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I'm a moderately skilled chess player; I can beat most casual players and survive quite a while against class A, expert, or master players. Unfortunately, virtually all of my skill is in control of the center and defense. I have almost no ability to then pin someone down and actually win the game; if a person is close to my skill level or above, they will likely ultimately win.

Are there any resources for learning more offensive strategies? Even if the techniques are a little heavy handed, I could learn from seeing them. Most guides I've seen focus on a balanced style, but I feel with such an unbalanced one already, those wouldn't help as much.

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4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Get a book of checkmate problems, and go through the whole thing. Then find another, and do the same thing. When you are done, you will have no problem attacking.

Once your feel comfortable with simpler checkmate problems, get a book of general problems. After all, in a real game, not every move is forced checkmate :) One of my favorites (which is extremely challenging) is Winning Chess Tactics Illustrated by I.A. Horowitz.
Another very good site for these is chesstempo.com, which will adjust the difficulty of the problems it shows you based on how well you do.

After you get a bit better (after, say, 5000 problems), if you are still interested in improving your attacking skills, I highly recommend Vladimir Vukovic's book Art of Attack in Chess. Also, study the games of World Champions Tal and especially Alekhine, widely considered to be the greatest attackers of all time.

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You're in an interesting position -- most players, especially below master level, are much better at attack than at defense. In fact, adopting an "attacking" style that is not necessarily perfectly sound (i.e., gambits that trade material for initiative) will very often result in the opponent "folding" under the pressure of a steady onslaught.

+1 to Shannon for recommending endgame study. It's my favorite part of the game, personally. When you know endgames well, you will see in your games the opportunity to steer the game (by making certain trades of material and creating certain pawn structures, for example) toward favorable endgames and away from unfavorable ones.

Of course, study of tactics is really important, especially in developing attacks. You say you love to control the center -- well there's a reason for doing this in chess, it's to give your pieces a launching point to attack! If you can amass your army in the center against a point around the opponent's king, beyond your opponent's ability to defend, you can win by throwing material at the opponent's king to open lines to the king, then mount a checkmating attack (as Fischer said, "sac, sac, mate!").

One thing famous chess instructor National Master Dan Heisman (http://danheisman.com) recommends is to study annotated collections of master games, relatively quickly. After going through a sufficient number of games (around a thousand or so? That's why you should go through them quickly!), you'll really start to get a feel for moves that masters make, and how they take advantage of positional advantages like center control.

Also +1 to BlueRaja for Art of Attack in Chess. A great book about attacking themes and patterns, so you can recognize the possibilities for attacking the king in your own games as well.

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I realize my skill set is unusual. It's because I learned to play in a vacuum; after a brief introduction to the game from my father, I learned by exclusively playing against myself. It's really hard to learn attacking against oneself when you know all the traps being set; instead, you develop ironclad defenses. –  William Grobman Oct 29 '11 at 17:06
+1 for Dan Heisman! –  Beofett Nov 1 '11 at 12:22
Yeah, it's hard not to make every answer a cheerleading call for Dan Heisman, but he really is the best thing that ever happened to the improving chess player, bar none. He changed the way I look at chess playing and improving forever. His writings are priceless (and most of them are free!). You don't need hundreds of chess books (like I have), you only need a select handful, and the right advice on how and when to read them. –  Bogatyr Nov 17 '11 at 8:42

Checkmate and other chess puzzles can be a good way to practice but what you probably need to do is study the Endgame.

This is a deep and nearly endless area of study but likely even some study of how to win in a variety of endgame situations will help your game considerably. It will, for example, help you identify when you can win with a King & Pawn vs. a King and when it is a likely draw (or more likely when it is a King & Pawn vs. King and Pawn whether either player can win).

It is a bit out of date but a very solid starting point would be my favorite chess book, Emanuel Lasker's Manual of Chess. The whole book likely would help your game, but his opening chapters cover the endgame in some detail.

In essence the art of finishing chess games is the art of getting to (and then accurately achieving) a winning position. The simplest winning positions are endgame positions with few pieces left on the board. In fact many puzzles are endgame positions disguised with the addition of additional (but unnecessary) pieces on the board. Once you are confident that you can win with just a few pieces (and in particular that you know when you can win with an extra pawn or a given pawn position vs when you can draw vs when you will lose) your middlegame likely will gain in confidence.

This is a bit of a generalization but I've found that beginners at times end up in the "endgame" through back and forth trades of pieces/loss of pieces and then may spend a lot of time trying to find how/if one side can win.

More advanced players will often strive to win in the middlegame (and may at times) but then flounder a bit when their attacks are met and the game moves to an endgame situation (which becomes a bit rarer for players of some skill)

Experts (and masters) will less often see "real" endgame situations (as they will more often recognize that they have lost and resign) but their skill and confidence with their endgame is what allows them to avoid it (for the most part). In timed, tournament chess this confidence and skill will often be decisive as the clock becomes a very real factor especially in complex endgame situations.

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Your issue is that you tend to play "balanced" games. That seems to serve you well on defense.

To address your particular issue, you might want to seek out "unbalanced" games. Examples would include situations where you sacrifice a piece for two or three pawns plus a positional advantage, or the "exchange" for one or two pawns. Or play more gambits, where you sacrifice a pawn for positional advantage. Even positions where one player had an extra pawn on one side of the board, and the other player an extra pawn on the other side might help.

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