Denis Saunders

by Geoff Foster

Denis Saunders (1930-2009) held a range of teaching and research posts before becoming Lecturer in Geographical Sciences at the University of Queensland in 1968, where he remained until early retirement in 1987. His active pursuits included cricket, golf and pictorial photography, an art form in which he excelled with many published articles and award-winning Exhibition prints.

His introduction to chess problems, in the early 1980s, was purely accidental. On a wet Sunday, when a scheduled golf match was washed out, he turned to the problem column in the Brisbane Sunday Mail and attempted (unsuccessfully) to solve a traditional two-mover. The following week he succeeded, won the $5 prize and developed an interest in problems which continued thereafter.

1. Denis Saunders & Andy Sag
The Problemist 1985, 4th Hon. Mention

Mate in 2

The set play is 1…Sa6,Sc6 2.Bc6. The key is 1.Sa6!, putting Black in zugzwang. 1…Ke6 2.Qc4; 1…Sb-any 2.Qc6; 1…Bd6 2.exd6; 1…Bxe5+ 2.Rfxe5; 1…Bc-else 2.e6; 1…Be6 2.Qc5; 1…Bg-else 2.Bf7; 1…Sb6 2.Sxc7; 1…a3 2.Qb3. The position is almost a block, but White needs to provide mates for 1…Be6, 1…Sd7 and 1…Sb6. A random try by the knight on c5 gives the black king a flight, changes the reply to the set mate, and provides a mate for the first two of the above defences. However, only the key provides a mate for 1…Sb6. Both black bishops make correction moves, including a fine self-block on the flight square by 1…Be6 2.Qc5.

2. Denis Saunders
The Problemist 1989, 1st Prize
Ded. to Norman Macleod

Mate in 3

This unusual problem contains an inset two-mover. The key is 1.Qb8!, threatening 2.Qg3 followed by 3.Qd3. Black seems to have an adequate defence in 1…h4, but this is followed by the startling move 2.Sb5!, placing Black in zugzwang. The variations are then: 2…Kxb5+ 3.Rxc5 (a double pin-mate); 2…Bxb5 3.Qf4; 2…Bb-any 3.Sxa3; 2…Qxc6 3.Rxb4; 2…S-any 3.Sd6. It can be seen that 1.Qb8 ambushes the white queen behind the black knight, so that the knight is pinned after 2…Kxb5+.

3. Denis Saunders
The Problemist Supplement 1993

Mate in 2

All black moves are provided with mates, as follows: 1…Bxd5 2.Qf4; 1…B-else 2.Sc4; 1…exd5 2.Qf5; 1…Sh-any 2.Sf7; 1…Sa-any 2.Bxc3; 1…h5 2.Rg5. Therefore a waiting move will solve the problem. A good try is 1.f7?, which is refuted by 1…Sg6!, because the white knight is unable to move to f7. An even better try is 1.Kg2?, which fails because 1…Bxd5! pins the white queen, preventing 2.Qf4. A random move of the rook (such as 1.Rg2?) fails, because the queen is now pinned, so Black can safely play 1…exd5! or 1…Bxd5! But wait, the white rook can make a correction move, playing to g7 (or g8), so that 1…exd5 is met by 2.Re7. However, this still fails against 1…Bxd5! The key is 1.Rg6!, another correction move by the white rook, which changes two of the set mates. After the captures on d5, the queen cannot move vertically to mate, but instead slides horizontally along the pin line! 1…Bxd5 2.Qg3; 1…B-else 2.Sc4; 1…exd5 2.Qe3; 1…Sh-any 2.Sf7; 1…Sa-any 2.Bxc3; 1…h5 2.Rg5.

4. Denis Saunders
The Problemist 1995, 1st Prize
Ded. to Arthur Willmott

Mate in 3

The key is the spectacular move 1.Qg8!, threatening 2.Qxc4 e6 3.Qxc5. The key is a queen sacrifice and also gives the black king a flight on d6. 1…Bd6 2.Qxc4 (threat: 3.Qd5) e6 3.Qc3; 1…Kd6 2.Qxc4 (3.Qd5) e6 3.Qxc5, 2…e5 3.Bxc5, 2…Ke5 3.Qd5; 1…Bxg8 2.hxg8=Q (3.Qd5) e6 3.Qxb8; 1…Bb3/Ba2 2.Rxb3/Rxa2 (3.Qd5) e6 3.Qxb8; 1…Bf7 2.Qxb8+ Ke6 3.Sg7; 1…Rxg5 2.Bxf4+ Kd4 3.e3. This problem won the British Chess Problem Society’s Godfrey Heathcote Cup for the best 3-mover for 1995.

5. Denis Saunders
The Problemist 1996, 1st Hon. Mention

Mate in 2

Several black moves are already provided with mates, as follows: 1…e4 2.Bf6; 1…Rh5 2.Qg1; 1…Qg7,Qh8 2.Sxf5; 1…Bf3 2.Qe3,Qg1; 1…f4 2.Qxe5. The key is 1.Qxf5!, threatening 2.Qxe5. 1…Ke3 2.Rxd3 (a pin-mate); 1…Qxf5+ 2.Sxf5; 1…e4 2.Qc5; 1…Rh5 2.Qf2; 1…Re3 2.Qd7; 1…Bg4 2.Re4; 1…Qg7,Qh8,Qxf7 2.Qe4; 1…Sb6+ 2.Bxb6. Three mates are changed by the fine key, which also eliminates two set mates and introduces three new ones, including a black king flight.

6. Denis Saunders
The Problemist 1996, 4th Hon. Mention

Mate in 2

Set play: 1…Rxc2,Rd3 2.Rd3; 1…Be5 2.Bxb6. The key 1.Se5! threatens 2.Qxc3. 1…Kxe5 2.Bf6; 1…Ke3 2.Bxb6 (pin-mate); 1…Rxc6+ 2.Sxc6; 1…Re3 2.Qd5; 1…Rc-else 2.Sxf3 or 2.Qe4. The white queen is pinned by a great key which gives two flights, and the black rook supplies the unpins.