The Tides of Chess

I have noticed the phenomenon of the rebound attack in a number of my games, in fact in three of the four I am playing at the moment. One player, most often White, launches an attack, which eventually runs out of juice, whereupon Black counter-attacks. Often, this second attack proves more effective than the first. In its crudest form, White chomps Black's pawns with both rooks, only to be obliterated by Rd1 mate.

Why is the rebound attack so often more powerful than the original one? The obvious answer is that in his hurry to press the initiative, White neglects his own defence. The other explanation is the event horizon. White's attack looks good, for as far as White can see, but what about after that?

In my game with Rheingold I had a promising attack that seemed to lead to my having two joined passed pawns. Enough to win, I thought. I got the pawns alright, but Black counter-attacked vigorously, and now I'm wondering whether my plan was mistaken (it was). In another game, I had a good position and launched a king-side attack. I won a pawn, but it turned out to be a useless isolated king rook pawn, and now I am very much on the defensive, as my king bishop pawn is acting as a magnet for all his pieces. In a third game, I managed to win a pawn, only to discover that I was about to lose not one, but two pawns, almost immediately. The tide had turned. I thought long and hard and came up with an attacking idea, which turned the tide yet again.

Such turning of the tide probably occurs more subtly in master games, but I suspect that a similar dynamic operates there as well.

"So what is the remedy?" you ask. I guess it is a matter of looking further and analysing the situation after the dust of battle clears. Unfortunately, this seems to be beyond my capacity. To attack or not to attack? It's better to have loved and lost than to do nothing at all.

But is the attack sound? The answer is given by the one and only golden rule of chess: it depends on the position.

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