Arimaa/Attacking/Overview

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In this middlegame, Gold is well-positioned to attack the f6 trap with an elephant, horse, and dog. Rabbits might advance on the h-file to support the horse.

A trap attack is an attempt to take control of an opponent's home trap. Trap attack plans are often tentative, as the opponent might make it difficult to follow through. Early on, trap attack plans exist in conjunction with more cautious moves such as homeward pulls. As the game progresses, the position typically becomes sharper and attacking more important.

Each side's attacking potential must be considered before each turn; a trap can quickly become vulnerable, and the first one to attack a vulnerable trap will have a head start. When feasible, attacking is a faster approach than dragging pieces down for home capture. There may or may not be home captures before a full-on attack; piece movement could be enough to leave a trap without adequate defense.

Objective[edit]

A strong trap attack can force multiple captures and then a goal, at least if the enemy elephant doesn't defend its own home trap. A trap attack might be a second threat that compels the enemy elephant to abandon a hostage to capture. Conversely, a trap attack might be a first threat that sets the stage for another. A trap attack might sometimes create a quick double-threat on the wing; if an attacker flips an enemy piece homeward, the defender might not have time to save it.

Once an elephant is forced to defend its own home trap, the attacker might aim to rotate his own elephant out of that fight. If this succeeds and the enemy elephant remains stuck contesting its own home trap, the attacker will likely have a large advantage.

Defense[edit]

A trap attacker usually wants to occupy at least two key squares, including a decentralized one; the defender's piece placement is thus important. As long as Silver herself is not attacking, b6 and g6 are typically occupied by silver horses or by a silver horse and camel (the initial setup should prepare for this). If one wing is decidedly stronger than the other, the opponent will most likely attack on one's weak wing. It may be worthwhile to keep the camel flexible so that it can defend either trap.

Silver could defend the c6 trap by placing horses on both b6 and c7. However, this would leave the f6 trap without a defending horse, and also make the c7 horse passive. Instead, most players will place a minor piece behind each home trap, and if necessary use a phalanx to block an enemy horse or camel from pushing through the trap. With the b6 and c7 entry points well defended, a successful Gold attack would take some time.

The defender can sometimes hostage or frame an attacking piece; if done efficiently, this can blunt an attack and turn the tables.

If one side is continually on defense, the attacker will likely gain an upper hand. One who can't easily thwart an attack should probably counterattack, usually on the other wing. With each side attacking and defending, the position may become extremely sharp.

Attack plan[edit]

An attack plan must consider the opponent's alignment. It is difficult to attack on the opponent's camel wing, as an attacking horse might be taken hostage by the defending camel. It is usually dangerous to lead an attack with one's camel, due to the risk of a camel hostage. Attackers advancing behind the first are safer, although a double hostage or frame-hostage could be devastating. Efficiency is also important: for instance, with a horse available, it would be wasteful to use a camel to attack a trap whose strongest defender is a dog. Using too much strength risks leaving the home traps weak.

Opening attacks are most common when each side has a horse on each wing, and camels are on opposite wings. Each side advances a horse on the wing where its own camel lies, and then uses its camel and elephant to try to help that horse reach a decentralized key square of the enemy trap. These situations are known as EMH attacks. If camels are on the same wing, any attack plan is less straightforward, and thus the game may progress slowly.

If an attempted trap attack does not bring about a clear advantage, it may be time to switch gears. If the opponent is also attacking, the elephant might return home to fight that attack, and perhaps threaten attacking pieces with capture. Attacking the opponent's other home trap might also be an option. If the situation seems like a stalemate, rabbit pulls can force things along.