‘Minimalkunst im Schach’ edited by Ebert, Reich, and Kuhlmann
23 Apr. 2013 | by Peter Wong
Economy of force is one of the basic principles in chess composition – it means that a problem should use the minimum amount of material to bring about a given idea. An interesting way to express this type of economy is to limit a player (usually White) to employing just one piece besides the king. Problems that meet this criterion are called minimals.
A comprehensive anthology of the “best” minimal problems, Minimalkunst im Schach, was published in 2006, though I acquired a copy only recently. This impeccably produced hardback contains more than a thousand problems, arranged in these genres: studies, directmates, helpmates, and fairies. Each section is subdivided according to the type of piece owned by the minimal side, next to the king. Brief comments in German accompany the solutions, but you don’t need to understand the text to enjoy these well-selected compositions.
The process of compiling this album was a mammoth task that began in 1980, as co-author Hilmar Ebert relates in the Introduction (also in English). He worked through a preliminary selection of some 30,000 problems and picked 10,000 of them to present to his fellow editors, Hans-Peter Reich and Jorg Kuhlmann. Over the years the trio meticulously analysed and assessed these minimals for their quality, originality and correctness, and eventually chose 1032 for inclusion in this book.
Magyar Sakkvilag 1943
Helpmate in 6
Here I quote two representative problems from the collection, both marvellous works. The first features an unusual helpmate idea in which White’s initial play is motivated by the need to stop an imminent black mate. Due to zugzwang, Black is about to give mate in three moves at the latest, e.g. 1.h1(S) Sc6 2.h2 Sb4 and now 3.Sg3/e2 mate cuts short White’s plan to play 3…Sd3. To avoid such a hazard, Black must promote carefully: 1.h1(B) Se6 2.h2 Sf4 3.Bg2+ Sxg2. Now 4.h1(S) fails because after 4…Sxe1/Sf4, Black is again forced to mate with any legal move. So instead 4.h1(B) Sxe1 (self-pin) 5.e2+ Kxf2 (unpin) 6.Bg2 (tempo move) Sd3.
Ideal-Mate Review 1993, Hon. Mention
Helpstalemate in 8
A helpstalemate problem is similar to a helpmate except that the players cooperate to put Black in stalemate. In Aussie composer Ian Shanahan’s example, we see an elegant delivery of the Allumwandlung theme. 1.f1(S) Kc6 2.Sg3 hxg3 3.c1(B) g4 4.Bh6 g5 5.h2 gxh6 6.h1(R) hxg7 7.Rh8 gxh8(Q) 8.Ka4 Qc3. The four types of promotions occur in ascending order; moreover, this miniature incorporates an Excelsior and an ideal stalemate.