Most Attacks Are Unsound

Attacking is stronger than defending in beginner chess, and even in intermediate chess. The attacker has an easier game whereas the defender is lost from even a single defensive mistake. Hence the recommendation in beginner and intermediate chess is always to play attacking chess. You don’t have to attack the King, but you should attack somewhere on the board, and avoid passive play. Active play is stronger.

But at higher levels of chess, many attacks can be rebuffed. Accurate defensive play can overcome many attacks. There is a saying that “most attacks are unsound” and also that “most sacrifices are unsound”. This is not easy to prove, because it’s easy to become flustered when under attack. But careful analysis of all of the defensive measures can often find a solution.

True mastery of chess involves mastery of the defensive techniques. Some of the defensive techniques include returning sacrificed material, accurate tactical calculation, using the correct defensive setup, avoiding opening lines, swapping off attacking pieces, swap Queens, hiding the King behind enemy pawns, running with the king, and many other techniques.

One good way to win a chess game is to wait for your opponent to become over-confident and to launch a sacrificial attack. You can pocket the material, defend carefully, return some of the extra material, and then counter-attack by opening the center. This is an advanced strategy but there are some grandmasters who rely heavily on this style of play.

Does it sound like a swindling strategy? Well, it does often rely on tactical resources. But there’s also a valid theoretical basis as to why lots of attacks are unsound. Here’s the theory. By launching an attack, the attacker diverts their forces from controlling the center to controlling the area around the enemy King. And also, in theory, an attacker needs more pieces than a defender, so a defender can often successfully defend their King with fewer pieces than are attacking it. Thus, if the defender can rebuff an attack with fewer pieces than their opponent has used in the attack, the defender will ultimately have more control of the center, and more pieces in the center of the board. If the King survives the attack, then the defender is often dominant in the other parts of the board.

So there is some theory to this strategy. But it’s one of the most difficult and advanced strategies to use. Defending is hard in practice, and hard psychologically. For advanced players only.

Related Chess Tactics

Read more about these related chess strategies: