First, a word about helpmates. In many ways of all the problem genres they are at the furthest extreme from over-the-board play; and yet anecdotally I gather that they are the problems that most often entice players into an interest in problems. (I was a case in point.) In a helpmate, the ‘players’ conspire together to reach a position in which Black is mated. If you are already familiar with helpmates you may like to have a go at solving these two, though the second one would tax even an experienced solver!
Steffen Slumstrup Nielsen (a strong player and composer of studies, I believe)
Helpmate in 3
2nd Honourable Mention, Problem-skak 2015-16
We are looking for a BWBWBW sequence landing Black in mate. There’s only one way to do it. Composers generally have in mind a theme for their problems (puzzle element on its own isn’t enough for a good helpmate), and in this case the composer set himself the task of having five consecutive line openings, as follows (remember, Black plays first): 1.Qxf5 d4 2.Bc1 Rb3 3.Bd1 Bxf5#.
Helpmate in 6 and 1/2 moves – two solutions
Prize, Problem-skak 2015-16
Most of the time Black moves first in helpmates, but sometimes the composer’s idea works best if he starts with a white move – hence in this case “6 and 1/2”: we begin with a white move and thereafter Black and White alternate moves six times to reach the mate position. What’s more, this time there are two solutions. Composers like to spice up their problems by having two solutions which either are strongly complementary or radically different. (Whichever, it’s important to minimize the same moves cropping up in both solutions.)
In this case, it’s two radically different solutions. And you might think that the composer fails my test of showing a theme. On the other hand though, solutions as long as these can show a lot of interesting play in themselves (remember: the move orders have to be absolutely forced) and here we get two interesting solutions for the price of one! Also, as the judge commented, “the opening moves to b3 and h8 … add a welcome unifying factor”. So, here goes:
1…Kb3 2.Bh8 Kc4 3.Kg7 Kxd4 4.Kf6 Kxe3 5.Ke5 Kd2 6.Kd4 e4 7.Be5 Nb3# and
1…Nb3 2.Kh8 Nd2 3.exd2 e4 4.d1R e5 5.Rg1 exf6 6.Rg7 f7 7.Rh7 f8Q#.
Well, OK, the move …e4 did crop up both times, but for different reasons… I especially like the first solution, but the second, with its intricate precision, also has its charms.
If you are interested to look at other problems in this genre, or in any others (some traditional, some very non-traditional), you may like to visit the website of the British Chess Problem Society.
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).