How to Attack: The Mighty h-pawn

There are many ways of attacking in chess and learning players if serious at all, should familiarise themselves with as many of these methods as possible.

If you cannot attack, then you have to just sit there passively and allow your opponent to come at you aggressively.

You might become one of these players who “shuffle” their pieces around the board trying to superficially “control open files” or “place your knight in the centre”, all without an idea how to combine these concepts intelligently towards an attacking plan.

A successful  attack often leads to checkmate and checkmate is how you win, right?

Its not that complicated.

For this reason, it kind of frustrates me to hear learning players say things like “I’m more of a defensive player”.

Look guys, defence is what the weaker side does.

If you are defending, it means somebody is outplaying you.

You need to learn how to attack.

Its as simple as that.

What I hope to do with the current series of posts is to improve your knowledge of attacking technique and to share a few tips and lessons from my own experience as well.

I’m sure you’ll get a lot from it so let’s begin.

In order to attack, it should be understood that you can only successfully attack something which is a weakness, and If your opponent is a half decent player, he will not willingly weaken his position for you.

You’ll need ways to provoke or create a weaknesses in his position.

One of the most commonly used “weakness creation” methods used by strong players is an aggressive launch of the h-pawn.

In fact, Australian chess legend Alan Goldsmith (known for his amazing creativity when attacking) once said:

“When you don’t know what to do, throw your h-pawn at them!”

Although Alan was probably only half serious when saying this, he was touching upon something which is very true.

Often in a quiet position, launching your h-pawn down the board can quickly create an attackable weakness in the enemy camp, which can then lead to quick victory

There are a few ways the h-pawn can be used in attack, all of which I’ll cover below:

 

1. Open the h-file for your rook

This is perhaps the most common reason strong players will launch their h-pawn up the board.

The defending side has castled into a fianchetto structure, and so the attacking side wishes to allow their rook (from its original square) to participate in the attack.

The attacker launches his h-pawn forward and exchanges it for the enemy g-pawn, thus opening the h-file.

Here’s an example from one of my games.

Did you notice how once I’d used the h-pawn to open the file, things ended very quickly?

Its a very powerful method, now let’s see number 2.

2. Create holes in the enemy position

With this method, the attacking side launches the h-pawn forward in order to create a hole (a weak square which cannot be defended by a pawn) in the enemy position. Once this hole exists, the attacker will strongly place pieces on these squares. If the hole is close to the enemy king, this can lead to a very quick win.

Here is an example of chess engine Prodeo 2.0 using this strategy.

Notice how when the white h-pawn got to h6, black was basically forced to play 16…g6, creating a huge hole on the f6 square.

After that Prodeo just maneuvered around these holes and created threats which eventually couldn’t be parried, and led to a nice win.

Pretty instructive stuff! Here’s number 3.

3.Soften the king’s pawn cover (for a piece sacrifice)

With this method, the attacker simply wants to use his h-pawn to exchange for a more vital defensive pawn and make an intended piece sacrifice more devastating.

After castling, a king generally has three pawns giving him cover, but when this is reduced to two (or even worse, one), the attacking side will start looking for ways to sacrifice.

Witness the way the brand new engine (review coming soon) Rodin 8.0 Attacker conducts the following attack. 1.Throw the h-pawn, 2. Exchange a defensive pawn and 3. Sacrifice a piece!

Its like clockwork and very intelligent play for an engine!

So there you go!

A few methods which if used well, can cause your opponents terrible problems.

I’ll leave you with videos from the four part series I did on this subject in 2014.

 

Enjoy the videos and take care!

Your chess coach,

Brendan