Chess Composers C. Mansfield Problems


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Written by Michael McDowell   


1st Prize, Hampshire Telegraph and Post, 1915


Mate in 2

When Mansfield began composition the conventions of the English school prevailed, particularly the stress on accurate play. The desire to avoid dual mates placed restrictions on the complexity of strategy which could be incorporated, and Mansfield was one of the few who could combine accuracy with complexity. A was an early experiment with what became one of his favourite themes, the half-pin. The strategy in the leading variation 1...Bc3 or Bc5 2.Rb3, where the bishop’s interference allows White to unpin the rook, is called a Goethart unpin, after the Dutch composer G. H. Goethart who investigated the idea.


1st Prize, Good Companions, 1917


Mate in 2

A magnificent key gives a flight and unpins the knight. To quote Alain White: “This problem may well be taken as the standard cross-check problem of the 20th century. It would have been a physical impossibility for a composer to turn out such a work fifteen years ago.” The problem shows Mansfield placing economy and beauty of presentation ahead of accuracy by refusing to add material to prevent duals. He wrote: “This problem was made in the trenches near Ypres during World War 1. I found my pocket board a great boon in helping to while away the midnight hours, and to keep me awake when on telephone duty which was part of a Signaller’s work. We had to lay and man perilous telephone wires to maintain communications with the infantry in the front line.”


1st Prize e.a., Australian Meredith Tourney, 1928


Mate in 2

A perfect lightweight showing tertiary black correction. Any move of the knight loses control of d7, a random move allowing 2.Qb5. 1...Sd3 corrects by closing the queen’s route to b5, but unpins the bishop for 2.Bc6. 1...Sd7 again corrects by closing the white diagonal, but by blocking d7 allows 2.Bf7. As with so many Mansfield problems a flight-giving key is incorporated, and there is a set mate 2.Qa4 after some knight moves to mislead the solver.


1st Prize, Evening Standard, 1930


Mate in 2

Another fine key leading to a pair of variations where the knight must carefully select the square from which to reclaim a flight, in order to avoid unpinning the bishop. The captures on c6 are followed by a pair of queen mates at either end of the diagonal. Said Alain White: “ A geometric demonstration, with the ease and finality of a proposition by Euclid.”


1st Prize, German Chess Federation Olympic Tourney, 1936


Mate in 2

A famous study in the cutting of black lines controlling a queen from the rear.

The story attached to this problem bears repetition.

Mansfield was informed that restrictions prevented the prize money being sent out of Germany, but that he could open an account with a bank in Berlin or give the money to someone in Germany. Neither alternative appealed to Mansfield, who was struggling like most other people with three young children. The German Consul in Glasgow was sympathetic, and recommended “go to the Frisian Islands for a holiday – your money will not go far, but it will help.” In desperation Mansfield wrote a carefully worded letter – “His Excellency Herr Hitler...” and after three months came a banker’s draft dated 19th June 1937 for the prize money, £20.4s.10d to the penny!


1st Prize, American Chess Bulletin, 1948


Mate in 2

Mansfield had achieved the task of combining half-pin with six king battery mates 22 years earlier, but the 1948 problem attained absolute perfection of construction, with 8 half-pin mates in total and an extra mate at h1 to make full use of the white queen.


1st Prize, Die Schwalbe, 1956


Mate in 2

After over 40 years of composing in traditional vein, Mansfield showed that unlike some of his contemporaries he was open-minded enough to embrace the increasingly popular try play style with G, which he regarded as possibly his best problem. The black organ pipe arrangement of rooks and bishops is employed to show a series of Nowotny tries, each setting up a pair of threats. The problem is raised to a different level by the pair of post-key Grimshaw interferences at f4.


40 Double-Task Problems, 1962


Mate in 2

Mansfield in lighter mood. The key sets up four threats, which are separated by Black’s four possible moves.


4th Prize, The Problemist, 1970


Mate in 2

A humorous setting with a blocked knight which needs to be released to discover mate. Skilful construction ensures unique refutations for 7 tries. Amazingly the key changes the set mate 1...exd4 2.Qf4.


2nd Prize, The Problemist, 1979/I


Mate in 2

Back to the traditional style. At the age of 83 Mansfield was still capable of delighting solvers with an elegant setting showing 10 variations preceded by a typically generous key.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 November 2011 16:26
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