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!).
Check out some past problems from Chris here:
Chris is a GM problem composer and long-time member of the Bristol League