How do I play in an attacking manner? I know it sounds silly, but whenever I play, I am usually on the defensive. My opponents attack, forcing me into a corner, and usually won. The few times I attack, the opponent easily rebuffs my attacks, since I often lose control of the situation trying to attack. Plus, attacking moves do not come obviously to my mind. I find that my opponents usually move in a different manner than I expect them to. In short, I'm usually good at tactics, but rather less so at strategy. I'd like some advice.
I played black. The game was over in two hours. I would like anyone's opinion on my game.

[fen "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 d6 4. dxe5 dxe5 5. Nc3 Qxd1+ 6. Nxd1 Be6 7. a3 O-O-O 8. Ng5 Rd7 9. Bb5 a6 10. Nxe6 fxe6 11. Bc4 Nd4 12. Ne3 b5 13. Bb3 Nxb3 14. cxb3 Nf6 15. f3 Rd3 16. b4 c5 17. Bd2 cxb4 18. axb4 Bxb4 19. Bxb4 Rxe3+ 20. Kf2 Rb3 21. Bc3 b4 22. Bxe5 Rf8 23. Rxa6 Ng4+ 24. Kg3 Kb7 25. Rxe6 Nxe5 26. Rxe5 Rxb2 27. Re7+ Kb6 28. Rxg7 b3 29. e5 Re2 30. Rb1 b2 31. e6 Re8 32. e7 Rb8 33. Rf7 Ka5 34. Rf8 Rb3 35. e8=Q Rxe8 36. Rxe8 Kb4 37. Rb8+ Kc3 38. Rxb3+ Kxb3 39. f4 Kc2 40. Rxb2+ Kxb2 41. f5 Kc3 42. f6 Kd4 43. f7 Ke5 44. f8=Q Ke6 45. Kf4 Kd5 46. Qe8 Kd6 47. Ke4 Kc5 48. Qd8 Kc4 49. Qd4+ Kb5 50. Kd5 Ka5 51. Kc5 Ka6 52. Qb4 Ka7 53. Kc6 Ka8 54. Qb7# 1-0

My analysis: 1-5: Started off as the Italian game, though this variation is a bit unusual for me. 5... Qxd1 To throw him off balance, hopefully. 6-8: To castle early, bishop placement intended to be safe. 9... a6 Taken from Morphy defense. 10..... General move 11... Nd4 Planning for a fork on King and Rook. 12... b5 Driving away the bishop. 13...Nxb3 I prefer to exchange a Knight for a bishop. 14... Nf6 General development. 15... Rd3 in the futile hope of a pawn win. 16-19: Thought I had a fair exchange. 20... Rb3 Threatening to take away the bishop. 21... b4 felt I had the momentum, wanted to press forwards. 22... Rf8 Defending my knight. 23... Ng4+ Thought I had a brilliant fork. 24...Kb6 To Avoid​ being skewered by 25. Ra8+ 25... Nxe5 At least I had an even exchange. 26... Rxb2 Planning for pawn promotion. 27... Kb6 Wanted my king to be in the middle of the action, not limited to last rank. 28... b3 Furthering pawn promotion 29...Re2 To attack his pawn moving ahead. 30... b2. To save my pawn, and also restrict the movement of the rook on front of me. 31... Re8. To doubly attack his pawn. 32...Rb8 Wanted to support my almost promoted pawn. I had vague plans of bringing my other Rook onto the first rank, let his rook capture mine, and promote my pawn by taking his room. 33... Ka5 Hoping to connect my rooks and also move my king ahead. 34... Rb3 Continuation of my promoting plans. Failed to notice his promoting plans! Got reckless, I guess.

35 onward: Doing my best to delay defeat.

I wonder how he held off my promotion attempts with just one rook, and got his promotion​ done using the other. Two of my rooks could do nothing

  • 1
    This sort of question can be answered much better if you could give us an example of one of your games. Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 7:24
  • @RemcoGerlich, how do I post a game of mine here? Can I just give the algebraic notation? I'd be glad to have your opinion! Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 9:33
  • See chess.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/179/… . Basically indent four spaces, start with [FEN ""] on one line and then an empty line, then add the moves in the right algebraic form (PGN) also indented four spaces. Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 9:37
  • Or if that post is too difficult just add the moves so someone can fix it. Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 9:37
  • Thank you, @RemcoGerlich, I posted one of my games, though I am not sure if I got the format right. I did add the moves, I hope that if there is anything wrong with them, it could be set right. Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 15:51

3 Answers 3


"In short, I'm usually good at tactics" - most of what you wrote up to that point kind of does contradict that: Your attacks are easily rebuffed, you cannot easily find attacking moves, and you fail to correctly predict your opponent's answers.

You have to understand that strategy and tactics go hand in hand. Good strategy uses tactical threats to force your opponent to make trade-offs, and good tactics are almost always prepared by strategically placing the pieces in supportive positions.

My guess is that what you were trying to say is that you are good at solving tactical puzzles where someone else already placed the pieces for you and you just have to find the mate in two or three. Now the question is how to get there, right? For this, try to expand the scope of the puzzles, e.g. try to find mates in 4 or 5, or try tactical problems where the goal is not to mate, but just to win a piece or even just a pawn. And do a lot of these puzzles, the more the better. To improve at "attacking play" you MUST practice how these attacks actually play out. Chess skill is mostly about learning and applying patterns.

Maybe counterintuitively, deepening your tactical understanding will improve your strategical play as well! The better you start recognizing the patterns from your tactical knowledge, the further you will be able to think ahead - hopefully further than your opponent. It works in both ways: On the defense, you might spot sooner that your position is weak to certain tactical motives - before your opponent can actually line up his pieces to exploit this instead of when the attack starts and it's too late. On the offense, you might spot the weaknesses to certain motives in his position and base your strategy around that (pressuring weak points in a way to force him to make concessions elsewhere because he needs to redirect his defenders).

I personally used the IdeaTactics app during an almost 10-year-long hiatus where I only did puzzles frequently while waiting for the bus etc., but did not play on-the-board at all. And I have to say that I am much better now that I started playing for real again, especially in the department of strategy! Of course, real games are good practice too, and you don't have to use this specific app (there are loads that do the same with the same quality). Good luck!

Comment to your analysis

Thanks for explaining your thoughts a little more! I have some thoughts about some of the moves, as well as your general strategy.

1-4: The opening is the Scotch, not the Italian Game (but who cares how it is called, this is just for clarification).

5+6: Good moves that delay his development.

6: While it generally is advisable to castle early, did you have in mind that the game tends to be a lot sharper when both players castled on opposite sides? Sometimes it is better to delay castling to see which side your opponent chooses. Since the queens are already off the board, your king is much safer from sudden mate attacks and can be allowed to remain in the middle for a few more moves. Castling here isn't bad, but it has implications. I would suggest 6.. Be7 first, development + coverage for g5).

7: Unfortunately, you don't give an explanation for Rd7. That move does nothing for your position at all except that it allows White a light pin on your knight in the next move. Where you scared about the possible fork on f7 and wanted to be sure? You didn't have to, because White had no way to attack f7 with another piece anytime soon (the queen was already gone and your bishop prevented his bishop to use the traditional Bc4. And Be2 can be met with Nf6 to control the h5 square while developing). To avoid the isolated doubled pawns, you probably have to play Re8, even though this loses the open d file for now (if Rd6, then Be3, threating Bc5).

9-11: Nothing to complain about.

12+13: The move b5 contradicts your plan from one move before: You force the white bishop to cover c2. Doubling his pawns on b3 might look nice, but it comes at the cost of opening your king's defense. Although, as mentioned, without queens you have a bit more freedom in that regard and your king is not threatened yet.

14+15: Good moves, put pressure onto your opponent.

16: Now your king is completely open. I see your idea, if White takes on c5, you can develop your bishop, free your rook on h8 and attack his knight. But, of course, he is smart enough to see it. Still, no harm so far.

17: Again, you completely step away from your plan from one move before. Remember, you wanted him to take on c5. Why destroy the bait now? Maybe you started feeling the lacking safety of your king, and indeed, he now has the option to pin your pawn with Rc1. You can however catch two flies with one hit: Kb7 not only moves your king out of the soon-to-be-open c file, but also covers the a6 pawn that will be undefended after the exchange on b4, which you can then still do next move with added safety.

18-20: The little combination looks fancy, but it is a terrible exchange in hindsight and the turning point of the game in my opinion. His knight was totally useless on e3 (virtually all of its forward moves are covered - even after it relocates to c2). Meanwhile, your bishop, even though still undeveloped at this point, isn't bad at all: It is a possible defender of d5, it can be used to attack his weak link on e3 some more (likely preventing him from castling) - while at the same time continue to put pressure on b4. Worse, the whole exchange frees White's own bishop to immediately pounce on d5. Your poor pawn structure was up to this point compensated by better piece activity, and you deliberately threw that compensation away. I'd still recommend Kb7 here. General rule of thumb: On the attack, you should not want to swap (unless you can force a mate/material winning combination by doing so) - after all, who is going to continue the attack when the attacking pieces are gone?

21: You felt like you had the momentum - big misconception. You just lost it without noticing, and have to start organising your defense now. You will lose either a6 or d5, but you won the pawn on b4 before, so that's okay. b4 does nothing for you, that bishop wanted to take on d5 anyways. Pressuring the opponent to do moves he intended anyways is not pressure at all.

22+23: Damn, if only your king had been on b7 already, then these moves would have been really cool and turned the game into a win once more.

24: Unfortunately, you have to move your king. I agree that your choice of Kb7 is better than Kd7 despite losing e6 as it doesn't open the king to checks from the rook on h1.

25-26: Reasonable, his bishop was much stronger than your knight.

Rest of the game: Let's face it, at this point you have lost anyways because of this reserve pawns on the kingside. Still, one last misplay before it could come to that, the promotion race. After 32 e7, you both have a similar situation: One rook blocking the enemy pawn, one protecting the own one from the side. You even had the additional advantage that your defending rook attacked his pawn at the same time. So how comes that..

..he hold off your promotion attempts with just one rook? Simple.. he never moved it away from the blocking position. To get past that block, you need at least one of your own rooks (to attack him from the side while covered by the pawn) and either the king or the other rook (to meanwhile defend the pawn).

..and got his promotion​ done using the other? With a little help from you. You did move your rook away from the blocking square. This greatly facilitates the described method: If he plays Rf7 and Rf8, with your rook still at e8, he only creates one threat (taking your rook with his) and you can simply take on e7 with the attacked rook, nullifying the threat. But after you moved the rook to b8, Rf8 actually creates two threats: Taking on b8 and promoting on e8. You can't cover both with the same rook, as now the attacked rook cannot take the pawn. The other rook is actually meaningless in this situation!

You could have resolved this particular problem earlier with 32 ..Rxe7, but you would have lost the resulting single rook endgame regardless. Maybe with slightly improved odds because your king would have been closer to the kingside compared to the continuation that happened in the game.

General Strategy

There were many good aspects in your play already, so don't give up hope! I also got a much better perspective on why you think you are lacking in the strategy department (correct observation). I think you still live too much in the here-and-now and do not consider longer lasting effects of your moves as much as you should. This goes hand in hand with how you evaluate the pieces (or don't). To you, you swapped two minor pieces (both 3 pawn units, so equal value) and got a pawn out of it (yay). What actually happened is that you swapped one vital of your own pieces for a useless piece of your opponent and a pawn, only to loose 2-3 pawns immediately afterwards as a consequence.

Thus my main advice is to push yourself to a different state of mind: It is not important what a piece is, or where it is, what truly matters is where it can go. That knight on e3 was bad because it couldn't go anywhere useful soon. Your move 6 ..Be6 was good because now the white bishop on c1 couldn't easily go to a useful square (f7) anymore. This extends not only to the squares that a piece can directly reach, but also those where it can reasonably be without hindrance (e.g. the Be3-Bc5 manoevre to counter 8..Rd6).

If you look at squares rather than pieces, you can develop much better plans by going backwards: Think of the squares in your opponent's structure that you would like to control. Then backtrack and make a plan of how to get your pieces there. Your calculation skills seem to be quite decent, so you can make use of that. If you spot a structure that is vulnerable to some kind of tactic, think of how you can get your pieces into positions where you could actually execute said tactic. Or how your opponent can get stuff into position towards your own weaknesses, even before he starts doing it.

Also, don't be impatient if your opponent finds the right answers to deflect your threats. That does happen. If both opponents play perfectly for the entire game, it will end in a draw. Don't try to force things when they are not there. And remember that chess is a game of tradeoffs: If your opponent replaced a piece to cover a square that you threatened to attack, that piece now does not cover other squares anymore. Maybe you can now attack there?

All of this comes from experience. If you lose again and again because you moved your pawns away from your king, your brain will get the message at some point (as long as you correctly assess your mistakes). So if you want to get better, play, play, play. And look at your games afterwards to see where you went wrong! The best way to do this is in a club with better players that can guide you (you can't put all your games on StackExchange :P).

  • Thanks, that's quite helpful. Hope to improve my game! BTW, I posted the game details you asked for in the question above. Would be glad if you could give your advice!☺ Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 14:43
  • thanks very much for spending your time on the detailed and insightful analysis! I now see where I went wrong, and will definitely try to be a better player, as I'm sure your advice will help me. I haven't yet tried out your suggestions, but will soon, and let you know of the results. Thanks again!☺ Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 14:51

I assume that by "attacking play" you mean a direct attack (mating attack) against the enemy king.

This question is too general to be answered unless all you want is a recommendation for study resources.

whenever I play, I am usually on the defensive

Need to see a specific game, but typically this happens if you neglect development, play too slowly or place your pieces in strange positions. Working on these might already help you.

Not every game/position lends itself to a direct attack. Sometimes it is better to play it slowly trying to gain small advantages. In the end chess is very concrete and whether an attack is successful will depend on many details. Some indications that it is time for an attack:

  • there are few defenders around the enemy king
  • your pieces are placed such (or can be placed such) that they aim at the enemy king; this usually means open files/diagonals or ways to achieve open files/diagonals
  • opposite side castling; such that if you open files on the side of the enemy king it does not affect your own king safety
  • a closed center; particularly useful for pawn storms. This prevents your opponent from starting a counter-attack in the center and also can make it more difficult for defenders to move from one side of the board to the other
  • some openings basically force you to go for an attack while in others it is rare that you would get any attack

Once you have decided that it is time for an attack, the question is how to do it?

  • Knowing/studying tactics is certainly useful.
  • Also you want to concentrate your forces for the attack (without neglecting your king's safety or without pieces standing themselves in the way).
  • You want to open diagonals/files in order to get an attack going. If the enemy king is hiding behind pawns (as is often the case), you can try to break this open with a pawn storm. If you do this, you need to be careful not to give your opponent the option to block/close the pawn structure on this side which will make an attack much more difficult (unless you see that you will be able to sacrifice a piece for a winning attack) Often it helps your pawn storm/attack, if the enemy pawns are not all on the same row, but if one or another has moved already, creating a "weakness" in the position.
  • Studying master games for openings/positions that you play and see how they handle the attack (if they attack).

Plus, attacking moves do not come obviously to my mind

If you decide that attacks are not for you, there is nothing wrong to play quieter, positional chess, if you pick your openings accordingly.

Regarding the example game

This is not what I would call an attacking game from either side. Around move 7 you achieved a somewhat boring symmetric position without weaknesses for either side. It is not a position suitable for what I'd call "attacking play". The main priority should be to complete the development without worsening the pawn structure. Plenty of space in the position, so keeping bishops over knights is probably preferable.

However you ran into: (i) 8 Ng5 which is somewhat inconvenient as it gives white at least the bishop pair and in the game also left you with an isolated doubled pawn which eventually was lost. (ii) 9. Bb5 which pinned your knight on c6 and could have left you with another doubled isolated pawn on the c-file.

Around move 15 you were back at an equal position because white was so nice to give you the bishop pair (13 Ba2 would have been much better and you would always have to worry about the e6 pawn). I would have completed development with 15... Bc5, doubled rooks on the d-file and IMO your position should be perfectly fine. Instead you went for direct play on the queenside which did not really work (18...Bxb4 is the final mistake) and only helped white to develop his pieces. If you occupy the only open file, there is no point to open another open file (a-file) for your opponent's rook.

I believe the rook ending around move 30 is lost, though you could certainly have fought harder for a draw.

At this level, it is reasonable to assume that your opponent can mate with king+queen. No need (and slightly impolite) not to resign, unless he was extremely short on time.

Overall I would say that you lost the game because (i) you had your pawn structure worsened and (ii) you helped your opponent to gain counter-play. Just making normal developing moves should have given you at least an equal position after move 15.

Regarding your analysis of the example game

1-5: Started off as the Italian game, though this variation is a bit unusual for me

If Bc4 Bc5 is not played, this is called Scotch game, not Italian game. Correct is 3...exd4 as after 3...d6 white can develop a tempo by playing 4.dxe5 dxe5 5.Qxd8+ Kxd8 6.Bc4.

6-8: To castle early, bishop placement intended to be safe.

With queens off the board there is no real need to castle early, though long castle does make much sense because it automatically puts your rook on the open file. Bishop placement on e6 is not all that safe as it turned out.

9... a6 Taken from Morphy defense

In the Ruy Lopez/Morphy defense the point is that you have to deal with potentially hanging pawn on e5 which you don't have here. 9...a6 seems a bit unnecessary as nothing is threatened except for Bxc6 (leaving you with weak pawns) which you don't prevent by playing a6.

15-26 ...

Agree with your assessment. Mostly a miscalculated rather long semi-forced tactical line.

  • Thanks,@user1583209, I'll try posting the algebraic notation of one my games here, if that is acceptable. Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 9:35
  • Thanks again, @user1583209! Is it acceptable on Stack Exchange for amateur players to post their games on the site for the benefit of the opinion of more experienced players? I'm new, so I don't know the protocol! Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 4:45
  • @HarryWeasley: As long as you have a concrete chess related question, it is fine to post a game. Posting 50 games and just asking: "Analyze this for me.", however is probably not appreciated. Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 7:15
  • Many chess players agree with you that refusal to resign is slightly impolite. I understand the sentiment but, for what it's worth, I disagree. The burden of sportsmanship should not be inverted. The burden lies on the opponent to respect OP's moves and clock. The occasional losing player who wishes to lose by checkmate is less of a problem in chess culture than is the fairly common winning player who rudely demands his opponent's resignation. If you are winning and your opponent happens to resign, fine; but otherwise, play to mate!
    – thb
    Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 10:03
  • @thb: Perhaps I am rude, but I see it mostly as a waste of time for both players. If you want to lose by checkmate, fine but at least cooperate and don't prolong this meaningless exercise by running away with the king. I'd also find it impolite if the opponent one move before mate had his clock run down deliberately with say 1 hour left on the clock... Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 10:27

First have a good position.

Play positionally and get a position where the attack will work. You can not just decide to go out and attack from the gitgo.

Or else become a tactical genius and learn how to make complex sacrifices that will not sound offer chances to win.

Your play was poor in the example. But black was not especially red hot either.

On 9 you should play NxB to double his pawns and get the two bishops.

On 5 you should play Qxd8 and win a pawn or else black cannot castle for some positional advantage.


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