‘Chess Problems Out of the Box’ by Werner Keym
5 Aug. 2018 | by Peter Wong
The German expert Werner Keym has brought out a wonderful new book entitled Chess Problems Out of the Box. An updated and expanded English edition of an earlier volume in German, this is a collection of 500 orthodox but out-of-the-ordinary problems by over 200 composers. Its first sections deal with the special moves in chess, namely castling, en passant capture, and pawn promotion, as they occur thematically in directmates, endgame studies, helpmates, and selfmates. A number of unconventional ideas and devices are then covered, such as asymmetry, board rotation, and the addition of pieces. The remainder of the problems – about half of the book’s total – involves retrograde analysis, either as the focus of a composition or a subsidiary feature. Practically all types of retros are represented here: last move determination, legality of castling and en passant capture, retractors, proof games, dead reckoning, illegal clusters, and many more.
The author has made a brilliant selection of problems for this anthology. For each theme that is examined, he provides a variety of first-rate examples that could be, say, a letztform (ideal setting), a maximum task, a first realisation, or a particularly attractive demonstration. Thus we see directmates in which the four castling moves all take place, endgame studies that bring about Allumwandlung, helpmates that (nearly!) accomplish the 100 Dollar theme (black and white excelsior knight-promotions), and so forth. While many famous classics are cited, the vast majority of the selected works are new to me, including the two samples below.
The first is a beautiful rendering of black Allumwandlung in a helpmate. Depending on where the white knight begins in this quadruplet, Black promotes to a different type of piece and uses it to block each of the king’s four diagonal-flights. Meanwhile, the white bishop guards four pairs of flights cyclically and the white knight controls the fourth flight as it mates from different squares. 1.h1=B Bd3 2.Bc6 Bg6 3.Bd7 Sc7, (b) 1.h1=Q Bg2 2.Qh5 Be4 3.Qf7 Sc5, (c) 1.h1=S Bb5 2.Sg3 Bc6 3.Sf5 Sg5, (d) 1.h1=R Bb5 2.Rhd1 Be8 3.R1d5 Sg7. Readers are encouraged to solve the next problem before reading further!
Mate in 2
The book’s wide-ranging coverage of retros, with clear explanations of the various sub-types, also makes it an excellent introduction to the genre, an area in which Keym is an authority. He is a fine composer too, and many of his own works are presented here. The miniature above is a delightful example in which the pleasantly open position disguises the retro content. Ostensibly this two-move problem is solved by 1.Rb6!? Kxc4 2.Qd4, but that’s an invalid solution because Black has no possible last move in the diagram! The black king couldn’t have come from any of its adjacent empty squares, where it would have been in an illegal double-check. Therefore White must have made the last move, and it’s Black to play now: …Kxe6 1.Rc7! Kd5 2.Qf5, and …Kxc4 1.Qd4+! Kxb3 2.Re3, 2…Kb5 2.Rb6. This retro idea, categorised under unconventional first move, is suitably described as a “nasty trick”!
Chess Problems Out of the Box (2018, Nightrider Unlimited) is available for €10 (paperback), €28 (hardback) + postage. For more details on the publication (including a free excerpt) and information on how to order, go to the book’s page on the publisher’s site.