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 Problem of the Week

336. Percy Francis Blake
Sydney Morning Herald 1911
3rd Prize
Mate in 2

The weekly problem’s solution will appear in the following week, when a new work is quoted.
See last week’s problem with solution: No.335.
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Chess and problem rambles by PW

30 Apr. 2017 – Norman Macleod Award winner and cyclic shift

The Norman Macleod Award, organised by the British Chess Problem Society, is bestowed on the most striking and original problem of any genre published in The Problemist over a two-year period. Given its emphasis on novelty, perhaps it’s not surprising that the Award has never been won by two-movers, the most highly investigated of all genres. However, in the recently announced Award for the 2014-15 period, the Slovakian Grandmaster Peter Gvozdjak has managed to break the trend, by gaining first place with a brilliant two-mover. His problem realises for the first time a theme described as “fourfold cyclic shift in threat form” – a complex type of changed play. Before analysing it, though, I should provide an example of a two-mover showing the more standard form of cyclic shift.

Michel Caillaud
The Problemist 1981
2nd Commendation
Mate in 2

A cyclic shift of mates is a kind of extension of the reciprocal change scheme. The latter involves set or try play where the defences 1…a and 1…b are answered by 2.A and 2.B respectively, but after the key, the white moves are reversed: 1…a 2.B and 1…b 2.A (examples: No.10, No.334). The two elements of play that get exchanged here – a pair of white mates – are increased to three or more elements in a cyclic shift to generate this “circular” pattern: 1…a 2.A, 1…b 2.B, 1…c 2.C in the set or try play, becoming 1…a 2.B, 1…b 2.C, 1…c 2.A in the actual play. This difficult idea, also called the Lacny theme, is accomplished very economically in the problem above. The try 1.Rh4? (waiting) prepares to attack f4 if Black moves the knight and also to pin the piece if the king takes the flight: 1…S~ [a] 2.Sh7 [A], 1…Kf4 [b] 2.Be3 [B], 1…B~ [c] 2.Qxg4 [C], but 1…Be6! defeats the try. The key 1.Rf7! (waiting) again aims for f4 but exploits the black bishop’s position instead, and the rook also covers f6 while unguarding h6. Now we see three changed variations where the same mates reappear but are shifted to other defences: 1…S~ [a] 2.Be3 [B], 1…Kf4 [b] 2.Qxg4 [C], 1…B~ [c] 2.Sh7 [A].

Peter Gvozdjak
The Problemist 2015
Norman Macleod Award 2014-15
Mate in 2

The Award winner demonstrates a fourfold cyclic shift as it contains a similar pattern but with four thematic defences and mates. Such a scheme is rarer but not new; what’s new is the form of that cyclic play, viz. the four mating moves are multiple threats, which are then separated or uniquely forced by the four defences. In the initial position, the g2-bishop and a5-rook are both controlling a potential flight on d5. Each of these line-pieces is cut off in turn by the d4-knight with the try 1.Sf3? and key 1.Sb5! Both knight moves create these four threats: 2.Qg8/Sxb2/Qd4/Qc3. The four thematic defences all take place on f3 and b5 – the same squares visited by the white knight – so that Black either (1) closes the remaining white line of guard to d5 or (2) captures the knight and removes its control of d4. All of these strategic effects – and more! – are designed to make each black defence foil exactly three of the four threats while leaving the fourth viable. Thus the try 1.Sf3? gives 1…Sb5 [a] 2.Qg8 [A], 1…Qxf3 [b] 2.Sxb2 [B], 1…Rb5 [c] 2.Qd4 [C], 1…Sxf3 [d] 2.Qc3 [D], but 1…Rxd1! refutes. Among the many dual avoidance effects, note for instance how 1…Sxf3 pins the d1-knight and prevents 2.Sxb2. After the key 1.Sb5!, every defence remarkably stops a new triplet of threats to bring about these cyclic changes: 1…Sxb5 [a] 2.Sxb2 [B], 1…Qf3 [b] 2.Qd4 [C], 1…Rxb5 [c] 2.Qc3 [D], 1…Sf3 [d] 2.Qg8 [A]. An amazing fusion of cyclic shift, Fleck theme (separation of threats), and dual avoidance, this two-mover really pushes the envelope!

20 Mar. 2017 – What’s New

Bob Meadley’s excellent series of e-books continues with the publication of J. K. Heydon: Problemist, Solicitor, Businessman. Joseph Kentigern Heydon (1884-1947) was a leading Australian problem composer who produced mostly traditional two- and three-movers. He was especially skilled in devising mutates (fashionable in his era) and task problems. This volume begins with a biographical chapter that describes Heydon’s multifaceted life as a scientist, solicitor, and author of religious books. His chess activities are then reviewed, and the next chapter covers his stint as the problem editor of the Australasian Chess Review. A “Notes and Scans” section reproduces a variety of materials, such as his entry in Who’s Who in Australia and a letter to the British Chess Magazine that indicates he pioneered a variation of the Evans Gambit. The book concludes with a collection of 62 problems by Heydon; reflecting the difficulties in gathering materials from the early 20th century, Bob mentioned that this is not Heydon’s complete output.

Joseph Heydon
Australasian Chess Review 1932
International Tourney, 2nd Commended
Mate in 2

Here are two selections from the e-book, which can be downloaded using the link above. The first two-mover shows correction play by three black pieces, unified by White’s self-interference mates that are made possible by Black’s self-blocks. The key is 1.Be7! (waiting). 1…B~ 2.Sb3, 1…Bc4 2.Sc6, 1…Bxd5 2.Bc5; 1…Sd~ 2.Qc3, 1…Se3 2.Sf3; 1…Sf~ 2.Rd3, 1…Se4 2.Sf5. The judge J.J. O’Keefe commented, “This achieves white interference on four lines with consummate ease and artistry.”

Joseph Heydon
Good Companions 1921
Complete Block Tourney, 2nd Prize
Mate in 2

Two of Heydon’s compositions are cited in Jeremy Morse’s seminal Chess Problems: Tasks and Records. One appeared previously on this site as a weekly problem, No.295. The other is a modified version of the above two-mover, which brings about a remarkable five changed mates in mutate form. Set mates are prepared for all of Black’s moves: 1…Bb7 2.Qxd7, 1…S~ 2.Qxc5, 1…b3 2.c4, 1…c4 2.Bxc4, 1…g~ 2.Bc4, and 1…e4 2.Sf4. The flight-giving key 1.Se4! (waiting) removes the latter variation but adds another one, 1…Kxe4 2.Qc6. The remaining play is completely changed: 1…Bb7 2.Qxb7, 1…S~ 2.Sf6, 1…b3 2.Sc3, 1…c4 2.Qxc4, and 1…g~ 2.Qd6.

2 Feb. 2017 – Two selfmates by Laimons Mangalis

In December’s column regarding a new e-book on Laimons Mangalis, I mentioned that he was a proficient composer of selfmates. Since this major problem genre is rarely discussed on this site, it seems a good opportunity to delve into some examples discovered in the book. In selfmates, White plays first and compels Black to mate in the specified number of moves, while Black does not cooperative and resists giving mate. The two selections below are both fine illustrations of the type, presenting appealing and accessible ideas.

Laimons Mangalis
The Problemist 1977
Selfmate in 2

In the first problem, Black’s B + K battery pointed at the white king suggests that it will be forced to open and deliver mate at some stage. Hence if Black were to play 1…Sf3 guarding e5 and d4, then 2.Qg7+ Kxg7 mate. This is the only set variation, however, as no selfmates-in-one are prepared for the other black moves. Consider the checks 1…Kf8+ and 1…e6+; each by attacking d5 means that 2.Ke5 could be followed by 2…Sf3 mate, but Black is not obliged to move the knight. The key 1.Qh8!, a waiting move, deals with these checks because: (1) 1…Kf8+ now self-pins the black bishop (and also the e7-pawn), so that 2.Ke5 does force 2…Sf3 by zugzwang, and (2) after 1…e6+ 2.Ke5, the black king is confined by the queen from its corner position, leaving 2…Sf3 again as Black’s only legal move. The black royal battery fires twice as the mating move: 1…Sf3 2.Qg7+ Kxg7 as in the set play, and 1…e5 2.Qf6+ Kxf6, when White makes a different queen sacrifice to ensure that the black king covers the e5-flight.

Laimons Mangalis
The Problemist 1977
Selfmate in 2

The second position contains a R + B battery on the first rank, and any bishop move would mate immediately. A set line utilises the battery thus: 1…Ke3 – attacking f2 – 2.Rxe4+ Bxe4. The surprising key 1.Kh1! (waiting) unpins the queen, sparking a full-length variation when Black moves the bishop: 1…B~+ 2.Qg1+ Rxg1. The black king has two flights on e3 and c5. Taking the first gives 1…Ke3 2.Rxe4+ Bxe4 – unchanged from the set play, though here the queen is pinned on the diagonal instead. If Black takes the second flight, White exploits the unpin of the black knight with 1…Kxc5 2.Qf2+ Sxf2. The final defence 1…c2 admits 2.Qxc2, immobilising the black king, and Black is forced by zugzwang to open the R + B battery once more: 2…Bxc2.