White to play
I was leafing through an old chess magazine the other day. I came across a piece by Jacob Aagaard on what was then the new edition of Chess Tactics from Scratch. The original version was apparently one of the best selling books from Quality Chess’s original range. The new edition, or so the claim went, was the best of its type ever produced.
Mr A’s thoughts notwithstanding, my opinion remains that Chess Tactics from Scratch is very likely the worst written chess book that I’ve ever seen. If only I had time enough to expound on this thesis I would happily do so. At length. For now I’ll just have to limit myself to saying that doesn’t mean I think it has no value.
The Epaulette Mate
Like a lot of chessers, I suspect, I didn’t learn the game in any kind of systematic way. I just picked things up here and there. I played a lot, spent much too much time reading openings books and by and large completely neglected to build up a store of the basic patterns. The ones that good and even moderate players take for granted.
One of the mating patterns that pretty much passed me by is the Epaulette mate. You can see it above. If White has a supported queen on d5 - or Black has one on g3 - it’s mate. Well, it is as long as the highlighted squares are blocked by defending pieces. It’s not too fanciful to see these squares as being on the king’s shoulders, hence the name.
I have a vague recollection of seeing this explained in a book at some point in my late teens. As I said, though, I never worked on chess in a coherent way so even if I did 'know' it, the pattern of the Epaulette Mate never became part of my unconscious thinking. I could and can tell you about various theoretical ideas that Black had at move 17 of the Zaitsev - starting from either ... c5-c4 for ... f7-f5 - but the Epaulette Mate didn’t stick.
Chess Tactics from Scratch is certainly lacking in all sorts of ways. I can’t deny, though, that working through it means I can now, usually, see the Epaulette Mate coming. Indeed, it was Weteschnik’s book that came to mind when I saw the position at the head of today’s blog.
I gather the position at the head of today’s blog occurred in the last round of one of the Gibraltar side events. White is an exchange and a couple of pawns up. By my count White has over 30 legal moves to choose from. Our man found the only one that hands the win to Black in an instant.
A tough break for White. Especially since had he won the game he would have shared first place in the tournament. One move on from the position you see above, it was the player of the Black pieces who was going home with a share of the £900 first prize.
As many people have said in the past, there really should be an Informator symbol for "Ouch".
With thanks to David Sedgwick
The Worst Move on the Board Index