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Review: 202 Surprising Checkmates

Review: 202 Surprising Checkmates

Jul 21, 2015, 5:49 PM 6

The digital ink is still drying on my recent review of Improvers It's Your Move. But, regardless, I'm itching to get another review out. This time I'm taking a look at another very short book of chess problems, 202 Surprising Checkmates, by the fairly prolific duo Fred Wilson and Bruce Alberston.

The book, published in 1998 by Dover, has a pleasant format with two large and crisp diagrams per page. I spent a lot of time with this book while working out on an elliptical machine and had no problems seeing the diagrams and easily flipping to the solutions.  

The book starts with 100 mate-in-one problems. Let me be clear, these positions are not from real games. They are composed and so a few are quite difficult in a "surprising" way, hence the title of the book. Instead of being able to rely on your hopefully well-developed sense for checkmate patterns, you have to concentrate and look at every possible check. Though this doesn't help add to your checkmate patterns at all (because you'll never see these positions again) is does exercise your ability to spot odd moves that deliver check and mate.

The last half of the book is more game-like, but still probably composed, mate-in-two problems. Again, some of them are still quite difficult to spot.

All in all, it is a fun book that will give your brain a workout. But if your goal is to pick up a few practical checkmate patterns, take a look at some of the other classic checkmate problem books out there. As far as difficulty level, I started the book several years ago when I was rated about 1300 and I found the problems quite challenging. When I finished the book several years later I was rated 1500 and found the problems fairly easy. This probably indicates a good range would be 1000-1500.   

Here is a mate-in-1 from the book (#77):

And a mate-in-2 (#194):

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