Bent Larsen once wrote "There is no mate in modern master chess", a very true statement as one can play through hundreds of master games and never find one ending in mate. Why is this so? If in a game one player gets an overwhelming advantage his opponent is likely to resign accepting that if the game goes it's full course, mate will be the inevitable result. This being so, it is essential for the winner to know what mate can be achieved from his position so a knowledge of mates is essential. How best to do this? Well, Batsford have found the answer in re-printing a chess classic - "The Art of Checkmate".
When you browse through this book in a shop or on a book stall at a congress, your first thought may well be "Who on earth are these authors - Renaud and Kahn?" And you may be forgiven for thinking this as the book was first published in Monaco in 1947 and then translated very badly into English. That translation was so bad and misleading that Batsford have employed Jimmy Adams to produce a new translation and thus another edition of this "Golden Oldie."
The object of the book is to pull together all the forms of checkmate patterns that exist and provide examples of these appearing in actual games. To collect the material necessary to produce such a book in the days before computers existed would have been a massive task. Searches would have involved scouring newspapers, periodicals and libraries to get suitable games. Today, to illustrate various themes a prospective author would need to accumulate a database of some 2000 games and then pare it down to approximately 50 games. Not very easy even with computer databases, but imagine what a task that would have been prior to 1947. In all 23 mating patterns are established and each mate is provided with titles such as Anastatia's mate, Boden's mate, Arabian mate and the Calabrian Sacrifice better known today as the Bishop's Sacrifice. Providing these names makes it easier to remember the various configurations.
Even though you may never get the opportunity to produce these mates in a game, knowledge is not only essential but it is a rare treat to play through the various mates presented in this book.
Let's take a look at some typical mates :-
In all the authors show the configuration of 23 mates. There are of course other positions when mates occur on other parts of the board, but the mates given are the main examples.
A number of games show how these positions come about in actual play and significantly many of these games are from simultaneous demonstrations where the expert mates the amateur. These happenings would rarely have been seen in master games as the losing side will resign when it becomes obvious that he will be mated. This is one of the niceties of chess, the loser is prepared to accept that his opponent has the necessary skill to bring about the mate and does not wait for this to be demonstrated. In addition there is an examination of some of the tactical weapons that are employed to help the road to mate, such as forks, skewers double check etc.
When playing through this book, the reader is given plenty of opportunities to calculate these mates from positions given in exercises. The reader's interested is stimulated by little bits of history connected with the standard mates. For example an anecdote is provided on one example of Lolli's mate :
"In August 1939, in Buenos Aires, took place the Tournament of Nations. In Antwerp all the European participants got on board a Belgian ship Piriapolis which the Argentinian Chess Federation had placed at their disposal. During the long journey and while a storm roared over Europe, they played bridge and chess. They analysed the latest variations and particularly the Vienna Defence which resulted from the game Kotov - Yudovic, which had just been played in Moscow. The game which we see here is one of innumerable rapid games which were played during the journey. Was it really played? Was it analysis? And who were the authors? It doesn't matter. It is a splendid illustration of Mate No. 9 and ends with a series of "problem moves" ' HERE is the game :
This game illustrates perfectly the genesis of two possible mates and the author's style.
This book can be recommended to beginners to make them aware of the mating possibilities and the beauty of the moves leading to these mates. The more experienced player will get the benefit of a re-cap and perhaps some ideas to utilise in their games.
Batsford have utilised their normal skills in this production, making the most of the two column format to make the text easily readable and the use of many diagrams which enable the reader to follow the game without using the board and pieces.
There are 240 pages encased in a well designed soft colour. At a recommended price of £15.99 these is a wise buy.