Welcome to OzProblems.com, a site devoted to the chess problem art in Australia! Whether you’re a player who is new to composition chess or an experienced solver looking for challenging problems, we have something for you. Our aim is to promote the enjoyment of chess problems, which are at once interesting puzzles and the most artistic form of chess.

 Problem of the Week

245. A. Hackett
Town and Country Journal 1897
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.244.
See previous Problems of the Week without solutions: Page 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10.

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Chess and problem rambles by PW

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!

22 Jun. 2015 – Corrections to ‘Chess Problems Made Easy’

In the previous column I reviewed the free e-book, Chess Problems Made Easy: How to Solve, How to Compose by Thomas Taverner. This book was originally published well before the advent of computer-testing, so understandably it includes some unsound compositions. A proposal to repair these problems has been answered by Stefan Felber of Germany, who remarkably sends in sixteen corrections. He writes, “Being in the teaching profession, it seems natural to me to deal with and, if possible, improve somebody else's creative work. And correcting Taverner's faulty problems proved to be a very rewarding intellectual challenge. The new versions have all been tested by Fritz.” Great job, Stefan! Nigel Nettheim and Ralf Krätschmer also contributed a few additional or alternative versions, and the result is that only one problem in the book (No.114) remains uncorrected. You can download a list of all amended positions here: Errata for unsound problems.

Let’s consider a pleasing example of how a cooked problem is cleverly restored by Stefan. In the two-mover below (No.98 in the book), the black king has access to four diagonal flights, two of which are given set mates: 1…Kf5 2.Sexd4 and 1…Kd3 2.Rxd4. It seems that any move of the c6-knight could solve by guarding c6 and opening the long diagonal, and thus provide for the other two flights: 1…Kd5 2.Sf4 and 1…Kf3 2.Qb7. However, a random knight move would also allow the black king to escape to e5. This determines the fine withdrawal key: 1.Sd8! (waiting), which controls e6 in order to answer 1…Kxe5 with 2.Qxe6. (The try 1.Scxd4? also guards e6 but is defeated by 1…Kd3!) The problem hence shows the star-flights theme, unusually augmented by a fifth orthogonal flight.

Thomas Taverner
Chess Problems Made Easy 1924
Original source?
Mate in 2

Unfortunately, the position is spoiled by two cooks. 1.Sb4! attacks two flights and threatens 2.Sxd4, which remains effective after 1…Kf5 or 1…Kxe5, while 1…Kf3 2.Qb7 works as before. And 1.Qxe6! (waiting) leaves Black with only two defences: 1…Kd3 2.Rxd4 and 1…Kf3 2.Qd5. The first cook is prevented by placing the a4-rook on b4, a shift that carries no disadvantage. The second cook is much harder to deal with, since Qxe6 also occurs as a thematic mate and so it cannot be crudely disabled. To foil the cook by disrupting the ensuing variations also seems unlikely to work here, because they are too similar to the intended play. Stefan gets around these difficulties by adding a black pawn on b7 and a white one on b6. Now 1.Qxe6? fails to 1…bxc6!, while the key 1.Sd8! and subsequent play are unaffected.

Thomas Taverner
Chess Problems Made Easy 1924
Original source?
Corrected by Stefan Felber
Mate in 2

17 May 2015 – What’s New

Bob Meadley’s important historical research has culminated in the publication of Australian Chess Problem History. This splendid document is now available for download in two parts. Bob has assembled a massive amount of interesting materials, sorted into the pre- and post-1962 eras. Part 1 contains, for example, mini-biographies of eminent composers since the late 19th century accompanied by their sample problems, and a detailed account of Fred Hawes’ work as “Australia’s greatest problem editor” over a 42-year period. Part 2 includes a “Chronological History of Australian Problems from 1962”, covering modern composers and more recent problem magazines and columns. There’s also a large “Photos and Scans” section, which helps you to associate the familiar names next to chess diagrams with human faces!

Below is a charming more-mover that Bob cited in the section on Fred Hawes. The white rook could threaten mate on the first rank in many ways, but what is the only move that will overcome Black’s stalemate-aiming defences? You can download Australian Chess Problem History using the links above or on the Problemists and History page of this site.

Frederick Hawes
The Australasian Chess Review 1941
Mate in 4

Another contribution to the Oz Archives comes from Nigel Nettheim, who again fills in a gap in our collection of chess problem columns. He has scanned all of the Australasian Chess Review columns for the year 1932, on problems as well as endgame studies. This material is spread over four PDF-files, reflecting the substantial coverage given to problems during that time. Check them out on the Magazines and Columns page.

Recently Nigel and I were discussing the issue of how to introduce players to the art of composing problems. Very few guides have been written on the subject, but Nigel has discovered a free e-book that deals with it in a clear and succinct manner. It’s Thomas Taverner’s Chess Problems Made Easy: How to Solve, How to Compose (1924), an electronic edition of which was published by Anders Thulin. Besides updating the text to algebraic notation, Anders has computer-tested all of the problems, so that unsound ones are noted as such.

Nigel has some reservations about the book that I share, regarding its textual and diagram errors (mostly originating from the printed edition) and how it’s dated in some respect, e.g. the invalid claim that castling is barred in problems. Nevertheless, the book is recommended for providing good and still pertinent advice to novice composers (see Chapter 4), and step-by-step instructions on how to construct a problem. That some of the resulting compositions turned out to be unsound does not reduce the value of the instructions. Indeed, Nigel points out that it would be a good exercise for readers to correct these faulty works. I offer a prize of my book, Parallel Strategy: 156 Chess Compositions, to any new (unpublished) composer who succeeds in producing such a correction. A good example of a cooked position that’s amenable to repairs is the two-mover that ends Chapter 5. Thanks to Anders who has given permission for this e-book to be placed on OzProblems.

25 Mar. 2015 – Australian Junior Chess Problem-Solving Championship

This year the national Junior Chess Championships took place in the capital city of Canberra, and an accompanying Problem-Solving competition was held on January 20th. Now in its ninth year, the solving event was successfully run by Nigel Nettheim and attracted 75 entrants (52 boys, 17 girls, and 6 adults). Nigel has put together an engaging Report on the event which you can access from this site. The Report details what transpired on the day and contains the question sheets and solutions, as well as a supplement guide on how to run such a contest. There is also a note requesting a transition to new control of this annual competition.

Arnoldo Ellerman
Olympic Tourney 1964
3rd Hon. Mention
Mate in 2

Leonardo Mano
(source unknown) 1999
Proof game in 4

The contestants were given two hours to tackle fifteen problems. The directmates were set by Geoff Foster, while Nigel proposed the endgame studies. These well-selected tasks range from the easy to some that are quite tough, so as to give any newcomers a chance while sorting out the best solvers. Here I quote two of the trickier problems from the paper – have a go at them! Check the Report to see if you have solved them correctly. To find out who were the prize-winners this year, go to the Problem Solving Results page of the official Championships site.

Incidentally, I have added a page called Solving and Composing Competitions to the Oz Archives section of this site. Here you can view the Reports of all the earlier junior solving events (previously accessible from the Links page), and also the documents relating to the recent Guided Composing competition.