WHETHER it's a truly correct statement or not, one of the most famous ones relating to our Royal Game is Richard Teichmann's "Chess is 99 per cent tactics". Certainly, almost all players would agree that the ability to spot and prepare tactical possibilities is vital to being successful in chess.
Accordingly, as part of my summer reading, I'm definitely going to include the beautiful Batsford book 1000 Checkmate Combinations, which is actually Victor Henkin's Russian classic now appearing fully in English for the first time.
Let's enjoy a sample of super puzzles (just modified slightly by me) from the book, and you are warmly encouraged to read more about Henkin's masterpiece via www.anovabooks.com
Highly memorable mating patterns either occur in the puzzles, or are hidden within tactical variations without which the puzzles could not work.
1) wKg1,Qd2,Rc1,Nc3,Bg3,Pa2,b2,c4,f2,g2,h2; bKg8,Qf5,Re6,e8,Pa7,b7,f7,g7,h7. Black is down on material, but it's his move. The late, great David Ionovich Bronstein once said: "The most powerful thing in chess is the next move." So, does Black have any chance ...?
2) The same text could go with the position wKg1,Qf3,Ra1,b1,Pe3,f2,g2,h2; bKg8,Qc2,Ra2,f8,Pf7,g7,h7. So again, over to you now ...
3) It's Black to move and win from the position wKf3,Rb7,Pe3,e4,e6,g3; bKh6,Ra2,Pb2,g5,g6,h5.
4) From wKh1,Qa6,Rf1,Bf7,Pg2,h2; bKh8,Qe4,Rd8,Nf6,Pe5,g7,h7, does 1 Rxf6 win for White?
5) It's White to move and win from the position wKe2,Ba8,Nh3; bKh1,Pg2,h2. Can you find the quickest way?
6) It's White to play and force mate in six moves from the position wKc1,Be7,Pc2; bKa1,Rf7,Bd1,Pa2.
7) It's White to move and win from the position wKa1,Qa2,Bd2,Pf3,g2; bKh5,Qg7,Nd3,Pe5,g6.
8) We finish with a highly unusual puzzle. Consider the position wKh3,Ng7,Ph4; bKf2,Pf4,h5, and imagine that Black (to move) has an invisible knight somewhere on the e-file. Where exactly is the knight if Black can force mate on his second move?
1) Back-rank mate is the recurring theme of the first two puzzles, and also of puzzle no.4. In the first one, Black actually wins with 1...Qd3!!. 2) Black wins with 1...Qb2!!, but not 1...Rfa8?? 2 Qxa8+! 3) Black wins with 1...g4+ 2 Kf4 Ra5! 3 e5 Ra4+ 4 e4 Ra3!. 4) 1 Rxf6? loses to 1...Qc6!!. 5) The quickest way to force mate is 1 Kf3!, intending 1...g1(Q) 2 Nf2+ Qxf2+ 3 Kxf2 mate, but White can also win with 1 Ng5 Kg1 2 Nf3+ Kh1 3 Kf2 g1(Q)+ 4 Nxg1 mate. 6) The lovely winning sequence is 1 Bd6! (not 1 Bb4? because of 1...Rc7) 1...Rf5 2 Bb4! Rf3 3 Bc5! Rf4 4 Ba3! Rb4 5 Bxb4 and 6 Bc3 mate. 7) White wins beautifully with 1 g4+ Kh4 2 Bh6!! (threatening 3 Qh2 mate) 2...Qxh6 3 Qh2+ Kg5 4 Qd2+ Nf4 5 Qd8 mate. 8) With a black knight on e4, mate is forced by 1...Kg1!! 2 Nxh5 Nf2 mate. What a beauty!