29 December 2010


Back in the 1980s, the chess column of the German newspaper Heilbronner Stimme featured a special chess problem at the end of each year. Often it was a tricky moremover and an exceptionally tough nut - at least in my point of view. I vaguely remember that there were some puzzles with the staircase theme like the following. Maybe it was among them, maybe not. Here are many more problems with that theme.

  William A. Shinkman  
  Dubuque Chess Journal 1877
  1st Prize

Solution: 1. Qb4+ Ka2 2. Qc4+ Ka3 3. Qc5+ Ka2 4. Qd5+ Ka3 5. Qd6+ Ka2 6. Qe6+ Ka3 7. Qe7+ Ka2 8. Qf7+ Ka3 9. Qf8+ Txf8 10. gxf8=Q+ Ka2 11. Qf7+ Ka3 12. Qe7+ Ka2 13. Qe6+ Ka3 14. Qd6+ Ka2 15. Qd5+ Ka3 16. Qc5+ Ka2 17. Qc4+ Ka3 18. Qb4+ Ka2 19. Qb3+ axb3 20. Rxa8#

26 December 2010

ChessBase Christmas Puzzles 2010

More chess puzzles to solve. Weeeeeeee! Yesterday, Dr. John Nunn started the annual puzzle series on the ChessBase site. His first article is about helpmates. Watch out for more and have fun solving. The best solvers will be awarded with prizes.

23 December 2010

Benko Brain Challenges

If you like puzzles which ask "How do you reach this position in x moves?" then you should have a look at those that have been and are to be posted on Susan Polgar's blog these days, all composed by GM Pal Benko. Here you can find the first two: #1 #2.

Puzzle No. 3 (see below) was published yesterday, but with a wrong diagram — obviously, for there is no solution. This leads to my Bernoulli Benko Brain Challenge: 1) Remove or relocate a piece so that there is a unique proof game in 4,5 moves as originally intended. 2) How many of such modifications can you find?

Pal Benko
Internet, December 2010
  SPG in 4,5 moves(15+16)  

Update December 24, 2010:
Today, there was finally sort of a correction of this puzzle. The following text was added.
"The first part of the question is how do you reach this position in 4.5 moves ? The second part of the question is there is one more pawn missing. Can you guess which pawn it is?"
Hey, that sounds very familiar, doesn't it?!

20 December 2010

It's that time again

Every year, around Christmas, the German newspaper Stuttgarter Zeitung holds a special solving contest. Last Saturday, the puzzles of this year's competition were published in Harald Keilhack's chess column. You can find a reprint here. In case you want to try your skills, here is an unofficial translation of the first two:

  AGünther Weeth  
Werner Keym  
Stuttgarter Zeitung 2010, Original
  Change the colour of one piece,
  then checkmate in one move.

  BGünther Weeth  
Stuttgarter Zeitung 2010, Original
  Add one piece, so that the
  position becomes illegal (regular
  pieces, no pawns on the first or
  eighth rank).

Attention! You have to check how many solutions there are in each case.

You can send your solutions and comments to the given address (in the place cited). Of course, I also will participate.

17 December 2010

No limits

How about a trip into the world of fairy chess? It won't be the last one, I promise. In fact, we'll go there quite often.

One of the prominent persons who produced a lot in this area was Thomas Rayner Dawson. He introduced new conditions and invented many fairy pieces, among which grasshopper and nightrider are the most popular.

For someone being curious about this new world with totally new pieces, boards, conditions and stipulations, the bilingual book Schach ohne Grenzen / Chess Unlimited by Dr. Karl Fabel and C. E. Kemp might be interesting. It deals with unorthodox chess problems and is a tribute to T. R. Dawson. Unfortunately, the book (from 1969) is no longer being published. But there are still used copies being sold.

The following helpmate is the very last diagram in the book and demonstrates that sometimes you need a different board than just the one with eight files and eight ranks you are used to. For instance, in certain cases, it is actually necessary to change its dimensions. Therefore, we see a board of 11 files (a–k) and 15 ranks (1–15), the minimum size to realize the author's idea.

T. R. Dawson  
Schach ohne Grenzen / Chess Unlimited, 1969

1. Qg11 Ka2
2. Bg10 Nb3
3. Rh12 Nc5
4. Ng12 Nd7
S. Ri10 Ne9
6. Bi11 Nf11
7. Nh10 Ng13#
final position:
The book comments it is "the ultimate self-block matebuild, expertly controlled with absolute economy" and the composer called the problem "The Whirlpool". By the way, the black pawn is necessary to prevent the knight mating at g9.

14 December 2010

Too late (1)

It happens to all of us. Whether you're a beginner or an expert in composing, one day the inevitable occurs. You create a nice chess problem and are proud of your work — but you are not the first who comes up with that brilliant idea, someone else was quicker.

Just a few days ago, when looking around for some humorous chess problems, I saw the famous "caterpillar" (diagram A). This term can be traced back to Tim Krabbé who wrote a whole article about it. Unfortunately, I couldn't find it in the archives of www.chesscafe.com. Anyway, I immediately recalled that in the early 1980s, as a result of some composing, I had the very same position on my chessboard. I had been totally unaware of it for quite some time until I learned about the predecessor.

A similar experience, not much later than the previous one, is connected to diagram B. I had sent in a Selfmate which was cooked by Alybadix. After some attempts, Dr. Ulrich Auhagen managed to find a correct version and, in 1985, this coproduction became my first published chess problem. But ... it was almost identical to Pauly's composition, just without the two pawns on the c-file and thus demanding two solutions. Therefore, it was undoubtedly anticipated and our diagram can only be accepted as a version of his.

  AWilliam A. Shinkman  

  BWolfgang Pauly  
Eskilstuna Kuriren, 1920

A 1. 0-0-0! Kxa7 2. Rd8 Kxa6 3. Rd7 Kxa5 4. Rd6 Kxa4 5. Rd5 Kxa3 6. Rd4 Kxa2 7. Rd3 Ka1 8. Ra3#
but 1. Kd2! also solves.
B 1. e3! Kd1 2. e4 Kc1 3. e5 Kd1 4. e6 Kc1 5. e7 Kd1 6. e8=N Kc1 7. Nd6 Kd1 8. Nc4 Kc1 9. Nb2 axb2#
If you take away the pawns on c5 and c6, you get this additional solution: 1. e4! Kd1 2. e5 Kc1 3. e6 Kd1 4. e7 Kc1 5. e8=R Kd1 6. Re2 Kc1 7. Nb5 Kd1 8. Nc3+ Kc1 9. Rb2 axb2#

There are some more recent examples of anticipation in which I have been involved. I'll write about them in another post.

11 December 2010


Wikipedia defines a grotesque as "a problem or endgame study which features a particularly unlikely initial position, especially one in which White fights with a very small force against a much larger Black army. Grotesques are generally intended to be humorous." It features some interesting examples and points to an article by the composer Tigran Gorgiev in issue 25 of the EG magazine entitled "Study Economy and 'Grotesque' Positions". In issue 141, there is another article "Gorgeous Grotesques" by Boris Sidorov. Here is a perfect example:

  Boris Sidorov  
  EG, No. 141 (July 2001)

1. Bf5+!
    1. Bxe2? Re8!
1. — Qg4
    1. — g4 2. Bxg4+
2. Bc8 Qd7 3. Bxd7+ g4 4. Bc8

Now, there are ten legal moves for Black. Nine of them force him to cover g2, so that (e.g. after 4. — Na5) 5. Bxg4+ Kxg4 leads to stalemate. The only alternative is 4. — Rxc8 with the same result one move earlier.

08 December 2010


Where does a composer get his inspiration? — Always keep your eyes peeled. This might sound like a truism to you. But isn't it simply so? Look at tactical combinations when following games of preferably stronger chess players, solve chess puzzles, read about ideas of other composers, etc. The more often you do that the higher the probability to see something that can be used as a starting point for a composition. Most of the time, you won't immediately find a way to process the data. Hence, it's advisable to collect such material, take notes and look at it, ponder over it, complete it from time to time.

Here is a little story in order to demonstrate that this is not just theory: It was the 4th of November, 2007, when I was shown some mating combinations on a well-known chess server. Among them was the one you see in diagram A, taken from the book "Chess tactics for beginners" by Viktor Vámos as I was told. I quickly "solved" with 1. Kc3?? Of course, 1. Bc3! is the right move. What had happened? — In my mind, I had reversed the colours of all pieces (see diagram B)! And indeed, here, 1. Kc3! is the key move. A nice side effect: both key moves go to the same square (c3).

Black to play and win (#3)

White to play and win (#3)

An interesting phenomenon – my mind playing a trick on me but with the result that still a unique solution exists meeting the same stipulation as before. I still wonder:
  1. Is this a unique incident or has such a thing happened to someone else before?
  2. Are there or can there be other chess puzzles like the one I "composed" with
    • part I: a stipulation (anything you like) for a certain position (like diagram A above)
    • part II: this position with all pieces of opposite colour, (probably) opposite roles as to the stipulation (like in duplex, see here) and (of course) different solutions (like diagram B above)
So, already for over three years, I have an idea in the drawer. But I didn't find the time and patience to further elaborate on it. I am not quite sure whether this will just remain an oddity or whether it's the basis for a new stipulation which I'd like to call Duplex-CR (Duplex with colours reversed). Maybe more inspiration is necessary.

05 December 2010

Chess mathematics

This time, I show some compositions for which you only need to know the following two things:
Here are some typical distances:
  • between two horizontally or vertically adjacent squares (e.g. a1—b1 or d7—d8): 1
  • between two diagonally adjacent squares (e.g. e5—f6): √2, i.e. the square root of 2
  • knight-distance (e.g. g4—h2): √5
Before you continue reading, you may want to test yourself and see whether you can determine these distances correctly:
  • c5—f2 = ?
  • b3—e7 = ?
  • d2—d6 = ?
  • a5—h4 = ?

Okay, now it's time for the puzzles. The stipulations are as follows:

Diagram A: The centers of the squares of the white pieces are the vertices of a square. How can you create a square of the same size somewhere else on the board by making 5 moves?

Diagram B: The centers of the squares of the white pieces are the vertices of a rectangle. Create a new rectangle with the same area somewhere else on the board by making 3 moves!
Remark: "Zeroposition" means that the diagram itself is not to be solved, but each position that is the result of the given change.

Diagram C: The centers of the squares of the white pieces are the vertices of a rectangle. White makes 4 moves, so that a new rectangle with the same area is created somewhere else on the board. There are 5 solutions.

  AAndreas Witt  
Die Welt, 1997
a) Diagram
b) wNc2

  BAndreas Witt  
Die Schwalbe, February 2010
a) wBf3
b) wNf3
c) wBb6
d) wNb6

  CAndreas Witt  
Die Schwalbe, April 2010

Obviously, the move order in each solution is not important. Only the resulting arrangement of the pieces matters. Did you figure it all out?
A a) 1. Kc8 2. Bf5 3. Rh8 4. Bh3 5. c3
b) 1. Kd8 2. Rh5 3. Ne1 4. Bc2 5. Ba4
B a) 1. Qb2 2. Re6 3. Be2
b) 1. Qb4 2. Rh6 3. Nh4
c) 1. Qc3 2. Rf7 3. Bc7
d) 1. Qd1 2. Rc6 3. Na4
C I) 1. Bd3 2. Bf1 3. Na6 4. Qc8
II) 1. Qh8 2. Bd3 3. Ne6 4. Nd8
III) 1. Qg7 2. Bc2 3. Rg3/Rh2 4. Rg2
IV) 1. Qb3 2. Rh5 3. Bg8 4. Na6
V) 1. Qc2 2. Rf3/Rh1 3. Rf1 4. Ne8

02 December 2010

Where are the diagrams?

Do you miss the chess diagrams? "Apparently, this blog is about chess problems, so there should be some." you might say. Well, have patience young paduan. Perhaps you know that not all chess problems require a diagram at all – those are called construction tasks. The aim is to construct a game or position with certain features.

Here is an example by the great Sam Loyd (published in Le Sphinx, 1866): "Construct a game which ends with Black delivering discovered checkmate on move four." Can you figure out one of the solutions? Yes, there are several, as only the White moves are unique.

If you like that sort of puzzles, you should have a look here. There, you'll also find the solutions to the aforementioned construction task by Loyd.