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. An elephant often leads an attack, so that no friendly piece can be captured in the targeted trap. If one does get full control of an away trap, several quick captures may be possible, since an enemy trap usually has plenty of enemy pieces nearby. Once space has been cleared, by captures or by enemy pieces scattering, a strong goal threat may be possible. If the enemy elephant defends its own home trap in order to prevent this, that elephant will be less of a problem elsewhere.

On the other hand, a trap attacker might soon find the tables turned on him. If too many pieces advance too quickly, the home traps may be vulnerable to a counterattack. Moreover, advanced pieces may end up hostaged, framed, or blockaded. Even if the trap defense appears too weak for that, stronger defenders may arrive later, if the whole-board fight allows.

Due to such risks, trap attack plans are often tentative. Early on, attacking ideas 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 simply dragging pieces down for home capture.

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.

If b6 is inaccessible, a gold attacker might try to reach c7 through the c6 trap. Silver could place horses on both b6 and c7, but this would leave the east without a silver horse. Most players will place a minor piece behind each home trap, and if necessary use phalanxes and/or congestion to protect the back squares.

The defender can sometimes hostage or frame an attacking piece; if done efficiently, this can blunt an attack and turn the tables. A camel can deter or punish an enemy horse advance.

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. A camel usually doesn't want to be taken hostage, but might safely advance alongside or behind a friendly horse. 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.

A trap attack may have to be abandoned or suspended, especially if the opponent gets a strong attack of his own. A non-elephant might stay in enemy territory and perhaps keep shared trap control while the elephant goes elsewhere to fight an attack.