There has always been some overlap between the world of chess playing and the world of solving chess problems. John Nunn and Jonathan Mestel hold the GM title for each. International chess problem solving competitions these days are organized in much the same way as international playing tournaments, with ELO solving grades, title norms, etc.. The G.B. team, headed by those two GMs, tend to do well and, with sponsorship from Winton Capital, are competing in the World Championships in Dresden from 7th to 9th August.
If you want to get a flavour of the sort of problems you face in such solving contests try your hand at this one. Composed by Yves Cheyan in 1992, it’s mate in 2 – i.e., find the only move that forces mate next move. It was used in a solving competition organized by the British Chess Problem Society (BCPS) in Nottingham earlier this year.
One’s eye is drawn to the potential for moves by the c5R, but problems rarely have a checking key, and all the moves by the c5R fail to force mate next move.
A subtler approach is 1.Rhh5. Now, with a new guard provided for d5, moves by the c5R on the c-file are threatened. But 1…Qb7! successfully defends.
The key is 1.e4! (Could be the title for an openings book…) After this key (threat 2.Rc3), the defences and their refutations show the potential scope of most of the pieces in a different light – 1…Bd3+ 2.Rcc2; 1…fxe e.p. 2.Nb3; 1…Nd3 2.Nc2; 1…Bc4 2.Rd5; 1…Kd3 or c3 2.Rc3.
One more problem, also from that solving event in Nottingham. This time it’s a selfmate in 2 – i.e., White has to find the only move after which every black reply enables White to force Black to mate him on his second move. (By G. Thomas, it was published in 1980.)
If it were Black to move then after moves of the black bishop White would capture it and then Black would have to play 2…Ra1#. Note particularly 1…Be4 2.Nxe4 and 1…Bxe6 2.Qxe6, because inspection reveals that there isn’t any way in which White, to play, can fully preserve the status quo, and we’re going to have to change those two responses. The key is in fact 1.Ne2!, which has a threat, 2.Qc4+, after which 2…Kxc4 would now be mate (since 1.Ne2 has neutralized the guards of both the c3N and the h2R). It would be 2.Qc4+ that White would now have to play after 1…Be4. All but one of the other captures of the bB are as before, but the shining exception is 1…Bxe6 2.Qc2+!!. Two ‘!’s because I particularly like the fact that after 2…bxc2 the black bishop now guards the a2R! It’s this sort of imagination-stretching feature that can make solving such a pleasure.
Final Position Below (editors note – Very nice!)
If you want to try your hand at solving, there are always problems on the BCPS website – www.theproblemist.org.
Chris holds the Grandmaster title for Chess Problem Composition and uses his skills to write a regular column for the Bristol Chess Times. He is also a longterm Horfield Chess Club player (where he is acting secretary).