A 1000 checkmate combinations! Can there really be as many as that or has the author of this new Batsford book stopped short of presenting us with all the possible checkmate opportunities? I suspect there are more, but for the moment I will be satisfied with just 1000.
Russian readers have had this inside information for many years by the publication of Victor Henkin's book "1000 Checkmate Combinations" in the 1970's. This quickly became a classic but its appeal has not been available to English readers until now.
Everyone who has sat in front of a chessboard with serious intentions needs to know about these combinations and how they are constructed. Most coaches will recommend that students spend at least half an hour per day solving and studying combinations and this book provides the ideal material for such a regime. If the study material is sprinkled with some humorous anecdotes, as this volume is, then so much the better. If the study material is assembled in an orderly fashion, as this volume, then so much the better. If the notes are deep and clear, as this volume, then so much the better. What better order is there than a system that considers the material used to achieve checkmate.
Henkins has chosen the following material content:
Rook and Bishop
Rook and Knight
Bishop and Knight
Queen and Bishop
Queen and Knight
The major part of the book is taken up by extracts from actual play and studies that either led to or threatened to lead to mate. This is the result of an immense search of all available material and that in the days when a computer was merely a twinkle in the eye of a silicone chip. This amount of research must have taken considerable time and patience quite apart from an ability to arrange the material in an orderly fashion. Just to keep the reader on his/her toes some problems have been introduced at intervals with solutions explained at the end of the book.
In his preface, Mikhail Tal - the King of the Combination - has this to say:
"There hasn't been a book like this before in our chess literature.. The author has done an enormous amount of work selecting and systemising the material. An experienced master, who in the recent past himself participated in competitions and had a reputation as a staunch tactician, he has retained a particular taste for the last check.
The book is easy to read. It has been written clearly, in vivid language, with the soft shading of the author's inherent humour.
The book will be particularly useful for chess players who are starting their creative life. It serves as a solid guide to the world of chess combinations, explains the significance of many "road signs" and shortens the road to mastery."
What better recommendation do we need?
Having said all this, let's take a look at some extracts from the book. Most examples are prefaced with a diagram that illustrate the basic mating pattern and then bits of play in which the mating pattern appears or could appear.
To conclude, here are some quotations that Helkin inserts at various points:
"Correct defence is that which has the intention of transferring to attack ..... The defender should constantly think about this fact so that he will not miss the moment to go over to the offensive."
"You should protect your king with the least possible number of pieces. You can only exploit a superiority in pieces when attacking the opponent's king"
J. R. Capablanca
Whether you wish to have study material at your elbow or be able to amuse yourself with some beautiful chess, this volume is for you and is reasonably priced at £15.99 for its 336 pages.