Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Art of Checkmate

      This book is a classic. It’s not without flaws though, but only a nit picker would complain. The meat of the book is its organization and examples not the prose. According to C.J.S. Purdy The Art of Checkmate by George Renaud and Victor Kahn, former champions of France, is a demonstration of how very suited the French literary tradition is to chess exposition. The close attention to the order and neatness of presentation makes study of most of the French chess writers a pleasure. In this case, a clumsy translation (by W.J. Taylor) has succeeded in making merely delightful what could have been made super-delightful. It is a magnificent exposition of that vital department of chess skill, the mating combination…for the average player, from now on we list this as a MUST book.
     Purdy complained that the translation of this book reaches is an all-time low. Almost every page has sentences that are not translations at all, or even paraphrases but are thoughts of the translator’s. According to the translator, the authors wrote, “The following game was played between two second-rate players who, nevertheless, seem to be pretty well versed in the opening theory.” “Second-rate” is offensive; what the authors actually wrote was, “…amateurs of the second rank—but amateurs of some erudition, for, as we are about to see…” The translator says Taubenhaus was a “second-rate” master.” The authors wrote “maitre de deuxieme plan.” A better translation is, “second-rank master” or “minor master.”
      23 mating situations are classified, including Legal's pseudo-sacrifice, the double check, smothered mate, Greco's mate, the Corridor mate, many others. 127 games by Tartakower, Janowski, Rubinstein, Blackburne, others, illustrating positional maneuvers leading to these mates. Review quizzes test progress.
      People complain about it being in the old descriptive chess notation, but anyone of at least below average intelligence can learn descriptive notation in about 10 minutes. The ability to see patterns is paramount and this book is one of the best at teaching one how to read the board. Go through the patterns again and again and eventually you will finally understand them to the point that when you see them you can apply them in your own games.  In my college days I had trouble factoring binomial equations...just couldn't seem to get it.  Then, I wrote out ONE equation on a slip of paper and whenever I had a couple of spare minutes, I pulled out the paper and worked the problem.  Eventually, after a couple of days and who knows how many time, something clicked and I could work any problem.  Maybe it would work that way with chess tactics, too?!

Good Buys