Chess Tactics: The Tamerlane Mate

What makes you cry? Some people shed tears when they listen to beautiful opera arias. Other people cry whilst reading a heart-breaking story or watching a moving film. For genuine chess players who adore their game, it is easy to get overwhelmed with emotions and admiration when they see a fantastic combination. Are you one of us?

I once had a private student, a boy of 10, who would refuse to do anything else during lessons but solve puzzles. Not just regular tactical puzzles, but the PUZZLES. Those masterpieces full of unexpected twists, brought to life by chess composers. Finding out the solution would always make him stare at the board in total awe. I have to admit, it is a pretty challenging task to come up with new material for a student like this, but thanks to him, I collected quite a few chess gems that I would be happy to share.

One of my favourites by C. F. Janish is called “Tamburlaine’s iron cage” and was inspired by a dark story bringing us back in history to 1402, when Timur the Lame (later Westernized to Tamerlane or Tamburlaine the Great), a Turco-Mongol conqueror, invaded Anatolia and defeated the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid in the Battle of Ankara. Timur, notorious for being ruthlessly bloodthirsty and ridiculously over-the-top in demonstrating his power, ripped the Bizantine gates out of the wall to install them in his own capital and put the captured sultan into an iron cage on display in his parlor to boast to his friends.

In this puzzle you need to put the black king in a “cage” of black pawns and deliver a smothered mate. This will take you 10 moves (yes, you can checkmate in 1, but that wouldn’t take your breath away, would it).


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By WGM Olga Dolzhykova