Recently the award from the 2020 The Problemist came in and one of my problems took the top spot. It was an exhilarating feeling to see my artwork honored in such a way. The judge said it was a perfect example of the Zagoruiko theme which is 3 different mate changes for 2 defenses. Below is the problem.
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 Problemist Supplement started in 1992 as an extra magazine for beginners to chess composition. It probably shaped my views on composition more than any other magazine. Problems in the Supplement compete against problems in the regular magazine and are often featured in awards. It features articles that cater to beginners by experts. It's still probably my favorite magazine to read and I devour it whenever it arrives. I also try to regularly contribute articles and problems of all kinds.
Here are some of my more underrated compositions that I feel were not given enough credit in there respective tournaments. They either were not featured at all or did not place high enough in the awards.
The Russian outlet SuperProblem is the future of chess composition. It features a bevy all things chess composition in an online format. In addition to yearly tourneys in all of the main genres (directmates, selfmates, helpmates, and fairies) it also runs regular theme tourneys. The competition is always stiff with entries from well-known composers from all over the world including a large contingent of Russian authors. One of the things I like about it is the fact that problems are "published" online within a couple days and the awards are usually prompt. Perhaps, the only thing missing are the solver comments. There is a real-time comment thread, but it is not so active. In 2020 I was fortunate to feature prominently in two of the 2020 awards (twomover and helpmate in 3). Here are the links to the awards: twomovers and helpmates.
The Rukhlis theme is one of my all time favorites. It is named after the outstanding Israeli composer Efim Rukhlis who supposedly composed over 300 examples of the theme. The Rukhlis theme incorporates changed mates and transferred mates between at least two phases. Recall that a changed mate is a different mate after the same defense. Whereas a transferred mate is the same mate after a different defense. Algebraically the Rukhlis theme has the pattern:
The theme is known as an ideal Rukhlis if there are mates set for the transferred defenses in the first phase.
The half-battery is the version of the half-pin for White. Whereas in the half-pin, two black pieces are on a line aimed at the bK. When black piece moves off the line it leaves the other black piece pinned. In the half-battery two white pieces are blocking a white line piece. Tries and key by each of the white pieces allow the battery to function.
The classic book Black to play by Christopher Feather taught me some of the basics about quality helpmates. The book begins with this a wonderful quote from Jean Oudut:
"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.
My last post was on the ubiquitous Le Grand theme which features a reversal of threat and variation. The Odessa theme is named after the Ukrainian city because of the composers that cultivated the idea during the late 1960s. Technically speaking the Odessa theme is a double threat version of the pseudo Le Grand, i.e., it has a pattern as follows:
Notice that the defenses do not need to be the same between phases.
In general I don't compose a lot of pattern play problems. In fact almost all of the pattern play problems I have composed have been by accident. This is not to say that I do not appreciate such problems. The Le Grand theme, named after the Le Grand brothers Piet and Henk is a basic example of a reversal pattern. The pattern is a simple reversal of threat and variation after the same defense. In algebraic form
If the defense is not the same then the theme is said to be a pseudo Le Grand which is also a popular theme.
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.
On the side I like to dabble in chess problem composition. I am mostly interested in two and three move direct mates. I hope to convey the beauty and logic of chess problems with this blog. In the entries are some of my favorite problems and my own problems. Before looking at the problems I suggest reading this introduction to the chess problem world by the British Chess Problem Society. Also, here is a list of terminology and themes. Here is a link to my problems on yacpdb.
1. "Choose wisely" The Problemist Supplement, Sept. 2016
2. "Double checking white in a two mover" StrateGems July 2016
3. "Double check without capture" The Problemist Supplement, January 2018
4. "The disappearing Nowotny: Part I" The Problemist Supplement, March 2018
5. "The disappearing Nowotny: Part II" The Problemist Supplement, May 2018
6. "The disappearing Nowotny: Part III" The Problemist Supplement, July 2018
7. "Castling with half-battery and Fleck themes" StrateGems, July 2018
8. "The Baku Nowotny" StrateGems, January 2019
9. "The Romanian Nowotny with Fleck" The Problemist, March 2019
10. "Mirror Image" The Problemist Supplement, May 2019
11. "White King in Check" Problemas, July 2019
12. "A Simple Mechanism", StrateGems, July 2019
13. "Miniatures with castling and (partial) Fleck" Problemist Supplement, September 2019
14. "Taking the Straitjacket off the Fleck" The Problemist Supplement, November 2019
15. "Unforced threats" The Problemist Supplement, May 2020
16. "Ojanen in Miniature" The Problemist Supplement, May 2020
17. "Developments in the Finnish Nowotny" The Problemist, July 2020
18. "Categorising the Fleck theme" The Problemist, January 2021
19. "Masking the Bristol" The Problemist Supplement, March 2021
20. "My love of the Novotny" StrateGems July 2021
21. "Masked Novotny" The Problemist Supplement, November 2021