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Mastering Checkmates, by Neil McDonald

A book review

As we all know, the purpose of chess is to mate the king. While a hard fought battle till the endgame, won by the player who managed to get a small advantage in the middle game gives interesting chess games, more exciting is when you can mate your opponent in the middle game. This book teaches us about such checkmates in the middlegame.

The author shows in the book a number of different `patterns' or `techniques' that one can use for attacking or mating the king of the opponent in middle game positions. Each of the ten chapters in the book discusses a certain type of mates. For instance, the second chapter discusses mates with a rook on the seventh row, and the sixth chapter discusses amongst others the Greek Gift: the sacrifice of a bishop on h2 or h8, when the opponent has castled short, with a forced mate then delivered by queen and knight, possibly assisted by other minor pieces.

To me, it was exciting to see that many of the combinations that can happen during middle game that involve attacks on a king actually follow similar principles. The author clearly shows what happens, and how the principles work. Each short chapter first discusses the general idea, and then illustrates how it works with modern games played by grandmasters and masters. Many of the forced mates involve sacrifices of bishops, knights, rooks, and/or queens. Following the games is a pleasure in itself, but, more importantly, working through the chapters helps the average club player to master some important chess ideas. Each chapter ends with some exercises; there are in total 68 positions to be solved. The end of the book gives solutions to the exercises.

The clearly written style and the highly interesting contents make this a book I recommend with pleasure to chess players on club level and above.

Mastering Checkmates
Neil McDonald
B.T. Batsford, London
Distributed in the United States by Sterling Publishing Co.
ISBN 0 7134 8774 7
160 pages

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