12 January 2012

Lesson of the Week

Damiano's Checkmate

This week's first problem comes from a book published in the early sixteenth century. Pedro Damiano, Questo libro e da imparare giocare a scachi et de li partiti (1512). According to H.J.R. Murray,  A History of Chess (1913), Damiano's 1512 text may not have been the first edition, although it is the oldest still in existence. Little is known about Damiano except that he was from southern Portugal, and was an apothecary by profession. The text was published in Italy and went through eight editions in the sixteenth century. The fifth edition is the first to use the image of a castle for the chess piece now known in English as a rook.

Pedro Damiano gives advice on play, which Murray summarizes:
No move should be played aimlessly; do not commit oversights (Sp. cegara, blindnesses); do not play fast; when you have a good move look for a better; when receiving odds exchange whenever possible except at a loss; with a winning advantage do not be tempted to disarrange your game merely to win a Pawn; use the King's leap to place it on a good square; do not move the Pawns which stand in front of your King after its leap; spread out your pieces; try and maintain KP and QP [the center pawns], and if possible the two BPs (c- and f-pawns] on their 4th squares.
Murray, 788
The king's leap is an ancient rule that has been replaced in modern chess rules by castling. Murray notes also that Damiano's text is the oldest that clearly indicates that the h1 square must be light--light on right, the first rule for setting up the board, and the one most often violated by movie and television directors in our day.

The checkmate pattern known as Damiano's Mate comes from a diagram from his text, and reproduced with the given solution by Murray (799-800). In Murray's text, and presumably in Damiano's, there is no white king. I took the liberty of placing one on the board to conform to the rules.

White to move

It is checkmate in five. Damiano's solution is worth knowing.

1.Rh8+ Kxh8 2.Rh1+ Kg8 3.Rh8+ Kxh8 4.Qh1+ Kg8 5.Qh7#.

Unfortunately, the problem is cooked. There is another checkmate in five, although not every response is forced.

1.Qb3+ (or Qd5+) Rf7 2.gxf7+ Qxf7 3.Rh8+ Kxh8 4.Qxf7 Kh7 5.Rh1#.

If we remove the rook on f1 in the diagram, the problem improves. There is material equality, and Damiano's idea is the only forced checkmate.

Knowing this pattern can be useful for it is sometimes possible to set up the opportunity for delivering this checkmate. In this Chess Skills blog, I presented examples of having succeeded in "Damiano's Mate" (August 2008), "Warm-up" (December 2008), and "Another day, another blitz trap" (December 2008).

In this week's chess clubs, I am presenting another example from a game that I played in 2009.

White to move

My opponent played 20.Rf3, which led to 20...Rh1+ 21.Kxh1 Rh8+ 22.Kg1 Rh1+ 23.Kxh1 Qh8+ 24.Kg1 Qh2+ 25.Kf1 Qh1#.

White has several ways, other than the blunder 20.Rf3, to prevent Black's checkmate plan. Two of White's moves are winning. Black staked his game on the checkmate, sacrificing a knight to get the pawn placed on g3. White committed an oversight by playing too fast. Ignoring Damiano's advice, White fell to Damiano's Mate.

Find these winning moves.

No comments:

Post a Comment