Saturday, January 14, 2017

L'art du faire mat

a bowl filled with oranges; taken by: Amanda Mills; source: freestockphotos.bizIn one of Danny Kopec's books he makes the comparison of baking a cake with a mate: first you visualize what it would look like, you follow the proper steps, and voila! you get the tasty results. To that end one must know what the fan of possible end results looks like and choose the practical ones for a given situation.  Enter  L'art du faire mat  (The Art of the Checkmate) by french champions by Renaud & Kahn which gives a whole catalog of mating patterns in a readily accessible way.

Each mating pattern is identified by number and, when present, by historical name. Isn't it much better to have these possibilities at one's fingertips, than to try to grasp in the darkness for  half-seen, half-remembered figments? This is what makes  this book  both practical and powerful. All is laid down on the table and the mechanisms laid bare.  Each pattern is also illustrated by stripped down diagram and with sample annotated games showing how each mate can be arrived at.  Interspersed there are 80 exercises of moderate difficulty. On the board the result is that you see what you have before you in a given situation and options readily pop up in your head.

When I first got this book, it was given to me by the owner of my local chess club who would assign it to newcomers as the first one to study. Yet, I'm sure it will benefit anyone who hasn't brushed up on the basics lately.

To make the most of the book, I would recommend you to get a dedicated mate solving book or software. With it you can put to practice what you just learned. One of the more popular ones is Reinfeld's 1001 brilliant ways to mate.

Reinfeld's book is categorized into different broad themes such as sacrificing the Queen, and storming the castled position and the problems themselves are well mixed enough to present a good challenge. Except for the last part, which is formed by composed problems, the book as a whole is a good companion to the Renaud & Kahn.

Here's an idea that you can try for yourself: take the 1001 and after solving each problem, try to equate the mating pattern to the Renaud & Kahn number scheme. I did, and from the start I began to feel how the patterns got a better impression on me, than if I had just read L'art , gave it the thumbs up, and stowed it away. Now I find it is easier to come up with a mating pattern with the material available on the board and call it by name. Oftentimes, the answer for a set situation pops immediately, which, I believe would be the prime objective. Be warned however, that not all Reinfeld's problems can be neatly fit into the Renaud & Kahn's scheme. Other than the regular mating sequences  described R&K, there are other sequences which ultimately result in so basic patterns that the French authors didn't think there while to describe them or that rely on a tactical motif such as a pin or a deflection of a defending piece, and mates that rely on bringing the King to the open chasing it around the board. These last ones, at least for me, are the most devilish and depend much more on the use of force than on regular set patterns. On the whole, the mix feels well balanced and can challenge ambitious lower rated players and refresh more experienced ones.