Attacks on Diagonals

Attacks on Diagonals

When talking about minor pieces, we have noticed that many times there is a tendency to prefer either the knight or the bishop. In general, beginners like to play with the knights because of their ability to jump over pieces.

It’s not only once that I have watched my students chase a knight just to manage to exchange it for their bishop or play a mysterious knight move out of fear that their opponent might trade it off on the next move. While it’s true that knights are strong pieces, as we have stressed out before, in order to improve as a chess player, one has to learn to see the bigger picture and evaluate their minor pieces in accordance to the position.

As a general rule, knights are better in closed positions thanks to their ability to jump over pieces, while bishops in open ones, where their long “sight” becomes very powerful. We have already talked in our previous articles about the importance of the bishop pair and how to use it from a positional point of view. In this article we are going to see some attacking games and focus on the power that the bishop has in building the attack.

To start with, let’s take a look at some of the most important motifs that can arise when creating such an attack:

  • a1-h8/h1-a8 diagonals. It’s no secret that many final blows have been delivered on these diagonals. The strength of the fianchettoed bishops is unquestionable, especially if our opponent’s structure is weak or his fianchetto bishop has been exchanged. A common idea of weakening the opponent’s short castle is to sacrifice the a1 (a8) rook for the bishop on g7 (g2);
  • b1-h7/ b8-h2 diagonals. This diagonal has produced many powerful combinations, such as the Greek gift sacrifice or the immortal game, but there are many other ideas to help you make use of it in the attack. One of them is pairing up the bishop and the queen, in order to force pawn moves on the kingside castle;
  • a2-g8/ a7-g1 diagonals. When placed on this diagonal, the bishop targets the vulnerable f2/f7 point, which gives way to many tactical possibilities.

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To illustrate the ideas mentioned above, we have chosen three examples where one of the players launches a crushing attack using the diagonals. We are going to start with a classical game, played by the legendary Grandmaster Akiba Rubinstein with the black pieces. We will see how he uses the combined strength of his two bishops on the long and a7-g1 diagonals to weaken the white king. He finishes his opponent off with a beautiful queen sacrifice.

The second game has current World Champion Magnus Carlsen on the winning side against top Grandmaster Ruslan Ponomariov. Having the white pieces, he uses the thematic exchange sacrifice for black’s fianchetto bishop with the idea of making the enemy king’s position weaker and more difficult to defend.

He starts creating threats on the long diagonal and ends the game with another rook sacrifice aimed to open the a2-g8 diagonal for his other bishop.

In closing, we would like to bring to your attention a game played only a few days ago in the strong Tradewise Gibraltar Masters open between the top Grandmaster Maxime Vachier-Lagrave with the white pieces and former Women European Champion Valentina Gunina. The French player started the attack by advancing his kingside pawns and slowly pushing black’s pieces back, but his idea really took off when he decided to sacrifice one pawn in order to open the center for his two bishops.

If you want to improve your chess level, you need to have a clear study plan. If you aim for a dramatic improvement at chess you need to work on all of the elements of the game in a systematic way:

  • tactics
  • positional play
  • attacking skills
  • endgame technique
  • classical games analysis
  • psychological preparation
  • and much more

That seems to be like a lot of things, and that is. But no worries, we have made it easy for you. Our comprehensive training course covers it all and much more. Sign up for 21 Day Training right now!

Image Credit: Memories_keepers, Flickr Creative Commons License

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Updated 12.19.2023