During fighting in November, the 3rd Hungarian Army, having retreated into the Carpathians, increasingly struggled to avert the 8th Russian Army’s pressure. In this situation, Conrad von Hötzendorf, chief of the general staff of the Austro-Hungarian armed forces, attempted to fend off the lurking threat by crucially encircling and defeating the left flank of the 3rd Russian Army, stationed south of the Vistula River. In doing so, he attempted to exploit the significant distance that had opened up between the 3rd and 8th Russian Armies.
Under the plan, the 4th Austro-Hungarian Army was to gradually retreat until Cracow, Reaching the city, drawing the permanent defence force stationed at the fortress into the frontline would have enabled the undetected redeployment of some three divisions to the south; together with the 47th German reserve division, these would have launched an unexpected attack against the 3rd Russian Army from the south, under the command of Lieutenant-General Josef Roth. Attackers’ right flank were to be covered by the cavalry corps (6th cavalry division, 11th Honvéd cavalry division and the Polish Legion) led by Lieutentenant-General Baron Gyula Nagy, while Boroević’s 3rd Army was tasked with preventing the opposing 8th Russian Army from deploying troops to the west.