Bristol Chess Times – January 1993

Continuing our theme of revisiting the Bristol Chess Times from 25 years ago, today we offer an insight into the league in January 1993.  The full PDF edition is available at the bottom of this article.


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Highlights include:

  • Bristol still debating whether it should enter the newly formed National Chess League;
  • Nigel Short preparing for Jan Timman in his quest to face Kasparov;
  • A new company taking over Teletext?!! (Editor’s note – Younger readers should Google Teletext)
  • Bath, Grendal, Cosham, Hanham, Sun Life and Thornbury leading the respective six divisions;
  • An exchange visit to Hannover, Germany from a squad of Bristolians!
  • GM Stuart Conquest holding a simul to help Horfield celebrate 50 years.

You can download the PDF here: BCT93


John Richards

John has been playing for Horfield for longer than anyone else cares to remember (but was actually 1983). Never quite managing to get to a 180 grade, he is resigned to the fact that he probably never will. He set up the original Bristol League website and has been, at various times League General Secretary, Recruitment and Publicity, Chess Times Editor, Bristol 4NCL Manager and an ECF Arbiter.

More mini games for coaching chess

The less experienced you are, the harder it is to take specific lessons from a full game of chess. This is the claim that I made in the last article on coaching. There are just way too many factors in a full game, and most of the time any interesting strategic play will be dwarfed by blunders. It is for this reason I believe more in the value of mini games – this means a game specifically designed to teach one or two aspects of the game.

Last time I showed a few games which only use one major piece.

Bristol league alumnus Chris Russell has contributed a further mini-game which he has used with great success in coaching: King, Queen and 8 pawns vs. King, 2 Rooks and 8 pawns. A queen vs. two rooks does come up from time to time in games, and depending on the position, can be much better for either side. The rooks like to be co-ordinated, and the queen likes more open positions and some loose targets. In the scenario with 8 pawns on their starting ranks – Chris notes that the queen has a slight edge because she can keep attacking pawns early on, and the rooks find it hard to establish the right battleground for them – but there’s not much in it.

Since writing the first article, I’ve also discovered that has several training games of exactly this nature. I tried the ‘Queen vs. Queen with two extra pawns’ game (you have 5 pawns, the computer has 3) and surprisingly I ended up losing the first two games…
Once I had snapped out of that I managed to press the advantage for a bit and ended up drawing the next two. Fifth time lucky, I triumphed – but I had to calculate a queen trade very carefully. It just shows how hard these ‘winning’ positions are to convert! Anyway, this time let’s see a few other types of mini-game:

Classic mini chess

I started playing this as a youngster; it is arguably a streamlined chess game, reducing down to one of each major piece. Apart from being a shorter game, I like this one for coaching for a couple of reasons. Firstly there is an immediate way to blunder checkmate, so it doesn’t take much to explain the link between a general strategy and checkmate. Let’s take a look [n.b. the board is 5×5, pieces set up with R,N,B,Q and K on a- to e- files; and pawns in front of them, which can only move one square per move, unlike regular chess]:


1.d3 ed??

Blunder! (You have given your opponent both control and access to the square right in front of your king!) It is forced mate in four:

2.ed – threatening Qe2+ and mate on e4. Black can prolong this with cd (answered by cd) or Nc3 (answered by bxc3) but mate will come on e4 soon enough.

The other thing mini-chess should teach well is that pawns are powerful weapons – where they are only three moves away from queening from the start, strategies for promotion should quickly become apparent.

(It can also teach you about zugzwang – but that’s a bit advanced!)

Push or defend

For this one you’ll have to imagine a solid line between the a and b file. One pawn starts on the a file and can freely wander to the other end. Once it is promoted, you win the game.

However, the other side is trying to checkmate you. Try this one: (White doesn’t have a king in these games, just some pieces to attack with. Here it is Qh1, Rg1, Pf2. Black has the pawn on a7 – which will promote in 5 moves unless Black uses up some moves to avoid checkmate: Kg8, Rf8 and pawns on f7,g7 and h7.)

Push or defend.PNG

This should teach the basic importance of time, and having your own plans (counterplay). As an attacker it should force you to think about forcing moves, and see which threats really are threatening.

Endgame cuts

This one I recommend for absolutely all levels of chess – and was surprisingly inspired by a method for cutting cake fairly! I remember a puzzle from years ago about cutting cakes that are not uniform – different amounts of icing, toppings, corners etc – a potential minefield for any cake cutting scenario. The question was how can two people can ensure a cake is cut fairly between them, using only a knife? (n.b. you are not told anything about the shape or design of the cake).

The answer was pretty simple: One person makes the cut, and the other one gets to choose their piece. This encourages the cutter to cut as fairly as possible.

Okay, its not perfect – it’s a little unfair on the cutter. However, the same approach actually works much better for chess training:

One person sets up an endgame, and the other person chooses their colour.

Why does this help? Two reasons – it gets you to try to evaluate positions. As you set the board up, you will be thinking through all the various parts of the position. Material, time, and quality. Two connected past pawns? Maybe that’s equal to a bishop? Maybe they’re not, maybe they’re easily better. The point is it’s up to you, and you can modify the position until you think it’s equal.

The second reason I like it (except that it trains endgames, which let’s be honest we all need to do more of!) is that when you lose with the side that you picked, you are forced to re-evaluate. Psychologically it’s much harder to ignore the flaws in your thinking when it’s you who chose the position!


Mike Harris

Mike is a regular pretender in Bristol’s top division and can also be seen propping up local tournament ladders. He writes a regular column for the Bristol Chess Times and plays a solid 20 openings a season.

January Problems with GM Jones

A good way in which to extend one’s imagination as to the possibilities in a chess position is solving ‘series problems’. In other words, one looks for a sequence of moves all made by either White or Black that lead to a position in which the specified outcome can be achieved. I was recently reading an article by the American composer, George Sphicas, a leading expert in this field, from which two such problems of his stood out.


This problem (from Ideal-Mate Review,1997) is a series helpmate in 25. In other words, Black makes 25 moves in order to reach a position in which White can play a mating move.

It becomes apparent that the only way to achieve mate is by Black blocking his potential flight squares at d7, e7, f7, f6 and f5. This will entail using each of his five potential blockers; all four Pawns will have to promote. The solution therefore comprises a wonderfully precise interlocking sequence in which every element falls into place with move-by-move exactitude (a requirement of the problem being considered sound). The f5 square must be blocked first (otherwise moving the P from g5 to g4 would give check); and you will find that there are reasons why each of the other bPs, once freed up, have to complete their manoeuvres before the next stage in the process can be undertaken. And it also transpires that we have to make one of each of the possible promotions (i.e. once to N/B/R/Q): ‘Allumwandlung’ (or ‘AUW’ for short) in problemists’ parlance – 1.a1N 2.Nc2…4.Nf5 5.g4…8.g1Q 9.Qgg5 10.Qf6 11.g5…15.g1R 16.Rg7 17.Re7 18.Qhf7 19.h5…23.h1B 24.Bc6 25.Bd7 d5#.

If you like that one, you may like to have a go at another Sphicas series helpmate, this time in 30 moves, from Ideal-Mate Review, 1995 –


This time we don’t get AUW, but what we do get is four ‘Excelsiors’, i.e., each of the four black Pawns is moving the whole way to promotion from its starting square. And this time there are six blocking squares to be occupied (as well as a black piece to be sacrificed at g5), so this is a longer, more complex move sequence, whose logic you will enjoy unravelling – 1.a5…5.a1B 6.Bg7 7.Kf6 8.Be6 9.d5…13.d1R 14.Rd7 15.Rf7 16.Ne7 17c5…21.c1B 22.Bg5 23.Rb5 24.Re5 25.b5…29.b1B 30.Bf5 hxg5#.

These two problems qualified for inclusion in Ideal-Mate Review because one of their achievements is that in each the final position satisfies the criteria of an ‘ideal mate’: every unit on the board contributes to the mate either by blocking or by guarding a potential flight square, and there is nothing superfluous in the way in which each potential flight is nullified (i.e., no square that is guarded as well as blocked). From experience I know how challenging it is to find settings in which you don’t have to add any extraneous material to the board in order to exclude unwanted alternative solutions (‘cooks’)!


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).

“Larsen’s Beach”: A fun sideline in the Nimzo-Larsen Attack

I’ve made no secret of my love of 1.b3 and the fun entertaining games that can arise from this quirky (but theoretically sound!) opening.  Here at the Bristol Chess Times, several of us have been playing with a spiky variation of the opening this season.  However, recently our opponents have been counter attacking (how unsporting of them!) leading to messy unbalanced positions.  In honour of the Somerset New Year Congress based in the seaside town of Clevedon where we recently played this line, we have affectionately nicknamed the variation “Larsen’s Beach”. Lets take a deeper look…

The starting position of the variation begins with Black adopting a conservative formation with his white squared bishop, f6 knight and a small centre. Here is the opening moves:

1. b3 d5

2. Bb2 Bf5

3. e3 Nf6

4. Be2 e6

5. g4?!


Hence my reference to a spiky variation.  This is not a new or unique position having been played four times according to ChessBase. Until recently all my opponents in this line were retreating to g6 and then a swift h4 led to a strong attack for white.  However, twice this season the Bristol Chess Times have experienced the following counter attack:

5. g4 Be4

6. f3 Nxg4?!


This is the starting position of what we are calling “Larsen’s Beach“. There are two lines we have explored.  Line #1 was explored by yours truly last weekend whilst the superior Line #2 was played by Mike Harris at the October Chipping Sodbury Rapidplay

Line #1: 7. h4

In both my game and the only game I could find in ChessBase, Black attempted Bd6 leading to the following:

7. h4 Bd6

8. pxe4 Bg3+

9. Kf1 Nf2

10. Qc1 Nxh1

11.Kg2?! dxe

12. Nh3 Qxh4

13. Qxh1


A ridiculous position has been reached by move 13 and I’m sure most White players are unhappy with what has been achieved.  My point is that it is actually fine for white and if you know “Larsen’s Beach” you are likely to have a large lead on the clock in these unbalanced positions.  It should be noted that the computer now evaluates this position as roughly even at 0.29.

I actually didn’t make this position in my game, instead trying the unsound 12. Bg4 and ultimately the loss of material (and the game).  As an alternative to h4, Mike Harris ventured the interesting 7. Kf1.

Line #2: Kf1

In my opinion a more sensible plan, avoiding the incoming checks and giving a better square for whites queen.

7. Kf1 Qh4

8. Qe1 Nxh2+

9. RxN QxR

10. pxe4 pxe4


Again not exactly a position that most white players aspire for from the opening but still a fun and unbalanced game lies ahead with white having bishop and knight vs. rook and three pawns.  The computer gives white as 0.49 in this position.

In our analysis here at the Bristol Chess Times there are two things to note in this position.

  1. Although it is roughly equal, is it one of those positions that is easier for one side to play than another?  For example, computers might be happy with White but how do humans feel about this?
  2. We chose the name “Larsen’s Beach” in honour of both Clevedon but also the wave of black pawns that are about to start crashing down on the kingside.


So there we are!  Personally I love to play chess like this but I appreciate it is not for everyone.  The key for us is that despite how aggressive this black counter attack looks, we believe that white is fine in “Larsen’s Beach“, particularly in the 7. Kf1 lines.

Could this also be the first variation named in honour of Clevedon, UK?  We hope so!

For all you aspiring Nimzo Larsen Attack players out there we hope you find this line both interesting and fun!


Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

From the Frontline: Somerset New Year Congress

Last weekend was the second Somerset New Year Congress held at the Walton Park Hotel Clevedon.  The Bristol Chess Times entered with bold hopes (well Mike Harris was top seed and I had my usual blind optimism) but alas our individual results were not as good as this excellent new edition to the South West’s congress calendar.

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On the second weekend of January, the hotel didn’t look quite as spectacular as this photo.  Its fair to say “grey fog” was the theme of the weekend.

Sixty five entrants across three sections, The Somerset New Year Congress is unusual in that it does not have an Open section.  It has a top rating limit of 175 ECF (2000 ELO) which at first seems odd but you quickly realise how this keeps it a “club players congress” and very difficult to predict as everyone starts to take lumps out of each other over three games on the Saturday and two on the Sunday.

The venue is lovely though early birds catch the worm with regards to booking a room.  Myself and Mike instead stayed at the very pleasant Moon and Sixpence pub, five minutes down the road from the venue.

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Three pints help the kibbitzing woes but also lead to an early draw Sunday morning…

The one advantage of this is were able to have some pints Saturday night and try to understand exactly how I can walk into the simplest one-move mate possible?


Unfortunately blunders plagued my weekend.  For example 47. Kxp led to an unfortunate mate in one on h2. Particularly frustrating as my opponent had less than five minutes remaining to my 50.

The congress feels fresh and different to the more well established congresses and attracted a wide range of players from the Bristol league, the Somerset clubs as well as South Wales.  Indeed, all five of my opponents over the weekend I had never met before which helped keep the surprises coming on the board.

Despite my personal chess being disappointing, I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoy this congress for multiple reasons:

  • Timing – Its great to have some highly competitive chess so soon after Christmas to shrug off this January cobwebs;
  • Venue – It really is beautiful and the bar upstairs is always jammed with chess players cursing and praising their moves;
  • Approach – The upper limit of 175 ECF is fun and encourages a fair entree of confident club players looking to get amongst the prizes.

Below is a list of the prizewinners (£150 for first in each section) from the weekend:

Minor (U120)

  • 1st
    • Jason Madden 4 / 5
    • Graham Mill-Wilson 4 / 5
  • 3rd
    • Timothy Allen 3.5 / 5
    • Roy Ludlow 3.5 / 5
    • Phillip Owen 3.5 / 5
    • Chris Smith 3.5 / 5
  • Grading Prize
    • Kevin Lamb 3 / 5

Intermediate (U140)

  • 1st
    • Robert Parsons 4 / 5
    • Stephen Williams 4 / 5
    • Rich Wilshir 4 / 5
  • Grading prize
    • Allan Evans 3 / 5

Major (U175)

  • 1st
    • Chris Timmins 4 / 5
    • Timothy Woodward 4 / 5
  • 3rd
    • Andrew Borkowski 3.5 / 5
    • Martyn Harris 3.5 / 5
    • Mark Potter 3.5 / 5
    • Oliver Stubbs 3.5 / 5
  • Grading Prize
    • Robert Lanzer 3 / 5

Finally, the Bristol Chess Times put out a call to arms for any players to submit interesting games and my thanks goes out to Robert Parsons who won the Intermediate section with 4 / 5.  Below is a link to his game vs. Timothy Jones which showcases some of the exciting chess that was on offer during the weekend.

Timothy Jones (137) vs. Robert Parsons (137)View full game


After 24…Rxa4 white resigned as mate is unstoppable.  A lovely example of how to blunt the ever popular London System these days.

Overall, an enjoyable weekend (full of personal regrets on the board) that I can heartily recommend to any club players in the South West next year.


Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

December 2017 Review – Cup Special!

The cup is here! Brutal knockouts and underdog dreams reign supreme over the chessboard whilst clubs salivate over the prospect of silverware in the new year.

This month’s review will be a little different – sadly no game of the month (don’t despair, there’s plenty of tournament and league action in January so we’ll have to make up for it then) and little to no movement in the league.

South Bristol A climbed up to mid-table in div 1, Horfield C have relinquished their clutches on div 2, whilst North Bristol B extend their lead in div 4, but other than that it’s all ticking along nicely.

So on to the bloodbath that is the KO cup!

The major saw just a single quarter-final, but packed with enough tension for four! Horfield were totally on the back foot but mounted a heroic (well…) comeback and again won by the smallest margin leaving Clifton wondering where the wins even came from.

Semi-final predictions

Horfield vs. Downend. We’re going with Horfield for this one (editors intervention – bias much Mike?!). They’ve been consistent in the league, have the home advantage, are on a lucky streak, and crucially yours truly is not available to put the team in peril.

Bath vs. South Bristol. Again going with the home odds, we’ll take Bath to give South Bristol an early bath… But that’s ages away in February, many things can change.

December was all about the minor cup action. Downend’s strength in depth overcame the re-branded North Bristol, and will now face South Bristol in the semi’s who made it through with a stonking 6-0 win against Hanham. For this reason we’ll have to pick South Bristol for the win in February.

Horfield proved too strong for Yate and will meet Clevedon in the semis; who upset Clifton in a tough battle. That means giants Clifton are absent from both semi-finals, so it’s wide open! Horfield have the home odds for the semi, but who doesn’t love a cup run from a small town?! Clevedon it is.

We’ll be back in January with maybe a bumper edition of Game of the Month, and check back in February with the results of the KO semi-finals and a final preview.


Mike Harris

Mike is a regular pretender in Bristol’s top division and can also be seen propping up local tournament ladders. He writes a regular column for the Bristol Chess Times and plays a solid 20 openings a season.

Coaching Techniques

Alongside our league matches on a Tuesday night we have a number of eager new players who come along to Horfield, practice chess and learn from those more experienced. One challenge for us is to provide good games for a lot of different levels of players. I have found that playing a whole game is often not the best thing for coaching purposes. It’s not fun getting crushed, neither is it satisfying winning against someone who is deliberately playing badly.

A chess game can also take many forms (which is the whole point really!) but this means learning from a single game can be confusing. It won’t necessarily teach you any strategic lessons – most games just teach you not to blunder! At beginner levels I find that mini training games – especially endings – are much more valuable and instructive. “Openings teach you openings. Endgames teach you chess” – said a top player from yonks ago (maybe Lasker or someone like that). Let’s see an example:


Two knights versus one – its trickier than you might think to clearly convert this to a win!

I use this to teach how to play with one particular piece. Chess gets pretty complicated (to say the least!) when you have so many different pieces – but a fundamental starting point is knowing what each piece does best. Knights are magic – they can hop around and hassle everything. Bishops are long-range, but limited to half the board. Rooks are sweepers, director generals leading from the back, etc. However you want to think about it, you need to know your pieces. There are other advantages to using endgames in coaching as well:

  • Having more pieces (e.g. two knights against one) will hopefully show that you should exchange from ahead. Going from 2 vs 1 down to 1 vs 0 is the most powerful demonstration of this.
  • You will (almost certainly) have to win the game by promoting a pawn and using the queen to checkmate. This is an essential technique that you just have to be comfortable in doing.
  • The various strategies for promoting pawns takes time to learn – there is sacrificing pieces, getting a majority on one side, pawnstorming, using the king, etc. This is the step before the last step of promotion/checkmate – learning those means you begin to work backwards, and eventually, you’ll find your own paths through the chasm of chess strategies.
  • You will learn how to avoid typical drawing strategies – like swapping all the pawns! (or stalemates).

Playing through the final stages of a game helps you visualise winning – and should help you with the early and middle stages of the game too (see Maurice Ashley’s talk on the subject)

It’s important to have various levels available with these training games – for example you might start with 2 vs. 0 pieces – then 2 vs. 1, then 2 vs. 2 with a few pawns missing, etc.

Other types of endgames I use help to demonstrate some of the principles in chess – such as why doubled pawns are generally bad. I start with 4 sets of doubled pawns and my opponent gets the usual 8 connected pawns.


Everyone would prefer to play Black here – but the challenge is to work out how to actually take advantage of the weaknesses

If they win this, maybe I’ll un-double one pair of pawns, or play with two pairs on neighbouring files. Keep going until your pupil cannot find clear ways to win.

We would love to know what other training games or coaching strategies other clubs use to help new players – so get in touch if you have ideas!


Mike Harris

Mike is a regular pretender in Bristol’s top division and can also be seen propping up local tournament ladders. He writes a regular column for the Bristol Chess Times and plays a solid 20 openings a season.

Happy New Year from all at the Bristol Chess Times

Its been a little quiet here at Bristol Chess Times HQ over Christmas as we enjoyed a well earned rest, too many mince pies and a cracking DVD on the Tactical Chigorin Defence.  Since the relaunch of the Bristol Chess Times almost 6 months a go we have enjoyed all of your positive feedback and also learnt a few lessons along the way.  Today I though I would  share a few statistics from the first 6 months and also talk about whats coming up in 2018.

Thus far we have published 33 articles at an average of 5/6 a month.  I have tried to keep a good spread of different types of articles to appeal to all types of chess fans and these have included:

  • Tournament reports and reviews
  • Monthly league reports, updates on the different divisions and Game of the Month
  • Historical articles about the league and former players
  • Problem articles that melt your brain (Thank You Christopher Jones!)
  • Interesting game articles
  • Editorial thought pieces on the state of amateur chess in the UK
  • Chess items for sale or exchange in the Bristol area

Whilst there are different levels of engagement with the different types of articles, I wanted to extend a massive thank you to everyone who has contributed to make the Bristol Chess Times what it is is today.  It really is great to have such variety of content but also writers.  So far we have had 9 writers across just 3 clubs.  Moving into 2018 Im really keen to get more contributors from across the 16 clubs in the league.  If you want to write for the Bristol Chess Times then email  I am also looking to extend some guest columns to individuals outside the Bristol & District Chess League, I will keep you posted.

Finally, I wanted to share some encouraging statistics on how the Bristol Chess Times is encouraging the growth of the league.  As publicity and recruitment officer for the league it is my responsibility to help encourage new players to the league.  In 6 months we have had:

  • 5,052 views of the Bristol Chess Times (84% from the UK, 16% from the rest of the world?!)
  • 2,580 individual visitors
  • 226 views of the “Find a club” page
  • 61 clicks through to individual clubs in the league

I don’t know how many of the 61 people who have expressed an interest in one of the chess clubs have gone on to join (If you know someone who directly joined your club as a result of reading the Bristol Chess Times then please do let me know).  Also, its obviously impossible to tell how many of the remaining 165 people who visited the “Find a club” page called a club instead of clicking through.

Looking ahead into 2018

Given that there were 329 registered players in the 2016/2017 season these numbers are really encouraging.  My personal target for the league would be to try to get it 400 players (i.e. another 70 players).  These kind of numbers are important because:

  • They are not unrealistic or scary numbers!
  • An additional 70 players in the league would help the formation of a fifth division. I have recently seen a lot of chat about broadening the lower levels of the division to offer a broad level of chess to all. The expansion of the league with new players, ready to learn and improve can only be a good thing.

For established league players, The Bristol Chess Times already has a healthy backlog of potential articles lined up as well as our established monthly columns.  If there is anything that you would like to see more of then as always please do get in touch.

Finally, another key objective for me in 2018 is to look at the diversity of the league. For example, currently I note only 8 registered women out of 300 odd players.  This is just 2.6% of the league!! From the great book The Rookie by Stephen Moss, the estimated global population of female chess players is just 6%. Whilst I don’t expect to achieve a 50/50 split in the league, it is a fair point that recruitment can be difficult when you don’t appeal to half the UK population! I have already tabled motions with the LMC and we will discuss these in due course.

So thats it from me in 2017!  Thank you once again for your readership and support.  If you do nothing else for the Bristol Chess Times please do share our articles with your chess playing friends via email, Facebook or Twitter.

Happy New Year!


Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

Luxury chess set for sale in Bristol

In a first for the Bristol Chess Times, today we are advertising a lovely luxury chess set for sale.  I was contacted by Andy Bellingham, formally of Clevedon chess club, who enquired as to whether the Bristol Chess Times advertises chess products. I thought it might be nice idea for Bristol & District players to share any chess paraphernalia that they wish to sell or swop (especially old books etc).  Anyway without further a do, check out Andy’s chess set below.

Rosewood Chess set for sale. Beautifully detailed weighted pieces. Two queens each. Lockable upholstered carry case for the pieces. King height 4.5 inches. Square size 2 and a quarter inches. Leather underneath all pieces. Green felt underneath board. This luxury chess set hardly ever gets used and therefore needs a good home to move to. Cost £250, willing to accept £100 or near offer. Please email for further details.









Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

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).