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Chess and problem rambles by PW

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.