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Checkmate or Bust
by Wanda Peabody
Hacking Up The King, by David Eggleston, Mongoose Press 2014, Paperback, Figurine Algebraic Notation, 225pp. $24.95 (ChessCafe Price $21.17)
British International Master David Eggleston's book, Hacking Up The King, is aptly titled. In it he advocates that the reader should be ruthlessly aggressive in rending apart the opponent's defenses. In his approach every piece is expendable when seeking checkmate. Win at all cost!
According to Eggleston, guidelines and principles only go so far; there is no substitute for the hard work of carefully analyzing complex positions. His goal is to give you the confidence to enter such sharp positions and finish the game with a slash-and-burn attack. He showcases this technique with heavily annotated examples and plentiful diagrams.
Eggleston recommends playing through the games over-the-board and to "pause in complex positions to try and work out the continuations for yourself." Thus, whenever the reader is intrigued by a position it is to their benefit to ponder the what if's and maybe's even without prompting by the author. In the process, your attacking judgment and calculation skills will grow markedly.
Eggleston shows his hacking methods in several scenarios:
In "Basic Attacking Ideas" Egglseston demonstrates motifs such as the back-rank mate, the Greek gift, the windmill, and piece sacrifices around the king. Here is an example of the Greek gift:
Having drawn the black king out by sacrificing a bishop on h7, Eggleston writes, "An experienced player should be able to judge, purely on intuition, that White is likely to be winning here because all of Black's pieces are on the queenside, too far away from the defense of their king. I give all of the possible mates to show the typical ways to conclude the attack."
Let's look at an example from "Attacks Featuring Opposite-Side Castling." Eggleston takes up the game at White's fourteenth move and invests five pages of analysis before it concludes at move twenty-nine:
IM Germán Della Morte (2383)
"We join the game in what seems to be a fairly typical opposite-sides castling position in the Sicilian Defense – with one big difference: Black's kingside pawn structure is wrecked. The doubled pawn on f6 would much rather be back on g7; this gives White the edge. The key is to maneuver the white pieces to better squares where they can pressure the black king. The e6-pawn will be a particularly difficult weakness for Black to defend, since under no circumstance can he take on f5. The h6 square is free for the white queen to go to and playing this in combination with Nce2-f4-h5, threatening Qg7 with checkmate, is a very direct and very powerful threat that black will struggle to deal with."
"The knight begins its journey and Black will soon have to defend e6."
14...Bd7 15.Nf4 Rac8
"Black holds the pawn tactically, for if White munches everything on e6 then ...Qxc2 will be checkmate at the end of the variation – but this defense is flawed."
Eggleston then gives analysis of 15...Qc8 and 15...Nc6. After the game move of 16.Rd2?, he indicates that 16.fxe6! fxe6 17.Qb3! was a clear path to advantage. White went on to win after some further adventures.
Many of the examples are similar in that the analysis shows improvements on the moves played. Here is a position from one of Eggleston's own games in the chapter "Hacking Up the Scandinavian." It is annotated in full over eight pages.
"Too clever. It was part of my idea in playing 27.Qf1 to hit the f7-bishop with this move, but this is flawed."
"The simple 30.Nxd6! Gives an easy win: 30...Rxd6 31.Nd2! and, despite his extra pawn, Black cannot resist White's threats of Nc4 coupled with Rb1 or Qf2 to attack b6, or simply invading at c7 in some variations." [He then offers three continuations.]
The finish was 30...Bb4? 31.e6! Bh5 32.Qg1! Bxe1 33.Rxe1 a5 34.d6 Qa6 35.Nxb6+ Kb8 36.Nc5 1-0
Hacking Up The King also includes examples of what can happen when an opponent misplays their attacking position. It will teach you to recognize a jewel in the rough and to defend tenaciously in the hope of a counterattack. There is an art to being able to finish off a successful attack or to turn the tables after an opponent's bad move.
The examples demonstrate the importance of accurate calculation when conducting an attack. It is often not enough to just pick an obvious move, you need to see where it leads so there is not a nasty shock waiting for you at the end of a variation. Eggleston's analysis is deep, but it is still comprehensible to the average player, and it is supported by plenty of verbal commentary. I enjoyed working through these games – over-the-board – and learned that a properly implemented initiative can deliver your opponent's head. Calculation and analysis goes a long way, and it is not as hard as you might think. Happy hacking!
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