# Chess Heroes: Checkmates

Chess Heroes: Checkmates (slightly retitled from Checkmates for Heroes) is now available on Amazon.

This is the first of a series of four parallel books (the others feature tactics, openings and endings) designed to take readers or students from about 500 to 1500 strength. For social players (adult or junior) who would like to be able to play serious competitive chess, joining an adult chess club, playing in competitions, or perhaps just getting a higher online rating.

Because the books are written for novice (<1000) and lower intermediate (1000-1500) players, they use novice learning techniques: everything has a specific purpose, with explanations, repetition and reinforcement.

The assumption is that, while readers should know the meaning of ‘checkmate’ they may have had very little experience of seeing or finding checkmates in their games. My experience of teaching chess was that children usually learnt the two rook checkmate early on, and then went for that in every game, neglecting opportunities for quicker mates. Of course, being good at finding mates will also make you better at stopping your opponents’ mates.

Maths teachers will often use a method known as “I do, we do, you do”. The teacher demonstrates a maths technique on the whiteboard by working through an example (“I do”). Then she invites the students to help her work through another example (“We do”). Finally, the students solve some examples themselves from worksheets (“You do”).

The most common checkmate type involves a rook or queen mating a king on the side of the board. The escape squares may be controlled by enemy pieces (as in the two rook checkmate), occupied by friendly pieces (as in the back rank mate) or a combination of the two. So the first chapter starts by explaining this mate, followed by giving the students some examples to find for themselves.

The second most common mate is where the queen is on the next square to the king, supported by a friendly piece. Imagine a castled king on g8 with a white queen on g7 and a bishop on f6. The queen may also be a diagonal move away: a white queen on h7 supported by a bishop on d3, for example, with a rook on f8 blocking the escape square. Or the very familiar Scholar’s Mate. Again, continuing Chapter 1, there’s an explanation followed by exercises.

Your queen is the piece you’re most likely to use to deliver mate, and rook mates are also common at the end of the game, so the second chapter looks at more queen and rook checkmates. The puzzles might be similar to those in Chapter 1, or different types of mate. As you don’t know the type of mate you’re getting less support.

Two types of mate which are harder to spot are pin mates, where use is made of a pin, and discovered mates, where the mating move is a discovered check. These mates both involve looking at several things happening on the board at the same time, so need extra practice. Chapter 3, then, looks at these mate types.

In Chapter 4 we take away more of the support structure. The student is still looking for mates in one, but is not told which piece delivers mate. So you have to look at all your pieces to find the answer. Some of them may also be pin mates, or discovered mates.

Chapter 5 invites the student to find multiple mates in the same position. First you have to find two mates, then three, then four. Then, again, I make it harder by not telling you how many there are: it could be two, three, four or even more. Why do I want to do this? Surely finding just the one mate is enough to win the game. Yes, but there are two reasons. The more mates you find the more you improve your checkmate pattern recognition, and we all know how important pattern recognition is in chess. But these puzzles also teach important cognitive chess skills: the ability to consider a position thoroughly, to look at every possibility rather than just jumping at the first thing you see, and the ability to consider a position accurately, to see everything on the board and not miss a hidden defence.

By now the student should be pretty good at finding mates in 1: if not there are plenty of other resources which can be used: both books and websites. So at that point it’s time to move on to Chapter 6: mates in 2 moves. You only have to look at the board to find mates in 1, but to find mates in 2 you have to look ahead: the single most important chess skill. So the difficulty is ramped up another notch. Solving puzzles of this type is a good place to start learning this skill as your first move will usually be either a check or a mate threat and your opponent will have few choices. So you learn to consider your opponent’s possible next moves, and to visualise the position in a move’s time. If you find these hard, again there are other resources available to help.

Once you’re good at solving mates in 2, Chapter 7 makes you think further ahead by looking for mates in 3 moves. As always, there are some worked examples first which will prepare you for the task ahead.

Finally, Chapter 8 is the Ultimate Checkmate Challenge. Here you’ll find a mixture of harder mates in 2 or 3 moves, as well as mates in 4 or even 5 moves. There are 552 puzzles in total in this book. If you can solve them all you’ll be pretty good at checkmating your opponents. You’ll also be better at preventing your opponents checkmating you.

Like all the Chess Heroes books, every chapter has a specific purpose and every puzzle within each chapter is there for a reason. Throughout the book, as the tasks get harder and some of the support structure is removed, students will improve both their skill and knowledge.

If you’re interested, do take a look: purchases and 5 star reviews are always welcome. But please bear in mind that this is a book for less experienced players and those who teach them. If you’re 1500+ strength yourself you’ll find most of it too easy.

Richard James