Arimaa/Attacking/Camel Attacks

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The camel is a powerful attacker and can directly dislodge defending horses. However, leading an attack with the camel is relatively uncommon because of the risk of a camel hostage. The defending elephant often charges at an attacking camel like a bull at a red cape. A good hostage may give the defender a large strategic advantage, and so evaluating the hostage before attacking is crucial: for instance, if there are already other pieces advanced on this wing, the hostage will be weaker and the attack therefore stronger. Besides the hostage, the danger of attacking with elephant and camel is that it commits the two strongest pieces to the same part of the board, so may leave the rest of the board weak.

In the diagram, Gold has pulled a rabbit on Silver's camel wing in the opening. The rabbit pull was questionable: pulling rabbits on a wing where the opponent is stronger is possible in some cases, but very dangerous because it tends to encourage an attack. On the previous move, the silver camel pushed into b3. This camel attack is ideal for Silver for several reasons:

  • The camel fights directly against a gold horse, which has been pushed into passivity. In general, when a silver camel pushes into b3, the gold horse should usually be pushed to b2 if possible, as it would be more active on either a3 or c3. Because of this, Gold should probably have occupied b2 with a rabbit.
  • The a4 rabbit both allows the camel to retreat if necessary, and prevents Gold from gaining space on the a-file, which could be important in a camel hostage situation.
  • The c3 rabbit allows Silver to quickly blockade the trap if Gold takes a camel hostage. Because of this rabbit and the fact that the gold horse is stuck behind the camel, the hostage would be worthless.
  • The d5 horse is well placed to replace the elephant on d3, whether or not the hostage is taken.
37px-Arimaa board.jpg
a8 b8 c8 d8 e8 f8 g8 h8
a7 b7 c7 d7 e7 f7 g7 h7
a6 b6 c6 d6 e6 f6 g6 h6
a5 b5 c5 d5 e5 f5 g5 h5
a4 b4 c4 d4 e4 f4 g4 h4
a3 b3 c3 d3 e3 f3 g3 h3
a2 b2 c2 d2 e2 f2 g2 h2
a1 b1 c1 d1 e1 f1 g1 h1
Gold uses the two strongest pieces to open the path for a rabbit advance

If the enemy elephant is committed to another part of the board, the camel can attack without fear of being taken hostage. It might also be that the position is so sharp that there is no time for hostage-taking. At left, Gold has taken full advantage of the unfortunate position of the silver elephant, which is decentralized and far removed from the northwest quadrant of the board. Seizing the opportunity to use an elephant and camel attack, Gold has focused on pushing the silver pieces east in order to clear a path for a rabbit advance. Although Silver can temporarily stop the rabbit from scoring, Gold can easily control the c6 trap and gain a large material advantage, or perhaps continue to press for a quick goal.

As a general rule of thumb, it is preferable to place an attacking elephant on d6 rather than c5 but the attacker should always consider the objectives in order to determine the optimal squares for the attacking pieces. In this case, the elephant and camel do very well on c5 and c7 and Silver will have a difficult time moving defenders to the a and b files. Note that if Gold did not have the rabbit on a6, then Silver would be able to defend the position much more easily by playing a move such as rd6w dd3n md5n rd8w. The threat of goal will force Silver to play a move such as rd8w ce7n ce8w rc8w, allowing Gold to control the c6 trap with Ec5w Eb5e rb6s Ra6e.