‘Joseph Wainwright: 500+ Chess Problems’

28 Jan. 2021 | by Peter Wong

Joseph Wainwright (1851-1921) was a prominent American problem composer who over a period of 40 years created some 700 works in a variety of genres. While belonging to the Good Companions era that favoured traditional-styled two-movers, he also composed longer directmates and selfmates, and was especially adept at constructing task problems. Marking the centenary year of the problemist’s death, Bob Meadley has published a 260-page e-book titled Joseph Wainwright: 500+ Chess Problems. The book not only gathers the majority of Wainwright’s compositions but also offers a fascinating look at their historical context, particularly the important chess publications where they were featured.

After a biographical introduction that includes photos and obituaries, Bob reproduces two of Wainwright’s articles from Brentano’s Chess Monthly and his chess sonnets with accompanying problems found in The Chess Amateur. The bulk of the book, which follows, consists of the Wainwright problems presented in basically chronological order and divided into sections according to their sources. These publication sources include Our Folder of the Good Companions Chess Problem Club, The Brisbane Courier of Australia, and some of the famed Christmas Series books produced by the great Alain White, such as Les Tours de Force (on task problems) and The Theory of Pawn Promotion. Bob acquaints the reader with these publications and even reprints the full reviews of a few Christmas Series titles from The Chess Amateur. In one such review of The White Rooks (1910), P.H. Williams wrote, “Let me urge players to have a go at this collection, and thereby remove the stigma of being ‘five hundred years behind the times in problem matters.’[!]”

Here is a link to download Joseph Wainwright: 500+ Chess Problems as a PDF-file. Thanks to Bob Meadley for making this e-book available for free. The project entailed a prodigious amount of research and work, and it’s understandable that Bob says his next one will not be problem-related!

Joseph Wainwright
American Chess Bulletin 1911

Mate in 2

Six problems by Wainwright are cited by Jeremy Morse in his survey, Chess Problems: Tasks and Records (2016, 3rd ed.). A few are different renditions of the task of a white queen delivering 12 distinct mates in a two-mover, the maximum possible. The diagram above pertains to another task: the greatest number of variations with distinct mates in a two-mover. A good key, 1.Rf5! (waiting), brings about a staggering 23 variations: 1…Qa4+ 2.Qxa4, 1…Qc4 2.Qxc4, 1…Qxb3/Qd4 2.Rd4, 1…Qc3/Qb5+ 2.Kb5, 1…Qxb6+ 2.Kxb6, 1…Qxc5+ 2.Kxc5, 1…Qxd2 2.Sxd2, 1…Bc7 2.Kxc7, 1…Bd6 2.Kxd6, 1…Be5 2.Rxe5, 1…Bf4 2.Rxf4, 1…Bxg3 2.Sxg3, 1…Re2 2.Rxe2, 1…Re3 2.Qxe3, 1…Bc2 2.Qxc2, 1…Bd3 2.Qxd3, 1…Sf~ 2.Kd7, 1…Sxf5 2.f3, 1…Sf3 2.Qxf3, 1…a4 2.Qxb4, 1…e5/exf5 2.Qd5, 1…g6/g5 2.Sf6, and 1…h5 2.Sg5. Other black defences lead to insignificant dual mates. Wainwright’s record was broken in 1946 by a problem attaining 24 variations (the current maximum), but it has a weak promotion key and less variety in the play.

Joseph Wainwright
Hartford Weekly Times 1877

Mate in 4

The pictorial theme of a black king enclosed by eight units – usually pawns – in the diagram position is termed skittles. Original skittles problems are still composed today but one of the earliest must be the four-mover shown above. In fact, I could locate only three examples (with black pawns) from the 19th century in an online database, all by Wainwright, so perhaps he originated the idea. This is a very neat setting with three full-length variations, marred only by a dual mate in one line. The key 1.Qc2! waits for each of three black pawns to advance. 1…e3 2.Sd3+ Ke4 3.Sc5+ Ke5 4.Sd7 or 3…Kf3 4.Qg2. 1…f3 2.Qh2+ f4 3.Qh5+ f5 4.Qh8. 1…d3 2.Qc3+ d4 3.Qa5+ d5 4.Qc7/Sc4.