carelessly and soon witnessed the harassment of her king. It is worth noting that all the White pieces took part in the attack.