Australian Columns 1921
Mate in 2
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23 Apr. 2013 – ‘Minimalkunst im Schach’ edited by Ebert, Reich, and Kuhlmann
A comprehensive anthology of the “best” minimal problems, Minimalkunst im Schach, was published in 2006, though I acquired a copy only recently. This impeccably produced hardback contains more than a thousand problems, arranged in these genres: studies, directmates, helpmates, and fairies. Each section is subdivided according to the type of piece owned by the minimal side, next to the king. Brief comments in German accompany the solutions, but you don’t need to understand the text to enjoy these well-selected compositions.
Magyar Sakkvilag 1943
Helpmate in 6
Here I quote two representative problems from the collection, both marvellous works. The first features an unusual helpmate idea in which White’s initial play is motivated by the need to stop an imminent black mate. Due to zugzwang, Black is about to give mate in three moves at the latest, e.g. 1.h1(S) Sc6 2.h2 Sb4 and now 3.Sg3/e2 mate cuts short White’s plan to play 3…Sd3. To avoid such a hazard, Black must promote carefully: 1.h1(B) Se6 2.h2 Sf4 3.Bg2+ Sxg2. Now 4.h1(S) fails because after 4…Sxe1/Sf4, Black is again forced to mate with any legal move. So instead 4.h1(B) Sxe1 (self-pin) 5.e2+ Kxf2 (unpin) 6.Bg2 (tempo move) Sd3.
A helpstalemate problem is similar to a helpmate except that the players cooperate to put Black in stalemate. In Aussie composer Ian Shanahan’s example, we see an elegant delivery of the Allumwandlung theme. 1.f1(S) Kc6 2.Sg3 hxg3 3.c1(B) g4 4.Bh6 g5 5.h2 gxh6 6.h1(R) hxg7 7.Rh8 gxh8(Q) 8.Ka4 Qc3. The four types of promotions occur in ascending order; moreover, this miniature incorporates an Excelsior and an ideal stalemate.
Ideal-Mate Review 1993
Helpstalemate in 8
28 Feb. 2013 – A “Holy Grail” of proof games attained
SPG in 19½
Are there more two-king SPGs to be discovered? It’s possible, according to Labelle, whose analysis isn’t exhaustive (though he has conducted a full search of 18-move games and determined that the task cannot be accomplished at that length). Out of more than 3500 possible two-king positions, he has verified the SPGs for
SPG in 18
27 Jan. 2013 – Two selections from ‘Problem Potpourri’
The three-mover is by regular contributor Leonid Makaronez, an IM of composition from Israel. The subtle key 1.Bf7! contains a quiet threat, 2.Rf3 followed by 3.Bb2 (which answers 2…Ke5 too). Black’s thematic defences are distant self-blocks: 1…Sb3 2.Re4+ Kc3 3.Rc4, and 1…Rxf6 2.Rd3+ Ke5 3.Rd5. There’s lovely by-play with 1…Sc6 (which stops the threat in view of 2.Rf3? Ke5!) allowing 2.Bd2 and 3.Re4, because 2…c1(Q) no longer checks. Also note that 1.Bg8? is refuted by 1…Rg6!
Australasian Chess 2012
Mate in 3
Australasian Chess 2012
Helpmate in 3, 2 solutions
31 Dec. 2012 – Improving a century-old problem and some composing resources
Good Companions 1917
4th Hon. Mention
Mate in 2
The only book-length treatment of the subject, Adventures in Composition (1944), is by one of the greatest practitioners of the art, the late GM Comins Mansfield. This classic work reveals the thought processes behind the creation of many famous two-movers, and is invaluable to any new composers. You can download a PDF-copy of Adventures in Composition from Vaclav Kotesovec’s site (scroll down to “A. C. White – The Overbrook Series”). Another great resource is the periodical, The Problemist Supplement, which sometimes covers the topic of problem construction directly and is, in any case, a fine problem publication that caters for newcomers. A complete archive of The Problemist Supplement, currently edited by Geoff Foster, is accessible from the site of the British Chess Problem Society.
12 Dec. 2012 – ‘Philosophy Looks At Chess’ and Raymond Smullyan
That chapter, ‘To Know the Past One Must First Know the Future: Raymond Smullyan and the Mysteries of Retrograde Analysis’, is by Bernd Graefrath. The author is a well-known figure in chess problem circles – he’s the subeditor of a retro section in The Problemist, for example – but I wasn’t aware that he’s also a professor and PhD in philosophy. (On a personal note, some years ago Bernd took the trouble of sending me a nice letter with the news that he, as the judge of a problem tourney that I participated in, had awarded a First Prize to my work!) His subject is Raymond Smullyan, the famous logician and philosopher who published two popular collections of retro chess problems, The Chess Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes, and The Chess Mysteries of the Arabian Knights.
Graefrath discusses some problems by Smullyan and others to introduce readers to the area of retrograde analysis, in which the solver delves into the past of a chess position. He points out interesting parallels between the ideas displayed in these retros and some philosophical concepts, such as “cognitive optimism” and “antiverificationism”. Thus we see how some of Smullyan’s philosophical viewpoints are evoked by his chess compositions! Take Smullyan’s stance against logical positivism, which holds that any statement is meaningless if it’s incapable of verification or refutation. Such a strict verificationism is incorrect, according to Smullyan, and Graefrath quotes a retro problem that is illustrative of this view.
The Chess Mysteries of Sherlock
Indemonstrable mate in 2 moves
‘To Know the Past One Must First Know the Future: Raymond Smullyan and the Mysteries of Retrograde Analysis’ is available online as a preview of Philosophy Looks At Chess on Google Books.