‘Chris J. Feather – Selected Helpmates’

6 Oct. 2011 | by Peter Wong

The British problemist Chris Feather is one of the foremost experts on helpmates in the world. He's also my favourite problem composer, so I was delighted to hear that he has published an anthology of his works, titled Chris J. Feather – Selected Helpmates. It contains over 300 of his problems, all accompanied by his comments and that of co-author GM Zivko Janevski. The book also includes Chris's articles on various helpmate themes and motifs, and a section on his composing influences and inspirations. As to be expected, the quality of the problems collected here is fantastic. His works are marked by great artistry combined with strategic intensity. Here’s a taste of what you will find in this excellent anthology.

Chris Feather
Sakkélet 1991

Helpmate in 2, 2 solutions

The first selection involves a wealth of strategic effects in its two analogous solutions: 1.Qxc4 Qxg4+ 2.Kd5 Qxc4, and 1.Qxf3 Qxc6+ 2.Kf4 Qxf3. In both phases, the black queen unpins its counterpart and captures a knight, with the aim of clearing that square for White's mating move. The white queen captures a pinned piece, “doubling” with the initial pinner in the control of a line. After a king move (to a square that the black queen had crossed over), the white queen moves along said line and gives a pin-mate, supported by the line-piece. A striking example of an orthogonal-diagonal transformation.

Chris Feather
Hatchings-2 1995

Helpmate in 2, 3 solutions

In helpmates with two parts, we often see a reciprocal change of functions between two pieces, e.g. the two white knights in the first problem exchange their roles of being a guard and a sacrificed piece. The second problem extends this kind of linking effect and presents a cyclic change of functions among three white pieces. The three solutions are: 1.Kg5 Rc5+ 2.Sf5 Qh4, 1.Kf5 Qxd7+ 2.Se6 Rxh5, and 1.Ke3 Re1+ 2.Se2 Rc3. Thus the queen and two rooks take turns to (1) pin the knight, (2) give mate, and (3) guard flights. Such a cyclic relationship between the three phases confers both unity and diversity to the problem. Note also that the black knight is already pinned in the diagram, and is re-pinned on three different squares – a pleasing idea in itself. Masterfully constructed, this helpmate has ideal white economy in requiring solely the thematic pieces of that colour besides the king.

Chris J. Feather – Selected Helpmates is available for 20 euros (+ postage) from Ralf Kraetschmer (ralf.kraetschmer{at}t-online.de), who's the bookseller of the German chess composition society.