The late Tony Lewis, from Cheltenham, who had been a strong Gloucestershire player in his early days, later devoted himself entirely to chess problems. The British Chess Problem Society benefited enormously from his input, especially as Treasurer, in which capacity he was instrumental in getting a lot of the Society’s business, not just the financial business, done. He did still find time for composing chess problems, mostly traditional mate-in-2 problems, and was a leading expert in a particular category of problem, the mutate. You may like to have a go at solving this mate in 2, which was published in British Chess Magazine in 1993:
This is (among other things) an example of a mutate (as will be explained later), but (typically of Tony’s problems) it is first and foremost an engaging problem, one that is enjoyable to solve. The solver’s eye is drawn to the position of the white Queen, lurking behind the white King. At the moment, there is no move of the wK that would give mate – the only legal move, 1.Ke3+, blocks the line f2-c5 and so allows 1…Kxc5. But if Black played 1…Nc2 or 1…Pb3 (or if Black played 1…dxc5, after which 2.Ke3 would indeed work) then there would be a mating move by the wK. Given that moves of the h6N allow mate by Bf7 we see that Black is in zugzwang.
However, White doesn’t have a good waiting move. We might think of 1.Be3?!, especially because there is then a nice new wK mate, 1…f2 2.Ke2, but Black can defend with 1…Bxc5 since 2.Ke3 is no longer available.
The key in fact takes us off in a wholly different direction – 1.Qa4!. (Well done if you spotted this!) Now we have a new zugzwang. If 1…dxc5 2.Qd7; if 1…b3 2.Qc4; if any move of the a1N then 2.Qb3. In a mutate White lacks a waiting move and so has to give up a mate set for at least one defence, for which a new mate is prepared in a new zugzwang. I find this idea inherently attractive. Considerable skill is required to do what Tony did and make such problems work soundly – you may like to have a go at composing one. If you do, don’t hesitate to send your problem to Bristol ChessTimes!
Chris is a GM problem composer and regular player for Horfield C.C.
GM Jones is back with another edition of chess problems – this time the theme is ‘distant self-blocks’ of all things!
Having last time presented a problem that I had managed to solve, this time I’m presenting one that I failed to solve when I recently came across it. Having said that, I then was kicking myself for my laziness (I’d only spent about five minutes looking for the solution) because it shouldn’t have been too difficult to find the key move and thereafter to have the pleasure of unearthing and admiring the continuations after Black’s various defences.
This problem, by the late Friedrich Chlubna, won first prize in Problem in 1968. It is a 3-mover: White is to play and is to force mate on his third move at the latest.
As usual. the key is not a checking move, nor is it crude in any way. But looking at crude moves may help in arriving at the solution, because some of them will work if we can first induce Black to make a move that will work to his disadvantage.
The key is 1.Rg6!. This threatens 2.Qg4+ Kxe5 3.Qe4. Black has a number of defences – 1…Rg2 is met by 2.Rf6+ Kg3 3.Rf3, 1…Rf2 by 2.Qg5+ Kf3 3.Qg4, 1…Qd4 by 2.Qg4+ Kxe5 3.Qg5, 1…d5 by 2.Qg4+ Kxe5 3.Re6, and 1…e2 by 2.Qg5+ Kf3 3.Qg3.
The remarkable thing is that each of these defences features what a problemist would call a ‘distant self-block’: Black puts his piece on a square to which his King could otherwise move out of check. What’s more, these ‘self-blocks’ are distant: they are on squares to which the King is not yet adjacent, but rather on squares to which he will become adjacent. To show this in five continuations is a remarkable task achievement and (unlike some task achievements) an aesthetically appealing one.
The place where I saw this problem was the website of the British Chess Problem Society, and there are countless other similarly enjoyable problems there. On the homepage you’ll find a weekly problem selected by Michael McDowell. For many years he’s been selecting weekly problems for the website, and he chooses them with a solver’s as much as a composer’s eye. (He’s very good at both those activities!) At the foot of the homepage, beneath the problem, you’ll find a link to the archive of these weekly problems, so you will be able to spend as long as you like solving old weekly problems (or even, like me, rushing all too quickly to read the solution!).