Takchess Chess Improvement

A Novice chessplayer works to get better at chess using an improvement program based upon the methods of Michael de la Maza and the teachings of Dan Heisman

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Art of Attack in Chess Book Club

I recently read SamuraiPawn's blog and about his fascination with the Art of Attack in Chess by Vladmir Vukovic . He convinced me to spend some time on it. I am have sampled it various times during the past year but have not read it with any consistency. I now intend to read it straight through, take notes on this blog and slowly study the games. I invite anyone who wants to join me to follow along and add any notes you care to in the Comment Section. (feel free to do this even if it is weeks, months or years after this initial blog was posted)

The Art of Attack in Chess Vladmir Vukovic

About the Book

Written in the mid-sixties, Vukovic's intermediate book is considered to be a classic of learning about Attacking in Chess. Many Grandmasters have spoke of it's influence in their play. It is an important book in it's attempt to explore why some attacks fail while others succeed. From this analysis, the author tried to determine some general principles to assists one play.

It is not an easy read and I am using the updated John Nunn's 1998 EVERYMAN CHESS edition which translated the games to Algebraic Notation, added more diagrams, checked the analysis, added footnotes and polished the language.


(VV had a historical perspective and often talked of the development of the rules of the game and style of play. My sense is he felt that the modern chess players of his time were somewhat wimpy and risk adverse) .

During the period from Morphy to Steinitz to Lasker the value placed on attack decreased with perfection of defensive technique. This was followed by a new Attacking period where Capablanca and especially Alekhine perfected the technique of Attack on the castled position based on sound positional play. Style of play again turned away from the risk of direct attack to a more safety first approach based on opening study. He felt there would be a time when Alekhine principles would be completely understood and we would enter a new phase of attacking play.( I wonder if Kasparov's play might be this new phase ?)

VV points out that learning attacking play is fun (The Takchess Creed)

There exists an extremely large group of chess players who are no longer beginners nor, on the other hand, masters or point hunters, but players who aim primarily at deriving an aesthetic satisfaction from the game. For such players an attacking game is more attractive than positional technique and they will continue to attack regardless of risk., for their stormy contest are not going to be noted down in theoretical textbooks.

Various kinds of Attack (VV 3 categories)

1. Latent Attack: The main action is not in fact an attack on the king, but there is the possibility of such an attack latent in the position, some threat or other is being nurtured, or else the attack is concealed in a least one variation. (this is a double attack with mate or a check as one of the attacks )

2. A player's action really does contain a direct threat to his opponent's king, but his opponent can stave off this threat at a certain price by giving up material or spoiling his position. (the majority of attacks fall in this category)

3. The attacker carries out an uncompromising mating attack in which he can invest even a considerable amount of material, as long as he is certain of mating in the end. (the highest degree of attack)

(VV breaks attacks into further categories which serve as the following chapters )

Chapter 1 The Attack Against the Uncastled King

Chapter 2 The Attack on the King that has Lost the Right to Castle

Chapter 3 On Castling and Attacking the Castled Position in General

Chapter 4 Mating Patterns

Chapter 5 Focal-points

Chapter 6 The Classic Bishop Sacrifice

Chapter 7 Ranks, Files, and Diagonals in the Attack on the Castled King

Chapter 8 Pieces and Pawns in the Attack on the Castled King

Chapter 9 The Attack on the Fianchettoed and Queenside Castling Positions

Chapter 10 Defending Against the Attack on the Castled King

Chapter 11 The Phases of the Attack on the Castled King

Chapter 12 The Attack on the King as an Integral Part of the Game

( Vukovic goes on to create very basic definitions and observations on which he builds his theories)

The Basic Pattern of Mate

For mate to be obtained, the king must be deprived of nine squares in the middle of the board, six squares on the edge or four squares in the corner. Some of these squares may be blocked by the kings own supporting pieces but the rest must be taken by the attacker through the agency of his own pieces or pawns. If all the squares surrounding the king are taken from it and if the square of which on which the king is also in check and without means of defence, then the king is checkmated.

The Mating Pattern (def)- is the final position where these conditions are met ( picture a diagram of the board). Mating patterns can be typical (common) or atypical (uncommon).

Mating Squares and the Focal-Point

Mating Square (def) is that square where the King sits when it is mated . (the kings final resting spot).

Mating Focal-Point (def) is the square from which an opponents piece (other than a king, knight or pawn) mates the king at close quarters. (note- the spot where a bishop mates from a distance is not considered a mating focal-point)

Vlad's tip -To carry out a mating attack successfully it is always useful to

1) survey the possible matings patterns

2) to prepare a mating net accordingly

3) to concentrate on the focal point.

In many cases it is important to clear the focal point to deprive any opposing pieces of their control over that focal-point .

VV points out these common players errors regarding mating patterns

* The attacker fails to perceive that he can neither stop his opponent from moving his king nor drive him into a mating net but still plays for mate. It is futile which at best may lead to perpetual check . ( Yup, I'm guilty as charged)

*The attacker plays uses typical mating patterns overlooking atypical mating patterns in a continuation.

* The player sees all the possible mating patterns based on one focal-point but doesn't realize that it is negated by the king moving and what matters now is new patterns which he hasn't prepared for.

*The player decides on a course of attack based on a certain focal-point, without realizing that he cannot provide cover for it or even clear it of the influence of his opponents pieces . This mistake is to be found even in Master games.

The Art of the Mating Attack

VV puts forth the following questions:

How does a mating attack relate to the other operations which take place in a game of chess ?

How much is a mating attack conditioned by the actual position on the chessboard and how much by the skill of the attacker?

Where does the risk attached to a mating attack lie ?

About which points are the minds of players today still unclear with respect to carrying out the mating attack ?

here is his complex response to these questions.
The mate is the final objective of which all other considerations are only contributory. The mating attack requires more preconditions than other operations. There exists a number of definite preconditions for a mating attack and these combine to require a considerable superiority on the part of the attacker. If he has abundant superiority, little skill is need but if his superiority just borders on a correct attack then maximum skill is required to carry out the attack.
The present day formula is to carry out a series of preliminary operations which require only a small degree of advantage and then (in theory) you will obtain a large degree of superiority that makes a success mating attack. However this tendency has cause players to fail to exploit the attack when the opportunity arises and masters have a tendency to overweigh the risk in attack.
It is not clear what are the minimum requirements for attack what kind of advantage is required. It may be available for a single moment in a game which never returns. Another unresolved question is in that of a players skill to properly weigh up the obligation. The order of preparatory moves are extremely important.
An important rule: Moves that require fewer obligations should be carried out before moves which are more strongly binding. (this is what we learn from Alekhine's play)
A few words about the kind of superiority needed. When one is superior in time and space. The attacker as a rule is stronger where the attack is occurring but must have considerable superiority. Even a queen on a mating focal square requires a piece to support it. For such pieces to be brought into an attack one needs a temporal advantage where the opponent can't organize a timely defense or a sufficient counterattack. Normally this condition is based upon the comparable immobility of the opponents pieces. In order to judge if an attack should begin one must look at all these factors .
The correct launching of an attack is the crucial difficulty that has cause many masters to steer away from attack onto a more positional approach( which often leads to drawish play) Without studying the art of attack there will be no advancement in chess. It is a spark that sits in every corner and must be nutured till one turns it into flame. Lasker once observed if there is ever an opportunity for an attack one must carry it out otherwise one advantage will evaporate.

(this concludes notes on the introduction,Chapter 1 The attack on the UnCastled King to follow next week )

I gave myself a little homework -study this game from Chapter 1.


  • At 10:06 AM, Blogger drunknknite said…

    It took me a LONG time to get through this book, it was probably about 6 years ago now but this was one of the first serious books that I read. I know it's a hard read, but DON'T GIVE UP!, especially if you want to play attacking chess.

    I also wanted to add a little bit about latent attack; it is much more than just a double attack threatening the king; it is simply the possibility of building an attack. Usually consisting of a spatial advantage around the opposing king. A lot of games in the Ruy Lopez have this kingside attack just hanging around and if Black goes wrong then the attack slowly builds into a direct threat. The latent attack is very difficult to evaluate due to its subtle and deep nature.

  • At 2:46 PM, Blogger Temposchlucker said…

    I loved the book. Especially the preconditions for an attack are very relevant.

  • At 5:22 PM, Blogger Blue Devil Knight said…

    Great summary. Tempting now to bust it out even before I read Art of Checkmate.

  • At 2:33 AM, Blogger Glenn Wilson said…

    I read TAOAIC years ago, or at least I read through it. It is one of the books on my mental list to re-read and study in depth one day. Your notes are tempting me to do it sooner rather than later...

  • At 10:05 AM, Blogger Chessaholic said…

    awesome intro/summary! have had the book for a while but haven't spent much time on it. might change that now so I can contribute some thoughts.

  • At 11:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Great post. This book has been on my wishlist for a while and after reading your post it is even more tempting. But I guess I should finish some other stuff before getting into this. In any case, i will follow your progress, have fun!

  • At 4:56 PM, Blogger Steve in TN said…

    We're trackin' at http://sdo1.blogspot.com/2007/12/chess-takchess-book-club.html.

    Don't stop, the book is well worth MANY sessions.

  • At 6:56 AM, Blogger takchess said…

    DNite thanks for the comments on the latent attack. VV explanation on the latent attack I found to be somewhat fuzzy.

    Everyone,Thanks for the encouragement and glad to hear so many of you found the book to helpful. I am glad I made this commitment on the web to study it as it is not a simple book and I need a plan.

    BDK, I took art of checkmate out of the library. Basic stuff.You could probably finish it in a weekend.

  • At 6:44 AM, Blogger Buckwheat said…

    Hey, thanks for doing this. Great idea. And I love your summary. vv is a tough read to take on alone. But with group-think... this could work. I'm in!


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