1st Prize, Variantim 1988
Mate in 3
An experienced solver looking at this position might note that White is lined up against e5 (Bxe5# is thwarted only by the bRe1) and d5 (Rxd5# is thwarted only by the bBg2). This might lead the experienced solver to consider what happens if White places a piece on the intersection of Black’s two lines of guard, e1-e5 and g2-d5, i.e., on e4. If we ignore for the moment Black’s other two main defenders, the Rd1 and the Bh2, then moving either wN to e4 would do the trick, threatening both Bxe5 and Rxd5, and if …Bg2xNe4 then Bxe5# and if …Re1xNe4 then Rxd5#. (These moves to e4 are termed by problemists Nowotny interferences. They do occasionally crop up in actual games!)
However, Black’s other two defenders come to his rescue. Whichever white Knight goes to e4, a new line of guard is opened – so if 1.Nde4+? then 1…Rxe4! and if 1…Nge4+? then 1…Bxe4!.
So we need to hold these possibilities in mind while seeing if we can make a different threat, which may induce Black to weaken his defences. And the move we’re looking for is 1.Bf6!, threatening 2.Bd8 and 3.Bc7 (and if 2…Ne6 3.Be7). This threat is difficult to meet. In fact, the only way that Black can defend is by threatening a check, which, if allowed, would prolong proceedings beyond 3 moves. One way Black does this is by 1…d4, enabling him to meet 2.Bd8 by 2…Bb7+. But this move blocks the d1-d5 line, so we can now move the d2N to e4 (which is check!), and we do now have 2…Rxe4/Bxe4 3.Rd5/Bxe5#.
One potential solution starting with 1…d4
Similarly, 1…f4 meets 2.Bd8 with 2…Bh3+ but blocks the h2-e5 line, allowing 2.Nge4+! Rxe4/Bxe4 3.Rxd5/Bxe5#.
A second try beginning with 1…f4 also falls to checkmate.
Excellently matched play on diagonal and orthogonal lines – I’m not surprised it won a First Prize!
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).