Written by Michael McDowell

In the 19th century, the three-mover was considered to be the ideal length of problem by solvers. Over time the three-mover developed two main streams, one concentrating on checkmating positions, the other stressing the interplay of the pieces. For convenience these are termed model-mate problems and strategic problems. Today the latter is the dominant type.

Model-Mate Problems

Some three-movers are built around a combination of artistic mates, in the style known as Bohemian, after the school of composers who developed the principles of such problems in the late 19th century. To explain Bohemian problems, we must first consider checkmates. Problemists, unlike players, are interested in the quality of checkmating positions, and classify mates according to certain features. A pure mate is one in which the squares around the mated king are guarded or blocked in one way only. The square on which the king stands is normally attacked once, but a double check is acceptable if each check would otherwise be parried. An economical mate is one in which all of the white pieces on the board with the possible exception of king or pawns participate. A mate that is both pure and economical is called a model mate.

In a Bohemian problem there is no main variation or variations; the composer combines a number of variations of equal value ending in diverse model mates. The white force is highly mobile, with pieces swapping the duties of delivering the mating check and guarding flight squares. Quiet continuations, that is non-checking continuations, are highly valued. Accuracy of play in non-thematic variations is considered of minor importance.

(1) C. A. L. Bull

Casopis Ceskych Sachistu, 1923


Mate in 3

There are two exceptions to the above definition of a model mate. A double check is considered acceptable if each check taken by itself could be countered, although the insistence on the unique guard of each flight still holds. If one of the mating pieces pins a piece which could otherwise frustrate the check the resulting mate is called a pin-model, whether or not the pinned piece occupies a square in the king's field.

(2) F. Matousek

1st Prize, Jas, 1935


Mate in 3

When two or more mates have similar arrangements of blocking and guarding pieces around the mated king the mate is referred to as an echo. Bohemian composers were particularly interested in echoed mates.

(3) J. Pospisil

Zlata Praha, 1885


Mate in 3

Strategic Problems

Strategic problems, where the emphasis is on the interplay between black and white pieces following the key move, have been the most popular form of three-mover for most of the last century, and improvements in constructional techniques have seen increasing complexity. Very often a type of strategy is repeated in multiple variations.

(4) I. A. Schiffmann

1st Prize, Dutch East Indies Chess Association, 1929


Mate in 3

(5) Vincent L. Eaton

1st Prize, American Chess Bulletin, 1950


Mate in 3

(6) H. Maruta, Oey Gien Tiong & Touw Hian Bwee

1st Prize, BCF Tourney No. 133, 1972-1973


Mate in 3

(7) Matti Myllyniemi

1st Prize, Suomen Shakki, 1952


Mate in 3

In recent years many of the modern pattern themes which have been developed in the two-mover have been transferred to the three-mover. A number of such themes feature effects which appear paradoxical. Keller's problem illustrates one of the most popular paradox themes, the Dombrovskis theme, where black defences which defeat try threats are met by those very moves after the key.

(8) Michael Keller

1st Prize, Schweizerische Schachzeitung, 1985


Mate in 3

The success or otherwise of such problems lies in the ingenuity of the mechanism which allows the paradoxical effects.

Developed and maintained by Brian Stephenson.