John Nunn wins World Chess Solving Championship
By Themis Argirakopoulos
The World Chess Solving Championship (WCSC) was held in Halkidiki, Greece,
from September 4th to 11th, 2004. As always it was open to national teams and
individual solvers. They had to tackle a variety of chess problems, and a few
endgame studies to boot. In our previous
article we gave you all the details of the problem types, together
with a sample of problems from a previous competition.
The venue of the Chess Solving World Championship
This time the World Chess Solving Championship (WCSC) involved solving a total
of 18 problems and studies in six rounds of three problems/studies each. The
schedule was as follows (together times allowed):
3 mates in two in 20 minutes
3 mates in three in 60 minutes
3 endgame studies in 100 minutes
3 helpmates in 50 minutes
3 more-movers (mates in 4 or more moves) in 80
3 selfmates in 50 minutes
Each problem/study scores 5 points for a theoretical maximum of 90 points.
You have to give a complete analysis of the position. If you miss an important
variation, for example, you will lose marks.
The view from the problem solving hall
The WCSC is reminiscent of a school examination. You all sit in a big hall,
and then the papers are handed out. At the appointed time, you turn over your
paper and start solving, writing the solutions in the spaces provided. At the
end (or before, if you have finished early!) you hand the papers in and these
are marked by the controller.
... and from the 10th floor of the hotel. I can assure readers that all
players were strictly concentrated on chess boards during the events, but most
of them were in their swimming gear for the rest of the day!
The WCSC combines an individual event with a team event. Three solvers from
each country take part. The solver achieving the highest individual score becomes
World Chess Solving Champion. For the team event, the best two scores from
each country are added together on a round-by-round basis to give a total for
Bjorn Enemark (Denmark), and Vlaicu Crisan, Eric Huber, Paul Raican (all
from Romania). You can use as many chessboards as you like, and you can move
the pieces around…
The 2004 WCSC was the strongest solving event ever held. Not only was the
defending champion, Selivanov of Russia, taking part, but there were also ten
ex-world champions participating.
John Nunn (left) at the World Problem Solving Championship in Halkidiki
Dr John Nunn, the British Grandmaster and Chess Director of Gambit
Publications, was one of the participants. Frederic Friedel was sure that
John was the favourite to win the WCSC and asked us to take pictures and prepare
a report. Great prediction Frederic. Dr. Nunn dominated the championship! By
the way, we would like to challenge your prophetic abilities Frederic: try
to guess who will be the next unified over-the-board World Champion, and the
year of the event!
John Nunn started the first day with 45 points out of 45, a score equaled
only by Ram Soffer from Israel. The second day’s problems proved harder, but
John managed to score 15/15 in each of the first two rounds, while Soffer dropped
2.5 points on the helpmates. The last round proved the toughest challenge of
all, and hardly anybody made a perfect score. John failed to solve the selfmate
in 6, and missed a variation in one of the other problems to finish with 84/90.
Would someone overtake him? Nobody did. The selfmate in 6 had defeated many
of the other leading solvers, and in the end John finished in first place,
ahead of Piotr Murdzia (Poland) on 82.5 and Ram Soffer on 81.5.
The team from Israel: Paz Einat, Ofer Comay, Aharon Hirschenson, Noam Elkies
The team event was won by the very powerful Israeli team, consisting of Ram
Soffer (81.5 points), Noam Elkies (70.5 points) and Ofer Comay (62.5 points).
Great Britain (unlike over-the-board events, in solving there are no separate
teams for Scotland and Wales, for example) finished second, the other British
solvers being Jonathan Mestel (69.5 points) and David Friedgood (58 points).
Finland were third and Poland fourth.
Trophies for the winners
Not only did John Nunn become World Chess Solving Champion, he also became
a grandmaster – of chess solving, that is (he has had the regular grandmaster
title since 1978). John is only the third person to gain both the over-the-board
and solving GM titles, the first two being Jonathan Mestel and Ram Soffer.
His three GM solving norms came in 1978, 1992 and 2004 – quite a long wait
since the first norm!
John Nunn with Spiros Ilandzis, journalist and President of the Greek Chess
Composition Committee – and a strong OTB player.
Problem solving is one area of chess that is showing real growth. There are
now solving championships in many countries, and the standard of solving is
rising all the time. It is perhaps a sign of things to come that the British
Solving Team were supported by a commercial sponsor, hedge-fund manager Winton
|28th World Chess Solving Championship – Individual
|| Time (360 min)
|| John Nunn
|| Piotr Murdzia
|| Ram Soffer
|| Jorma Paavilainen
|| Marjan Kovacevic
|| Noam Elkies
|| Jonathan Mestel
|| Dolf Wissman
|| Mark Erenburg
|| Tadashi Wakashima
|28th World Chess Solving Championship – Team
|| Time (720 minutes)
|| Noam Elkies
|| Ram Soffer
|| Ofer Comay
|| Great Britain
|| Jonathan Mestel
|| David Friedgood
|| John Nunn
|| Kari Karhunen
|| Jorma Paavilainen
|| Pauli Perkonoja
Here are two problems from the 2004 WCSC that you can try for yourself. In
both problems White is to play and force mate. In the first problem you must
mate in 2 moves and in the second in 3 moves. To make it more realistic, you
should allow yourself 7 minutes for the mate in 2 and 20 minutes for the mate
in 3. If you succeed with both, perhaps you will qualify to take part in the
Alain C White, British Chess Magazine 1901
White to play and mate in two moves
Gerald F Anderson, 3rd Prize, BCPS 1920
White to play and mate in three
At the 47th World Congress of Chess Composition
(WCCC) problem chess fans in Greece were also able to admire and compete
with some of the finest minds in the world.
It was a great experience for all of us and was very
well prepared and organized by Harry Fougiaxis of Greece
(picture right). As a result, the Permanent Committee of Chess Composition
(PCCC) has entrusted Greece to organise and host next year’s event as
During the WCCC, some events are different from over-the-board chess. For
example, there is a Quick Composing Tourney. Two of the best Greek composers,
composition GM Byron Zappas and IM Paulos Moutecidis (photo above), set the
challenge: a direct mate in 2 moves and/or a helpmate in 2 moves, with composers
from all over the world doing their best to fulfil the conditions. In a competition
like this, you have to compose a chess problem in three hours.
Emil Klemanic and Marek Kolcak of Slovakia working on a composition
Composers use computers to test their compositions. Remember that a chess
problem requires a unique and thematic solution, not a Fritz evaluation of
+–16.85, and deep strategic moves.
Italian problem solver Parrinello with his daughter Giulia
Michal Dragoun (Czech Republic) dominated the Solving Show and Fairy Solving
Show. Greek Champion Kostas Prentos achieved a GM solving norm.
The bughouse tournament is a great chance to relax and have fun with your teammates.
John Nunn and David Friedgood (Great Britain) versus Ram Soffer and Noam Elkies
(Israel). Soffer and Elkies were the winners.
Bughouse is very popular among the problem experts
John Nunn enjoying a boat trip on the beautiful Greek Mediterranean
A view from the boat – but no mate in three here...
The trip was to Mount Athos, a self-governing part of Greece. The only citizens
there are orthodox clerics, living in 20 monasteries. They don’t use electricity,
and you need a special licence to visit the place. Also, it is impossible for
women go there! Yes, maybe you don’t agree with this, but for 1.000 years (since
1045), no women have been allowed to visit Mt. Athos.
On the boat people were more relaxed, especially during a Greek National
On behalf of the Greek Chess Composition Committee, we would like to thank
all the participants of the Congress. We have to thank you not only for congratulating
us about the organization, but for your chess enthusiasm, your interest in
composition and your talent in solving. That was the secret of a fabulous week!
We hope to see you all, together with other chess friends, next year in Greece!
On behalf of the Greek Chess Composition Committee,
Harry Fougiaxis, Athens, IM in Composition, FIDE Judge