Problems in April with GM Jones

Even if you don’t generally have any time for helpmates you may like to look at this remarkable position, a helpmate in 7 which appeared in the Hungarian magazine Magyar Sakkelet in 1961, by Arpad Molnar.

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A help mate on black in 7 moves.  Black to play. Try not to mate white in the process!

Solution Below

The thing that immediately strikes one is that, given that in helpmates Black is doing all he can to collaborate in being mated, it is remarkable that there is only one way in which mate can be achieved in 7 moves. Upon further inspection we realize that the difficulty is that Black is going to find it very difficult to avoid mating White! In a helpmate Black generally plays first and he has only one non-mating move – 1.f4. (In helpmates, confusingly, Black’s moves are written ‘1.f4’ and White’s moves ‘1…h8N’ – the other way round from in the score of a game.) In playing 1…h8N White avoids 1…h8Q+, forcing 2.Nc8 mate! He is preparing to give Black something else to do instead of inflicting mate; 2.f3 Ng6 3.fxg6… and as 3…g8Q+ fails as before we have 3…g8B!. Play then proceeds 4.g5 Be6 5.dxe6 d7 6.Kc7 b8R 9.e5 d8Q mate!

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Final Position!

Amazingly, White has made all 4 types of promotion (problemists refer to this by the German term ‘Allumwandlung’, or ‘AUW’ for short). It’s always quite an achievement to set up an AUW in any type of problem; in helpmates, while there are a reasonable number of examples showing black AUW, it’s virtually unheard-of to show white AUW. Bear in mind that the composer not only has to create a scenario in which each promotion has to be that specific piece, but that he has to avoid ‘cooks’ (unintended extra ways of solving the problem), the perennial bane of a helpmate composer’s life.

For some reason, Hungarians (such as Molnar) have often been the most inspired helpmate composers. So I’d like to round this column off by showing you a helpmate by another great Hungarian composer, Gabor Cseh. This problem was one of Molnar’s favourites. It also features some truly remarkable promotions. It’s a helpmate in 8, published in Thema Danicum in 1997.

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A help mate on black in 8 moves. Black to play. Try not to mate white in the process!

Solution Below

Again it looks as though White is on the verge of mating Black in very short order. And again the big obstacle is that Black will find it difficult not to move his Knight so as to give checkmate. After 1.b4 (again, the only non-mating move), White mustn’t go in for 1…e8Q+ 2.Ne3 mate! Instead we have a series of promotions to Bishop. In the case of the first such promotion it’s fairly clear why it has to be a Bishop, but in the case of the second promotion (3…f8B!!) it isn’t at all clear, as 3…f8Q wouldn’t be check. You may like examining why 3…f8Q fails. Even when you see why the intended solution doesn’t work with a Q at f8, you have to admire the great technical skill of the composer in ensuring that there are no cooks in which the f8Q would get through to mate in some other way. The full solution: 1.b4 e8B 2.b3 Bb5 3.axb5 f8B!! 4.b4 Bc5 5.f2+ Bxf2 6.Kf3 f7 7.Re8 fxe8B 8.Ke2 Bh5 mate.

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Final Position! 


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).

The unlikeliest chess move part 2 – the heavyweights

Let’s dive straight into Queens, Rooks and Kings – in our search for the most unlikely move possible. The short version of this puzzle is that it requires you to come up with a notated move – so what you actually write on the scoresheet – that implies an unlikely position on the board.

Here’s part 1 if you missed the preamble.


Each piece on the chessboard has its own magical qualities – but let’s start with the most powerful. The Queen can do most manoeuvres available (knight moves, castling, promoting and ‘en passant’ they have some trouble with). But there is one other thing they can’t do – and that’s be the discoverer in a discovered check! (Try it out, they really can’t). Going back to our themes we are left with ‘Checkmate’, ‘Captures’, and ‘More than one of the same piece able to move to the same square’. My proposal nearly offered all three – until I realised that a capture actually makes the positions of the queens and kings less precise.


So its Queen b2 mate – but the ‘a1’ implies there must be another queen on the a-file, and a third on the 1st rank and both able to reach b2 – although a2 and b1 together is actually impossible as moving to b2 wouldn’t then attack any new squares).


Qa1b2# needs three queens on almost exact squares

The very close runner-up was the same but with the capture “Qa1xb2#” – it still implies 3 queens, but the other two could now be on a2 and b1, and the enemy king can now also be on the diagonal as well as the b-file or 2nd rank. On the flip side there must be a piece on b2 to capture.


Before we begin – and this may be contentious I don’t know – but despite its name ‘castling’ is actually a king move; you move the king first and the rook leaps over to the other side. So we’ll leave it to the kings. My proposed rook move is this:


Doesn’t sound so bad, right? A rook moves to b2 and delivers mate, and another one could also have done so. But here’s the catch; let’s say the rooks are on b1 and b3 – writing Rbb2# doesn’t clear anything up – you would write R1b2#, or R3b2#. So let’s think again – what if the rooks were on different files, say a2 and c2? Well then it becomes Rab2# – or Rcb2#… So what’s going on? The rooks have to be on a different file and rank – but then how do you deliver mate by moving a rook, when another rook already threatened all the new squares you threaten?? Okay you guessed it – discovered checks.


Rbb2# surprisingly implies a discovered check and mate.


I mentioned castling queenside (“0-0-0#”) to deliver mate in part 1, but is that the most unlikely? Although I have a hunch that castling kingside with mate is even less likely, I have not gone for either of these moves. The reason is only the practical one – if a player sees a chance to mate by castling, they are very likely to try to engineer it for the sheer aesthetic pleasure (or sadistic whim, depending on your outlook on chess). So I am going for the more prosaic:



The king can only discover a checkmate – taking a piece in the corner

Sadly there is no fun to be had with multiple kings, and there is no notation for stalemate. So the best for the king is a discovered checkmate on an unlikely square. But never fear, this is not the overall winner. The fun is reserved for the lightweight pieces – who are in action in part 3!


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.

The unlikeliest chess move – revisited

Is there anything left that computers can’t solve? My attempt at beating the machines a few years back resulted in the creation of a very different type of problem. I wanted to know what the least likely move in chess would be. I wasn’t interested in best moves, accurate moves, or stunning moves. Just one that makes you wonder how you got there.

I was pleased with the result – there was much discussion over the puzzle during an annual Christmas Curry evening with my chess club, and it uncorked a few bits of chess magic to appreciate and admire. However, I fell into the other trap of modern creativity – it had already been done before. Four years ago. And solved. By a much better player than me – GM David Smerden’s blog

Okay so it turns out, all was not lost by any means. On deeper inspection (after the initial heartbreak) I realised that my puzzle was crucially different by being much less logical than Mr. Smerdon’s – probably part of the reason he is a GM and I’m not! His answer to ‘The most unusual move in chess’ was still about best moves – about trying to win (or draw) a chess game. In contrast mine is purely about possible strange notations and what they say about a position. The delights and surprises are in mentally constructing ever wackier positions until you find the limit of impossibility (or a simpler way to notate the move).

smerden image

GM Smerdon’s composition is a superb idea – the best move for White is actually to promote to a bishop on a8 – utilising the bishop’s weakness to eventually force stalemate

The puzzle

If I could trace back my curiosity for ‘unusual moves’ it would be something like 15 years ago, perhaps a match for my school, where I first had to notate a move like ‘R2e4’. The nuance of having to specify that the rook moved from ‘2’ (2nd rank) to clarify which rook was moved to the e4 square could be viewed as an imperfection of ‘modern’ notation (in the old days you would write ‘e2-e4’ if you moved any piece from e2 to e4). But I do not take this view, as this puzzle and its various gems wouldn’t be able to exist without it.

Going back a step, it was clear that ‘R2e4’ would be less likely than a bog-standard ‘Re4’. Moreover, ‘R3e2’ was even more unlikely, as it implies there is one rook on e3 and one rook on e1 (by the way, if there were rooks on say d2 and e1, you would write ‘Rde2’ to move the one on d2 to e2 – as the files take precedence over the ranks.) But I went a bit further into less and less likely moves. How about Ba8 check? It’s not so clear – the bishop cannot check a king itself by moving to a8 (or any corner square).

So this search is one for the most unlikely move in chess.

Consider a move like ‘0-0-0 checkmate!’ Quite unlikely! Although it has been played before in many real games. This thread shows many of these. Strangely it starts with a miniature from a former world champion actually declining to play 0-0-0 checkmate, instead choosing Kd2 mate, perhaps rather like Ronnie O’Sullivan’s famous 146 break , he was happy enough just to show he could do it.

So to the point – ‘unlikely (but possible) moves’. The question became this:

“What’s the most unlikely move to appear in a legal chess game?”

[Note – we are not including annotations in analysis such as ‘!’, or ‘??’. Nor does it include move numbers, for example ‘7.gxh8=N++’. No – this puzzle is just about what you must physically write on the scoresheet.]

Some themes

This is reverse engineering in a sense – rather than seeing a position, finding the best move and writing it down, we see a move written down with no other context – and figure out what it tells you about the position. Back to our Ba8+ example, we find out that the check must be by discovered check, because a bishop moving into a corner attacks no more squares than it was attacking before.

Setting about this problem in a ‘human’ way, a number of ‘unlikely’ themes spring to mind:

  • Castling
  • Check
  • Checkmate
  • Captures
  • More than one of the same piece able to move to the same square

[Note: As far as I know, there is no official notation needed for either en passant or stalemate – so they don’t make it into this puzzle.]

It stands to reason that a checkmate is always more unlikely than a check – or a non-check. So our solution must be a checkmate. It also became clear to me that the theme of ‘More than one piece able to move to the same square’ had the largest scope for unlikeliness. Especially for queens – because you only start with one.

A solution?

There are too many interesting nuggets here to share in just one article. I have decided on my candidate solution for the ‘unlikeliest move’ – which I will share soon enough. But in checking over my own thoughts and explorations for this puzzle – I found something quite surprising; the unique qualities of each piece make for some very different types of thinking in finding their own unlikeliest move.

Therefore I will structure the rest of the musings on this puzzle by piece – part two will cover Kings, Queens and Rooks, and part three Bishops, Knights and Pawns. But here’s a little taster:


Black to play and mate in one? Easy! Nxh8 mate! But which one?

If a knight on the rim is dim, then a knight in the corner must be… mourned for? (Editors note – Keep smoking whatever you are smoking Mike!). That is, unless, it can deliver checkmate! Which move did you choose? ‘Nfxh8#’? or ‘Ngxh8#’? Because therein lies the unlikeliness of all this. Forgetting the position a moment, if the notated move was just ‘Nxh8#’ then the king could easily be on f7 and just be mated directly with the knight. Not so unlikely – and has undoubtedly occurred before. But introducing a second knight by stating the move ‘Nfxh8#’, suddenly there must be a knight g6 as well (the only other square with access to h8) and so the king must be somewhere else – and must be mated by discovery! Hence the concoction above; there are other variations of course, but it shows how much is implied by a single notated move: The two knights must be on f7 and g6, there must be a piece on h8, the king must be on either f6 or g7, two rooks/queens must be on the same file and rank as the king, and other pieces must block all the other squares around him. Quite a kingdom for a horse move!

If you want to give this puzzle a mulling over during the next few weeks, we’ll be back with parts 2 and 3! If you arrive at any candidate ‘unlikely moves’ – please do send them in!


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.

Problems in March with GM Jones

Arguably the greatest of the British problem composers to gain the GM title was Norman Macleod (1927-1991), also a strong player (sometime stalwart of the Gloucestershire team) and one who (probably because of his playing background) aimed to produce problems that were not only aesthetically pleasing but also an enjoyable solving challenge.

One such problem does in fact come close to my aspiration to find problems with game-like positions. This is a mate in 6 problem published in the (then) Yugoslav magazine ‘Mat’ in 1978, where it received 4th Prize:


A lovely mate in 6 from 1978.  Answer below.

It’s only when you do a piece count that you think that Black might perhaps have resigned by now! Still, forcing mate in 6 seems a tall order considering the compactness of Black’s position. Perhaps the composer intends 0-0-0 to be part of the solution? Well, yes, but this is where we diverge from game-like thinking, for the reason for 0-0-0 turns out to be nothing to do with mobilizing the a1R; instead, it is to make the squares a1 and e1 available for the Bishop! (Has this reason for castling ever happened in an actual game??!) The solution (and full marks if, armed with this hint, you’ve been able to visualize how this works) runs: 1.0-0-0! a5 2.Be1 a4 3.Bc3 axb3 4.Ba1! b2+ 5.Qxb2 a5 6.Qxg7!


Once you see the pattern the finish is lovely!

Here is another example of the Macleod wizardry, again from ‘Mat’, this time winning 1st Honourable Mention in 1981:


Mate in 4 with white to play. Answer below.

This time the stipulation is mate in 4. On the face of it, this should make the problem easier, and indeed it does look as though it shouldn’t be too difficult to mate Black in that timescale – indeed, the surprise might be that there is only one way to do this (a prerequisite of this being a sound problem).

The difficulty though is that the black Bishop is a desperado – if it is captured then we have stalemate. If 1.Ra8? then 1…Bb4 and if then 2.R8h8 then 2…Be7. It turns out that the only way to do it is to play 1.Rc8!, threatening 2.Rc4 and so forcing 1…Bd4. Now we play 2.Ra8 and since any other black move fails to 3.Ra4+ Black plays 2…Ba7. Only now can we play 3.R8h8 and mate next move by 4.R8h4.


After 3. R8H8 an unstoppable checkmate is threatened wherever the black bishop moves.


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 February with GM Jones

I was interested to receive feedback that it would be good to see problems that featured more game-like positions. This set me thinking. ‘Mate in 2’ positions are very unlikely to fill the bill as White must have a totally overwhelming position with a choice of apparently immediately killing moves of which only one forces mate next move. Problems in other genres – helpmates, selfmates – certainly won’t fill the bill! (Though most of us have had the experience of unwittingly creating an inelegant helpmate in the course of a game…) So the likeliest place to find such problems is in the ‘Mate in x’ field where “x” is a large number.

I haven’t yet come up with a really good example to publish here. A candidate would be this mate in 9, but it’s hard work just reading through the solution, never mind trying to solve it!


Andrei Zhuravlev, U.S.Problem Bulletin 1995

It turns out that Black has to try to keep his Bishop on a square that guards white squares from which the white Knight is imminently threatening to reach f7. In case you’re interested, the first move apparently is 1.Ng4, and thereafter there are numerous variations, in each of which White manages to wrongfoot, and so overload, the black Bishop.

In fact, this is similar to many studies that feature such duels between minor pieces (it’s just that in this case penetrating the defences gives rise to a mate, not just the win of a crucial Pawn or whatever). And if we’re thinking of studies then there are plenty of studies from game-like positions that are much more enjoyable, for instance this one, by former World Champion Vassily Smyslov (Pravda, 1976):


White to play and win (solution below)

I’m indebted to Jonathan Mestel, who expounded this study in a recent issue of The Problemist (the magazine of the British Chess Problem Society). I’ll basically be cribbing his commentary! It looks as though White has a straightforward win by forcing Black to sacrifice his Bishop for the fP and preserving at least his hP which will in the end be able to promote. After 1.f7 Ba3 2.Bg7 does Black have any resources? As Jonathan remarks, he could try 2…Kd3 3.f8Q Bxf8 4.Bxf8 e2+ when 5.Ke1? f3 6.gxf3 Ke3 is a draw, but 5.Kf2 wins.


2. …Kd3 isn’t the answer leading to white victory with …5.Kf2. What else?

In a game, you might be quite pleased to see this way to give White the chance to go wrong, knowing that you’d resign if he played 5.Kf2. In solving a study, you’d look deeper to see if there’s a way to show this idea without 5.Kf2 being available to White. And you might then find (if you’re a strong solver!) 2…f3! 3.gxf3 Kd3. The point is now that now, surprisingly, 4.f8Q only draws: 4…e2+ 5.Kf2 Bc5+! and either 6.Qxc5 e1Q+ leading to stalemate or 6.Ke1 Bxf8 7.Bxf8 Ke3 capturing both Pawns.


Amazingly, promoting to a queen only leads to a draw after 5…Bc5. Hmmm

So we need an under-promotion! After 4.f8B! Black no longer has his stalemate defence and we have 4…e2+ 5.Kf2 e1Q+ 6.Kxe1 Ke3 7.f4! 8.Kxf4 Kf2. Jonathan adds 8…Bc1, saying that then 9.Bh6+ (and not 9.Bf6) is the only win. I don’t see why 9.Bf6 doesn’t also win (in the end) – perhaps you may be able to tell me. Whatever – this point in no way diminishes my enjoyment of the main play.


The final position


Christoper 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).

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).

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).

A positional squeeze in the Hippopotamus Defence

This week saw the hotly anticipated Division 1 clash between current league leaders Horfield A and second placed Clifton A.  In the end the match was decided by a single solitary win on Board 4.  Horfield’s Steve Dilleigh talks us through his game against Duncan Grossett, a lovely positional squeeze.  

Dilleigh, S (188)  – Grossett, D (178) [A42]

1.Nf3 d6 2.d4 g6 3.c4 Bg7 4.e4 Nd7 5.Nc3 e6 6.Be2 Ne7!?


So its to be a Hippo System. I remember playing the Hippopotamus in a crucial schools match. One of the opposing team came up to me and accused me of getting my Kings Indian and Queens Indian mixed up. I still won and so did the team. Since then I have maintained a fair amount or respect for the Hippopotamus even though it’s not good enough to be a universal weapon. I rarely try to blast it off the board. I now prefer a wait and see strategy.

7.0–0 b6 8.Be3 Bb7 9.Qc2 h6 10.Rad1 0–0 11.Rfe1 a6


Here we have the Hippopotamus in all its glory but the trouble for Black is that none of the pawn breaks tends to be that convincing if White keeps his pieces on reasonably sensible squares. If White starts messing around, misplacing his pieces in search of active play that can be a completely different matter.

12.h3 What is Black to do now? I tend to take the attitude that White has more space and more flexibility and the onus is on Black to try to improve his position.

12…Qe8 Black continues to wait. This might have been one of the better points to play 12…f5 13.d5 (13.e5!? and 13.Bc1 were other options.) 13…e5 14.b4 which would be rather like the way the game ended up going.

13.Bc1 The Computer wants some more action here (e.g.13.d5, which may well be right) but I stick to my tactics which are gaining me time on the clock.

13…Rc8 14.b4 Preparing something a bit more active.

14…e5?! Finally Black is induced into doing something but it doesn’t work out too well. A more flexible course could have led to 14…g5 15.a4 c5 16.bxc5 bxc5 17.d5 Ng6 18.a5 which is only slightly better for White.

15.d5 I had the strong feeling that I should be capturing on e5. That gives certain chances but in the end I decided to close the position. I have lots of experience with closed positions and my intuition that this was the right way to go for practical purposes.

15…f5 16.Bd3 Trying to provoke my opponent’s next move.


16…f4? Black was no doubt intending to create attacking chances on the kingside by advancing his pawns but this is not so easy to achieve here. Black should stay more flexible with for instance 16…Qf7 17.Ba3 Rcd8 18.c5 Nf6 A complex battle ensues but since Black has maintained his pressure against e4 this is not all one sided.

17.Nh2 Rd8 18.Be2!

This is one of the problems with playing ..f4 prematurely. White may be able to activate his bad bishop via g4.

18…Bc8 Black can stop Bg4 but he then loses flexibility. After 18…h5 19.Nf3 Bf6 20.Na4 Kg7 (Or 20…g5 21.c5 bxc5 22.bxc5 dxc5 23.Nxc5 Nxc5 24.Qxc5 g4 25.hxg4 hxg4 26.Nh2 and Black’s unsupported pawn advances prove ineffective.) 21.c5 White gets his attack in first.

19.Bg4 g5?! Another pawn on a dark square. The cage is forming around the g7 bishop.

20.Qe2 Nf6 21.Bxc8 Rxc8 22.g4 White is well on his way to a strategic advantage but Black still has time to counter.



Here Black misses a big chance. Before White consolidates he can play. 22…c5! 23.bxc5 (23.dxc6 Qxc6 is double-edged and probably balanced.) 23…bxc5 24.Bd2 Rb8 25.Rb1 Qd7 26.Qf1 Rb4 27.a3 Rbb8 28.Rxb8 Rxb8 29.Rb1 White is still heading for a slightly better ending but Black has a lot more space and more activity than in the game.

23.f3 Rfd8 Play is always likely to gravitate towards the queenside so perhaps this isn’t a bad idea. Instead 23…h5 24.c5 hxg4 25.hxg4 Ra8 26.cxd6 cxd6 27.Bd2 Nd7 28.Rc1 is not too bad. White’s advantage looks manageable for Black. This is more or less a normal Kings Indian type position.

24.Ba3 This should be an unnecessary precaution but I was a bit wary of Black’s possible counterplay and indeed after the immediate 24.c5 c6!? (an inspired move in an otherwise bad position) 25.cxb6 cxd5 26.Nxd5 Nexd5 27.exd5 Qf7 (or 27…Rc2 28.Qxa6 e4 with counterplay)) 28.Qxa6 Ra8 29.Qc4 Rdc8 30.Qb3 Qb7 things are suddenly rather unclear and Komodo even prefers Black.

24…Qe8 25.c5 Now this is more playable.


25…b5?? Surely a very bad decision. Black needs to keep fighting chances for his pieces with 25…dxc5 26.bxc5 Bf8 27.Nb1 Qa4 28.Rc1 Ng6 when there is not much in it.



Now the Black bishop is caged in behind its pawns and the knights are not doing much better. White simple has to open up the queenside and exchange Black’s better pieces. Black can try to engineer a sacrificial counter but this is will probably only be speculative or sit back and wait. 26…Rb8 Black may have been counting on the plan of getting a knight to b6 but this is easily parried.

27.Rb1 Nc8 28.Bc1 Nb6 29.a4! White gives up a pawn temporarily. Black’s lack of activity means he cannot stop White regaining it and the open line will come in handy.

29…Nxa4 30.Nxa4 bxa4 31.Bd2 Rb5 32.Ra1 Ra8 33.Rxa4 Qb8 34.Rea1 Qb6+ 35.Qf2 Not the computer’s first choice but an exchange of queens just makes things increasingly easy for White.

35…Kf7 36.Qxb6 Rxb6 37.Nf1 Ne8 38.Bc3 Ke7 39.Nd2 Ready to chase the rook from b6 and win a pawn.

39…Rab8 40.Rxa6


Black doesn’t want to see any more. With his minor pieces virtually dead White can win at his leisure. 1–0

(Editors note – my thanks to both players for contributing their game).

steve circle

Steve Dilleigh

Probably the most active player in Horfield chess club, playing ten or more tournaments a year in addition to league chess.

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).