Mind-blowing Problems in December with GM Jones

Sir Jeremy Morse, who died last year, had during a distinguished career (which included a spell as Chancellor of Bristol University) maintained an interest in chess problems. He wrote one of the definitive chess problem books, Chess Problems – Tasks and Records, whose third edition was published days before his death. In his memory, the British Chess Problem Society instituted the ‘C.J.Morse Award’, for task-oriented chess problems; the first such award was published in November 2017. I should like to present one of the finest problems in Jeremy’s book together with the problem that won the 2017 award.

A ‘task problem’ seeks to show some particular feature many times (and it is a ‘record’ if it exceeds the number of times shown in any other problem). Sometimes the effect of going for records is to produce boring, mechanical problems, but Jeremy especially cherished such problems that also worked well as artistic problems and as puzzles. Here’s an example:


2nd Prize, L’Italia Scacchistica, 1958 (version)
Mate in 2

(Solution Below)

As matters stand, if it were Black to play, then promotions lead to mate: 1…e1Q 2.Rd4; 1…e1N 2.Be3 (‘set mates’). But no mate is set for 1…Ke1 (or for moves of the Bishop), so we’d like to move the d1N so as to meet 1…Ke1 with 2.Qxc1(and to prepare a mate for Bishop moves). This however necessitates changes to the mates after the promotions. In the try, 1.Ne3? (no threat) we have 1…e1Q 2.Qc2 and 1…e1N 2.Nf1 and we have 1…Ba3 2.Ne4; but 1…Bb2! refutes.

So instead play 1.Nf2! (no threat; and a 2nd King flight-square, e3, is granted). Now the mates are 1…e1Q (or Ke3) 2.Qd3 and 1…e1N (or either Bishop move) 2.Nfe4. Jeremy writes of “…the actual record for a promoting black Pawn…with 3 pairs of self-blocking promotions on e1 leading to 6 different mates over three phases…a masterpiece”. Amen to that!

And now the 2017 award-winning problem, first published in The Problemist in 2016:


Ladislav Salai jr. and Emil Klemanic
Mate in 2

(Solution Below)

This is a messier position, and I don’t think that a solver would foresee what the task achieved is; it would become apparent only when he worked out what are the two most plausible attempts to solve the problem and how the play unfolds after each of them. (Do feel free to have a go before reading on!)

In this problem, we do need to find a move that threatens mate. So we try 1.e4, which threatens 2.Qe7. The lines of play now are 1…Nd4 2.cxd4; 1…Nf4 2.Bxf4; 1…c5 2.Rd5; and 1…Bxe4 2.Nfxg4. But 1…Qxe4 refutes.

So now we look at 1.Ne4, threatening 2.Re7. The lines of play now are 1…Nd4 2.exd4; 1…Nf4 2.Bxf4; 1…c5 2.Qd5; and 1…Bxe4 2.Nhxg4. This is the thematic play, but the solver will also note 1…Kxe4 2.Qe6 and 1…Qxe4 2.Bg7.

As the award puts it: “Try and key, threats and four pairs of variation mates involve moves of different white units to the same squares”. This is craftsmanship of the highest order (for each of the lines of play the composers have to devise reasons not only for piece A to have to go to the square but also for piece B’s move to the square to be ineffective, and vice versa), although I don’t think it quite has the clarity of Stocchi’s masterpiece.


Christopher Jones

Christopher 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).

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