I've been playing ChessAcademy's android app for a while when I'm bored: thought it could improve my chess to be solving their tactic challenges (not sure if it's working though..).
One pattern I often fail to notice is the smothered mate. Today, I failed again to notice it while focusing on capturing pieces instead and leveling the score.
The challenge (and solution) is that one:
[FEN "3r3k/6pp/p3Qn2/P3N3/4q3/2P4P/5PP1/6K1 w - - 0 1"] 1. Nf7+ Kg8 2. Nh6+ Kh8 3. Qg8+ Rxg8 4. Nf7#
I failed by thinking of a move that would only turn the piece advantage to my side:
[FEN "3r3k/6pp/p3Qn2/P3N3/4q3/2P4P/5PP1/6K1 w - - 0 1"] 1. Nf7+ Kg8 2. Nxd8 Qxe6 3. Nxe6
Obviously the solution strategy is better, but I failed to see it (as I had in other challenges that included a smothered mate). So I was wondering what "signs" could I be looking for that a smothered mate is possible? I know it might sound a little obvious, but maybe if I start by just trying to notice some small patterns I'll fail less on those tactics and later be able to find more complex moves that set up a smothered mate.