A helpmate by Tim Krabbé

27 Dec. 2010 | by Peter Wong

Imagine a helpmate-in-2 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 Diagram 6 on his problem page), 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.