Selections from the 11th FIDE World Cup in Composing 2023
23 Oct. 2023 | by Peter Wong
The FIDE World Cup in Composing is a prestigious tourney organised by FIDE in collaboration with the World Federation for Chess Composition. Held since 2010, this annual event attracts many of the world’s leading problemists, and the results of the 11th edition have been recently announced. The tourney comprises eight genre sections, similar to the grouping in the FIDE Albums: two-movers, three-movers, more-movers, endgame studies, helpmates, selfmates, fairies, and retros/proof games. The Awards for all sections, with detailed commentaries by their respective judges, are available from this page of the WFCC site. Here we will look at the top-placed three-mover and retro/proof game, both marvellous pieces of work.
11th FIDE World Cup in Composing 2023
1st Prize, Gold Medal
Mate in 3
We may expect White’s prominent R + S battery to fire but it’s effective only as a double-check (in view of …c4). 1.Bc1? (threat: 2.Sd2) fails to either strong defence, 1…Qxd6/Bxd6!, which allows the king to escape to d5. The key 1.S2e3! adds a guard on d5, while removing the d2-bishop’s control of f4. Now the white queen is the only piece observing the potential flights on f4 and d3, but the short mate 1…Qxd6/Bxd6 2.Sxd6 shows how both are recovered by opening the R + S and B + S batteries. White’s sole threat is 2.Qd5+ Bxd5 3.Sd6, 2…Kxf4 3.Qxf5; other ways of vacating d6 for the knight don’t work, e.g. 2.Qe5+? Kd3!, 2.Qd8? Qxf4!, or 2.Qb6? Kxf4! To counter the threat, Black has to defend f5 with the queen, and this leads to two thematic variations and a subsidiary one.
After 1…Qf7, White plays the subtle 2.Qd8 (3.Sd6), granting a flight on f4 while holding d3. Black no longer has the 2…Qxf4 refutation, and instead must choose between 2…Kxf4 3.Qh4 and 2…Qxc4 3.Rxc4. White avoids 2.Qb8?, which is defeated by 2…Qxc4! (3.Rxc4+ Kd3). The second defence 1…Qh7 elicits another quiet continuation, 2.Qb8 (3.Sd6), which unguards d3 but keeps an eye on f4. Without the option of 2…Qxc4, Black is left with 2…Kd3 3.Qb1. Here 2.Qd8? would be thwarted by 2…Kxf4! (3.Qh4+ Qxh4). These two main variations feature a splendid pair of withdrawing white queen moves that release the enemy king, followed by long-range mating moves when the flights are taken. The by-play is 1…Qd7 2.Qxd7 (3.Sd6/Qxf5) Kxf4 3.Qxf5.
In the Award, judge Jean-Marc Loustau (a GM-composer) was highly laudatory in his appraisal of this three-mover. The white queen play is described as “a magnificent diagonal/orthogonal echo” that’s supplemented by dual avoidance and precise black queen defences (the absence of extraneous defences adds to the overall clarity). He summarised the content of the problem as follows: “We thus obtain a ‘mini-duel’ between the queens, and the integration of the formidable white play and this astonishingly precise black play makes this problem, by my subjective standards, a true masterpiece.”
Most of Black’s 22 available moves are visible in the diagram. Among the rest, Black needs two moves to sacrifice a rook on b3, plus another two to capture White’s confined h-rook with either the queen or bishop. If we assume that the d6-pawn comes from d7, the black queen would require a detour to reach d5, and this pushes the move count to over 22. Therefore that pawn actually comes from e7, allowing the single step …Q(d8)-d5. With no spare black moves available, White has to capture the d- and b-pawns on their original squares, besides sacrificing a piece to the e-pawn on d6. To assist with Black’s development, White must execute these three tasks in the given order, using the g-knight, f-bishop, and a-rook.
1.Sf3 Sa6 2.Se5 Rb8 3.Sxd7 Kxd7 4.g3 Ke6 5.Bg2 Kf5. Black avoids 5…Ke5? which would later cause an interference with the h-rook, whose path is Re8-e5-a5. 6.Bxb7 Qd5 7.Ba8 – not 7.Bc6? blocking the white rook’s access to d6. 7…Rb3 8.axb3 Sb4 9.Ra6 Sa2 10.Rd6 exd6. The thematic play begins here, when White arranges a shield for the king to allow the black queen to capture on h1 without checking. Since the black king’s position prevents the white bishop from reaching f1 in time, the job falls on the b1-knight. 11.Sa3 Be7 12.Sc4 Bg5 13.Se5 Se7 14.Sf3 Re8 15.Sg1 Qxh1. The white bishop now returns home, while the traffic is clear on the long diagonal. 16.Bg2 Bb7 17.Bf1 Sc8. Finally, the unpinned knight on g1 takes a trip back to its initial square, remarkably not retracing its steps but using another route. 18.Sh3 Re5 19.Sf4 Ra5 20.Sd5 c5 21.Sc3 Qd5 22.Sb1 Ke4. The Sibling theme occurs when the b1-knight takes the place of its counterpart on g1, becoming an impostor. This idea is effectively doubled since the new “g1-knight” then travels to b1 – altogether an original scheme.
This section was adjudicated by Thomas Brand, an International Judge who runs an interesting blog on retro-analytical problems (it’s in German but Google Translate works well). He was suitably enthusiastic in his verdict on this proof game: “A completely pure-of-aim, capture free knight rundlauf in 10 moves as impostor with return, i.e. a ‘virtual double impostor’. This is very harmoniously combined with the black-white clearance play on the long diagonal a8-h1. Clearly worked out and strategically demanding theme with splendid interlocking of the white and black play – for me by far the best problem of this tournament.”