I was contacted towards the end of November by an amateur chess player called Oliver Dyar, who was responding to my Kindle Books and Chess blog post. He’d just published a short book on Kindle called 21 Checkmate Puzzles which was available for free download for one day only, on 26th November.
Describing his project, Mr Dyer wrote:
The focus has been on creating a great chess ebook experience – good design, fun, challenging, informative.
This is the first book in a project about writing books for hobby chess players. My hope is that as more amateurs write books with effort put into design, then hopefully some of the major publishers will start improving their designs!
I took advantage of the free download offer and checked out his book.
Actually, I went through all 21 chess problems and thoroughly enjoyed doing them. They are very different in character from the problems presented in T. E. Klemm’s 100 Chess Problems and Another 100 Chess Problems, and the care and attention to the layout and design is immediately evident. The commentary is clearly and precisely written and is free of “typing errors” (unlike T. E. Klemm’s books).
After the cover and the title page, Dyar jumps right into the action with Puzzle 1. The reader is presented with a large, clear, easy-to-read chess board with all the pieces still in play at a point where the opening is giving way to the middle game.
Black to move…
From the start I felt I was in different territory than I had been when going through Klemm’s first book, as if a different personality was expressing itself through the problems. For one thing, I was not so sure of my ground, of how many moves were needed; should the Bishop check the King, or should the King’s Knight fork the Queen and Rook, or should the Queen’s Knight move up to d4? Usually, chess puzzles involve some kind of forced move, so B x f2 ch, K e2 and then move up the Knight…? That would not work… and so on. The solutions were all very elegant and often, as in Puzzle 1, involved trapping the enemy king first and then delivering the final blow, often after an extra twist or turn to the plot to ensure an elegant and pleasing finish.
After taking us through a couple of puzzles, Dyar then pops up to say “Hello!” and offer a brief introduction before leaving us to the rest of the puzzles. This is actually a sensible – and refreshing – way to do things, especially on Kindle, where readers can download the first few pages to sample the book before buying. It also works well on Amazon.com, where you can “look inside” the book and do the first two problems.
The only puzzle that seemed a bit too contrived was the last one, Puzzle 21. Enjoyable, but how on earth did White get into the position where three pieces are under separate attacks, with two of those pieces, and two pawns, unguarded? And what was Black up to not to be able to take at least one of those pieces? Still, no matter, it was challenging and fun to do.
So, does the book live up to Mr Dyar’s intentions? Yes! It is well designed, especially the board graphics and the beginning of the book, both of which take into account the Kindle-reader’s experience. The repetition of the board on the solution page is also very useful (Klemm has taken this even further by offering a new illustration for every move); you really do not need a chess board and you don’t have to struggle to find the solutions “at the back of the book”.
I’d give this chess problem book 5 stars on Amazon.
21 Checkmate Puzzles is now available for just $1.21 on Amazon.com or on your Kindle, and is great value for money.