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Today I was playing chess against somebody at my internship company. He went all-out attack in the begin and I was only defending. He actually made some mistakes and lost his queen, rook and bishop. I won in the end fairly easy. We had a discussion afterwards about the 'all-out attack strategy'.

Is it a good thing to go all out attack or should you attack slowly? What is the best way or is it different each player? I'm not really good and the other is just as 'good' as I am.

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    We would need to see the game as neither all-out attack or all-out defense always work or are always appropriate. If your opponent dropped (versus traded) his Q, R, and B, then there are bigger issues to solve. – Tony Ennis Dec 10 '15 at 12:55
  • Basically what he did was attacking me while I just defended my pieces. Almost all his pieces were at my side except for the king, some pawns and the rooks. The fact he lost his pieces was just due to not seeing I could take them. Capturing the rook was just my strategy, same with the bishop (that's why I love knights!). He had to choose between them and his queen. Unfortunately for him, he captured a piece with his queen and didn't notice my rook attacking his queen. I prefer a slow attack but he said an 'all out attack' is better. That's what I don't know whether it's really better or not. – Joshua Bakker Dec 10 '15 at 13:01
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To me, the game you described was an absolute beginner game. It wasn't important how the attack was conducted, all-out or slow, you opponent was just blundering pieces and even the queen! It didn't matter whether you were defending or attacking or doing nothing, you'd have won easily in any case. Your opponent had absolutely no idea what he was talking about.

At this level, it'd be better to focus on avoid giving away pieces.

But to answer your question, if I was to play your game, I'd go for the Scholar's Mate or launch a quick but dirty pawn-storm. I'd also move my queen out early and hope for some free pieces to capture. It'd be a diseaster against anyone experienced, but highly effective against a beginner.

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    When I read the question first thing came in mind was that this is a beginner game :-) – Saeed Amiri Dec 10 '15 at 13:48
  • Actually he is pretty okay. What I am wondering is, is it better to go all out of attack or just a slow attack? How I see it, is that he focused on capturing my pieces that I could defend. At the end, I can move my pieces strategically to capture his. Of course, we both aren't that good and I mostly lose against other people at my internship company (2 have been playing Chess their whole life and the other for around a year, while I've been playing Chess for like 1 month or so. – Joshua Bakker Dec 10 '15 at 13:52
  • @JoshuaBakker Very hard to give you an objective answer without more details. I think a slower attack would be better. You wait for free pieces to capture by just sitting. – SmallChess Dec 10 '15 at 14:00
  • Well I just want to get better and I practice pretty much. I don't want to learn openings and I want to be able to move my pieces strategically but I don't know what's the best way of playing. The guy I was playing with said in his opinion all out attack is the best way since attacking is the best defense and since he was attacking all I did was defending (so I couldn't attack) and it could've gone his way if he paid attention. – Joshua Bakker Dec 10 '15 at 14:04
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    @JoshuaBakker He might be right, attack is the best form of defence. But that doesn't mean attacking all-in would be a good idea. It's risky and requires accurate thinking. Usually, when someone just attack and attack and attack, the guy really can't play chess. You can always counter-attack him. There is no such thing you must sit and defend. Post your game if you remember the moves. – SmallChess Dec 10 '15 at 14:07
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Summary: It depends on the position. If the king is vulnerable, you have the initiative, there are many open lines or you have made material or positional concessions, then an all-out attack may be possible, but you have to be sure of your calculations.

Based on this, there is no decisively better way to approach the question of slow vs. all out attack. Players have preferences and this is reflected in their opening repertoires. E.g. if a player prefers all out attacks, they may play gambit openings or openings that accept structural deficits to gain open lines.

The speed of the attack depends on the position, specifically:

  1. The size of the initiative. Because the initiative is short term, if you have a large initiative then you need to use it e.g. to checkmate, gain material or threaten to checkmate/gain material. If you have a milder initiative, you need to maintain that edge, or convert it into something more tangible, e.g. material, space, better pawn structure etc.
  2. The quality of development. Development relates to how many pieces are off their starting squares and in active, well placed positions. This is important because if you have developed more pieces, then you have more in play, so it is like playing with a bigger army. But development is like the initiative: it is short term (your opponent isn't going to leave their forces at home for long) and varies in size (having 3 more pieces out than your opponent is a significant advantage. One more is less significant)
  3. Material (1). A player may sacrifice material to gain the initiatve, increase development, control open lines, restrict the opponent's pieces etc. The amount of material that is sacrificed influences the speed of the attack. If I sacrifice a pawn and the attack does not succeed, then I might be able to defend an inferior endgame and draw. If I sacrifice the Queen and the attack does not succeed, then I should probably resign the game!
  4. Material (2). I mentioned the amount of material there is on the board, but that does not account for the quality of the material. For example, bishop of opposite colour middlegame situations favour the player with the initiative, and the amount of material often takes a back seat. Why? Because if I am attacking using dark square weaknesses, and my opponent doesn't have a dark square bishop to defend those weaknesses (say they have a light square bishop), then it is like I am attacking up a whole piece. The converse is true: if my opponent gets the iniative and attacks me on the light squares, then I have a problem. Lastly, bishop of opposite colour games are very interesting, because they tend to be exceptions to bullet point 3, i.e. bishop of opposite colour endgames are notoriously drawish due to the opportunity for one side to build a fortress, meaning material deficits are less important in these games
  5. Open lines. Lines (ranks, files, diagonals) that are open lead to quicker attacks, as there are more targets, e.g. pawns sat on open lines to be attacked by the rooks. Closed games lead to slow, building attacks instead. As an aside, one player may take a structural deficit to gain open lines, hence an attack. One famous example of this is the isolated Queen pawn. The c and e files are open, but there is a long term structural concession in the form of the pawn being potentially weak.
  6. King position. A king that is still in the centre may warrant opening lines to it to drum up a mating attack
  7. A specific target. This is very broad, but examples of specific targets to aim for are: queen developed too early (you can develop quickly by kicking the queen around), backwards pawn (you can build a slow attack by piling up on it and maybe winning the pawn eventually), defense too far away (e.g. all of the opponent's pieces are separated from the king) etc.
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Attack or defense should be an outcome, not a decision. You better don't go for all-out attack or slow attack or attack in any way without a vulnerability in opponents position, as it will end like this:

all-out attack example
(source: virginmedia.com)

Normally, you should evaluate the position, if opponents position is vulnerable you have to go for an attack, if your position is vulnerable you have to go for a defense. If you ignore the facts and decide with emotions, you lose a lot.

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Aggressiveness and the initiative are important to have. As White, you have the initiative by virtue of the first move. Black will strive first of all to blunt this initiative to reach equality and then may try to win. I've discovered over the years that mistakes of aggressiveness are not necessarily fatal, whereas defensive mistakes usually have more serious consequences. Hence it may often be worth while to give up something to gain or keep the initiative, such as the cost of a pawn in an opening gambit. If you gradually can improve your position before beginning a strong attack, that can be equally successful. A gambit isn't required. Controlling the center is generally necessary before you can launch a successful attack against the castled king. For that reason a premature attack by your opponent shouldn't succeed, barring any glaring mistakes on your part.

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Are you actually serious about wanting to get better? To the point where you could play in tournaments for example.

It sounds like you are not, because you don't want to learn openings. But it annoys you that other people in the company are better than you. How much does it annoy you? How much work are you prepared to put in?

Just asking a casual question about whether it is better to attack or defend won't do it. Attacking is more fun, and that might be as far as you want to take it. Serious players will have personal styles and preferences, but will know that attacks must be prepared. That means understanding openings. If you are very serious you will need to learn them. If you are less serious you will need to know some general ideas, such as what is a weakness.

If you have only been playing for a month you don't know yet how important chess may be to you. Play a bit more. Have fun. If you find that you do want to work a bit, you will probably be able to think of a better question.

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