Chess Tutorials

  1. The Basics
  2. First Steps Towards Checkmate
  3. More Practical Lessons
  4. Popular Themes and Real Life Chess
  5. Quick-fire Puzzles
  6. Solutions to Exercises
  7. Solutions to Quick-fire Puzzles
Chapter One: The Basics
When Ward calls this opening chapter “The Basics,” he really means it; he kicks things off with an explanation of the difference between check andcheckmate! However, if you’ve ever taught juniors before, you know that when starting out it often takes them a while to grasp the concept of Checkmate, as they often think they can simply take their opponent’s king! That’s why I had to smile and nod when he gave this note on page 11:
Note: There is no (as juniors so commonly seem to think) taking, killing, or destroying the king. There must always be two kings on a chessboard and one is not allowed to move a king into check.
By the way, in addition to the clipboard icon above, Ward also makes good use of two other icons: the crossbones (meaning warning) and the light bulb (a tip).  Here is an example of each:
Warning: As always when trying to make generalizations, the truth is that everything depends on the position. General rules and principles are useful but there are nearly always exceptions.

Tip: When selecting a move, always consider any checks that you may have available. Furthermore, once you have decided on your move, before playing it check that your opponent won’t have any good checks available.  Basically then, always check for checks!
I mention this because while Ward uses these icons very effectively, I have seen other chess books where these icons were promoted as one of the book’s features, yet the author’s use of them was lackluster at best.
Okay, back to the meat of this first section which consists of Ward explaining and giving examples of a handful of basic tactics:
  • Sacrifice
  • Stalemate
  • Fork
  • Pin
  • Skewer
  • Discovered Check
  • Double Check
While most of the examples are elementary, here is one he gives from his own game which is a little more intricate as it involves two themes: a sacrificeand a double check:
C. Ward - B. Laval, French League 2006

White to Move
Even though Ward’s queen is attacked he did not move it.  Instead, he played the line opening/decoy sacrifice 1.Rxh7+!  The point being that if 1…Kxh7, the Black king has now been “decoyed” to the h7 square.  This allows the winning double check 2.Nf6+! and after 2…Kh8 3.Qh7 is mate.  In the game Ward’s opponent realized he couldn’t take the “Greek gift” and so played 1…Kg8, but ended up losing quickly anyway.
Chapter Two: First Steps Towards Checkmate
In this section, Ward explains several checkmating patterns and concepts including:
  • Doubling Up
  • The Lawnmower Checkmate
  • Simple Diagonal Alignment
  • Eliminating an Escape
  • The Queen and Knight Pairing
  • Plugging the Gaps
  • Destroying the Defensive Barrier
  • Building a Combination.
Taking one example from this chapter, here Ward explains the concept of eliminating a king’s escape square (see diagram)

White to move
Although Black is up material, his king is vulnerable due to the weak light squares on f7, g6, and h7.  Ward says that a lot of juniors would quickly give a check with their queen on h7, which would allow the king to scurry away to safety on e7 via f7.  More astute juniors might play 1.Bg6, setting up 2.Qh7#.  However, this too would be a mistake as Black can simply move the f8 rook away creating a flight square for the monarch on f8 (where again it could escape to e7).  Also note that the Bishop on f6 does a nice defensive job of holding the g7 and e5 pawns.  So what should White play?
The correct move here is 1.Bh7+!, forcing 1…Kh8. Now White gets in Bg6 “free of charge” as Ward puts it, due to the fact that it’s check: 2.Bg6+ Kg8 and now 3.Qh7 is mate.
Chapter Three: More Practical Lessons
In this section, Ward covers various tactics and mates that are bit more advanced. They include:
  • The Overloaded Piece
  • Exploiting Unprotected Pieces
  • Discovered Check Carnage
  • Escaping Pins Houdini Style!
  • Legall’s Mate
  • Copying Errors and Miscalculations
  • A Pinning Interlude
  • Tricks to Aid in Promotion.
In the exercise section he includes this “simple” problem:

White to move and mate in one
(Bet you can’t solve this in under 60 seconds!—solution at end of review.  MJ)
Chapter Four: Popular Themes and Real Life Chess
Ward continues his excellent job of explaining advanced tactics, using many examples from real games. Topics covered include:
  • Deflections and Decoys
  • Working with Knight Forks
  • An Arabian Knight
  • The Greek Gift
  • Standard Sacrifices on f7 and e6
  • Eliminating the Fianchettoed Bishop
  • Exploiting the Restricted King
  • The Development of a Combination
Here is an example Ward gives from one of his own games which illustrates how to attack a fianchetto structure when the h-file has been opened:

 White to move: “Time to swap off the bishops”
Says Ward:
18 moves into the game C. Ward-A. Ledger, British Championship 1993, I had still not castled and indeed, in the above diagram I had little intention of doing so.  Instead, I was concentrating all of my efforts on an attack down the h-file before my opponent could cause me severe problems on the queenside.  However, even if I could ‘beam’ my queen up and then down onto h7, it was clear that wouldn’t be mate, as Black’s dark-squared bishop controlled the vital-square h8 and the king had an escape route on f8.

Therefore I knew I had to exchange off that key defender and 19 Bh6! stood out a mile.  Should Black swap off on h6 then my queen would swoop and mate would soon occur on h8.  Instead, Black wisely avoided the trade with 19…Bh8, but up my sleeve I had the neat (if I say so myself!) tactical resource 20 Bf8! as shown in the diagram below.

White to move: “You can run, but you can’t hide!”
Just as you, the reader, will hopefully finish this book content that you have added some tactical themes and cool checkmates to your armoury of ideas, I too had previously seen this concept on more than one occasion.

So yes, I had originally gotten this plan from somewhere else, but I still needed to analyse key variations.  First up 20...Rxf8 21Qh6 would have forced mate on either h7 or h8 as Black doesn’t have time to move both his bishop and his rook.  As 20…Kxf8 21 Rxh8+! Kg7 22Qh6 mate was fairly conclusive, Black had to come up with something else; the game ended through 20…f5 21 Rxh8+! Kf7 (or 21…Kxh8 22 Qh6+ Kg8 23 Qg7 mate) 22 Bxe7 Kxe7 23 Qg5+ Kd7 24 Rh7+ Kc6 25 Qf6+ Kd5 26 Qf7+ Kc6 27 Qd7 mate.
Chapter Five: Quick Fire Puzzles
Chris closes out the book with 100 chess puzzles that cover checkmates, tactics, and ‘White’s best move.’ Here are three from the checkmates section (solutions at end of review):

White to move and mate in one

White to move and mate in one

White to move and mate in two
Chapters Six and Seven contain the solutions to all the exercises.
The Bottom Line
While only 172 pages long, I was amazed at just how much useful info GM Ward has packed into this volume.  Clearly this book was not thrown together over a few weekends, but rather Chris has spent some time thinking about how best to present the material.  Obviously his years coaching juniors has helped him know just how to explain/breakdown chess positions to those relatively new to the game.
Additionally, the diagrams often contain arrows which make it crystal clear how the particular tactic or checkmate under discussion works.  Also, practically every page contains useful tipsnotes, and warnings that should prove helpful to those looking to improve their game.  Ward also includes examples from his own games, which I really like as you get to see the tactic/checkmating pattern “through his eyes.”  When you add to this package Chris’ friendly/chatty writing style, you have a wonderful primer on the weapons of chess.
As to who specifically this book is targeted to, I would say two groups: the first section is ideal for the chess neophyte and will give him or her an excellent introduction to the world of tactics and mates.  The second half of the book provides great material for the novice club player (say those rated between 1100-1500 Elo) who wants to sharpen his or her “money skills.”
On a scale of 1-10Starting Out: Chess Tactics and Checkmates gets a 9.
Solution to puzzles
1)      1.Qd4#
2)      1.cxb7#
3)      1.0-0#
4)      1.Rd8+ Bxd8 2.Qf7#