‘Australian Chess Problem History’ and ‘Chess Problems Made Easy’

17 May 2015 | by Peter Wong

Bob Meadley’s important historical research has culminated in the publication of Australian Chess Problem History. This splendid document is now available for download in two parts. Bob has assembled a massive amount of interesting materials, sorted into the pre- and post-1962 eras. Part 1 contains, for example, mini-biographies of eminent composers since the late 19th century accompanied by their sample problems, and a detailed account of Fred Hawes’ work as “Australia’s greatest problem editor” over a 42-year period. Part 2 includes a “Chronological History of Australian Problems from 1962”, covering modern composers and more recent problem magazines and columns. There’s also a large “Photos and Scans” section, which helps you to associate the familiar names next to chess diagrams with human faces!

Below is a charming more-mover that Bob cited in the section on Fred Hawes. The white rook could threaten mate on the first rank in many ways, but what is the only move that will overcome Black’s stalemate-aiming defences? You can download Australian Chess Problem History using the links above or on the Problem History page of this site.

Frederick Hawes

The Australasian Chess Review 1941

Mate in 4

Another contribution to the Oz Archives comes from Nigel Nettheim, who again fills in a gap in our collection of chess problem columns. He has scanned all of the Australasian Chess Review columns for the year 1932, on problems as well as endgame studies. This material is spread over four PDF-files, reflecting the substantial coverage given to problems during that time. Check them out on the Magazines and Columns page.

Recently Nigel and I were discussing the issue of how to introduce players to the art of composing problems. Very few guides have been written on the subject, but Nigel has discovered a free e-book that deals with it in a clear and succinct manner. It’s Thomas Taverner’s Chess Problems Made Easy: How to Solve, How to Compose (1924), an electronic edition of which was published by Anders Thulin. Besides updating the text to algebraic notation, Anders has computer-tested all of the problems, so that unsound ones are noted as such.

Nigel has some reservations about the book that I share, regarding its textual and diagram errors (mostly originating from the printed edition) and how it’s dated in some respect, e.g. the invalid claim that castling is barred in problems. Nevertheless, the book is recommended for providing good and still pertinent advice to novice composers (see Chapter 4), and step-by-step instructions on how to construct a problem. That some of the resulting compositions turned out to be unsound does not reduce the value of the instructions. Indeed, Nigel points out that it would be a good exercise for readers to correct these faulty works. I offer a prize of my book, Parallel Strategy: 156 Chess Compositions, to any new (unpublished) composer who succeeds in producing such a correction. A good example of a cooked position that’s amenable to repairs is the two-mover that ends Chapter 5. Thanks to Anders who has given permission for this e-book to be placed on OzProblems.