Does White always start the game being aggressive because they play first? Is Black always supposed to defend and react to White’s moves?
Is it better to attack? Or it is better to defend?
Many beginners are confused about it.
Here, we will share 2 examples with you from which you’ll see how attack and defense work in chess.
From it, you’ll learn about the importance of both attack and defense, regardless of the color you start with. We will also share a key question you can ask whenever you are defending positions, and ultimately share which strategy is better.
Keep reading the article to find out.
Black can also attack!
Just because you see openings where White starts attacking right from the start, doesn’t mean Black can’t do the same.
Here’s one common example, where White initially starts the attack but ends up retreating backward soon.
1.e4 e5 2.Qh5
White attacks the e5-pawn
White threatens a mate. Now many beginners often find this intimidating.
But soon you’ll see how Black starts an attack of their own from here onwards.
3…g6 4. Qf3 Nf6 5.Nh3
White still dreams of creating a strong attack.
5…Bg7 6.Ng5 O-O
Black secures their king and is now ready for a counterattack.
7.Nxf7 isn’t effective as after 7…Rxf7 8.Bxf7 Kxf7 – Black has 2 pieces for White’s extra Rook which is considered as an advantage.
7…Nd4 8.Qd1 d5
Black is ready to break through the centre!
Black pushes forward. Meanwhile, White is still dreaming of an attack.
Black’s pieces are arriving on the battlefield one by one. And because White has ignored their defense for so long, they’re about to be crushed!
11.f3 exf3 12.gxf3 Nxh5!
Black sacrifices a piece knowing that their attack is irresistible. The rook and queen will join soon after which it will be game over!
Here’s how the game could end –
13.fxg4 Qxg5 14.gxh5 Qg2 15.Rh4 Rfe8+ 16.Be2 Rxe2+ 17.Qxe2 Qxe2#
What we can learn from this game
- Black can also attack, even if White starts the game aggressively!
- White cannot ignore their development. Because of this, Black’s attack grew stronger. If White’s queenside pieces would have been developed, they wouldn’t face such an unpleasant attack.
- White should’ve started defending from move 6(!) once their initial attacking burst was over. So instead of 6.Nh3, they should’ve gone for 6.Ne2 or 6.c3, preventing the Black knight from jumping to d4.
Now here’s share another important example. The tables are reversed. It’s Black who is trying to attack in this popular line of the Budapest Gambit.
White should defend
The play starts with
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ne4
Black has bravely marched ahead with their knight. If White is careless here and plays 4.f3, then Black plays 4…Bb4+ 5.Nd2 Qh4+ and it’s game over for White.
Therefore it’s important to take a defensive approach now as White.
So what do we play here?
First, we need to see what would Black play if it were their move. What’s Black’s threat?
Once you look closely into the position, their idea becomes clear. It is to play …Bb4+ and trouble the White king. Therefore, it’s important to stop it.
Now it’s much easier to spot White’s move.
Taking the b4-square under control!
Black persists and attacks. Once again, let’s understand their threat – 5…Qxf2#.
Alright, now we know their threat, so how do we prevent it?
5.g3! Qh5 6.Bg2
White doesn’t mind giving up the pawn. It’s more important to develop pieces.
White attacks the Black knight!
White attacks again, bringing new pieces into the battle.
And White is more than comfortable in this position. The opening book says that White is slightly better.
What we can learn from this game
- No matter what the color, you might be forced to defend. In that case, be open to the possibility of defending.
- Don’t hesitate to defend. You’ll get your chance to attack soon!
- We learned about an important question to ask whenever we are defending – ‘What’s my opponent’s threat?’
- Prioritize piece development over keeping extra material. The more forces you have, the higher your chances to succeed in the battle.
So should you attack or defend?
Chess is a rich game that cannot be confined to a specific set of answers. So the best strategy is to use a mixture of attack and defensive moves as you saw in the examples above. The side which persists with one strategy will usually be punished, be it attacking relentlessly or defending passively.
But if you were to lean towards one, go for the attacking strategy! It doesn’t mean you ignore defense, but you can give a slight preference to aggressive actions (like say 60-40).
That’s because it’s more simple to attack than to defend. Also if you observe the games of top players, you’ll see that those who play more aggressively are more often rewarded.
We hope this gives you a better picture of the scenarios to use attack and defense in chess.
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