Written by Michael McDowell
Christopher John Feather was born on 24th March 1947 in Chester. A languages graduate, he was for many years a schoolmaster. Since 1967 he has composed over 1600 problems, mostly helpmates, a field in which he is the leading British exponent and an acknowledged expert. In 1994 he published Black to Play, the first attempt at developing a systematic theory of the modern helpmate. Much of his work has been published in home-produced pamphlets with names like Moultings, Pluckings and Broodings.
(A) C. J. Feather
H#2: 2 solutions
Capture of white force is one of the commonest of paradoxical ideas shown in helpmates and composers continue to seek original motivations for the captures. Here the f-pawn will move to open a guard on a flight, but it also opens an unwanted guard on the king’s destination square, a fact which the knight must anticipate by removing the troublesome white piece.
1.Sxh4 f4 2.Ke1 Qc1 1.S3xh2 f3 2.Kxe2 Qd3
(B) C. J. Feather
H#2 (b) bQe2->f4
An example of an idea known as the Zilahi theme, where a piece which is captured in one solution mates in another solution. The capturing piece must clear a path for the queen while staying on the half-pin line to avoid an unwanted pin.
a) 1.Qxf1 Qb2 2.Sc5 Rxd4 b) 1.Qxg4 Qd6 2.Bc3 Bxd3
(C) C. J. Feather
H#2: 2 solutions
Another original motivation for capture of white force and a fine solving challenge.
1.Kb4 Rc3 2.Bxe2 Sxe2 1.Kc5 Bf3 2.Bxd3 Sxd3
(D) C. J. Feather
Shakhmatnaya Kompositsya, 2001
H#2: 3 solutions
An original cycle of selfblocks, captures and shut-off mates.
1.Qxe5+ Kxa7 2.Qh2 Sd2 1.Rh7 hxg5 2.Rh2 Sc3 1.Bf4 dxc5 2.Bh2 Sa3
(E) C. J. Feather
Moultings 5, 1991
H#3: 2 solutions
Another example of the Zilahi theme. The white pieces move into position while a black piece takes a three-sided trip to selfblock at e2. Perfect economy.
1.Rxh3 Bd7 2.Rh2 Sf5 3.Rd2 Bb5 1.Bxf5+ Se6 2.Bg4 Rh4 3.Be2 Rd4
(F) C. J. Feather
Moultings 9, 1992
H#3 (b) bPf5.>f7
The queen must ensure access for the king, but simply moving on to a pin-line fails because White, in guarding squares, will unpin.
a) 1.Qxe8 (Qe7?) Sxe4 2.Kxe4 Be5 3.f3 Sf6 b) 1.Qxc7 (Qd6?) Sxf4 2.Kxf4 Re5 3.Rf3 Sd5
(G) C. J. Feather
Rybak-Murdzia Tourney, 2000
A humorous problem in which the Black queen and bishop travel down the diagonal, to allow the advance of the white king, then back up again to block flights.
1.Bh1 Ke2 2.Qg2+ Kd3 3.Bb8 Kc4 4.Ka7 Kb5 5.Qa8 Ka5 6.Bb7 Sb5
(H) C. J. Feather
SER-H#8: 2 solutions
1.Qa6 2.c1R 3.Rd1 4.Rd3 5.Qxc4 6.Qf7 7.Rd8 8.Rf8 gxh3 1.Qa8 2.c1B 3.Be3 4.Bf2 5.Qxg2 6.Qg7 7.Bc5 8.Bf8 c5
Well-matched solutions in which the piece gained by promotion provides a shield to allow the queen to self-pin before selfblocking.
(I) C. J. Feather
British Chess Magazine, 1970
SER-H#27 Equihoppers a4: f4
Because they need the co-operation of another piece in order to move, equihoppers are well suited for help-play. The move order in I is cleverly forced; for example 1.d5 is illegal as the white king would be placed in check.
1.Eh4 2.d5 3.Ef8 4.Ed8 5.Exd2 6.Ed8 7.d4 8.d3 9.d2 10.d1Q 11.Qxg4 12.Qxb4 13.Qf4 14.b4 15.b3 16.b2 17.b1B 18.Bxg6 19.Bh5 20.g5 21.g4 22.g3 23.g2 24.g1E 25.Ee7 26.Qf8 27.Bf7 Kc6
Equihoppers jump over a piece to a square an equal distance beyond the hurdle.
(J) C. J. Feather
(in memoriam P. Monréal)
H#2: 2 solutions
Locusts d2, h1: e3, e4
To quote Chris: “I like the locust’s power to fire a battery from immediately behind the king, and the corresponding possibility of neutralising the check by playing a piece to the same square (f2 in this case). I hope that this problem has that elusive quality of humour. In fact I was amazed to find that it could be made to work, and laughed aloud when it did!”
1.Rh3 f3+ 2.Le3xf3 (WPf2) f4 1.Rh4 f4+ 2.Le4xf4 (WPf2) f3
The locust hops over an adverse man to the square immediately beyond, capturing the hurdle. The square it lands on must be empty. For a definition of Circe see the introductory article on Fairy Chess.