26 August 2011

New content in the Chess Informant

I became quite curious when I read the announcement that, beginning with issue 110, there are some new columns in the Chess Informant. Among other new things, it now has a selection of chess problems prepared by the International Solving Grandmaster and Grandmaster of chess compositions Milan Velimirovic. They not only want to offer problems for solving, but also intend "to bring insights from the professional point of view into the secrets of the chess problem world".

The other day, I could use the opportunity to have a look at the selected studies and problems and I looked forward to the promised insights.

Velimirovic summarizes the five World championships in chess composition. These competitions cover three year periods, starting with the years 1989 to 1991 for the first championship. He concentrates on the results in the three sections twomovers, threemovers, and moremovers. Thus, the reader is presented fifteen problems, each composed by the respective winner of a section.

I can only speak for the electronic edition which comes with a PGN file containing the problems. And what I saw there is not what I call professional. Naturally, each composition is stored as a game. But the result of all games is "0-1"!? Of course, that's totally wrong, as in orthodox mate problems it's always White who checkmates. The notation and annotations are not really sufficient to understand clearly what theme is shown and how, though its name and a brief description is given at the end of each virtual game. Moreover, there are obvious errors like an explanation mentioning the white queen, whereas there is none on the board at all!

Here is one of the awarded compositions that Velimirovic picked for the interested reader:

Anatoly Slesarenko
Championship of USSR 1991
1st Place
    This is the original notation for this problem:


I don't think the pattern of the theme is really made clear hereby. However, this table which I found here should help:

  a b c d
  A,B C D    
  C,D     A B

Applying it to the problem gives us a better picture:

  Kxd3 cxd3 gxf3 Kxf3
1. Rd3? threats Nf2, Qxd5 Qxf5 Ng5    
1. Rf3! threats Qxf5, Ng5     Nf2 Qxd5

Another renowned problemist takes care of the endgame studies: Yochanan Afek. Unfortunately, in a quite dry manner he simply shows nine diagrams without further comments.

The studies are also collected in a PGN file, each of them with lots of variations but no further text. Similar to the mate problems, the result tag of each virtual game does not show what you'd expect. I think "1-0" to indicate that White should win or "1/2-1/2" where White is to draw is common usage whereas here all games are marked with "Line". But that's the only thing to criticize. Now, there is one more sample for you:

G. Amann
Schach, 2008
1st Prize
    1. Nh7! Qe7+
1. - Qh6 2. Nf6+ Kf8 3. Rd8+ Kg7 4. Rg8#
2. Kc8 f6 3. Ng5!!
3. Nxf6+? Kf8 4. Rd8+ Kg7 5. Rd7 Kh8 6. Rxe7=
3. - fxg5 4. g4! Kf8 5. Rd8+ Kf7 6. Rd7 +-

I hope future installments of these columns will be prepared with more diligence.

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