A tribute to Dan Meinking (1960–2012)

3 Jun. 2013 | by Peter Wong

In November last year came the sad news that the American problemist Dan Meinking had passed away, aged only fifty-two. He was one of the most prominent composers from the U.S., gaining the FIDE Master of Chess Composition title in 2009. He was also a well-liked and respected figure in problem circles, judging by (for instance) the messages commemorating him on the Mat Plus Forum. Though proficient in fairy problems and proof games, Dan was best-known for his orthodox helpmates. I’ve always been a fan of his style in this genre, particularly his knack of finding the letztform (ideal setting) of an idea, and his tendency to pack four strategically interesting phases into one problem.

Dan Meinking
Chess Life and Review 1985, 1st-2nd Prize

Helpmate in 3, 2 set plays, 2 solutions

Both of these characteristics are illustrated in the first selection here. White’s rook and bishop collaborate to produce four battery mates – all models, naturally. Set: 1…Bc1 2.R5c6 Bd2 3.Be5 Bb4, 1…Rb1 2.Be5 Rb4 3.R5c6 Rd4; actual: 1.Re7 Bc1 2.Rc6 Bd2 3.Bc5 Bf4, 1.Bd7 Rb1 2.Be5 Rb4 3.Rd5 Rb6. This was an early success of Dan’s, scoring 11 out of the maximum 12 points in the FIDE Album. For another example of his perfectly constructed helpmates, see No.40 on the Grimshaw page of this site.

Dan Meinking
diagrammes 1998, 1st Prize

Helpmate in 3
(b) Kd5 to e5

The second selection features lovely matching strategy on two diagonal lines. In part (a) of this twin, the black king will get mated on e5, but the f5-pawn precludes Bh2xQg3 mate. So the white bishop and the black queen reorganise themselves on the other side of the same diagonal: 1.Qc1 Bb8 2.Qc7 Bxb7+ 3.Ke5 Bxc7. In part (b) the black king starts on e5, but paradoxically it must return to d5 to be mated. Now Ba8xRb7 mate cannot be arranged because of the a7-rook. Hence the bishop and rook pair must likewise manoeuvre to the other end of the long diagonal: 1.Rg7 Bh1 2.Rg2 Bxf4+ 3.Kd5 Bxg2.