Fascinating endgame study for November with GM Jones

I hope you won’t mind if this month I present not a problem but a rather remarkable endgame study, composed only a few months ago by two of today’s foremost study composers, Karen Sumbatyan and Oleg Pervakov, as a birthday tribute to another top study composer, Yuri Baslov.


In this fairly game-like position White can’t win by immediately pushing his bP, as then 1…Qf5+ would draw. So instead he plays 1.Qf3. Now Black wants to clear b1 for his own bP and to be able to play …Qe5, so 1…Qe1. So far so mundane. Now the pyrotechnics begin…2.Qf6! (more prosaic moves fail, e.g. 2.Qf5 Qf2). After 2…gxf6 3.g6 Black has …Qe6+! 4.Kxe6 b2.

november prob 2

The critical position with white to play…

This is a key position. If we continue with the obvious 4.Kf7 b1Q then although we can promote at g8 with check Black is OK because his Qb1 is guarding against Qg6# while also observing the potential route of the b6P. In fact if in that position it were Black to play then he’d be in greater difficulty. Any move off the b1-g6 diagonal, or either of his two available pawn moves, would allow Qg6#. So Black may be in zugzwang, needing to move his Queen off the b-file and so no longer observing the b6P. All of which goes to explain the otherwise unbelievable tempo move 5.Ke7!!. (If you were down to ten-second increments in a League match, you might be forgiven for missing this resource.)

So: now if 5…b1Q 6.g7+ Kh7 7.g8Q+ Kh6 reaches the position in which the bQ must leave the b-file. Better is 5…Kg7 6.h8Q+ Kxh8 and now – you guessed it – instead of playing 7.Kf7 straight away White again temporizes – 7.Kf8! b1Q 8.Kf7 – and Black has problems. His best is 8…Qf5! and now we have 9.g7+ Kh7 10.g8Q+ Kh6 11.Qg7+ (not 11.b7, when 11…Qd7+ is good enough for a draw) Kh5 12.b7 Qd7+ 13.Kxf6 Qxg7+ 14.Kxg7 c2 15.b8Q c1Q – and now with yet another new pair of Queens on the board the win eventually becomes clear – 16.Qh8+ Kg4 17.Qh3+ and 18.Qh6+, winning the black Queen.

november prob 3

After Qh3+ no matter where the black monarch goes he is lost after Qh6+ winning the black queen

A remarkable study! And although there are no problems in the column this month there is a good problem theme – those positions in which the apparently powerful bQ is stuck at b1 because it needs to control both b7 and g6 exemplify the sort of ‘focal control’ which is often seen in ‘White to play and mate in x moves’ problems.


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).

Problems in October with GM Jones

One of the pleasures of composing problems is to send them to overseas magazines and websites and then to receive feedback both from solvers and, in due course, from judges. Generally, an expert judge assesses all the problems in a particular genre published in a particular period and then produces his award. For instance the helpmates published in 2015-16 in the Danish problem magazine were recently judged, and you might like to look at a couple of the successful problems.

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#.


Henry Tanner
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 Jones

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).

Problems in September with GM Jones

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 Jones

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).

Problems in August with GM Chris Jones

There has always been some overlap between the world of chess playing and the world of solving chess problems. John Nunn and Jonathan Mestel hold the GM title for each. International chess problem solving competitions these days are organized in much the same way as international playing tournaments, with ELO solving grades, title norms, etc.. The G.B. team, headed by those two GMs, tend to do well and, with sponsorship from Winton Capital, are competing in the World Championships in Dresden from 7th to 9th August.

If you want to get a flavour of the sort of problems you face in such solving contests try your hand at this one. Composed by Yves Cheyan in 1992, it’s mate in 2 – i.e., find the only move that forces mate next move. It was used in a solving competition organized by the British Chess Problem Society (BCPS) in Nottingham earlier this year.


One’s eye is drawn to the potential for moves by the c5R, but problems rarely have a checking key, and all the moves by the c5R fail to force mate next move.

A subtler approach is 1.Rhh5. Now, with a new guard provided for d5, moves by the c5R on the c-file are threatened. But 1…Qb7! successfully defends.

The key is 1.e4! (Could be the title for an openings book…) After this key (threat 2.Rc3), the defences and their refutations show the potential scope of most of the pieces in a different light – 1…Bd3+ 2.Rcc2; 1…fxe e.p. 2.Nb3; 1…Nd3 2.Nc2; 1…Bc4 2.Rd5; 1…Kd3 or c3 2.Rc3.

One more problem, also from that solving event in Nottingham. This time it’s a selfmate in 2 – i.e., White has to find the only move after which every black reply enables White to force Black to mate him on his second move. (By G. Thomas, it was published in 1980.)


If it were Black to move then after moves of the black bishop White would capture it and then Black would have to play 2…Ra1#. Note particularly 1…Be4 2.Nxe4 and 1…Bxe6 2.Qxe6, because inspection reveals that there isn’t any way in which White, to play, can fully preserve the status quo, and we’re going to have to change those two responses. The key is in fact 1.Ne2!, which has a threat, 2.Qc4+, after which 2…Kxc4 would now be mate (since 1.Ne2 has neutralized the guards of both the c3N and the h2R). It would be 2.Qc4+ that White would now have to play after 1…Be4. All but one of the other captures of the bB are as before, but the shining exception is 1…Bxe6 2.Qc2+!!. Two ‘!’s because I particularly like the fact that after 2…bxc2 the black bishop now guards the a2R! It’s this sort of imagination-stretching feature that can make solving such a pleasure.

Final Position Below (editors note – Very nice!)


If you want to try your hand at solving, there are always problems on the BCPS website – www.theproblemist.org.


Chris Jones

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).