I think sometimes people underestimate the value of studying and training checkmate patterns. Like other patterns, such as pawn structures, basic tactics, or opening moves, checkmate patterns have many benefits.
Here are some of the benefits of studying and practicing checkmates.
- Being able to spot checkmate patterns frees your mind from the burden of having to calculate it “from scratch” – leaving you with more mental energy and more time in a tournament game.
- Many checkmates contain tactical themes such as discoveries, pins, and removal of the guard. Practicing checkmate problems will strengthen those tactical patterns as well.
- When you practice mates that involve more than one move such as mates-in-two or mates-in-three you develop your calculation and visualization skill. In some ways, this is advantageous because you aren’t spending your resources evaluating resulting positions, so you can isolate the calculation and visualization aspect.
My advocation of this type of practice stems from playing in a big tournament – the New York State Championship Under 1600 section – twenty years ago. I did all of the usual stuff – opening practice, tactics, endgame study. However, I also did 10 checkmate problems daily. Although I can’t attribute my victory solely to checkmate practice – I scored 4.5/5 for first place, I do believe that the training sharpened my tactical eye as well as gave me confidence.
Here is some advice to include checkmate practice into your training regimen:
- Get a copy of Renaud and Kahn’s The Art of Checkmate. Study it and do the exercises. This will provide you with all of the patterns you will ever need.
- Then get Polgar’s massive Chess: 5334 Problems, Combinations, and Games and go through the checkmate problems therein. This will help reinforce those patterns.
- You don’t have to dedicate a ton of time to it. After you have absorbed all of the patterns, then occasional reinforcement will maintain this skill and knowledge for you. For example, I do checkmate problems once every couple weeks. However, I do encounter checkmate solutions in my daily tactics training.
I know there are a lot of aspects of chess to study, including openings, middlegame, and the endgame, along with tactics and strategy. Checkmates may seem like an insignificant addition to an already crowded training program. However, if you’ve never taken the time to build up your library of checkmate patterns, you will benefit greatly by doing so.
Here is a video I created with six common checkmate patterns – think of this as an appetizer!