In its early years (from the inaugural event in 1979-1980 to 1990-1991), this competition was sponsored by Lloyds Bank. They were succeeded for three years (1991-1992 to 1993-1994) by East West Consultants Ltd., and then the years up to 2002-2003 were unsponsored. Then, in 2003-2004 Winton Capital Management started the current sponsorship.
Over the years the format of the competition has changed to take account of changing circumstances. The first controller of the competition was John Rice, who was succeeded by Brian Stephenson when the sponsorship passed to East West Consultants Ltd in 1991. He ran the competition for 25 years until 2016. The current controller is Nigel Dennis
The competition is in three rounds - The Starter Round, The Postal Round and The Final.
The Starter Round consists of one two-move chess problem for solution and is sent for publication to as many British chess magazines and chess columns as we know about. They publish the starter problem during June, July and early August. Competitors must post their entries by snail mail or email (just White's first move) by the middle of August. The starter problem is also published on this website. Snail mail competitors are asked to enclose a stamped addressed envelope. All entrants are asked to indicate where they saw the starter problem published. This last piece of information is used to decide the winners of the annual Editors’ Competition. In this, the three editors encouraging the most entries are presented with a small cash prize.
Those competitors who get the starter problem correct are sent the Postal Round. All competitors are sent a full solution to the starter problem. The Postal Round is also sent to those solvers seeded through to it. They are solvers who have won a second or third prize in any previous Final or who are British and have won the Open section (previously called the 'Casual') at any previous Final.
The Postal Round normally consists of 8 diagrams for solution. It is normally made up of directmates, endgame studies, selfmates and helpmates. Competitors have until the end of November to post or email their solutions to the director. Postal entrants are asked to enclose a stamped addressed envelope with their entries.
There is no preset pass mark for the Postal Round; it is redefined every year based on the accommodation available at the Final venue and the points scored by the competitors. Currently, we try to invite about 32 solvers to the Final. This number does not include the current and former champions, who are the only persons who gets free entry to the Final.
Only the qualifiers from the postal round, along with any British Solving Champion (including the defending champion) are eligible to take part in the 'Closed' championship at the final. Finalists may claim back (at the final) a proportion of their travelling expenses to and from the final. For any junior solvers this also includes the travelling expenses of one supervising adult.
To enable the event to be international, so that ratings and norms are available, foreign solvers are also eligible to take part. They compete, at their own expense, in the 'Open' competition for a separate prize fund and trophy. The Final is currently part of the World Solving Cup.
The Final, which starts at 12:30 pm., is rather like a written exam, but chess boards and sets are provided and you are allowed to move the pieces! Solvers have to participate in six timed rounds as follows:-
|1||3 Mates in 2 (#2)||20||5 + 5 + 5|
|2||2 Mates in 3 (#3)||40||5 + 5|
|3||2 endgame studies||60||5 + 5|
|4||2 Helpmates (H#)||25||5 + 5|
|5||2 Moremovers (#n)||55||5 + 5|
|6||2 Selfmates (S#)||30||5 + 5|
There is a short rest period between each round.
At 17:15 solving ends and a buffet is served. During this the marking is completed. The prize-giving occurs as soon after 18:00 as it can be organised.