The Valladao Task – Part 1

5 Dec. 2022 | by Peter Wong

The three special moves in chess – castling, en passant capture, and promotion – often serve as the focus in composed problems, where they have a natural appeal. Typically one kind of special move gets elaborated in an interesting way, such as the variety of promotions seen in the Allumwandlung theme. However, what if we combine the three special moves so that they all appear in the solution of one problem? Such a blend of effects is known as the Valladao task, and it’s named after Joaquim Valladao Monteiro who organised a composing tourney for the theme in the 1960s. The Valladao is a worthwhile idea even if the thematic moves are shown somewhat disparately, but the best renditions tend to connect them in some way and incorporate additional features. We shall look at three directmate problems that demonstrate the task here, plus more examples from other genres in Part 2.

Grigory Atayants
Andrey Selivanov-50 Jubilee Tourney 2017
1st Hon. Mention

Mate in 3

In this three-mover, the special moves occur in a clear-cut manner, starting with the thematic key, 1.0-0! This activates the rook to threaten 2.Se4+ dxe4 3.Rd1. If Black plays 1…Bh6 to control the d-file, that allows the promotion 2.h8=S, after which there’s no preventing 3.Sf7. The second main defence 1…e4, aimed at creating a flight on e5 for the king, permits 2.Qg3+ e5 3.fxe6 e.p. Thus White executes the Valladao moves at different stages of the solution – on the first move and then, in separate variations, on the second and final moves. The problem contains two more fine variations that are unrelated to the main theme. 1…c4 defends by opening a black rook line to d5, but paradoxically this admits the sacrifice 2.Qxd5+, followed by 2…Rxd5 3.Se4 or 2…Kxd5 3.Rd1; the latter mate indicates why 2.Qxd5+ is playable only after c4 is blocked by the pawn. If 1…d4, then White sacrifices the queen once more with 2.Qc6+ Sxc6 3.Rd7. Also, 1…c2 2.Se4+ dxe4 3.Qd2. This minor line relates to the try 1.Ke2?, which works similarly to the castling key but fails to 1…c2! 2.Se4+ dxe4, when neither major piece could mate on the d-file.

Vasil Dyachuk
Valentin Rudenko-60 Jubilee Tourney 1999
3rd Prize

Mate in 2

Two valuable set variations are 1…Sxa3 2.Rd1 (not 2.0-0-0+?) and 1…Sxe3 2.Rd4. If White moves the e3-knight, that will guard e3 and threaten 2.Rd4, but the piece must choose its landing square with care. Firstly, we can discard its four moves to the king-side, all refuted simply by its capture, e.g. 1.Sg2? Bxg2!, 1.Sf5? gxf5! The four queen-side moves are the important ones, with three acting as the thematic tries. 1.Sd5? obstructs the d-file and after 1…dxe5!, 2.d8=Q fails to mate. 1.Sec4? intercepts the B + P battery, meaning that 1…c5! cannot be met by 2.bxc6 e.p. And 1.Sd1? blocks the first rank and it's defeated by 1…Sxa3!, creating a flight on c2; now 2.0-0-0 – which would have regained control of c2 – is unplayable. Only the key 1.Sec2! manages to avoid all of the self-interferences, and it leads to 1…dxe5 2.d8=Q, 1…c5 2.bxc6 e.p., and 1…Sxa3 2.0-0-0 (not 2.Rd1+?). All three Valladao moves hence operate as White’s mating moves – an unusual feature that adds cohesion to the composition. Two bonus effects presented are: (1) the changed mate from the set 1…Sxa3 2.Rd1 to the actual 2.0-0-0, and (2) the try 1.Sac2? foiled by 1…Sxe3! which disables the 2.Rd4 threat, when ironically in the set play it was 1…Sxe3 that enabled 2.Rd4.

Vladimirs Romanovskis
Šachmatija 2009

Mate in 2

Like many modern two-movers, our third problem involves significant virtual play that follows try-moves. The first try is 1.f3? (conceding a flight on h1) with the threat of 2.Qxh2. This produces 1…h1=Q 2.Qd4 and 1…Bd6 2.0-0-0, but 1…g3! refutes. The second try 1.Qd4? threatens 2.f4. Then 1…Bc5 2.0-0-0, but the queen move is thwarted by 1…h1=S! Finally, the key 1.f4! threatens 2.Qd4. Now three variations arise: 1…gxf3 e.p. 2.Qxh2, 1…h1=S 2.Rg2, and 1…Bc5 2.0-0-0. Black captures en passant and promotes twice (including 1…h1=Q after a try) as defences, while White mates by castling. Furthermore, the Valladao task is complemented by a wealth of pattern play – extra themes in which certain moves recur in different parts of the solution, but with their functions changed. (1) The pseudo le Grand theme: try 1.f3?, threat 2.Qxh2 [A], 1…h1=Q 2.Qd4 [B], and key 1.f4!, threat 2.Qd4 [B], 1…gxf3 e.p. 2.Qxh2 [A]. Between the virtual and actual play, the queen moves A and B swap their roles as the threat and the variation mate after different defences. Fittingly, the two black defences in question are both Valladao moves. (2) The Urania theme: try 1.Qd4? [B], try 1.f3? h1=Q 2.Qd4 [B], and key 1.f4!, threat 2.Qd4 [B]. The same white move B acts variously as a try, the variation mate after another try, and the threat after the key.