Thursday, December 04, 2008

Attacking manual for idiots: The Art of the Checkmate

I just reread an old post that, at the time, was quite a revelation (post is here). I finally realized the important distinction between two types of 'tactical' maneuvers: the accident and the attack. Accidents are standard tactics (pins etc) that let you gain material when your opponent kindly makes a mistake ('accident' is tempo's terminology). Second, the organized attack against the enemy King. I won't repeat that post here, but it was a crucial insight for me even though it is obvious to all good players.

The first book that made me see I needed to move beyond just studying accidents to examining attacks was Chandler's wonderful How to beat your dad at chess, which delineates all the major types of mating combinations. This consisted of game fragments, and didn't really focus at all on how to actually set up an attack, but only the final stake in the heart.

I've been all in a tizzy about finding good material on attacking in chess. Vucovich is a bit dry and advanced for me, and Crouch's Attacking technique is unfortunately out of print.

Thank goodness today I realized a wonderful book has been staring me in the face the whole time: The art of the checkmate (link brings you to my post on the book with an extended quote in which they describe the general conditions for an attack).

In that post, I said this was going to be the first book I'd work through after finishing the Circles. Patrick, over at the defunct and amazing blog Chess for Blood, said memorizing that book brought his rating up by 300 points, and that it is the perfect prelude to the more advanced books.

And so it begins. I just entered Chapter 1 into Chessbase, and I'm gonna stew in this book.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

After checking it out at amazon, i got me a new copy on eBay right away. I'm a sucker for classics ;)

A book like this can never be a bad choice. Far too often too many improving players go over their heads with material they 'think' they're ready for delibirately ignoring works like these, thinking they're beyond that. It's surprising though the defuncts this seemingly basic material can reveal in your own games.

I always say; you can never know enough basics.

12/04/2008 11:18:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

chessmaster: very well put. I just looked at the reviews over at Amazon. They make me pretty excited to hack away at this book.

12/04/2008 11:38:00 PM  
Blogger transformation said...

i have the files. looking for them now. want me to send them? thats one.

secondly, i have always said that not only was this an essential great chess book, but PHYSICALLY IS printed very, very beautifully. one of the best topographies that i can recall.

warmly, dk

12/05/2008 04:40:00 AM  
Blogger Glenn Wilson said...

You might also try playing over the games of Morphy.

A really beautiful but simple and instructive one is here.

12/05/2008 07:19:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

DK: thanks if you can I'd love it, even if to just check against my own work to make sure I've entered them correctly.

GW: Thanks for the links. I'll check them out.

The first game in AoC is a Morphy win (playing down a rook). The First Book of Morphy is one of my favorite books, and I have only read about 3 of the games so far. I'll probably read it in my tour of the world champions (he is honorary world champion in my eyes).

12/05/2008 08:36:00 AM  
Blogger BlunderProne said...

One of the books on my shelf is Lev Alburt's : The King in Jeopardy. Its probably not as good as the Crouch book, but he does break it down to attacking the king with both sides castled on same side, opposite side castling, uncastled king as well as other information.
Also Chernev's book, 64 most instructive games, he covers methods on attacking the king with each of the 64 games. Topics like a weakened pawn structure ( h6, g6, or f6) and how to proceed with examples.

Both are worth a look next time you are in a used book store. I can send you the PGN's of the game files associated if you wish.

12/05/2008 11:33:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Thanks for the tips, BP. I was wondering about that King in Jeapordy book. Chernev is always fun, so I'll keep my eyes open for that nugget.

12/05/2008 11:39:00 PM  
Blogger James Stripes said...

Renaud and Kahn, The Art of the Checkmate was suggested to me in 1996 by David Weinstock. At the time I thought to myself that I knew how to checkmate, so it was two years before I bought the book, and another before I started studying it.

In early 2001, I won two games against the same ICC opponent with Legall's Pseudo-Sacrifice. Then, I was hooked. By 2002, I was compiling my own "Checklist of Checkmates."

There are many texts that have lists of basic checkmate patterns--Vukovic, The Art of Attack; Chandler, How to Beat Your Dad at Chess; Tisdall, Improve Your Chess Now; Silman, Complete Book of Chess Strategy; others. The Art of the Checkmate has far and away the best instruction, despite its occasional apocryphal game: see Pillsbury's

12/06/2008 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger wang said...

I'm about to start Chess Tactics for the Tournament Player for the second time, then I will move on to the King in Jeopardy. I want to see if these two combined have any noticeable affect. If it doesn't work out I'll probably check out The Art of Checkmate. My only concern is that it is descriptive.

12/06/2008 12:33:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Wang: descriptive you will pick up quickly, and you can use chessbase or something (someone just sent the whole thing to me, and I've been entering it by hand as well with major annotations).

12/06/2008 02:14:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

James: that is great to hear. I don't mind apocryphal as long as it's instructive :)

12/06/2008 02:15:00 PM  
Blogger From the patzer said...

A gain of 300 points just by reading one book is much. May i ask what his starting rating was?

12/08/2008 03:50:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

CT: you are right, and I'm sure he did more than just read that book. :) He got good fast though.

12/08/2008 04:04:00 PM  
Blogger transformation said...

my first chess mentor who sported a FIDE rating around 2000, used to sit in our respective cafe with the Art of the Checkmate open right infront of him, carefully reviewing each position with a roll up board and plastic chess pieces as prep for his next tournament. it was great to watch him.

sometimes simpler is better, and really, this book is a gem. its one of my eternal chess books, with Gelfers Positional Chess Handbook, Chernev's Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played, Euwe-Kramer Art of the Middlegame Vol's I & II, Fundamental Chess Endings, Alburt's Chess Training Pocket Book, and finally GM-Ram.

Renauld-Kahn's book is no more and no less than those--for me--the sanctum sanctum of pure unadulturated chess books. warmly, dk

12/08/2008 04:47:00 PM  
Blogger Polly said...

Art of the Checkmate is a great book. I will sometimes use it, just to look up a mating theme. Perhaps I need to go back and look at it from the top.

12/08/2008 05:40:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

DK: good to know it is so highly regarded. So far I'm very impressed. It is great to see games with actual tactics/mates instead of the modern GM annotated collection which is =/= until move 40. That's not my games.

We need another round of master versus amateur book to come out (or even amateur versus amateur). I don't know why the GMs don't do that.

12/09/2008 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Polly: it's worth a gander!!!

12/09/2008 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger transformation said...

JSilman wrote me a long note about japan yesterday, which is on my ticker to reply to him concertedly and not all in some mad rush.

this followed a reply to him from a GM concerning a long and detailed article about japanese architecture, and cc to me directly.

after that reply, i will forward your comment to him BDK, and while i cannot think of THINKING of influencing him, he aught to be aware of your suggestion.

he could call it, Confessions of a Chess Novice', i would suggest. i am serious.

thx, dk

12/09/2008 04:26:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

DK: mr in-the-GM-loop :O

That would be great if Silman did that. Indeed, one nice thing about his books is that they are written for normal chess players, not GMs. His 'Amateur's Mind' is a wonderful example. I wait, with baited breath, for him to publish the new edition which is likely to come out in 2009. I hope!!!

DK you might find my new installments on the 'biology of consciousness' interesting at my neuroscience blog. It will be a multi-part series.

12/09/2008 07:32:00 PM  
Blogger Howard Goldowsky said...


Euwe's "Chess Master v. Chess Amateur" is a fantastic book. (I just finished reading it.) Each of the 25 games in that book gets 8-12 pages; each note is not just a note, but a full lesson on the position. It's very instructive to see how a master manhandles players from Class-D up to Expert.

Now the good news: Euwe wrote a sequel to that book, titled "The Road to Chess Mastery." It's available at Amazon (Marketplace). There's also a third book in the series called "Chess Master v. Chess Master." The third book is written in the same style as the first two, but contains GM v. GM games. This eliminates the novelty of having the "amateur's mind," but the notes are written in the same lucid and engaging style as the firs two books.

Howard Goldowsky

12/11/2008 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Howard: yes, that's what I was implicitly referring to (I've got all three of Euwe's books). There's another that is a bit more campy that I recently got here. I learned a few things, and it has some nice study positions with detailed annotations.

We need more books like Euwe's!

12/11/2008 01:33:00 PM  

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