My interest in chess problems began in the early 1980s and it was sparked, typically enough, by a newspaper column. Gary Koshnitsky’s chess column in the Sun-Herald always included a diagram, with the task of “White to play and mate in two moves”. I solved them eagerly each week, and soon turned to book collections, such as Kenneth Howard’s The American Two-Move Chess Problems, and Raymond Smullyan’s The Chess Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes.
My earliest efforts at composing problems stayed unpublished in my notebooks – thankfully, for all concerned! But after a couple of years of enjoyable practice, I sent a few original works to Chess in Australia, the national magazine which had a problem column edited by Bob Meadley. He published the best one out of the lot submitted, and so began the years in which he encouraged me as a budding composer and taught me a great deal about the world of problem art.
Since 1983, I have contributed about 170 compositions to many of the leading problem journals, including The Problemist, Die Schwalbe, feenschach, and Phénix. I work in most genres, though my favourites are shortest proof games and fairy helpmates, as well as a particularly unorthodox type known as series retractors. Two anthologies of my problems have been published, One Hundred Chess Compositions (1994), and Parallel Strategy: 156 Chess Compositions (2004). The second book took me years to complete, as it was written in my spare time while holding a full-time job with Greenpeace Australia Pacific (besides that I write slowly!).
The first time one wins a 1st Prize in a major publication is pretty special, and I remember the thrill I got when a series retractor of mine was placed first in the Fairies section of The Problemist in 1990. Now more than 70 of my problems have received tourney awards, including 30 or so prizes. Additionally, two special awards obtained are (1) the Norman Macleod Award (1994-95), for the most striking and original problem published in The Problemist over a two-year period, and (2) the Wenigsteiner of the Year (1994), for the world’s best problem that uses no more than four pieces.
In 2003 I was the co-recipient (with Denis Saunders) of the inaugural Whyatt Medal, as an outstanding representative of Australia in the chess problem field. Two years later I gained the title of FIDE Master for Chess Composition. Composing titles are based on the number of problems one has selected for the FIDE Albums, anthologies of purportedly the best compositions in the world. Twelve selected works are needed for the FIDE Master title, and currently I have 17. The next target of 25 problems, for the International Master title, seems so close and yet so far!
The Problemist 1988
7th Hon. Mention
|Mate in 2|
Tries: 1.Sb2? (threat: 2.Qc4) Rg1! 1.Se3? (2.Qc4) Qh1! 1.Qc7? (2.Sc3) Rf1!
Key: 1.Qc8! (2.Sc3). 1…Rg1 2.Rb2, 1…Qh1 2.R2xe5, 1…Rf1 2.Rb7.
The three try-moves commit the same types of errors, involving analogous departure and arrival effects. White’s queen and knight on first rank are in a prospective half-pin arrangement with their king. When either of these try-pieces departs from the rank, the other becomes liable to be pinned by Black. Each try-piece, upon landing, also hinders a prepared white rook mate. And this interference frees one of the black defenders to effect the pin and thus refute the try. The key by the queen still allows the knight to be pinned, but avoids any self-interference, so that the pinning defences can be answered by the rook mates.
2. Peter Wong
The Problemist 1993
|Mate in 10|
White’s aim is to decoy the c5-rook to a square where it can be captured without causing stalemate. To do this, the white rook continuously threatens mate on the rank, forcing the black rook to chase after it. Not 1.Rd4? or 1.Rxf4? (threat: 2.bxc5+ b4 3.Rxb4) immediately, however, because of 1…Rc4! So 1.Re4! (threats: 2.bxc5+ or 2.Re1 and 3.Ra1) Re5 (1…Rc4? 2.Re1 Rxb4+ 3.cxb4 Kxb4 4.Re4, 1…Rxc3? 2.dxc3 d2 3.bxa5+ b4 4.Rxb4) 2.Rd4 (threat: 3.bxa5+) Rd5 (2…Re4? 3.fxe4 f3 4.bxa5+) 3.Rxf4 Rf5 (3…Rd4? 4.cxd4 Kxb4 5.d5). Now that White has captured the f4-pawn, the rank is cleared for the white rook to move to the h-file, in attempting to lure the black rook to play …Rxh5. But 4.Rxh4? would be premature, allowing 4…Rf4!, so further decoys are needed. 4.Rg4 Rg5 (4…Rf4? 5.Rg1) 5.Rd4 Rd5 (5…Rg4? 6.hxg4) 6.Rxh4 Rxh5 (6…Rd4? 7.cxd4). White has successfully induced Black to capture the h5-pawn, the purpose being the unblocking of Black’s pawn on h6. 7.Re4 Re5 8.Rxe5 – White is finally able to capture the rook without giving stalemate – h5 9.Re1 and 10.Ra1. Or 7…Rh4 8.Rxh4 (not 8.Re1? Rxb4+ 9.cxb4 h5!) h5 9.bxa5+ b4 10.Rxb4. The main variation sees seven consecutive pairs of “parallel” rook moves.
3. Peter Wong
The Problemist 1995
Helpmate in 2
1.Sxf5 h6! 2.Sd4 Sce5. 1.Qa7 a3! 2.Qd4 Sa5. 1.Bf8 g7! 2.Bc5 Sde5. 1.Rb5 e5! 2.Rc5 Sb6. 1.Rh2 a5! 2.Rxe2 Bxe2. 1.Sd5 f6! 2.Sc3 b3. 1.c1(S) Kb1! 2.Sd3 exd3.
Black takes two moves to set up a position where White can give mate, but meanwhile White needs to make a move that doesn’t disrupt the plan. Such a tempo move, motivated only by the compulsion to play and without any positive effect, occurs in every solution. The seven different tempo moves attained in this problem, leading to a variety of mates, represent a task record for helpmates.
4. Peter Wong
The Problemist 1992
4th Hon. Mention
Shortest Proof Game in 7
(b) Qd3 to b3
(c) Qd3 to h4
(a) 1.c3 Sh6 2.Qa4 Sf5 3.Qxd7+ Qxd7 [A] 4.Sf3 Kd8 5.Sd4 Qxd4 [B] 6.e3 Sd7 7.Bd3 Qxd3 [C].
(b) 1.Sf3 Sh6 2.Se5 Sf5 3.Sxd7 Qxd7 [B] 4.e3 Kd8 5.Bb5 Qxb5 [C] 6.c3 Sd7 7.Qb3 Qxb3 [A].
(c) 1.e3 Sh6 2.Bb5 Sf5 3.Bxd7+ Qxd7 [C] 4.c3 Kd8 5.Qa4 Qxa4 [A] 6.Sf3 Sd7 7.Sh4 Qxh4 [B].
The black queen captures the three missing white pieces in all three parts, but does so in a different order each time. Specifically, the captures occur in cyclic order, as the labels of [A], [B], and [C] – signifying the removal of the queen, knight, and bishop respectively – indicate. This may still be the only example of a 3x3 capture cycle shown in a shortest proof game.
5. Peter Wong
3rd Hon. Mention
Shortest Proof Game in 12
1.c4 g6 2.Qa4 Bh6 3.Qxd7+ Kf8 4.Qh3 Qd5 5.g3 Qxh1 6.Sf3 Qxf3 7.Bg2 Qc3 8.Bc6 Kg7 9.Ba4 Qxc1+ 10.Bd1 Qxb1 11.Qf1 Qd3 12.Rc1 Qd8.
1.g3 g6 2.Bh3 Bh6 3.Bxd7+ Kf8 4.Ba4 Qd3 5.c4 Qxb1 6.Qc2 Kg7 7.Qf5 Qxc1+ 8.Bd1 Qc3 9.Sf3 Qxf3 10.Qh3 Qxh1+ 11.Qf1 Qd5 12.Rc1 Qd8.
The black queen carries out a different capture tour in each solution. The two trips are connected in an unusual way – the queen travels on the same path but in opposite direction, i.e. exactly the same squares are visited each time but in reverse order. White’s queen and bishop swap places, and how this occurs is also changed, with both pieces using different routes (and taking turns to capture the d7-pawn) in the two parts.
6. Peter Wong
The Problemist 1995
Ded. to Bob Meadley
|Shortest Proof Game in 21½|
1.h3! Sc6 2.h4 Se5 3.h5 Sg6 4.hxg6 f6! 5.gxh7 f5 6.hxg8B Rh3 7.Bd5 Rb3 8.axb3 f4 9.Ra6 f3 10.Re6 a6! 11.exf3 a5 12.Bb5 a4 13.Bbc6 bxc6 14.Ke2 Bb7! 15.Kd3 Ba6+ 16.Kc3 Be2 17.Sxe2 Qb8 18.Rg1 Qb4+ 19.Kxb4 0-0-0 20.Ka3 Kb7! 21.Ka2 Kb8 22.Ka1.
In various stages of the solution, both White and Black make tempo moves (indicated by ‘!’) that are aimed at marking time only. A total of five individual tempo moves take place, which is a record for the theme as set in shortest proof games. The difficulty of presenting multiple tempo moves in this genre lies in the potential occurrence of unwanted ‘oscillation duals’ in the play. For instance, Black uses up two extra moves with 4…f6! and 10…a6!, and theoretically the same number of moves could be wasted by making a simple ‘switchback’ with a black piece instead. However, Black has no free pieces capable of doing this; the a8-rook in particular cannot play 4...Rb8 and 10...Ra8 because it would lose the castling right necessary for later in the game.