Saturday, December 31, 2022

Pivotal points

In the beginning, there can be only one goal 

From the start position, there can be only one goal. Attack the King! For the simple reason, that there is no other weak target in the enemy camp that is slow enough and vulnerable enough to go for.

In order to attack the King, you must create the LoA's towards the focal points near the King, and towards the defenders of those LoA's (lines of attack).

Where are the focal points

There are three places where the King can be, in the middle, castled kingside and castled queenside. This means, that your attackers must be flexible. Chess is a game of multi purpose moves. If you fulfil two goals with one move, and the enemy can only defend against one with his next move, you are making progress.

Creating a landscape of pivotal points

In the opening and the middlegame, you work on creating the LoA's. You have to have a plan for every piece. How is your rook on a1 going to participate in the attack? Do you need a rooklift via a3-g3 towards the focal point g7? Or should it go via the pivotal points d1-d3-g3-g7?

The pawn landscape

The pawns determine which lines of attack are open, which remain closed and where the outposts are. They determine the pivotal points where your attackers can turn their face towards the focal points near the enemy King or to the defenders of those focal points.

Contribution to the LoA landscape

There are a lot of positional concepts that are rather vague.

  • Piece activity
  • Mobility
  • Central occupation
  • Outpost
  • Rook on open file
  • Good and bad bishops
  • Break through
  • Space advantage
When you ask yourself "how does it contribute to the line of attacks against the King?" you have a concrete way to value these concepts. All these positional concept are playing a role in the battle of the lines of attack. Space advantage is for manoeuvring your attackers towards the king. So now you can judge when a space advantage is useful and when it is not. Which files should you open for your rooks? The files that lead to the focal points. Where to put your pawns in the center? On places where they leave the lines of attack open, where the protect the pivotal points et cetera.
The contribution of a move to building a LoA landscape is a concrete way to judge the value of that very move.

Of course you need to develop a sense for the patterns that accompany the LoA landscape first.

Elastic moves
Since you are not alone on the board, you must learn to play flexible moves. Dual purpose moves. As I said, only via dual purpose moves, you can hope for an advantage. They have their own distinguished patterns, and you can't find problem sets with them, so you will have to find them yourselves.

Pump up the pressure
By pumping up the pressure, a few different things can happen.
  • the King feels obliged to leave the middle of the board in order to escape the pressure. That is already a success in itself, since a castled King cannot escape the coming onslaught anymore by castling.
  • defenders become tight down by the things they must defend. That is where tactics might start to manifest.
  • pawn moves are provoked because lines of attack must be closed. But pawn moves leave weak squares in their wake. Which might open up new points of pressure.
  • Mate might threaten. Which can cause the opponent to lose wood in order to prevent it.
  • You might be able to convert to a favourable endgame at will. Notice that you must only be able to get a favourable endgame, but you must be able to do so with enough time on the clock to play that very endgame.
At this stage of the game, other weaknesses might appear. Only here other goals might be created by force. If these goals are worth to pursue, this is the place to change the course of your actions.

And of course, if you have given too little thought to the lines of attack of your opponent, he might start a counter attack here.

So far, your moves will have shown little commitment. Only when all preconditions of an attack are met, you can consider more committal moves, like sacrifices and all that. But If you can do without, it is even better.

I intend a series of posts about the Art of Attack in Chess. Since it is totally clear this is the way to go for me. Vukovic points especially towards the games of Alekhine and Capablanca as grandmasters who carried out their attacks from move one, this way. Alekhine in an analytical way, and Capablanca as a more intuitive and creative player. I look forward to it!


  1. My wife passed away and my house has been on fire, so chess is on the backburner.

    1. OMG, we are so sorry my friend :(((

      I cannot imagine how terrible it must have been and we keep fingers crossed on you to recover.

  2. Loss of the beloved is one of the hardest things in life to cope with. Life goes on, but the zest for it diminishes. I'm very sorry Margriet is no longer with you. You will be in my thoughts and prayers.

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