As I mentioned last time, in early August the British solving team were competing in the World Solving Championships in Dresden. They did very well, but were ‘pipped at the post’.
In the individual event, John Nunn, a GM both as a player and as a solver, was narrowly beaten by many-times-World-Champion Piotr Murdzia of Poland. And there was a similar story in the ‘main event’, the team championships, with the Poland team pushing GB (three playing GMs, John Nunn, Jonathan Mestel and Colin McNab, with Ian Watson as captain and reserve solver) into second place. Still, GB finished ahead of many strong teams; it was a highly creditable performance. Since acquiring some years ago sponsorship from Winton Capital Management we’ve been able to send our strongest team to such events and it’s nice to know that we have a good chance of at least being in a medal position in them.
The team championships are spread over two days and comprise six rounds, each focussed on a different type of chess composition, sat in exam conditions. Solvers are challenged to solve quickly but accurately – the problems selected are ones that are far from straightforward. The first round is devoted to ‘mate in 2’ problems. Here is one of the problems:
Arthur F. Mackenzie, 1st Prize, Sydney Morning Herald 1905
The bK is well hemmed in, but immediate battery checks fail – if the Nc3 moves then Black can play 1…Kxd5, and after 1.c6+ he has 1…Bc5. So it’s a safe bet that White will make a threat that isn’t related to these batteries and that in defending against that threat it will become possible to play a battery mate. The key is 1.Na3!, threatening 2.Nc2. Now Black has various checking defences. If he plays 1…Rxd5+ he’ll no longer have the resource 2…Kxd5, so the cross-check 2.Ncb5 is mate. If he plays the d7R to d6 or e7 he’ll no longer have 2…Bc5, so the cross-check 2.c6 mates. The key not only leaves the e3R en prise, it leaves it en prise with check, but then the cross-check 2.Ne4! (an indirect use of the a1B’s battery) is mate. Finally, there’s 1…Rh2 2.Re4.
The second round features 3-movers. Here solvers have to be particularly careful because unlike the 2-mover round (in which they only have to give the key move) they have to spot all Black’s defences and give the second moves by White that refute these defences. Consider this one:
Jan Hlineny, 1st Prize, Cesky spolek sachovni v Praze 1891
If you take up solving seriously I think that there is more work to do familiarizing yourself with the approach to mates in more than 2 than to mates in 2 (where possibilities for mate are immediately apparent). Here, the key is I think difficult to spot because it has a quiet, non-spectacular threat (the spectacular comes later!). That’s not to deny though that the key is attractive because 1.Ra7! creates two flights for the bK. The threat is the mundane 2.Rxd7 – if Black allows this then he is simply cornered and unable to prevent mate next move.
So one defence is 1…d6. The response to this is again hard to find if you’re expecting sparkling tactics: after the prosaic 2.Ke3! Black simply can’t prevent mate next move. But what about 1…d5, after which 2.Ke3 can be met by 2…d4+? Well, now 2.Nec6+! works; with d5 occupied, 2…Ke4 is met by 3.Qxh7. Finally, the spectacular bit – if 1…Kd6 then with a flourish you can play 2.Qe6!. For full marks solvers had to see all this. They weren’t required to say that after 1…Kd4 or 1…Kf6 the threat 2.Rxd7(+) still works, though they will have had to reassure themselves that this is indeed the case after the new possibilities for Black’s second move.
And after solving the 2-movers and 3-movers, solvers will have still had the daunting prospect of helpmates, selfmates, studies, etc., ahead of them… Rather them than me!
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).