Whyatt Medal winner: Ian Shanahan

7 Feb. 2016 | by Peter Wong

Congratulations to Ian Shanahan, who has been announced as the 2016 winner of the Whyatt Medal. This four-yearly award is bestowed by the Australian Chess Federation for outstanding success in problem composing and in promoting the art of chess composition. Ian is certainly a well-deserved recipient who has achieved a great deal in the field. His consistently high-quality problems have gained numerous prizes in prestigious international tourneys, and his finest works have appeared in the FIDE Albums, anthologies of the world’s best chess compositions. Ian’s expertise is also attested by the articles he has written for top problem journals such as The Problemist and Ideal-Mate Review. On the home front, from 2003 to 2007 he edited the “Problem Billabong” column in Australian Chess, where he nourished local talents.

Ian Shanahan
The Problemist 1993, 4th Hon. Mention

Mate in 2

Here are two of Ian’s problems that are representative of his skill. The two-mover (Ian’s debut in the FIDE Albums) shows one of his favourite themes, combinative separation. Although multiple threats and dual mates are generally frowned upon in problems, some directmates purposely employ them as a theme by presenting such multiple mates in an orderly manner. Consider the try 1.Se3? which threatens 2.Sf5, 2.S3c4, and 2.Rd5. By labelling these three moves as A, B, and C respectively, we see how various black defences induce or separate these mates in different combinations. 1…f1=S 2.Sf5[A], 2.S3c4[B], 2.Rd5[C]; 1…Sd8 2.Sf5[A], 2.S3c4[B]; 1…f1=B 2.Sf5[A], 2.Rd5[C]; 1…f1=R 2.S3c4[B], 2.Rd5[C]; 1…Sa5 2.Sf5[A]; 1…f1=Q 2.Rd5[C]; but 1…Sc5! defeats the try. That 2.S3c4[B] is not individually forced here is a flaw, but in the actual play, the same idea is exhibited perfectly. The key 1.Sb4! threatens 2.Rd5[C], 2.Sf7[D], and 2.Sc4[E]. 1…f1=S 2.Rd5[C], 2.Sf7[D], 2.Sc4[E]; 1…f1=B 2.Rd5[C], 2.Sf7[D]; 1…f1=R 2.Rd5[C], 2.Sc4[E]; 1…Sc5 2.Sf7[D], 2.Sc4[E]; 1…f1=Q 2.Rd5[C]; 1…Sa5 2.Sf7[D]; 1…Sd8 2.Sc4[E]. The problem hence doubles the combinative separation theme, and in doing so renders many changed mates between the try and post-key phases – all in a very light position. Furthermore, note how the four promotion moves of the f2-pawn (in each phase) provoke different white mating responses, so the Allumwandlung theme is effected as well!

Ian Shanahan
The Problemist 2010

Helpmate in 8

In the helpmate, Allumwandlung features again but here as the main theme and it’s achieved in a very different way. To assist White in queening the a2-pawn as quickly as possible, Black must promote to two minor pieces and sacrifice them in succession: 1.c1=S Kg4 2.Sb3 axb3 3.g1=B b4 4.Bc5 bxc5. A black rook promotion is then required for blocking a flight-square, in preparation for the queen mate: 5.a2 cxb6 6.a1=R b7 7.Ra7 bxa8=Q 8.Re7 Qc6. The four promotions occur in ascending order. The composer writes, “A white minimal Meredith, ending in an ideal mate after a white Excelsior with mixed Allumwandlung – a rare blend indeed, one which I had been wanting to conquer for many years!”