Reviewed by P.P.O. Kane
1000 Checkmate Combinations
By Victor Henkin
Batsford, March 2011
This book is apparently a translation of a Russian title which was first published in the late 1970s. Of the very many combinations included in the book, the latest one dates (I’ve checked thoroughly!) from 1978. It is as though Kasparov had never lived, or at any rate had never checkmated an opponent’s king.
That being said, 1000 Checkmate Combinations is an excellent book containing a wealth of tactical examples, including 456 (!) exercises. The solutions could perhaps have been more fulsome and detailed, since usually only the main line of a combination is given. However, that’s my only (slight) criticism. The conclusion has to be: better late than never.
The structure of the book is as follows. There are 14 substantial chapters, each one being devoted to a piece (chapters 1-5) or a pairing of pieces (chapters 6-13: for example, chapter 13 focuses on ‘Queen and Knight’) or ‘Three Pieces’, which is the title of chapter 14. We are given a survey and a discussion of how a particular piece, or a particular combination of pieces, can come to deliver checkmate.
For example, the chapter on the knight focuses quite a lot on the smothered mate, which necessarily introduces the concepts of double check and deflection. Along with these, there are also various motifs and manoeuvres that sometimes arise preparatory to delivering a smothered mate, involving driving defending pieces away from crucial squares or compelling certain defending pieces to occupy squares around their king. All of this is set out by the author in a quite exemplary manner.
On the whole, the prose in this unattributed translation is clear, engaging and very readable. Henkin explains the key points very well indeed, and they are richly illustrated with many beautiful combinations taken from games, studies and problems.
One terrific thing about the book is that because there are so many diagrams, and with the combinations being generally quite short (say 7 moves maximum), it can be read by itself, without need of board and pieces.
About the reviewer: P.P.O. Kane lives and works in Manchester, England. He welcomes responses to his reviews and you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org