Monday, January 21, 2008

Strategic Planning - Minority Attack

Let's begin first with a definition of what a Minority Attack is. No - it is not Knights and Bishops ganging up on pawns, or Rooks beating a Bishop back to a1. A Minority Attack is when one side has less pawns on the wing in question and proceeds to advance those pawns in an effort to attack the opposing pawn majority. This is the basic idea behind the Minority Attack.

Classical Goals

From a purely classical point of view, the Minority Attack was somewhat nonexistent up until the 1920's where mechanical methods mostly decided what strategic ideas were possible in a position. Once the usefulness of the Minority Attack became evident, things changed for both sides. These things were, given the Minority Attack on the Queenside from White's perspective:

Weakness of c4, and sometimes e4

When White, the Minority, advances his b-pawn to b4, this leaves a distinctive hole on c4 begging for a Black Knight to come and perch. Black would then strive to: a) exchange the light-squared bishops, and b) attempt to place a Knight on c4 via b6 or d6 (or both). White would, of course, try to counter those plans. Black, by playing a6 to prevent b5, has some problems as well. It weakens the square b6 directly and c5 indirectly, given that if black proceeds with b6 (to strengthen c5), then the a6-pawn could come under assault. As is said, "All pawn moves create weaknesses".

Prevention of b4-b5 by black via b5; followed by the placement of a Knight on c4

This method of countering the Minority Attack has a very simple precept: b5 should not be played by Black until White has commited his b-pawn to b4. Black's main task in these positions is to occupy c4 with a Knight to block major-piece assaults on the c-file. White can attack with a Knight on e5 and an eventual e4 push, and a Bishop on f3 perhaps. You can clearly see here that the focus for White is the c6-pawn, the weakness Black created by playing b5. To say the least, this is a dangerous way to play, and Black must be sure he can defend all his weaknesses or obtains compensation in some order for this plan to materialize positively for him.

The transfer of the d5 pawn by black to e4 via a Knight exchange.

In this type of position, Black's new pawn formation somewhat cramps white on the kingside, offers attacking chances to Black, and gives him a nice outpost on d5 for a piece. On the other hand, Black relinquishes control of c4 - a vital point for him in the Minority Attack on the queenside. White will attempot the advance b4-b5, potentially obtaining a passed d-pawn after Black plays c6xb5. Obviously, Black will have his best chances with piece-play because of the pawn structure and the potential of a kingside attack, otherwise, White will make good on his advantage on the queenside advance. Pachman goes so far as to give piece combinations and who stands better, in a very general sense:

  • White: Q, 2R, N vs Black: Q, 2R, B (white squared); White has good chances
  • White: Q, 2R, N, B vs Black: Q, 2R, N, B (white squared); White has good chances
  • White: Q, 2R, N vs Black: Q, 2R, N; Black has better chances

I hope this little summary of the Minority Attack whets your appetite for strategic thinking. Being aware of basic strategic themes and how to handle them will take you a long way in finding the correct plan in a position. Often it becomes a matter of who 'knows' how to handle a strategic element in a game that can get the advantage over their opponent. Being aware of the ins and outs of the Minority Attack is important in that regard.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That is really interesting. Thanks for this explanation.