Two helpmates from ‘Problem Potpourri’

27 Feb. 2012 | by Peter Wong

As a new year begins, it seems appropriate to look back at some of the best problems of 2011 that appeared in ‘Problem Potpourri’, the Australasian Chess column. Since this source attracts original works from some of the world’s top helpmate composers, it’s perhaps not surprising that my selections favour that genre. What is curious is how these helpmate contributors – the two cited here plus Chris Feather – all seem to have similar names!

Christer Jonsson
Australasian Chess 2011

Helpmate in 2½, 3 solutions

In Christer’s helpmate in 2½, White starts and mates on the third move. The three solutions feature a cyclic change of functions among White’s rook, bishop, and knight: 1…Rxb5 2.Kxb5 Bd5 3.Ka6 Bc4, 1…Sxc5 2.Kxc5 Rc7+ 3.Kb6 Rc6, and 1…Bd5+ 2.Kxd5 Rd7+ 3.Ke6 Sxc5. So each white piece in turn (1) sacrifices itself to give the black king access to a square, (2) controls the king’s flights in the mate, and (3) executes the mate. The cyclic Zilahi theme is rendered, in an elegant setting.

Christopher Jones
Australasian Chess 2011

Helpmate in 3
(b) Pd3 to b3

By coincidence, Christopher’s three-mover employs a similar motif of a white piece capturing a pawn to clear that square for the opposing king. Further effects shown in each twin include the creation of a white battery, and an active black sacrifice that helps to set up the battery. 1.Sg5 Bxd5 2.Ke5 Kxg5 3.Kxd5 Kf6, and (b) 1.Sf3 Rxd5 2.Ke4 exf3+ 3.Kxd5 f4. We see echoed play along orthogonal and diagonal lines in the two phases, and a standard (reciprocal) Zilahi – White’s rook and bishop take turns to be captured and to give mate.