1.Qc1? (>2.Qf4) but 1...e5! 1.Qc3? (-) 1...e5 2.Qd3 1...R~ 2.Q(x)e3 1...Re1 2.Qxe1 but 1...Sf3! At this point it is clear that 1...e5 and 1...Sf3 are the two thematic defenses, in fact there is a set mate for every move except. All of the first moves now do something about these defenses. 1.Sb4? (-) 1...e5 2.Bd5 1...Sf3 2.Bd3 1...cxb4 2.Qd4 1...R~ 2.R(x)e3 1...Re1 2.Qxe1 1...S~ 2.f3 but 1...b2! 1.Qh8? (-) 1...e5 2.Qa8 1...Sf3 2.Sc3 1...R~ 2.R(x)e3 1...S~ 2.f3 but 1.Re1! 1.Rg3! (-) 1...e5 2.Sc3 1...Sf3 2.Rg4 1...R~ 2.R(x)e3 1...Re1 2.Qxe1 1...S~ 2.f3 |

The problem shows anti-critical play with the wS mating on c3 after different self-blocks. There is also Black correction. There are also changes after the initial try 1.Qc3? 1...e5 2.Qd3; 1...Re3 2.Qxe3. A mirrored bK in a light and pleasing setting. Interestingly, I'm still on the fence on whether I should have used the following version which swaps the try 1.Sb4? with the key 1.Rg3! The editor, a grandmaster of composition, said that he prefers Rg3! as the key because it is harder to spot. However, Sb4 has more play and better use of the wQ, so it's somewhat of a toss up. In any case this was one of those magical compositions that gave me a special feeling when it came together.

]]>The disappearing Nowotny is one of my favorite themes and here the impossible is done: a Nowotny between a bP and bB. See for yourself. 1.Sd6! (>2.Bc4,Qe5) 1...Bxd6 2.Qc4 1...exd6 2.Qe4 1...Rf5 2.Bxf5 1...Qh8 2.Bc4 1...Rf3 2.Qe5 Unfortunately, this problem had a misprinted wP on f2 ruining the Meredith position. |

Speaking of David Shire, here is a problem that you won't soon forget. The problem is traditional and the White force severely outmans the Black force, but the line play is exquisite. It's amazing that White cannot mount a threat with all of that wood. 1.Sc3 (-) 1...e3 2.Sc5 1...exd3 2.Re1 1...dxc3 2.Sg4 1...cxd3 2.Ba2 1...f5 2.Ra6 Beautiful. |

Another lovely setting with a striking change from the set play. An unpin of the wSe4 is exchanged for a Gamage unpin of the bB. Not a ton of play, but pretty none-the-less. 1...Sc2 2.Sd2 1...Rxg2 2.Re1 1.Rd2 (>2.Re1) 1...Sc2 2.Qa6 1...Rxg2 2.Rd1 1...Sf2 2.Rxf2 |

This is an interesting problem that features thematic duals, by the late Australian composer. The key makes multiple threats and the Black moves separate all possible combinations of these moves: Combinative Separation. Here it is nicely combined with AUW. 1.Bh5! (>2.Qxe3,Qg4,Qf3 ABC) 1...Ke4 2.Qxe3 A 1...Kg3 2.Qg4 B 1...g1=Q 2.Qf3 C 1...g1=S 2.Qxe3,Qg4 AB 1...g1=R 2.Qxe3,Qf3 AC 1...g1=B 2.Qg4,Qf3 BC 1...Rh1 2.Qxf3,Qg4,Qf3 ABC |

Bob Lincoln is an American miniaturist who composed thousands of miniatures. I always liked his heavier problems and here is a nice little flight giving problem with lots of attractive play. 1...Rf8 2.Qg3 1.Bg1! (>2.Qf2) 1...Kxg1 2.Qf1 1...hxg1=S 2.Bf1 1...hxg1=Q 2.Bxb7 1...Rf8 2.Qg4 1...Qf3 2.Qxg2 |

This problem shows an interesting task from the master of tasks himself. See if you can spot the idea from the solution. 1.Rc4! (>2.cxb8=S) 1...Rb7 2.c8=Q 1...Rd8 2.cxd8=Q 1...Re8 2.fxe8=Q 1...Be7 2.exf7 1...Rxe6 2.Qxe6 1...Bxd6 2.Qxd6 1...Rc8 2.Qc6 1...Sxc7 2.Rxc7 1...Kc8 2.d7 The mating moves occur on the 9 bK squares, i.e., the surrounding squares of the BK and his initial square. |

Here is a very recent problem (the solution just appeared in January 2022) from Barry Barnes. A flight giving key sets off some nice play and I enjoyed the changes from the set mates. 1...exd6 2.Bxd6 1...dxe6 2.Sxe6 1.Rf4! (>2.Rxf5) 1...exd6 2.Qa5 1...dxe6 2.Qxc6 1...Sf3 2.Rxc4 1...Sd4 2.Qxd4 1...Sb4 2.Qxb4 |

The Supplement features lots of quality problems of other genres besides the #2. This one is a simple miniature helpmate that made an impression on me because of the way the bK clears for the bB and bR to show a Grimshaw on his initial square. Pretty chess. 1.Kh5 Sf2 2.Rh6 Sg4 3.Bg6 Sf6 1.Kh6 g4 2.Bh7 Sg3 3.Rg6 Sf5 |

Finally we end with something different. A helpselfmate is technically in the realm of fairy chess, but it is really a combination of a helpmate and a selfmate so it is close to orthodox. White moving first works with Black until the last move in which Black must be forced to mate White. Beautiful interplay of the bishops. I don't think this is featured in the award, but it should have been.1.Ba1 Bg8 2.Bf7 Bf2 3.Be8 Bc1 4.Bg7 Ba2 5.Sa3+ Bxa3 |

I think this is one of my best executions of an original idea. Yet the problem was given a measly commendation in its tournament. The problem shows for the first time a masked Bristol and a masked anti-Bristol with changed mates galore. The play after the key is nice with two pin mates. To solve the problem notice that there are set mates for every Black move, except 1...Sb5 and 1...d6 and the wRs can do something about these defenses. 1.Ra5? (-) 1...d6 2.Bxa7 1...Sb5! 1.Ra1? (-) Bristol clearance 1...Sb5 2.Qa2 1...Bb7 2.Qg8 1...f4 2.Rh5 1...d6! 1.Rd8! (-) Anti-Bristol 1...Sb5 2.Qxc6 1...Bb7 2.Rxd7 1...f4 2.Be6 1...d6 2.Rxd6 1...e3,exd3 2.Bg2 |

Here is an open lightweight with plenty of play. I think the position is elegant and shows some lovely battery play. The key is obvious, but it allows a two checks to the wK. Of course I did not expect for such a traditional single phase problem to place in the award. Never-the-less, the problem has some interesting ideas. For one it has a battery in which the wQ is the lead piece. Another attribute is that the shut-off battery play usually comes from multiple threats, however this problem only makes a single threat. Take a look for yourself.1.Kxc7! (>2.Bc5) 1...Rf3 2.Qxd5 (Queen Battery) 1...Rc3 2.Bb4 1...Re3 2.Be7 1...Rg3 2.Bg7 1...Rh3 2.Bh6 1...Rxa7 2.Qxa7 (Queen Battery) 1...Kxa7 2.Qxa3 |

Probably my best miniature. The problem was not featured in the award because the judge felt that the previous problem above was too close and expanded upon this matrix. However, it was the opposite: I composed the miniature later! The problem shows the Karlstrom-Fleck theme with some nice battery play in a miniature. 1.Kc2! (1.Be2,Bd3,Bxc4) 1...Bb3+ 2.axb3 1...Bd5 2.Bg2 1...Bxf1 2.Rf1 1...Be2 2.Bxe2 1...Bd3+ 2.Bxd3 1...Ba6 2.Bc4 |

An original Nowotny twin idea with in which pieces clear the way for the wQ and play to a Nowotny square. We have changed Nowotny, an additional change after 1...e4, and extra defenses in each phase. Different pieces mate on the same squares and change of functions. (a) 1.Bc4! (>2.Rxf7,Qg4) 1...e4 2.Rc5 1...Sxf2 2.Qf3 1...Rxc4 2.Rxf7 1...Bxc4 2.Qg4 (b) 1.Rc4! (>2.Qxf7,Bg4) 1...e4 2.Qc5 1...f6 2.Qh7 1...Rxc4 2.Qxf7 1...Bxc4 2.Bg4 |

Here we have an original half-battery Fleck with a board rotation. The problem shows an essential Fleck in which all of the Black moves either force a specific threat or allow all of the threats. The composition also shows four wK mates of a wK on its original square castling. Interestingly, the key pieces play to the same square after the rotation twin. Did the judge not like the flight taking key in (b)?(a) 1.Bg4! (>2.Kd2,Ke2,Kf2,0-0) 1...cxd4 2.Kd2 1...Kc1 2.Ke2 1...c3 2.Kf2 1...Rh8 2.0-0 (b) 1.Kg4 (>2.Bg5,Bf6,Be7,Bd8) 1...e2 2.Bg5 1...b5 2.Bf6 1...Ra7 2.Be7 1...Ra8 2.Bd8 |

Another original twinning mechanism to show some neat changes after cross-checks. I like the way the two black pawns control the wK battery. The judge said the twinning was interesting but that the play was well-known. (a) 1...Sxf5+ 2.Kxe6 1.Bxe6! (>2.Kd7) 1...Sxf5++ 2.Kxc6 1...Sxe6+ 2.Kxe6 1...Sf6 2.Ke7 (b) 1...Sxf4+ 2.Kxc3 1.Bxc3! (>2.Kd4) 1...Sxf4++ 2.Kxe3 1...Sxc3+ 2.Kxc3 1...Sf3 2.Ke2 |

This problem was nowhere to be found in the award. I think it is a really nice example of the Salazar theme with a masked half-battery. I acknowledge that the cage of wPs restricting the moves of the wB and wS is not ideal. But the reversal of first move and variation, the changed mate after the self block, line play, refutation, and post-key play make this a winner. 1.Sf2? A (>2.Bd5)1...Kxd4 2.Bc6 B1...Rxd4 2.Qc8 1...Sc3 2.Qxc3 1...b4! 1.Bc6! B (>2.Se5)1...Kxd4 2.Sf2 A1...Rxd4(Bxd4) 2.Bxb5 1...Re1 2.Qd3 1...Sxc3 2.Qd3 1...Bxh2 2.Se3 |

From the uneconomic to the extremely economic. This is an ideal example the wP half-battery versus 2 bBs with a doubling of the Banny theme and spoof half-battery. You can't beat 10 pieces for a doubling of the Banny theme. 1.d3? A (>2.f3 & f4 CD)1...Bh6 c 2.f4 C1...Bh5 d 2.f3 D1...Bg7! a 1.d4? B (>2.f3 & f4 CD)1...Bh6 c 2.f4 C1...Bh5 d 2.f3 D1...Bg6! b1.f3? C (>2.d3 & d4 AB)1...Bg7 a 2.d4 B1...Bg6 b 2.d3 A1...Bh6! c1.f3? D (>2.d3 & d4 AB)1...Bg7 a 2.d4 B1...Bg6 b 2.d3 A1...Bh5! d1.Rh1! (>2.Qa1 & Qb1) 1...Bg7 a 2.Qb1 1...Bg6 b 2.Qa1 |

In this problem I attempted to combine the Finnish Nowotny with an Albino theme. Even though I only got 3/4 of the Albino, I think the composition is wonderful. This version appeared in The Problemist and maybe was better than the original that was not featured in the 2019 Die Schwalbe award. To solve the problem, notice that an extra guard on f4 will threaten Sg3 & Sg7. 1...e3 2.Qc2 1...Qxd8 2.Sd4 1.Bxg5? (>2.Sg3 & Sg7) 1...cxd2 2.Qc8 1...c2! 1.d3? (>2.Sg3 & Sg7) 1...Qxd8 2.Sd4 1...c2 2.Sg3 1...d3! (2.Qc2?) 1.d4? (>2.Sg3 & Sg7) 1...d3 2.Qc2 1...c2 2.Sg7 1...Qxd8! (2.Sd4?) 1.dxc3! (>2.Sg3 & Sg7) 1...d3 2.Qc2 1...Qxd8 2.Sd4 1...gxf4 2.Qxf4 1....Bxc3 2.Sg3 1...Rxc3 2.Sg7 |

I think this is an excellent masked half-battery and Barnes theme with changed mates. I was excited to submit it to the Burmistrov Memorial Tourney in 2019, because I had never taken part in a MT. To my absolute surprise the problem was not even mentioned in the award! I guess problems by Russian authors were given preference. In particular problems showing the Burmistrov combination (a double threat theme that is similar to the Le Grand theme) were placed high in the award, even though the tourney was supposed to be thematic. I did not like this, but it was a good learning experience. I won't be submitting problems to this type of tourney again. Luckily, I submitted the problem to the BCM where it was appreciated. Problems which participate in the BCM compete not only against two-movers but also against three-movers, more-movers, and even helpmates. So in the end the composition was valued and I was quite pleased with its distinction. Besides, the BCM is one of the most read chess magazines in the entire world.not1.Rg1? (>2.Qg5,Qg6) 1...Qxf5 2.Qxg7 1...Kxf5! 1.Sh3? (>2.Qg5) 1...Kxf5 2.Be2 1...Qxf5 2.Qxg7 1...e5! 1.Bh5! (>2.Qg6) 1...Kxf5 2.Sd3 1...Se5 2.Se4 1...g5 2.Sg4 1...Qxf5 2.Qxg7 |

Here is one of my most attractive matrices. Of course the line of pieces pointing at the bK is peculiar, but we have an aristocrat Meredith (the original was not a Meredith, but I figured out how to get rid of an extra bS). The problem was probably not featured in the award because of the symmetric play. The matrix features changed mates and the Ellerman-Makihovi theme in which a set dual is separated between try and key. I also think the dual avoidance after 1...Bc3 and 1...Bb2 is nice. 1...Kxd5 2.Qb3,Qa2 1...Bc3 2.Sb6,Se3 1.Rb6? (>2.Qb3) 1...Kxd5 2.Rf5 1...Bc3(Bb2) 2.Se3 1...Bxb6 2.Sxb6 1...Sb5 2.Qxb5 1...Rf3! 1.Re3! (>2.Qb3) 1...Kxd5 2.Rf6 1...Bc3 2.Sb6 1...Bb2 2.Qd3 1...Bxe3 2.Sxe3 |

This problem is near to my heart, because it represented a breakthrough in complexity for me. It was my first published problem in StrateGems. I still think it is stellar with its double flight gift and cross-checking variations. 1...Qc4 2.Qxc4 1...Qd4 2.Rxd4 1.Be7,Bf8? (>2.Qc5) 1...Bg1! 1.Ba7? (>2.Qc5,Qc6) 1...Qc4! 1.Bd4! (>2.Qc5) 1...Kxd4,Kd6+ 2.Bf5 1...Qxd4 2.Qc6 1...Qd6 2.Qb3 1...Se6 2.Bc6 |

Here is one of my first prize winning problems! I had actually submitted another version of this, one that did not utilize the wK as well. The problem is not the most complex idea, but it is certainly one of the prettier things I have put on a chess board. The idea is that the bK has a flight square at g5 that must be handled. The only way to do this is with some intricate line play: 1...Rh4 2.Rg4 Bxa1 3.Rg5 c4 1...Bh8 2.Qg7 Rxb4 3.Qg5 c3 The main theme is the line clearances in which the black pieces follow directly along the same line as the white pieces. Such an idea is know in the helpmate genre as a mixed Bristol. In this case it is also called a magnet because the white piece moves away and then the black piece follows it like a magnet. The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prizes all went to well-known helpmate composers including Hungarian Grandmaster János Csák. |

This problem has been featured on the blog before and it may go down as being one of my best twomovers. The B+R+R half-battery is hackneyed, so I was fortunate to obtain a new record with this problem. I usually don't compose task type problems, but I had been studying the half-battery for awhile and realized that this scheme would give me the record for most changed double checkmates (4) and tie the record for most double checkmates in twomover (8). 1.Rg7? (2.Sxb8) 1...Kb7 2.Rb3 1...Kd5 2.Rd3 1...Sd6 2.Rc3 1...Sxd8 2.Rf6 1...Se3! 1.Rf7! (2.Sxb8) 1...Kb7 2.Rb2 1...Kd5 2.Rd2 1...Sd6 2.Rc2 1...Sxd8 2.Rg6 1...B~ 2.Qa8 The scheme is symmetrical, but I was pleased with the light open setting. The threat and refutation are delicious. |

Here is one of my rare collaborations with the well-known British problemist. Despite the symmetry, the setting is beautiful with chunky white force and an open position. There is no real theme, but the main idea is a wQ vs bQ duel. There is also a paradoxical element: in the try the bQ defeats the threat by ambushing herself behind the wQ to allow Bf7. Meanwhile, the key finds the bQ ambushed behind the wQ to threaten Bf7. The bQ defeats this threat by moving off the line (unambushing herself). To solve it notice that there is a strong set defense with no mate: 1...QxR. 1.Qc2? (>2.Qc4) 1...Qxc6 2.Qxc6 1...Qc1 2.Bf7 1...Ra4 2.Qc5 1...Bc3 2.Sxc3 1...Qd6! 1.Qg6! (>2.Bf7) 1...Qf4 2.Qe6 1...Qh3 2.Qd6 1...Bf6 2.Qf7 1...Ra6 2.Rc5 1...Qxg6 2.Se3 |

I think this is one of my most underrated problems. It's a light position that has some excellent elements including black correction, defenses on the same square, the Salazar theme (reversal of 1st move and mating move), and some changed mates. 1...hxg5 2.Sg7 1...Rxg5 2.Qxh4 1.Ra5(A)? (>2.Sg7) 1...Kxg5 2.Sxe7(B) 1...e5! 1.Sxe7(B) (-) 1...Kxg5 2.Ra5(A) 1...hxg5 2.Bg6 1...Rxg5 2.Sf6 1...Rg1 2.Qxh4 1...f3 2.Qxg4 The judge didn't like the key because it captured the bP that thwarts the try. I kind of like it since the wS extracts revenge on the bP for thwarting the threat. |

I don't usually participate in theme tourneys, but here is something fun that turned out nicely. Usually, the capture of the try piece is undesirable, but here it works and is completely thematic. The the name of the tournament is "if you can't win, copy them" and required a try defeated by 1... X! and key 1.X! where X is the same notation for the move. In addition at least one changed mate was a requirement.1.Sxd5? (>2.Sf6) 1...Sxd5 2.Rc4 1...Ba2 2.d3 1...Rxg6 2.Qxg6 1...Rxd5! 1.Rxd5! (>2.Re5) 1...Sxd5 2.Qc4 1...Ba2 2.Qc2 1...Rxd5 2.Bf5 1...Rxg6 2.Qxg6 |

1st phase:

1...a 2.A

1...b 2.B

2nd phase:

1...a 2.C

1...b 2.D

1...c 2.A

1...d 2.B

The theme is known as an

Here is one of the most famous problems of all time maybe one of the first Rukhlis themes. The beautiful problem also shows two Grimshaws. There is a set Grimshaw: 1...Rc4 2.Sc3 1...Bc4 2.Qe4 Notice that these mates depend on the mutual interference of the bB and bR but also on wPd3 which is blocking the lines of the bBb1 and bRh3. The key is obvious to me - anytime I see this wR and wP combination the pawn push is always the first thing I try, especially considering the potential pins on d4. However, the key has two interesting effects that usher the changes and transferences: it opens the lines of bBc1 and bRh3 but closes the lines of bRa4 and bBh8, sort of an anti-Novotny and Novotny combination. Now the captures on c4 are self-pins and the original Grimshaw mates from d4 are transferred to a new Grimshaw on d3. Beautiful. 1.d4! (>2.Sb6) 1...Rxd4 2.Sb4 1...Bxd4 2.Sf6 1...Bd3 2.Sc3 1...Rd3 2.Qe4 |

Here is one of my favorite Rukhlis problems of all time complete with cross checks, battery play, and a wR cross. The problem is an ideal Rukhlis in the sense that there are mates set for all of the thematic defenses. There are four prominent set mates that are all changed post key 1...Rxe2 2.Re5 1...Se5 2.Rf6 1...Qa3+ 2.Re7 1...Sf6 2.Sd6 1.Sf2! (>2.Qg4) 1...Rxe2 2.Rf6 1...Se5 2.Qxe5 1...Qa3+ 2.Rd6 1...Sf6 2.Re5 |

Here is a famous ideal Rukhlis by one of the greatest two-move composers of all time. The set mates all display dual avoidance, particularly 1...c3 and 1...e2 which display a special kind known as Mari dual avoidance. 1...c3 2.Sxe3 1...e2 2.Sb4 1...Sc6 2.Rd6 1...Sf5 2.Rf5 The excellent flight giving key now changes all four of these mates: 1.Se6! (>2.Qd1) 1...c3 2.Rd4 1...e2 2.Qd4 1...Sc6 2.Sxe3 1...Sf5 2.Sb4 1...Kd6 2.Sc7 And Sc7 is icing on the cake. |

Speaking of Mari, here is a gorgeous example of the theme with a royal battery and additional changes. 1...Be4 2.Ke2 1...Bxd3 2.Kf3 1...Sc3 2.Qa7 1...d5 2.Qc5 1...Sb7 2.Qc4 1.Sc5! (>2.Qxd5) 1...Be4 2.Rxe4 1...Bxd3 2.Rxd3 1...Be4 2.Ke2 1...Sc3 2.Kf3 1...Sb7 2.Sb3 1...d5 2.Se6 |

This problem shows the record setting Rukhlis with four transferred and changed mates. Perfunctory key is justified by the fact that it grants two checks on the wK. 1...fxe6 2.Sd7 1...Se5 2.Be7 1...Rg5 2.Rxf7 1...Rf3 2.Sxd5 1.Qxd5! (>2.Qf5) 1...fxe6 2.Qxe6 1...Se5 2.Qxe5 1...Rg5 2.Qxg5 1...Rf3 2.Se4 1...Qd7+ 2.Sxd7 1...Qe7+ 2.Bxe7 1...Qxc5 2.Rxf7 1...Bxd5 2.Sxd5 |

Another wonderful ideal Rukhlis with white interference mates, white correction, and try play. 1...exf6 2.Sc2 1...f3 2.Sb3 1...Sc4 2.Rxc4 1...Sd3 2.Rxd4 1.Se~? (>2.Qe5) 1...Qh5 2.Qg1 1...Sd3! 1.Sg4? (>2.Qe5) 1...Qh5! 1.Sc4! (>2.Qe5) 1...exf6 2.Qxf6 1...f3 2.Qe3 1...Sc4 2.Sc2 1...Sd3 2.Sb3 1...Qh5 2.Qg1 1...Sd5 2.Qxg5 At first glance it seems like the wBf8 is not used post key, however, this is not true it guards c5 after exf6. |

Here is one of my own with a half-battery + additional battery formation idea. Interestingly, my problem does not fit the usual mold for a Rukhlis, because the mates after the two thematic defenses are changed but not transferred. However, my problem does have two changed mates and two transferred mates: 1.Sxe5? (>2.Sxg6) 1...Rxd7 a 2.Sa2 A 1...Rxh1 b 2.Sa6 B 1...Sxe5 c 2.Bxe5 C 1...Sg2 d 2.Qxd5 D 1...e2! 1.Sxd5! (>2.Sf4) 1...Rxd7 a 2.Sa3 X 1...Rxh1 b 2.Sa5 Y 1...Se7 x 2.Bxe5 C 1...Sxd5 y 2.Qxd5 D 1...Sg2 d 2.Sf6 Notice that the mates A and B are not transferred, because of this it is what might be called an extended Rukhlis. |

A fresh prize winner from the most recent World Cup for composing. 1..Q~/.Qxg4 2.Sf6 1...dxe5 2.Sc3 1...Qf4+ 2.exf4 1...f2 2.Qh1 1...Qxe3 2.Qxe3 1.Qg3! (-) 1...Q~ 2.Qf4 1...Qxg4 2.Qg4 1...dxe5 2.Qxe5 1...Qxe3 2.Sf6 1...f2 2.Sc3 1...Qx53 2.Bxf5 1...c4/cxb4 2.Rd4 It's a very nice problem but I do have some criticism. My main complaint is the wSb4 which really has no post key function other than holding up the bPb5. It does offer a try 1.Sc6? which contains a Dombrowski paradox, but it has an obvious refutation: 1...b4! I personally would remove -wSb4,bPb5 and shift wBd7>d8 (otherwise the matrix would be cooked by 1.Ba4). Now-a-days it seems that problemists try to pack as much as possible into their matrices. I'm all for this, but I have strict belief of not adding material that will be useless just to create tries. |

Finally we end with a masterpiece that not only shows an ideal Rukhlis, but also the task of four changed self-blocks. 1...Rxe6 2.Rxd4 1...Sxe6 2.c4 1...Qxe5 2.Qb3 1...Sxe5 2.Sf4 1.Qg4! (>2.Rc5) 1...Rxe6 2.Qxd4 1...Sxe6 2.Qe4 1...Sxe5 2.Rxd4 1...Qxe5 2.c4 |

David Shire refers to the 1960s as the decade of the half-battery and this author was one of the pioneers. Here is his famous changed wK X flight. The wK has all 4 diagonal flights which can be handled by the respective R+B or R+S batteries. So which one will do the job? 1.Sc3 (-) 1...Kf3 2.Bd5 1...Kxf5 2.Bd3 1...Kh5 2.Be2 1...Kh3 2.Bf1 1...d5! 1.Bd5 (-) 1...Kf3 2.Sc3 1...Kxf5 2.Sxd6 1...Kh5 2.Sxf6 1...Kh3 2.Sf2 In addition to the nice four changes, the problem has a nice reversal of key and variation mate after 1...Kf3. |

Here is one my own half-batteries, which might be called a third battery. Notice the bK has an unprovided flight with 1...Kxd5, but in capturing this piece he will clear the d-file leading to a battery mate. I am quite fond of this idea. This one came together nicely and I still remember the moment when I figured out that the bPc5 with its two defenses was the key to the whole composition. 1.Sb3? (>2.Qxc5) 1...Kxd5 2.Be3 1...Rc3 2.Bf4 1...c4 2.Bb4 1...Sd7! 1.Bb4! (>2.Qxc5) 1...Kxd5 2.Sxf3 1...Rc3 2.Sf5 1...Sd7 2.Sb5 1...cxb4 2.Qc6 |

This half-battery uses a complex combination of Goethart and anti-Goethart strategy. That is the threat by the half-battery can unpin the bRd3 because of the bP on e3. However, when the bP moves this is no longer available. 1.Sfg5? (>2.Sd2) 1...e2 2.Sd6 1...Rc4 2.Sc3 1...c5! 1.Seg5! (>2.Sd2) 1...e2 2.Se5 1...Rc4 2.Sd4 1...Kc4/Rxg2 2.Qc5 1...Rd4 2.Rxd4 1...c5 2.Qe4 |

Here I use the half-battery to obtain a record. This problem shows four changed double checkmates which seems to be new! I was pleased with the threat and the refutation. The downfall is the number of black duals which were inevitable for this position. 1.Rg7? (>2.Sxb8) 1...Kb7 2.Rb3 1...Kd5 2.Rd3 1...Sd6 2.Rc3 1...Sc7 2.Rf6 1...B any 2.Qa8 1...Se3! 1.Rf7 (>2.Sxb8) 1...Kb7 2.Rb2 1...Kd5 2.Rd2 1...Sd6 2.Rc2 1...Sc7 2.Rg6 1...B any 2.Qa8 The one downfall is that the B+R+R battery is extremely well-worked and I was lucky to obtain something new here. |

Here is an indirect half-battery: the battery line is not pointed at the bK but rather an adjacent square. The problem also shows the so-called bK Schiffman strategy in which the threat will unpin a bK and hence uses a different mate that exploits the pin. 1.Sdc1? (>2.Sf4) 1...Kc4 2.Sc3 1...Bxe2 2.Qe4 1...Be6! 1.Sec1! (>2.Sf4) 1...Kc4 2.Sxb4 1...Bxe2 2.Qe4 1...Be6 2.Bg2 |

A beautiful combination of half-battery and Novotny. I like the changed mates and changed threats. 1.Rd3? (>2.Rxa6/Sxc2) 1...Sxb4 2.Qxa2 1...Sxc6 2.Sbxc6 1...Bxd3 2.Sxc2 1...Rxd3 2.Rxa6 1...cxb4! 1.Sd3! (>2.Rxc5/Rxc2) 1....Sxb4 2.Rxa2 1....Sxc6 2.Saxc6 1...Bxd3 2.Rxc2 1...Rxd3 2.Rxc5 |

We end with a true masterpiece which took first prize in the competitive Mansfield memorial tourney. The problem, like one above, combines the Schiffman strategy with half-battery. However, this one achieves two changed Schiffman mates. The idea is that 1...Sxb6 and 1...Rxb6 are self-pins that defeat the threat because it will unpin these pieces, however White can exploit these pins. There is an additional change after 1...Sd3. Even the interference battery mate 2.b7 is beautiful. 1.Bxf5? (>2.c5) 1...Sxb6 2.Sf6 1...Rxb6 2.Se6 1...Sd3 2.Rxd3 1...Sd6 2.b7 1...Rd6! 1.Se3! (>2.c5) 1...Sxb6 2.Be6 1...Rxb6 2.Bxc8 1...Sd3 2.Sc2 1...Sd6 2.b7 1...Bg8 2.Sxf5 One of my all time favorites and a fitting memorial problem for the great two move expert. |

The classic book

"Chess art is one degree of abstraction higher than the game of chess. In one sense we can say that the helpmate is the purest of all the chess arts, the nearest to art for art’s sake. If there exists somewhere, on an unknown planet, a race of beings who play chess and whose artistic inclination is stronger than their aggressive instincts, then it is probable that they will have invented the helpmate before the direct mate"

As of now I am just giving a collection of some of my favorite helpmates. In a later post I may go into specific helpmate themes. While I wouldn't consider myself a natural helpmate composer, I have been fortunate enough to compose a handful of decent number of helpmates.

Here is a nice open light starter. Capture of White has always been a popular helpmate theme and can be paradoxical. After all, how does capturing white material help white eventually mate. Here is an example with model mates. Remember, in helpmates Black moves first and then White mates. 1.Qxe2 Bd6 2.Ke8 Bc6 1.Qxh2 Re7+ 2.Kd6 Sf5 I like the roles of wBb7 and wSh6 which take turns mating and guarding the mating net. The mates are model mates with each square surrounding the bK being guarded or blocked exactly once. |

This is one of my more heavy-hitting affairs that features the Zilahi theme. In the Zilahi theme a piece that is captured in one solution delivers mate in the other and visa-versa. The problem also features a rich strategy with additional captures, pin-mates, and switchbacks. 1.Bxg6 Rxd6 2.Kxe5 Re6 1.Sxe6 Bxh5 2.Kxf5 Bg6 This theme is also called an extended Zilhali with the additional captures. A couple of comments. Overall I was very pleased with the position and realization of the idea. However, the black economy is not ideal. bSe8 is a plug, bRh7 is a cook stopper, and the bQ is sort of a weasel-it could be replaced by a bP. I kept the bQ to keep the matching strategy between solutions. |

Now for something beautiful from the expert who wrote the book on helpmates. Perfect harmony in which the pinned black pieces pass through the bK's initial square to open lines and unpin the mating piece. How I love the ambushes and the mates on the same square. 1.Kd4 Bb8 2.Rc2 Rxd3 1.Kc4 Rb8 2.Bg1 Bxd3 |

Now moving onto the longer helpmates with an excellent example from the British grandmaster. This problem uses the Forsberg twinning method to obtain two solutions. I love the clearance moves with switchbacks to self block. (a) 1.Rc3 Be4 2.Rc2 Rb3 3.Rc3 Rb4 (b) 1.Bd5 Rd3 2.Be6 Bb7 3.Bd5 Ba6 |

Here is possibly my best helpmate that features reciprocal batteries. In one solution the a R+B battery is formed and the other has a B+R battery. I was happy with the cooperation between Black and White. All of Black's moves have departure and arrival effects. (a) 1.Re5 Bh7 2.Sb5 Bd3 3.Se6 Be4 (b) 1.Bd6 Rf1 2.Sc6 Rf7 3.Sd4 Rf5 Here is a play-by-play recap of the strategy. The first move of Black has two functions: self-block and open a line. White then directly unpins one of the bSs to self-block again. However, Black needs a piece on this newly vacated square so now White must indirectly unpin the other bS to replace his counterpart. White ends by finishing off with a double check. |

Here is a masterpiece that Chris Feather says "...the best problem in this book, shows White imitating Black in an equal but opposite way at every turn." It's a single line long helpmate which you don't see too much now-a-days but exquisite play. 1.Bc4 Bh6 2.Bg5 Bd5 3.Be7 Bf3 4.Be6 Bf4 |

Here is a recent prize winner by an expert at light weight long helpmates. The theme of the tourney called for two lines with White's first and last moves interchanged and two of Black's pieces self-block in one line and are captured in the other. Quite a task in a long helpmate. See for yourself. 1...Sg5 2.Re4 Sxe4 3.Kc4 Sxc3 4.Kb4 Kc2 5.Ka3 Bf8 1...Bf8 2.Qg7 Kc2 3.Rf6 Kd3 4.Ke6 Ke4 5.Qd7 Sg5 |

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1.Try? (>2.A,B)

1...a 2.C

1...b 2.D

1.Key! (>2.C,D)

1...c 2.A

1...d 2.B

Notice that the defenses do not need to be the same between phases.

Starting out with one of my own compositions. I find this to be a beautiful Meredith with an open position and mirrored bK. The mechanism is based on self blocks and dual avoidance with interference mates. Notice that the wB on h6 is not doing anything. Its two moves provide try and key. 1.Bg7? (>2.Rf5,e4) 1...Rc5 2.Rd8 1...Bc5 2.Bc6 1...Rxe2! 1.Bf8! (>2.Rd8,Bc6) 1...Rd4 2.Rf5 1...Bd4 2.e4 1...Rb6 2.Rc5 The point is that the moves to the squares d4 and c5 defend against the threats because they cut off guard to c4. I was really happy with this, but unfortunately this mechanism has been used several times for the Odessa. |

Here is a heavy but nice Odessa that got second prize in the prestigious FIDE world cup tourney in 2011. The excellent try and key each open a potential line for White and close a line for Black. It is worth close study to figure out what makes the whole thing tick. Moreover this problem accomplishes the double threat Le Grand where the defenses are the same -- really hard to pull off. 1.Bc3? (>2.Sc5,Qd5) 1...Rxf5 2.Qxf3 1...Kxf5 2.Sf6 1...Sd4! 1.Sg6! (>2.Sf6,Qxf3) 1...Rxf5 2.Qd5 1...Kxf5 2.Sc5 1...Qxf2 2.Qd3 |

Here is an interesting double threat Le Grand. I like this problem because it has a disappearing Novotny. However, do you notice anything unusual? That's right, three white bishops! Still pretty cool. 1.Sd4? (>2.Rc2,Be2) 1...Rxd4 2.Sb6 1...Bxd4 2.b6 1...e2! 1.Qxe3! (>2.Sb6,b5) 1...Rd4 2.Rc2 1...Bd4 2.Be2 1...Rd6 2.Qc5 1...Rxe3 2.Sxe3 |

Here is the Odessa theme with triple threats. 1.Rb5? (>2.Re6,Re7,Re8) 1...Rf3 2.Rf5 1...Rg3 2.Rg5 1...Rh3 2.Rh5 1...Sc5! 1.Re2! (>2.Rf5,Rg5,Rh5) 1...Rc6 2.Re6 1...Rc7 2.Re7 1...Rc8 2.Re8 A rather symmetric position and the wQ acts as a bishop, but none the less quite an achievement in Meredith. |

Here is the marvelous cyclic Odessa. I have included the algebraic notation for clarity. The mechanism uses battery formations and an ingenious use of double checks. Dombrowskis really was one of the greatest twomove composers of all time. 1.Qc8? (>2.Bb6 A, Bd6 B) 1...Rxa6 2.Rc4 C 1...Bxa6 2.Rd5 D 1...Bc6! 1.Qg1? (>2.Rc4 C, Rd5 D) 1...e3 2.Sxd3 E 1...Qe3 2.Sxd7 F 1...Qe6! 1.Qg5! (>2.Sxd3 E, Sxd7 F) 1...Rb6 2.Bxb6 A 1...Bxg5 2.Bd6 B 1...Rxa6 2.Rc4 C 1...Bxa6 2.Rd5 D Note he also works in the mates C and D as variations post key. Truly excellent! |

1.Try? (>2.A)

1...a 2.B

1.Key! (>2.B)

1...a 2.A

If the defense is not the same then the theme is said to be a pseudo Le Grand which is also a popular theme.

Here is what I believe is the first example of the le Grand theme by the brothers themselves. The mechanism is simple enough and revolves around the wQ placing extra guard on the squares c4 and c6 while at the same time cutting the bQ or bB lines. There is also has a nice black correction element to the problem. 1.Qe4? (>2.Rc4) 1...Sf6 (any random move) 2.Rc6 1...Qxe4 2.Sxe4 1...Sb4 2.cxb4 1...Se7! 1.Qe6! (>2.Rc6) 1...Sf6 2.Rc4 1...Bxe6 2.Sxe6 1...Se3 2.Sxd3 1...Sxb6 2.Bxb6 There are some flaws in the matrix. For one, the duals after 1...Sxb6 and 1...Se3 in the try and dual after 1...Sb4 after the key. I guess these are forgivable in this correction scheme though. |

Here is a classic le Grand featuring changed play. The mechanism uses a common means of a line opening of an ambushed piece. Notice the wBc8 has a masked guard on f5 and g4: this is the essence of the mechanism. 1.Rg5? (>2.Qf5) 1...Rxa7 2.Rg4 1...Bg3 2.Qf2 1...Sd4 2.Qc1 1...Se3 2.Qxe3 1...Sxg5 2.Qxg5 1...Bxe4! 1.Qh5 (>2.Rg4) 1...Rxa7 2.Qf5 1...Bg3 2.Rf3 1...Sd4 2.e3 1...Se3 2.Bxe3 The try has a little bit more play but four changed mates in addition to the le Grand is excellent! |

Here is one of my more complex affairs. The problem is pseudo le Grand, meaning the reciprocal change of threat/variation occurs after different defenses. However, the point of this problem lies in the additional content of white correction, Barnes theme, and the threat avoidance. 1.Sc2? (random move) 2.Qd4,Qxh1 1...Qxf6! 1.Sf5? (>2.Qxh1 {Qd4?}) 1...Bf3 2.Qd4 1...exf5 2.Qd5 1...Qxf6 2.Sxd6 1...Sxf5 2.Bb7 1...Bg2! 1.Sb5! (>2.Qd4 {Qxh1?}) 1...Sd3 2.Qxh1 1...e5 2.Qd5 1...Qxf6 2.Sxd6 1...Sxb5 2.Bb7 1...Sb3 2.Qc2 1...Bb6 2.Sxc3 A random move of the wSd4 creates a double threat of Qd4,Qxh1. However, White must compensate for the defense 1...Qxd6. To do so the wS must cut the line of either the wRf6 or the wBa6. In turn, this reduces the double threat because the wQ must keep guard on d3 or f3 in her threatened mate. The avoided threats reappear after self-blocks. Overall I was pleased with the matrix, but there are quite a few black duals (e.g. 1...Sb3,Se2 2.Qc2 and 1...Sxb5,Sf5 2.Bb7) which detract. No white pawns! |

The le Grand theme in-itself has little room for originality. This problem shows an exciting combination with two different reversals: the le Grand which is a reversal of threat and variation and the reversal 1 which is a reversal of first move/variation. This is also known as the Lender combination. Here we have a half-battery that makes things happen. The pattern is the following: 1.A? (>2.X) 1...a 2.Y 1...b 2.B 1.B! (>2.Y) 1...a 2.X 1...b 2.A 1.Bxe4 A? (>2.Qa3 X)1...Kxb4 a 2.Qb2 Y1...Qxb4 b 2.Bc1 B1...a3 2.Qb3 1...Qd5! 1.Bc1 B (>2.Qb2 Y)1...Kxb4 a 2.Qa3 Y1...Qxb4 b 2.Bxe4 A 1...a3 2.Qb3 This is known as a king's le Grand because the le Grand happens after a bK flight. |

These last two problems are taken from David Shire's article on the le Grand in the March 2011 issue of the Problemist Supplement. In this problem the out-of-play wRb6 makes two relevant tries showing the le Grand theme. 1.Rd6? (>2.Rc3) 1...Sxd4 2.Ba6 1...Rg8! 1.Re6? (>2.Ba6) 1...Sxd4 2.Rc3 1...Se5! The author has put a new spin on the idea and now the threaten mates reappear as variations in the actual play with a beautiful flight giving key. 1.Se2! (>2.Sxf4) 1...Sh3 2.Rc3 1...Kxe2 2.Ba6 1...Bxe2 2.Rxb3 1...Rg4 2.Qxf3 Excellent construction. |

Here is a recent le Grand by one of the top contemporary composers. There are some nice changes and battery play combined with the le Grand. In addition the problem shows the Ellerman-Makihovi theme in which a set dual is separated between try and key. 1...Ke5 2.Sxd6,Sd3 1.Bc8? (>2.Sxd6) 1...Ke5 2.Sd3 1...Qe5 2.Sb7 1...e5 2.Qd5 1...Rc7! 1.c3! (>2.Sd3) 1...Ke5 2.Sxd6 1...Qe5 2.Se4 1...e5 2.Qd5 1...g5+ 2.Sd3 (threat) The key shows a White Goethardt, in the sense that the bBd2 can be unpinned because of interference. |

Finally we end with an excellent cyclic version of the theme. The pattern is the following: 1.Try? (>2.A) 1...a 2.B 1.Try? (>2.B) 1...a 2.C 1.Key! (>2.C) 1...a 2.A 1.Rf3? (>2.Rg5) 1...Bxe4 2.Shg4 1...Rxg7! 1.Qb3? (>2.Shg4) 1...Bxe4 2.Sfg4 1...Bd5! 1.Re3! (>2.Sfg4) 1...Bxe4 2.Rg5 1...Bd7 2.Sf7 1...dxe3 2.Qb2 |

Awhile ago I published a couple of traditional problems that featured some nice battery play and cross-checks. They were both Meredith's with open positions and both used unpinning by the bQ to set up the batteries. Both problems are personal favorites. I returned to one of them after two years to find that there was a significant improvement.

Here is the first problem (even though it was published after the second problem, it was composed first). I love the open position that features a mirrored bK. There is set play that won't full anyone but the most inexperienced solvers: 1...Sf8~ 2.Qxe6, 1...Qd5 2.Qxd5. However, there is no set mate for 1...QxQ. While this seems to enable the R+S battery by unpinning the lead piece, it actually does not because the wS is guarding c5. This gives a hint to the key: 1.Qh5! (>2.Qe2) So the wQ unpins the bQ. Now the bQ is on the loose and does some damage. However, the wQ also places guard on c5 enabling the R+S battery. The play follows: 1...Qb6+ 2.Sc5 1...Qh3+ 2.Sg3 1...Qd7,Qd6 2.S(x)d6 1...Qxe4+ 2.Rxe4 1...Qd5 2.Qxd5 1...Sc5 2.Qxc5 1...Bd1 2.Qb5 Overall, a pleasing problem with a thematic key, cross-checks, and battery play. However, there is one fly in the ointment: the minor dual after 1...Qg4 2.Qd5/Sd6. This dual is inevitable and it is not worth adding material or losing variations over it. Besides, these mates are separated in other variations. |

As with any traditional problem there is always a high risk of anticipation. Barry Barnes commented on my problem that the cross-checks had been shown before, but none that he knew of with such a thematic key. It turns out there are some problems that use a half-pin to show these batter mates (see this problem yacpdb/26o53). However, it turns out one does not have to look too far to find a similar problem. 12 years earlier the following problem appeared in the same source. The excellent step back key sets up similar variations: 1.Qf8! (>2.Qh6) 1...Qxf8+ 2.Sf7 1...Qc2+ 2.Sd3 1...Qe7 2.Sc4 1...Qxe5+ 2.Rxe5 1...d3 2.Qxc5 1...Sd3 2.Re2 It's hard to say which problem is better. On the one hand all of this problem's mates are in the set play. On the other hand there is no dual. However, I probably would rank this problem a little higher due to the two nice tries which show the Barnes theme: 1. Qf6? (>2.Qg5,Qh6) d3! 1.Qe7 (>2.Qg5) h6! |

Here is the second problem that I composed around the same time. This time I used a R+B battery. The position is even more attractive with no pawns and a mirrored bK again. All of the play is set and all the wQ must do is position herself to make the threat. 1.Qb7! (>2.Qh7) 1...Qe8+ 2.Bf7 1...Qb7 2.Bxb7 1...Qxd5+ 2.Qxd5 1...Qc4,Qb4 2.Be4 1...Rb4 2.Rc4 The problem is pleasing with three nice battery mates, but there is less play and the key is rather perfunctory and is missing that element of surprise. Ideally, I wanted to start the wQ at a6 for a nice unpinning key similar to my above problem. However, if we do this (wQa8>wQa6) then the bR is doing double duty guarding both c3 and b5 and so 1.QxQ cooks. So I submitted the problem as is and it appeared in the high quality French journal Phenix. |

It occurred to me that there is an amazing simple improvement that improves the key AND adds an extra thematic variation (a fourth unpin of the wB), all while maintaining the aristocrat Meredith status. The key now unpins the bQ letting her do some damage. The added variation is a fourth unpin of the wB this time an indirect unpin: 1.Qb7! (>2.Qh7) 1...Sc5 2.Bb3 With the rest of the play remaining the same. |

Here is another pawnless wonder that is quite possibly one of my best. You will notice the arrangement of the the three pieces that stand between the wB and bK. At first glance this looks to be a half-battery idea similar to those found in the last blog post. However, it is not, because the same lead piece moves first in each phase. Instead what we have is known as the Makihovi theme. There is a set dual: 1...Bc3 2.Sb6,Se3. Try and key separate this dual and interchanges the two mates between the phases. 1...Kxd5 2.Qa2,Qb3 1...Bc3 2.Sb6,Se3 1.Rb6? (>2.Qb3) 1...Bc3 (Bb2) 2.Se3 1...Kxd5 2.Rf5 1...Bxb6 2.Sxb6 1...Sb5 2.Qxb5 but 1...Rf3! 1.Re3! (>2.Qb3) 1...Bc3 2.Sb6 1...Bb2 2.Qd3 1...Kxd5 2.Rf6 1...Bxe3 2.Sxe3 The variations 1...Bc3 2.Sb6, 1...Bb2 2.Qd3 exhibit an idea known as dual avoidance. Namely, after the key is played if one were to just remove the bB from the board there would be two mates 2.Sb6 and 2.Qd3, i.e., a dual. These two mates come from the fact that moving the bB has two errors: opening unguarding b6 and opening the line of guard from d3 to d5. However the two defenses 1...Bc3 and 1...Bb2 only allow one of these mates. The reason is that even though both of these moves make the two errors, they have a compensating effect that only allows one of the mates. |

So what is the improvement? Despite thinking about this problem for a long time, I was not able to reduce it to the Meredith status: 12 pieces. That is, I did not think I was able to do so, until I looked at the solution in the July Problemist and it dawned on me that the bR can be moved either to f2 or f5 to get rid of the cook 1.Rxf4! which was the original reason for the 13th piece bSh3. I have placed the bR at f2 because this also rids the matrix of the parasitic try 1.Sc1 (>2.Qb3) which was present in the first matrix. I really wish I would have spotted this before publishing! |

Here is another problem that I was able to fiddle with for a possible improvement. The problem is by the great Spanish composer and inventor of the theme bearing his name. This particular problem is a traditional fair with battery play and three changed mates after the bK flights: 1...Kf5 2.Qg6 1...Kd3 2.Bxc2 1...Kf3 2.Qxa8 1.Rxc2! (>2.Rc3) 1...Kf5 2.Rb7 1...Kd3 2.Rg2 1...Kf3 2.Qg2 1...Be3 2.Rf2 1...f3 2.Rb4 1...bxc2 2.Bxc2 Lovely battery play and even though it is by-play my favorite mate is white interference mate 2.Rf2. |

One thing that bothers me about the Salazar is the wRa3. Sure, this rook does pull its weight in both the set and actual play. But it is an expensive luxury. One thought is to just remove it and bPb3, but then 1.Bxc2+ cooks. However, with some adjustment one arrives at the following matrix. Is it worth it? The extra wR is removed, but now the set mate for 1...Kf3 is lost and this flight is unprovided. |