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. Gold rabbits might advance on the h-file to support the horse and assert a space advantage.

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. If Silver herself is not attacking in the west, b6 is often occupied by a silver horse, which blocks a gold horse from that square. Gold might use his elephant or camel to displace a defending silver horse, or might try to get a gold piece onto c7 rather than b6. It may be worthwhile to keep one's camel flexible so that it can defend either home trap, and threaten any attacking horse. If one's camel becomes stuck on one wing, the opponent might get a strong attack on the other wing.

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. An attacking piece might be taken hostage, but the attacker should try to ensure that any such hostage would be weak. While attacking, one should remain mindful of home defense; a strong attack would be no good if the opponent got an even stronger counterattack.

Opening attacks are most common when a horse can work with its camel. For a while, a camel must take care not to be taken hostage, but might safely advance behind a friendly horse and perhaps displace an enemy horse from a crucial square. If the gold and silver camels are on the same wing, this may not work, as a horse would rather advance on the other wing. Such an alignment may result in a slow game, whereas things may progress quickly if camels are on opposite wings.

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.