12 August 2011

Helpmate records

In the previous post I wrote about the famous 100 Dollar task and the Oudot task. Of course, there are several other challenges for composers of helpmate problems. I want to draw your attention to two of them.

The first one asks for the longest correct orthodox helpmate with no other black piece than the king and no promoted (white) piece. As far as I know, seven moves is still the maximum. There are already lots of h#6.5 which can be extended to a h#7 by forcing the black king to capture a white queen as first move leading to the actual diagram — see No. 1 where we could put the black king on h1 and add a wQh2. Moreover, dozens of "real" h#7 have been published and I picked two for you. Diagram 2 is an extraordinary problem using the complete set of white pieces. The third composition is also something special as it works without promotion.

Lots of attempts have been made but still nobody successfully extended the record to 7.5 or more moves yet. The only thing I know of: In 2004, Noam D. Elkies came up with a h#10 that had seven white bishops.

  1Laszlo Zóltan  
Magyar Sakkélet 04/1958

  2Christopher Jeremy Morse  
British Chess Magazine 06/1971

  3Daniel Novomesky  
Pravda, 2007

11. - d4 2. Kg3 d5 3. Kf4 d6 4. Ke5 d7 5. Kd6 Ka5 6. Kc7 Ka6 7. Kb8 d8=Q#
21. Ka8 Bh7 2. Ka7 Rg8 3. Ka8 Qf8 4. Ka7 Re8 5. Ka8 Kd8 6. Ka7 c8=Q 7. Ka8 Qb7#
31. Kh7 Be5 2. Kg6 f4 3. Kf5 Kg7 4. Ke6 Kh6 5. Kf7 f5 6. Kg8 f6 7. Kh8 f7#

Challenge:Compose a correct helpmate in more than 7 moves with black king solus and no promoted piece.

The second record to break is even more fascinating. I don't remember exactly how it happened, but while searching the Internet for interesting helpmates, I found a downloadable article in German that was published in the problem magazine harmonie in June 2006. It dealt with the quest for the longest helpmate. As with other tasks and records, several experts have tried a variety of constructions in vain. There were always duals or other flaws. Apparently, every now and then, some rather obscure (mainly) Russian problem chess media report on a new achievement, but in all cases a closer look reveals cooks. So far, nobody has been able to surpass the record that was established almost 80 years ago:

Bernhard Hegermann
The Problemist FCS 10/1934

1. Kxh8 Kh1 2. Kg8 Kg1 3. Kf8 Kh1 4. Ke8 Kg1 5. Kd8 Kh1 6. Kc7 Kg1 7. Kd6 Kh1 8. Kxe6 Kg1 9. Kf6 Kh1 10. Kg5 Kg1 11. Kf4 Kh1 12. Kxe4 Kg1 13. Kd4 Kh1 14. Kc3 Kg1 15. Kxb3 Kh1 16. Kxb4 Kg1 17. Kxb5 Kh1 18. Kc4 Kg1 19. b5 Kh1 20. b4 Kg1 21. b3 Kh1 22. b2 Kg1 23. b1=Q Kh1 24. Qf5 Kg1 25. Qf7 gxf7 26. Kc3 f8=Q 27. Kd2 Qc8 28. Ke1 Qc1#

Challenge:Compose a correct helpmate in more than 28 moves with no promoted pieces.

Surely, there aren't so many people being interested in helpmate records. But I hope there'll always be some problemists that still don't give up the search for a new record. Never forget Leonid Yarosh!

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