The number of solving tournaments has grown in recent years and competition is keen – for trophies, ratings and titles. In the last year, British solvers have been active in four major events, and in all of them they have been supported by the generous sponsorship of Winton Capital Management.
First in the year was the World Chess Solving Championship (WCSC) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil during the week of 10th – 17th October, 2009 as part of the annual World Congress of Chess Composition. A weakened British team of 3 (neither John Nunn nor David Friedgood were available) and 4 other British problemists took the 11 hour flight across the Atlantic Ocean. The first solving event was the Open Solving Contest, held the day before the WCSC. This was a triumph for FM Michael McDowell, who scored 45/60 and came 6th overall, ahead of several previous world champions. The other British solvers, Jonathan Mestel and Colin McNab, scored 32.5 and 32 respectively, coming 21st= and 23rd. The overall winner was Georgy Evseev of Russia, with 51/60.
The WCSC itself consists of 6 rounds over two days and is very hard work for both solvers and controllers. The team event was won (for the first time) by Poland with 159.5/180, with Germany and Russia a long way behind in second and third places. The individual championship went once again to Piotr Murdzia of Poland, who scored 89/90. The British team came 7th with 120/180, which is just about what rating would have suggested. Top scorer was Jonathan Mestel with 58/90, while Michael McDowell made 52 and Colin McNab 41.5. This result illustrated how important John Nunn is to the team, not just for the points he scores, but for the lift this gives the rest of the team. The good news is that he is available for the next WCSC in Crete in October, as is David Friedgood.
There is a one-day solving tournament that anybody can enter. It’s called the International Solving Contest (ISC) and usually takes place on a Sunday in January. Each competing country provides a venue and a local controller, and in each venue, at the same time, the same problems are solved. There are two sections – one for experienced solvers and one for newcomers, with fewer, easier problems. The event is rated and one appearance in this will get you a half-rating, which will be elevated to a full rating when you make a second appearance. Nine British solvers competed in the 2010 event, all in the top section. Top-scorers were 1) John Nunn 53.75/60; 2) Ian Watson 45.50; 3) Michael McDowell 39.50; 4) Paul Cumbers 30.00; 5) Paul Valois 28.75. Overall, throughout the World, 281 solvers competed and John Nunn’s performance made him 6th in the World. Eddy van Beers of Belgium won the event, with a perfect score of 60/60. The date for next year’s event has not been agreed yet, but watch out for the announcement. There is no entry fee and there are no prizes, but this is a very good way to sample the world of chess problem solving. The venue will be Sheffield, with possibly another one in the Kingston/Surbiton area – and lunch will be provided!
The Winton Capital British Chess Solving Championship (WCBCSC) runs from June/July until February the next year. It starts with a ‘mate in two’ chess problem published by magazines, newspapers and websites. Those who get that right qualify for the much more difficult postal round, consisting of eight problems of different types, which is sent out in August and which requires solutions by the end of November. The top-scorers from this postal round are invited to the final. This, the 31st Final of the British Chess Solving Championship, and the 7th sponsored by Winton Capital Management, took place at Oakham School on Saturday, 20th February 2010. Jonathan Mestel, scoring 57.75 out of a possible 65, won his seventeenth title, ahead of David Friedgood in second place, and Colin McNab in third place. John Nunn was ill and could not compete. The Open Championship, held alongside the closed British Championship and with the same problems to solve, was won by Piotr Mudzia of Poland (the current World Chess Solving Champion). Second place went to Dolf Wissmann of the Netherlands and well-known British junior player Ankush Khandelwal came third.
The 2010 European Chess Solving Championship (ECSC), held at Sunningdale in April, was the first major international solving event to he held in Great Britain since 1989, when the WCSC was in Bournemouth. Great Britain managed to get its top team out (John Nunn, Jonathan Mestel, Colin McNab and David Friedgood) and they won the event, with 204.5/270, followed closely by Poland on 202 and with Serbia a bit further behind on 192. Director Pavel Kamenik of the Czech Republic had selected a tough set of problems for solving. In the individual competition John Nunn became European Chess Solving Champion with a score of 80.5/90. Colin McNab came 13th on 56.25, Jonathan Mestel 15th on 54.25 and David Friedgood 23rd with 48. One benefit the host nation gets for organising such an event is the right of entering a second team. Great Britain duly did this and they came 10th with 129. Great Britain B consisted of Michael McDowell, Paul Cumbers, Roddy McKay and Ian Watson, with the latter top-scoring with 46.
This report so far may have given the impression that the chess problem world is all about solving. While it is true that there is a great deal of solving (far more in recent years than at any time in the past), chess problem enthusiasts do indulge in other activities. In Great Britain one of the most enjoyable of these is the annual residential weekend, which in 2010 was, for the second year running, at Grant’s Hotel in Harrogate, where we all gathered on the Friday night. There were lectures, (one by the Society’s president Cedric Lytton), the AGM, composing tourneys, a couple of quizzes, a solving contest and even an excursion to Bolton Abbey in Wharfedale. The whole event finished off with a prize giving on the Monday morning. The weekend had been enjoyed so much that it was decided, pretty unanimously, to return to Grant’s Hotel, Harrogate, in 2011.
One of the other, non-solving activities that problemists indulge in is composing – a very necessary thing considering the number of solving tourneys! Of course composers don’t just compose to provide material for solving tourneys: they compose because they enjoy it. It is normal, in this report, to present a small sample of the output of British Composers over the previous year, but this year it seems more appropriate to present some problems by one of Britain’s greatest composers – Robin Matthews – who died earlier this year. Robin was a well-known professor of economics, who was, for some years, Master of Clare College, Cambridge. He specialised in three-movers and wrote the chapters about them in Chess Problems: Introduction to an Art, a seminal work on chess problems published by Faber & Faber in 1963. His co-authors were Michael Lipton and John Rice. All three later became International Masters of Chess Composition. In 1995 Robin produced a collection of his own work, entitled Mostly Three=Movers: this was published as part of the Editions feenschach – phénix series produced by bernd ellinghoven and Denis Blondel, a most beautifully produced set of chess books. There follows four three-movers, 2 by Robin alone and 2 composed in collaboration with the American composer Bob Burger, with whom Robin did a lot of work.
Robin C O Matthews
2nd Prize, American Chess Bulletin, 1952
Mate in 3
1.Bc5! [2.Sxc7 (3.Bd6#) d3 3.Bd4#] 1...Qg1 2.f8=S (3.Sg6#) e3 3.Bxd4# 1...Qa1 2.Rh4 (3.Rxe4#) Sc3 3.Bxd4# Qe1,Qh1,Qb1 3.Bc5xd4# 1...Qa4 2.Sb8 (3.Sxc6#) Sb4,b4 3.Bxd4# 1...Qd2 2.Rxd2 & 3.Bxd4#
In the threat, the black queen’s guard of d4 is interfered with by 2...d3, allowing 3.Bd4#. In the first three variations Black guards d4 from different directions, but he is still forced by White to interrupt that guard, each time leading to 3.Bd4#. It was this problem, when I saw it in the 1970s, that got me hooked on chess problems.
Robin C O Matthews
1st Prize, The Probemist, 1954
Mate in 3
1.Se5! (2.Sb5+ Sxb5 3.Rxc4#) 1...Rhxe5 2.Rxa3 & 3.Sb5# 1...dxe5 2.Qxb7 (3.Qxd5#) Sc2 3.Sb5# Rd~ 3.Qxe4# 1...Bxe5 2.Qe6 (3.Qxd5#) B~ 3.Qxe4# Sc2 3.Sb5# 1...Rdxe5 2.Rd1+ Kxc3 3.Be1#
White persuades the black pieces to block the black rook d5, leading to three quiet continuations. In each variation, it is interesting to work out why only one continuation works and why the others don’t.
Robin C O Matthews & Robert E Burger
5th Prize, The Problemist, 2001
Mate in 3
1.Rh4! (2.Se3+ dxe3 3.Bc4#) 1...bxc3 2.Se2 (3.Sf4#) Kxc4 3.Sxc3# d3 3.Se3# 1...b3 2.Sd3 (3.Sf4#) Kxc4 3.Sb4# dxc3 3.Se3#
This is a much less ambitious problem, but again with quiet continuations. The first variation works because c3 has been made available to White. The second variation works because, by blocking b3, Black has allowed White to interrupt control of that square by 3.Sb4. Notice how the mate changes after 2...Kxc4.
Robin C O Matthews & Robert E Burger
2nd Prize, The Problemist, 1990
Mate in 3
1.Bh8! [2.Qh6 (3.Qe3#) Bf2 3.Sbd2,Sfd2# Bd2 3.Sbxd2,Sg3,Sfxd2# d4 3.Rxd4#] 1...Bf2 2.Qc7 & 3.Qe5,Sbd2# 1...Bg3 2.Qg7 (3.Qd4#) Bf2,Be5 3.Q(x)e5# Kf4 3.Qd4# 1...Bd2 2.Qa7 (3.Qd4#) Be3,Bc3 3.Q(x)e3# 1...Bxh4 2.Qxh4 & 3.g5# 1...c3 2.Qg7 & 3.Qe5,Qd4# 1...Kf4 2.Qh6+ Kxg4 3.f6# Ke4 3.Qe3#
The key bishop gets out of the way and there follows a three-variation duel between the white queen and the black bishop.