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Chess and problem rambles by PW

8 Nov. 2010 – First prize problem by Ian Shanahan, and a comic strip

The current issue of The Problemist brings welcome news of an Australian composer winning a first prize in that prestigious publication. Ian Shanahan’s problem, shown below, was placed first in a section of the 2007 Fairies tourney. This demanding work belongs to an unorthodox genre known as series-movers, and also deploys a couple of fairy pieces.

The task of “series-helpstalemate in 13” means that Black plays 13 consecutive moves to reach a position where White can deliver stalemate. White has two reflecting bishops, special pieces that possess the power to “reflect” off a board edge and continue a move at a right angle. For example, the reflecting bishop on g6 is actually attacking the pawn on b3 via the path g6-e8-a4-b3, while its sibling on f6 is pinning the queen on f2 via the path f6-h4-e1-b4. This fairy piece is capable of pinning more than one enemy piece at a time, a handy ability in a problem where stalemate is the aim.

Ian Shanahan
The Problemist 2007
1st Prize
Series-helpstalemate in 13
Reflecting bishops f6, g6

Here is the solution: 1.d4 2.Kc3 3.Kc2 4.Qe2 5.Sf4 6.Sd3 7.Rxe7 8.Rd7 9.b2 10.b1(S) 11.Rh1 12.Rd1 13.Qe7, enabling rBxe7 stalemate. Notice the unique move order of the sequence, forced by some remarkable self-pinning and unpinning effects, e.g. 3.Kc2 unpins the queen and also self-pins the h5-knight (rBg6-h5-d1-c2), so that the latter cannot move until it is unpinned by 4.Qe2.

After such a tough nut, here’s a bit of comic relief from the xkcd site!

22 Dec. 2010 – Andy Sag profile and a cartoon by Tony Lurie

A profile of Andy Sag has been added to the Australian Problemists section. Included are eight of his best problems (all two- and three-move directmates), as selected by the composer.

Aussie cartoonist Tony Lurie has kindly offered his works to be used on OzProblems. Here is an original piece by Tony. Check out his site, Toonopia, for more chess cartoons.

27 Dec. 2010 – A helpmate by Tim Krabbé

Imagine a helpmate-in-two that shows the AUW theme using a white pawn, with a further linking element: Black sacrifices four different pieces to the promoting pawn, each time using the same type of piece as that White is promoting to. Such a scheme is very hard to bring off, as I can attest, having attempted it without success many years ago. Then one day to my surprise I saw cited in feenschach a problem demonstrating this exact theme combination. What’s more, the composer was Tim Krabbé, the author of Chess Curiosities, and who is more famous as a novelist and screenwriter (the very disturbing Dutch film, The Vanishing, is based on his book).

Tim Krabbé
Schach-Echo 1974
Helpmate in 2
4 solutions

The solutions are 1.Qe8 fxe8(Q)+ 2.Kd6 2.Sc4, 1.Re8 fxe8(R)+ 2.Kf7 Bxh5, 1.Be8 fxe8(B) 2.Sd6 Re5, and 1.Se8 fxe8(S) 2.Re7 Sxf8.

On his Chess Curiosities website (see his problem page, Google translated), Krabbé describes how he obsessed for months to achieve a sound setting of this ambitious helpmate idea. Yet despite succeeding in this task, he calls it the “biggest disappointment” in his composing experience, because it turned out that this theme had been accomplished before. The precursor, published in 1968 by M. Pavlov and L. Ugren, is sufficiently different to be not an anticipation. So Krabbé’s helpmate is still a legitimate, fine piece of work – it’s just not the pioneering problem.

30 Dec. 2010 – William A. Whyatt material

A notable omission from the Oz Archives is rectified with the addition of material on William A. Whyatt. The life and works of Whyatt, who’s considered the best problem composer produced by Australia, are documented in W. A. Whyatt’s Chess Problems (1979) by Bob Meadley, and now you can view and download extracts from this book. The first available parts are the chapter, “Life of Bill Whyatt,” and a selection of 45 problems, with more to come.

William Whyatt
Weekly Times 1956
Mate in 3