Jon Edwards, Mastering Mates: 1,111 One-Move Mates. (Russell Enterprises, 2014.) 224 pp. $19.95. Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.
About a month ago I mentioned Alex Baburin's quip about Jon Edwards' earlier book Sacking the Citadel to the effect that Edwards was engaging in a bit of overkill:
Recently I received an interesting book called "Sacking the Citadel" (Russell Enterprises, 2011, 400 pages, $25). This book, written by Jon Edwards, is devoted exclusively to the Greek Gift sacrifice (Bxh7+, usually followed by Ng5+). It contains 308 examples of this theme, which is probably about 300 examples more than one needs to study in order to understand how this sacrifice works.
One might have a similar thought about the current book under review, which sees Edwards present 1111 (that's base 10, not base 2!) one-move mates, all taken from actual games. Wouldn't 306 puzzles be enough? (That's how many mates in one are offered in Laszlo Polgar's tome Chess: 5334 Problems, Combinations, and Games.) 500? 800? Surely we don't need more than 1110, do we?!
Apparently Edwards thinks we do, so while I'm probably not in Edwards' target audience I decided to solve them all in one session. It took me about 80 minutes to plow through them all, less a few minutes to take some notes for this post and a few moments here and there to clear my mind from the fog. The experience was something like a long-distance run. At first I felt fine, and after a bit of a slow-paced warmup everything kicked into gear and I started speeding along. At a certain point a fog starts to set in, and I started wondering why I was doing this and if it would ever finish. After several minutes of slog I got my second wind, but inevitably hit a second wave of fog. Mercifully, that passed more quickly, and when I turned the last page and saw to my surprise that there was only one problem left I enjoyed a small wave of euphoria. Done! I don't recommend that anyone follow my example.
About the puzzles: they are not sorted by themes or patterns, although sometimes the same pattern will appear in back-to-back problems. Over the long haul, certain mating patterns arose many times - not to the point of painful repetition (unless like me you go through the whole thing in one shot) - but to an extent that will be useful for the beginners and near-beginners for whom this book is intended.
In passing: early on I wondered if Keres-Fischer from the 1959 Candidates would be there; to my pleasure, it showed up - #801! (That probably helped get me going on the homestretch.) Something that didn't show up that really should have been there was a version of the four-move mate. How do you not include that in a book designed for novices?! At one point there was a mate with Bxf7# supported by a knight on e5 (#344), but not including Scholar's Mate was a real omission. (A possible objection: All Edwards' examples are taken from real games in databases, not from games played in after-school chess clubs or between parents and their young kids. Response: One can even find Scholar's Mate in ChessBase's Mega Database. I just did a search for the position that can arise via 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nc6 3.Qh5 Nf6 4.Qxf7# and found seven examples; there are surely more games demonstrating other versions of the mate.)
A nice aspect of the book is that in some of the games the player missed the mate; when that happened Edwards noted the move that was played. Something I like a bit less is that several positions had multiple solutions (#s 10 & 339 were the ones I caught), especially since Edwards doesn't mention the successful alternatives in the solutions section.
If there is a second printing, the publisher should note that pages 38 and 153 are mislabeled as "Black to move" and "White to move", respectively; it should be the other way around. Also, the very bottom of diagram 74 is cut off. (The publisher's page for the book is here.)
Recommended? I don't think anyone needs 1000+ mates in one or believe that this would be more effective than, say, going through a set of 500 such mates twice. The giant Polgar tome (1104 pages!) mentioned above has more than 300 mates in one, and then goes completely off the deep end with 3412 mates in two with even more content after that, and besides that the paperback version basically costs the same as the Edwards book! Living in the real world, though, there is one big advantage in favor of the Edwards book: one can carry it around without needing a truss. Edwards' book is much lighter, the paper is nicer and the diagrams are easier to see - all advantages for kids and adults alike. My conclusion is that if you already have something that fits the bill, use (or give) it; if not, this book will certainly help inexperienced players develop a good eye for many standard mate-in-one patterns.