‘FIDE Album 2016-2018’

2 Feb. 2023 | by Peter Wong

The World Federation for Chess Composition recently announced the publication of FIDE Album 2016-2018. The FIDE Albums are an anthology series that compiles the world’s best chess problems, with each edition appearing every three years. The latest volume is the largest ever at 912 pages and it comprises 1984 problems divided into eight sections (two-movers, three-movers, more-movers, studies, helpmates, selfmates, fairies, and retros). Typically there are three diagrams per page, accompanied by full solutions in figurine notation, theme descriptions, and the judges’ scores. The book also includes comprehensive theme indexes, definitions of themes and fairy terms, all in English. Some statistics on the entries are provided, such as the percentages of submitted problems that were selected (total average is about 20%).

An invaluable collection of top-class compositions, FIDE Album 2016-2018 is also immaculately produced and the pages have a clear and attractive layout. It is available in hard-cover at the price of 54 euro from fidealbum.com. On that site, you can download sample pages as well as purchase earlier Albums and other books.

The longstanding scoring system for inclusion in the Albums remains effective. Three judges per section award 0-4 points to each entry, and problems that acquire a total of 8 points or more are selected. Those that attain the maximum 12 points are very rare; for instance in the two-mover section, no entry in fact managed the feat. But four two-movers did gain an impressive 11 points, and below I quote my favourite among them. Devised by a Ukrainian GM of composition, this intricate problem with its prodigious contents is emblematic of the best modern works.

Vasil Dyachuk
FIDE Olympic Tourney, Batumi 2018, 1st Prize

Mate in 2

First note the set play, 1…Kxd4 [a] allowing 2.Qe4 [A] and 2.Qh4 [B], where all of the moves are thematic (they recur elsewhere in the solution, hence the labels). The initial try 1.d5? [D] threatens 2.Qe4 [A] and 2.Qh4 [B]. Then 1…Kd4 [a] surprisingly prevents both queen mates (because the pawn on d5 interferes with both the b7-bishop and b5-rook), but the flight-move permits 2.Sxe6 [C]. Black defeats the try with 1…exd5! The next tries are the queen moves themselves, 1.Qe4? [A] and 1.Qh4? [B], each threatening 2.d5 [D] – the first try-move – hence we see a doubling of the try-and-threat reversal idea, represented by [DA-AD] and [DB-BD]. Both of these queen tries are thwarted by 1…d5!

The final try is even more significant. 1.Rxb6? [E] guards b5 and threatens the battery mate 2.Sxe6 [C]. Even though this knight move was seen in the first try as the mating response to 1…Kd4, here 1…Kxd4 [a] disables it (because the b3-bishop protects e6 without the white pawn on d5). Instead, White answers the flight-move with 2.Qe4 [A] – as in the set play but without the 2.Qh4? [B] dual (since the white rook has unguarded e5). Another defence is 1…Sa4 [b] which, by giving the a1-bishop control of the d4-flight, enables 2.Bxa6 [F]. But 1…Ba4! refutes the try.

The key 1.Bxa6! [F], like the previous try, guards b5 to threaten 2.Sxe6 [C]. Again 1…Kxd4 [a] counters the threat in contrast to the virtual play of the first try, but now White switches to 2.Qh4 [B], avoiding the set dual 2.Qe4? [A] (since the white bishop no longer guards e4). The 1…Sa4 [b] defence is still playable and here White responds with 2.Rxb6 [E]. Such a change with respect to the 1.Rxb6? [E] try is called the Salazar theme, where White reverses the first move and the mating move [EF-FE] against the same defence [b].

The principal idea depicted in this problem, however, is a variant of the le Grand theme. In a standard le Grand, a try and the key lead to a reciprocal change of the threat-move and a variation mate after the same black defence. This paradoxical scheme is doubled here using two tries – one of which involves a double-threat – and the key. The pattern arises in these previously-examined lines: 1.d5?, threats 2.Qe4 [A], 2.Qh4 [B], 1…Kd4 [a] 2.Sxe6 [C]; 1.Rxb6?, threat 2.Sxe6 [C], 1…Kxd4 [a] 2.Qe4 [A]; and 1.Bxa6!, threat 2.Sxe6 [C], 1…Kxd4 [a] 2.Qh4 [B]. In other words, the defence [a] goes from stopping mates [A/B] and allowing [C] to stopping [C] and allowing [A/B].

Furthermore, another pattern named the Urania theme is effected twice. Each of the white moves Qe4 and Qh4 serves three different roles, as: (1) a try-move, (2) one of the threats after 1.d5?, and (3) a variation mate after 1.Rxb6? and 1.Bxa6! This theme thus unites all five phases of play (four tries and the key) found in this brilliant composition.