Helpmates of the ‘distant’ future – Part 2

26 Dec. 2014 | by Peter Wong

This month I’ll provide two early examples of ‘helpmates of the distant future’ (somewhat oxymoronically), followed by an amazing update to the previous column. The problemist Chris Feather originated the term ‘Helpmates of the Future’ in 2000 when he produced a booklet by that name, which surveys the field with more than one hundred illustrations. As a composer he not only pioneered the basic HOTF scheme (in the 1970s!), but he also created a very early rendition of the idea in its expanded form, as seen below.

Chris Feather
The Problemist 1997, Special Prize

Helpmate in 2, 3 solutions
(b) Swap Kc4 & Rf4

The focus of this problem is the half-battery arrangement on the fourth rank. In the three solutions of the diagram position, the d4-bishop and e4-knight are either moved or captured to activate the white rook. 1.Kxd4 Sxc3+ 2.Kc5 Sxa4, 1.Qxe4 Bxb6 2.Qd4 Rxd4 & 1.Qc6 Bxe3 2.Kxb5 Sxc3. The twin exchanges the black king and white rook so that the half-battery is pointing the other way. The resulting play shows strategic effects that precisely match those seen in the first triplet, to generate three pairs of corresponding solutions. (b) 1.Kxe4 Bxe3+ 2.Kxe5 Bf4, 1.Qxd4 Sd2 2.Qe4 Rxe4 & 1.Qe6 Bxc3 2.Kf5 Sd6.

János Csák
Orbit 2002, 1st Prize

Helpmate in 2, 6 solutions

The second example makes an interesting comparison with the six-phase helpmate we looked at last month. Though both works feature the same couple of direct batteries (R + P and B + P) the thematic pieces are employed quite differently, so this older problem is only a precursor and not an anticipation. 1.c1=B Bf6 2.Bd2 cxb5 & 1.f1=S Rc7 2.Sd2 d5. 1.Rxc6 bxa8=Q 2.Kxc4 Qxc6 & 1.Bxe5 b8=Q 2.Kxd4 Qxe5. 1.Sd5 Rxg6 2.Kxc4 Rc6 & 1.Se3 Bxb8 2.Kxd4 Be5. Elements of play include the mixed promotions, white switchbacks, and reciprocal captures by the black and white rook/bishop pairs.

Emil Klemanič, Ladislav Salai Jr., Michal Dragoun, Kalyan Seetharaman & Nikola Predrag
The Problemist 2014

Helpmate in 2, 8 solutions

In a remarkable development, the ‘distant future’ helpmate cited in the previous column has been improved to show no less than four pairs of analogous solutions. Another two composers contributed to the collaborative effort that accomplishes this wonderful feat. Though the two added phases don’t have a formal connection with the rest of the problem (lacking moves that recur elsewhere with changed functions), that is of little importance. The new play involves Black capturing the e5- and c4-pawns for the purpose of self-block; this is nicely differentiated from another pair of solutions in which the captures of the same pawns are motivated by square-clearance. I will refrain from concocting a name for this super format of 4x2 related phases!

1.Rb5 axb5 2.a4 c5 (A) & 1.Qh7 gxh7 2.g6 e6 (C).

1.gxf6 c5+ (A) 2.Kxe5 f4 (B) & 1.axb4 e6+ (C) 2.Kxc4 b3 (D).

1.Sf7 f4 (B) 2.Sxe5+ Bxe5 & 1.Ba6 b3 (D) 2.Bxc4 Rxc4.

1.Bg3 Be7 2.Bxe5 Bc5 & 1.Sxb2 Rb3 2.Sxc4 Rd3.