24 February 2012

The American task composer

The last part of this month's series deals is about Henry Wald Bettmann (1868-1935) from Cincinnati, Ohio. Together with his brother Edgar and his cousin Jacob he composed chess problems. As teenagers they worked together, in later years only Henry continued to compose, but his professional activities limited his problemistic work.

Bettman was especially interested in task compositions in which some particular feature is presented in maximum or manifold repetitions. Considering the variety of the tasks of which he composed notable illustrations, he may well be regarded as the most outstanding American task composer.

One famous example is the Babson task. Bettmann showed the first problem in which a single black and single white pawn were involved in the promotions. You can have a look at it here.

More White Rooks,1911

Deutsche Schachblätter, 1914

Tasks and Echoes, 1915

Densmore Memorial, 1918
2nd Prize, Class B
11. c8=R! Nxc8 2. bxc8=R Kd7 3. f8=R Kd6 4. Rfd8#
1. - Nd5+ 2. cxd5 Kd7 3. f8=R Kd6 4. Rfd8# and 2. - Kxd5 3. b8=Q K~ 4. Qe5#
Three successive rook promotions in the main variation plus another in the side variation.
21. Nb6! (threats 2. Bg3+ Ka7 3. Nc8#)
1. - Rc1,2 2. Bc6 Rxc6 / Bxc6 3. Rb7 / Bg3#
1. - Rd1,2/Ra5 2. Bd5 etc.
1. - Re1,2/Ra4 2. Be4 etc.
1. - Rf1,2/Ra3 2. Bf3 etc.
1. - Rg1 2. Bg2 etc.
1. - Ka7 2. Nc8+ Kb8 3. Bg3#
Economical construction with Nowotny interferences on five different squares.
31. Nd8! (threats 2. exd5+ Qxh4/e4 3. Ne6/Qxe4#)
1. - Rcc5 2. Nxb5+ Rxb5 3. Nc6#
1. - Rdc5 2. Nc6+ Rxc6 3. Nxb5#
1. - Qg4 2. Ne2+ Qxe2 3. Ne6#
1. - Bg4 2. Ne6+ Bxe6 3. Ne2#
Probably the first published example of the doubling of a Wurzburg-Plachutta interference.
41. Qf3! (threats 2. Qxe3#)
1. - Bc1 2. Na5 (3. Nb3#) Nd2 3. Qe3#
1. - Bh6 2. Nd8 (3. Ne6#) Ng5 3. Qe3#
1. - Bg1 2. Naxb4 (3. Nd3#) Nf2 3. Qe3#
1. - Bd2 2. Na5 etc.
1. - Bg5 2. Nd8 etc.
1. - Bf2 2. Naxb4 etc.
This one shows an unusual theme. Black bishop obstructs black knight when moving to d2, f2, or g5. On the other hand, black knight interferes on these squares when the bishop moves beyond them.

17 February 2012

Another composer from Grand Rapids

Let's now turn towards another pioneer of chess composition, Otto B. Wurzburg, a nephew of Shinkman. Not only did he display outstanding skill in construction both strategic and model mate compositions, but he was also a strong chess player.

Wurzburg composed very many spectacular chess problems. Surely we all have seen at least some of them as they have often been reprinted. One interesting fact is his sparing use of white pawns. Did you know that? I was quite astonished when I learnt it. Maybe, I haven't seen enough of his work, yet. And quite possibly, I haven't paid a lot of attention to such things.

The last thing to mention is the theme that is named after him, the Wurzburg-Plachutta. You can find an example here.

The Des Moines Leader, 1902

The Gazette Times, 1912

The Problem, 1914

The Chess Review, 1942
Loyd-Memorial, 1st Prize

11. Qg3! (threats 2. Bc4+ Ke4 3. Qel#; 2. - Kxc4 3. Qb3#; 2. - Kc6 3. Qc7#)
1. - Be5 2. Qb3+ Kd6 3. Nf5# or 2. - Ke4 3. Qf3#
1. - Bxd4 2. Nc7+ Ke4 3. Bd3# or 2. - Kc5 3. Qa3#
1. - Ba6 2. Bc6+ Kc4 3. Qb3#
1. - Ke4 2. Bc4 3. Qf4,e1#
Four different model mates, two of them follow self-blocking moves by the black bishop.
21. c7! (threats 2. Qe3+ Kxe3 3. Re6#; 2. - Qxe3 3. Bc6#; 2. - Kf5 3. Bd7#)
1. - c2 2. Qe5+ Kxe5 3. Bd3#
1. - Qxe2 2. Qd4+ Kxd4 3. Re6#
1. - Qxf4 2. Qd5+ Kxd5 3. Bd3#
1. - Ng4 2. Qf5+ Kxf5 3. Bd3#
Sort of a task problem with queen sacrifices on five different squares.
31. Kd5! (threats 2. Nc6#)
1. - Nc3+ 2. Kc4 Rf4+ 3. Be4#
1. - Ne3+ 2. Kc5 Rf5+ 3. Bd5#
1. - Nf6+ 2. Ke6 Re3+ 3. Be4#
1. - Nf4+ 2. Kd6 Rd3+ 3. Bd5#
1. - Rf5+ 2. Kd4 Rc5 3. Bc6#
1. - Rd3+ 2. Ke5 Rc3 3. Bc6#
The white king directly walks into consecutive checks. In four variations the knight moves block a black rook.
41. Ra2!
1. - Qc7..g3 2. Ra8+ and 3. RaxQ#
1. - Qc8..g8 2. Rh2+ and 3. RhxQ#
What a rich miniature. We see a very nice duel rook vs. queen with an excellent key that puts black into zugzwang. But the solver should also pay attention to the seven tries.
1. Rc2? Qc7!
1. Rd2? Qd6!
1. Rg2? Qg3!
1. Rf1? Qa8!
1. Rf3? Qc8!
1. Rf6? Qf4!
1. Rf7? Qg8!
There is an eighth but non-thematic try: 1. Rd7? Qf4,d6!

10 February 2012

The Wizard of Grand Rapids

Along with his contemporary Samuel Loyd, William A. Shinkman was the best known composer of the United States in the late 19th and early 20th Century. Did you know that he also used the pseudonym M. Ham Nawki? He composed some thirty-five hundred problems which makes him the most prolific American composer. Shinkman contributed a lot to the area of selfmate problems, but I'll stick to the regular mate in three or more moves which often have a surprising key move.

Loyd frequently was content with showing a single example of a theme whereas Shinkman experimented with various illustrations of it. Alain C. White wrote: "Loyd toyed with themes, Shinkman masters them."

Deutsche Schachzeitung, 1875

Dubuque Chess Journal, 1890

Deutsche Schachzeitung, 1907

The Gazette Times, 1916

11. Qd4! exd4 2. Rf7 ~ 3. Rc7#
1. - Kb7 2. Rf7+ Ka6/Ka8 3. Qa1/Qh8#
1. - Kd7 2. Qg4+ Kd8/~ 3. Rf8/Qc8#
A surprising key move, right?
21. Be2! Kb7 2. Qc8+ Kxc8/Kb6 3. Ba6/Qc7#
1. - Kb6 2. Qa5+ Kxa5/Kb7 3. Bc7/Qa6#
Two queen sacrifices leading to chameleon echoed model mates in a miniature!
31. Rb7! h6 2. Qa2 h5 3. Qa8 Kxg2 4. Rb2#
1. - h5 2. Rb2 Nxe2 3. Rxe2 and 4. Rb1#
2. - Nh3 3. gxh3
2. - Nf3+ 3. gxf3
The pericritical maneuver is one that Shinkman featured in several of his problems. The key and the continuation in the mainplay are especially subtle.
41. N7c5! (thr. 2. Na4# and 2. Qb4#)
1. - Rcxc5 2. Nb2 Ra5/~ 3. Qc4/Na4#
1. - Rhxc5 2. Nf4 Rc4/~ 3. Nd5/Ne2#
We see a Plachutta interference with only eight pieces, another example of Shinkman's outstanding ability to illustrate a strategic theme with a minimum number of men.

03 February 2012

Samuel Loyd

In February, I start another little series. This time, I write about some famous American problemists starting with Samuel Loyd.

Of course, you can find tons of information on the Internet and in books. So, I won't bore you with things you might already know and just pick a few details regarding his life and his compositions which I consider to be quite interesting.

I read that early on he showed a liking for mime, ventriloquism, magic, card tricks and sleight of hand — and chess. He became interested in chess problems before entering his teens. This might apply to many problemists among my readers, I don't know. Anyway, I see myself in it.

By the age of sixteen he was America's leading composer and magazines worldwide published his problems. He was incredibly productive but nearly stopped all chess activities before the age of twenty because he was about to become the Puzzle King.

There's a similar course of events in my life. Several years before my first original was published, I had composed very many problems just for myself. Sure, there was a lot of rubbish, mainly incorrect and anticipated stuff. Nevertheless, some nice things were left and until about the early 1990s, I created more and sent in the works. But then, similar to Loyd, I concentrated on something else. In my case it was correspondence chess that occupied me so much that I rarely composed new problems and just used the material from the previous years.

Only in 2010, I had sort of a comeback and since then try to be more active again. I even got inspired by doing research for this blog. However, I am still heavily involved in correspondence tournaments of high(er) categories and for the national team. Being close to the GM title, it's hard to not try to get the required second norm.

Back to the Master who introduced lots of new ideas and forms like twins and retros. Moreover, he was the first to show the Plachutta interference and he composed the first correct(!) example of the Turton doubling (Turton's version some months ago turned out to be unsound). Now, let's enjoy some of his chess problems!

La Strategie, 1867

American Chess-Nuts, 1868

1st American Chess Comgress Problem Tourney, 1857

Paris Tourney, 1867
Second Prize Set

11. a8=B!
1. - Kf8 2. b8=Q+ Kf7 3. Bd5#
1. - Ke8 2. Ke6 Kd8 3. b8=Q#
1. - Kg8 2. Kg6 Kh8 3. b8=Q,R#
21. Rg2+!
1. - Kxg2 2. Nh3 Kxh3 3.Bf1# or 2. - Kh1 3. Bf3#
1. - Ke3 2. Bc4 Ke4 3. Re2#
Very nice model mates.
31. Kg3!!
1. - Be5+ 2. Qxe5+ Kxe5 3. Nxf7#
1. - Bxh5+ 2. Kf4 Be5+ 3. Qxe5#
1. - Bxf5+ 2. Kf4 and 3. Qb6#
1. - Rg1+ 2. Kf4 d2 3. Qb6#
A set of three problems was the required entry for each participant in that tournament.
The motto for Loyd's set was "Certum pete finem". Easy to spot that this three-mover is a prototype of the famous "Steinitz-Gambit" problem which was published only 46 years later.
41. Bxa6!
1. - bxa6+ 2. b7 Qe6 3. Qc8 Qxc8+ 4. bxc8=Q,B#
1. - Qc5 2. Qe8 Qc6 3. Qxc6 bxc6 4. Bc8#
1. - Qc2 2. Be2 Qxe2 3. Qc8+ Qg4 4. Qxg4#
1. - Na,bc3 2. Bxb7 Qxb7+ 3. Kxb7 and 4. Qc8#