First of all, I apologise for the lateness of this press release, which appears nearly a week after the event it reports on. This report is not normally my responsibility, but this year the person who has written the press-release for the last few years has not been available.
The British Chess Solving Championship, sponsored for several years now by Winton Capital, is a year-long event culminating in a final very much like an exam. This year’s final was different to previous years in two ways. First, the event was part of the World Solving Cup, run by the World Federation for Chess Composition. Second, thanks to the very welcome assistance of Phill Beckett, an ECF official for junior chess who has, over the last year or so, been introducing juniors to chess solving, three juniors were invited to compete in the final. There were three prize funds, one for the British Championship, one for the foreign solvers and one for the juniors.
The attraction of the World Solving Cup encouraged 11 foreign solvers to enter. They represented Belgium, Germany, Morocco, the Netherlands, Poland and Slovakia. These, together with 22 British solvers and the 3 juniors, made up the total of 36 solvers who sat down at 12:30 on Saturday 20th February at Eton College to solve the three 'mates in 2' in 20 minutes which make up the first round. There were five solving GMs, 2 solving IMs and 3 solving FMs, making this probably the strongest British Chess Solving Final ever.
At the end of that first round just twelve of the solvers were on full marks. Solving such problems against a tough time limit is hard work and even more so when tricky problems have been specially selected! As usual, none of the elite solvers tripped up.
The second round is two 'mates in 3' in just forty minutes. Again, for the elite solvers, this is not too much trouble, but even so, after this round the number of solvers on full marks had decreased to just six.
Two endgame studies make up the third round and solvers have an hour to solve them. The first one was rather easy, but the second beat everybody in the room. Nobody saw 7.Rg6! Of course, such a study (or problem) that nobody manages to solve doesn't help to differentiate the top solvers, but the director (me) was nonetheless content as this round ensured that nobody would end on full marks and nobody would end on zero. Such has always been my aim in this event. I believe that the top solvers need to be challenged, but also that the lesser lights have to be encouraged.
The fourth round, the Helpmates, can sometimes be easy, but they weren't this year. Each had two solutions but only 2 solvers got full marks. Many solvers got just one solution of the shorter problem and just 2 solvers got both solutions of the longer problem. The Finnish composer of this second helpmate is reportedly delighted with the mayhem his problem caused!
The two mates in 4 moves (or longer) that make up the fifth round are always a difficult challenge, even for the top solvers and only three of them got full marks this year. The first problem is by Vladimir Pachman (Grandmaster for Composition) who was the brother of Ludek Pachman (Grandmaster otb). His problems have very often been selected for this kind of event.
The last round, two selfmates in just 30 minutes, is likewise always a tough challenge, especially after a very full few hours of solving with only short breaks between rounds. Only 3 of the competitors got full marks, with the second problem, a classic selfmate in 4 by Philip H. Williams, causing most of the trouble. Williams was a leading figure in the chess problem world in the early years of the twentieth century and edited the problem section of The Chess Amateur.
The three juniors (Theodore Diaz, Dan Southern and Miss Jia Feng) found it very tough going, but nonetheless all three gave the problems their full attention throughout the event, thereby justifying their invitations.
The detailed results can be found here and details of the prizes are here. The problem and studies used (with solutions) can be found here.
In closing I would like to express my thanks in several directions. Firstly, of course, to Winton Capital for their generous sponsorship, which helps with not only this event, but also with the annual International Solving Contest and the expense of sending the British solving team abroad for both the European and World Championships. Second, I must thank the committee of the British Chess Problem Society who have entrusted me with running this event for the last quarter of a century. This has been my last year and I wish my successor(s) all possible luck in taking the event forward. They will discover that the regular entrants are amongst the most friendly in British Chess. Finally, my grateful thanks go to my good friend Neal Turner, who this year helped me select the problems. He was responsible for the selection of nine of the problems (including the helpmate in 4 and selfmate in 4 that did most of the damage), while I merely provided two problems and both the endgame studies.
And now a few photos of the prize-giving. All are Copyright © 2016 John Upham Photography.