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 Problem of the Week

262. Andy Sag
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.261.
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Chess and problem rambles by PW

25 Nov. 2015 – Guided Chess Problem Composing Competition 2016

The 2016 Australian Junior Chess Championships, to be held in January at the city of Adelaide, will include a problem composing event. This Guided Chess Problem Composing Competition, organised by Nigel Nettheim, is aimed at introducing chess players and problem solvers to the basics of constructing a problem. Similar to the previous year’s event, the contest is conducted online with a questions paper that entrants can download and work on at home. Everyone can take part in this open competition, regardless of age, locality, and experience, though it’s especially suitable for those who have not composed before. Book and other prizes will be awarded, and possibly divided according to the categories of contestants (depending on the entries).

I have set the paper’s four tasks, which require participants to complete or correct an existing mate-in-two problem. Plenty of clues are provided with the questions, hence the “guided” aspect of the competition. The tasks have been made considerably easier than those in the previous paper, in response to the feedback we have received. There is a slight increase in difficulty over the course of the paper, but solvers are encouraged to take part even if they don’t answer all of the questions. Further, the paper includes Nigel’s ‘A Quick Introduction to Chess Problem Composition’, an article containing great advice that will help readers to tackle the tasks.

Here’s a link to access the paper: GCPCC 2016. The closing date for entries is the 7th of February, 2016. More information is available on the Guided Problem Composing page on the Australian Junior Chess Championships site. Below is the second task from the paper, given here in an abbreviated form.

Mate in 2 (unsound)

In this mate-in-two problem, we seem to have these set variations if Black were to play: 1…S3~ 2.Sf5 and 1…S5~ 2.Sf3. When White begins, the intended key 1.Kd1 aims to preserve the set play while avoiding checks by the black knights. However, the problem actually has no solution because 1.Kd1 is defeated by a particular black move. What is this spoiling black defence? Modify the position so that the key 1.Kd1 does solve the problem and leads to the above knight variations. You can add or remove pieces as required, or shift existing pieces to other squares. Various sound settings are possible – try to find the most economical position.

12 Sep. 2015 – Changes to Problems of the Week

Since the start of this site, the Problems of the Week have been showcasing works by Australian composers only. After almost five years and 250 selections later, I feel it’s time to remove this restriction and consider works by international problemists as well. This will allow a greater variety of problem types and ideas to be presented. To maintain the Australian connection, however, I will choose only problems that originally appeared in Australian publications when overseas composers are quoted. International composers are also welcome to submit originals to this site for publication as a Problem of the Week.

10 Sep. 2015 – The Grasshopper and the Nightrider

Chess problems that involve fairy pieces with unconventional moves are rarely featured on this site. Since such pieces enable interesting effects and themes not seen in orthodox problems, I’d like to give them a short introduction here. We will look at the two most popular fairy pieces, the grasshopper and the nightrider, both invented by T. R. Dawson a century ago.

The grasshopper moves along queen-lines but only by hopping over one piece (of either colour) and landing on the square immediately beyond. In the first diagram, the grasshopper on a7 has three legal moves: it can go to a3 by hopping over the black king, and similarly it can access d7 and d4 by using the pieces on c7 and c5 as hurdles. If there are no pieces standing on the same line as a grasshopper, it would be immobile. The nightrider is an enhanced knight; it’s able to make any number of knight steps in a straight line as one move. The nightrider on c7 can thus move to d5 or further along the same line to e3 or f1, for instance. Analogous to the rook and the bishop, the nightrider is blockable along the line it travels, so if a piece were on e6 it would stop the c7-nightrider from going to g5.

Peter Kniest
Viele Bunte Steine 1984
Mate in 2
Grasshoppers a7, a1, a8
Nightrider c7

In this miniature, Black’s king is confined by the three white pieces on the c-file. The remaining white grasshopper is hence a good candidate to be the mating piece, and it makes the key 1.Gd7! to prepare an attack on the diagonal. Now if another white piece were to move to b5, it would enable the grasshopper to check (an “anti-battery” effect), though neither 2.Nb5 nor 2.Rb5 is threatened because these moves would cause an interference between the two line-pieces and create a flight for the black king. Because of zugzwang, however, Black is forced to self-block with the grasshoppers, thereby allowing these white moves to work: 1…Ga5 2.Nb5 and 1…Ga3 2.Rb5. The mutual interference between the two white pieces – a white Grimshaw – thus occurs in the two mating moves, an idea that can’t be shown so neatly, if at all, in an orthodox directmate.

The next example illustrates a convention relating to pawn promotion in fairy problems. The rule is that it is legal to promote to a fairy piece of any type that exists in the problem diagram. Therefore in the following position, the players may choose to promote to a grasshopper or a nightrider, in addition to the regular pieces.

Nikita Nagnibida
Die Schwalbe 1993
Helpmate in 2
Twin (b) Rd2 to b3
Grasshoppers c4, h6, h2, b6, a8
Nightrider g4

In this helpmate, the black king has one accessible flight on a2, while a1 and c2 are guarded by the g4-nightrider and c1 by the h6-grasshopper. White aims to promote the g7-pawn to a grasshopper and use it to mate on b3 – a placement that activates the c4-grasshopper’s control of a2. But initially a promotion on g8 would be an illegal self-check due to the a8-grasshopper; furthermore, the b6-grasshopper is protecting the mating square b3. To deal with these obstacles in just two moves, Black uses the queen to cut off each grasshopper in turn: 1.Qe8+ g8(G) 2.Qb5+ Gb3. The first queen check helps to legalise the promotion move, but the promoted grasshopper is left pinned. Next the queen not only unpins the grasshopper but also opens the rank again for the a8-grasshopper to give a discovered check, and White answers the check by vacating g8 – a curious form of cross-check. For part (b), the black rook starts on b3, meaning a2 is already guarded by the grasshopper on c4 while c1 is no longer controlled by the one on h6. To compensate, White plans to promote to a nightrider and mate with it on d2, where it would reactivate the h6-grasshopper. Paralleling the first solution, the black queen helps the white pawn to promote, and then interferes with the h2-grasshopper which is defending d2: 1.Qf8+ g8(N) 2.Qf2+ Nd2.

4 Aug. 2015 – What’s new... elsewhere

In the 15/8/2012 Walkabout column I discussed APwin, a graphical interface for the solving programs Popeye and Alybadix. This nifty piece of software has been updated by its creator, Paul Wiereyn, and you can download it for free on this page: APwin v2015. The new version contains many changes and fixes, including:

Additional fairy pieces and conditions to reflect the latest Popeye updates.
Descriptions of all pieces and conditions (some were missing in the earlier version).
A method to “fast input” multiple positions for solving, with an “add problem to file” button that allows such positions to be saved in a single file.
Problems are automatically saved when you exit a screen or when a position is solved.

The automatic saving function generates more solution files than I would like (new files are created instead of the old files being overwritten, which was the default behaviour in the previous version). However, at the time of writing, Paul is exploring alternative methods of saving problems, so this feature may change in the near future.

My chess graphics site, Virtual Pieces, doesn’t get updated often these days, but I have recently uploaded new versions of the two Diagramkits. These collections of image files for creating chess diagrams now include rotated figurines to represent unorthodox pieces, useful for displaying fairy problems and chess variants. Some improved board backgrounds are added as well.

If you like my artworks on Virtual Pieces, note that you can purchase merchandise featuring them on the Redbubble site. A range of products, from T-shirts to mugs, are available. You can even customise the image to show, for example, your favourite chess problem! Just drop me a line if you’re interested.

I’ve always been a fan of the X-Men film franchise, and viewers who are into chess would have noticed how frequently the game appears in these movies. After the release of the fifth film in the series, X-Men: Days of Future Past, I decided to create a video compilation of all of these chess-related scenes, just for fun. The result is “Chess Scenes in the X-Men Films” – check it out below or on YouTube!