David Friedgood: introducing myself

1/7/2012 – Chess problems are a world of their own. They share with chess the rules of the game, but introduce dimensions that are missing in the over-the-board version. We are glad to welcome a new contributor to our somewhat sporadic section on problem chess, which was nevertheless very popular with our readers. We wish you happy solving over the weekend.

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David Friedgood: introducing myself

I emigrated to the UK from South Africa in 1978, at which time I was their leading player. I had won the SA Closed Championship three times and had represented the country at four Olympiads, the latter three on first Board. I had also played in the Zonal at Caorle, Italy in 1972.

I began to take an interest in endgame studies well before my teens and composed a few minor works from age fourteen onwards. I had solved the occasional problem but never understood their real purpose until my friend Nick Barnett (even now a well-known chess personality and newspaper columnist in Cape Town, my birthplace) introduced me to Donald G. McIntyre, a problemist of international repute (and also an authority on astronomy). He encouraged me a great deal and I began to compose problems, first two-movers and later three-movers. McIntyre once even phoned my mother while I was away at school to try and persuade her to put an end to my playing career and let me focus entirely on problems! But my interest in problems waned when I had to contend with university studies and subsequently work, while simultaneously trying to progress as a player.

My first problem was the following:

D Friedgood
South African Chessplayer, 1961

Mate in two

This is for you to solve. What you have to do is find the unique first move (the "key") for White that forces mate on the next move, and then the black defences and white mates. Since Black threatens 1...Kxd3 it is obvious what the key piece is! You should also bear in mind that most problems are composed for aesthetic purposes, so it is unlikely that the key will feature anything so crude as a check or the capture of a unit (other than a pawn). The solution and explanation will be provided next week.

Since Steve Giddins has already introduced you to the concepts of interference and the Grimshaw theme, here is a problem, also from my young days, composed with a fellow South African, that has two Grimshaws, but with a little twist that you may spot. I remind you: the Grimshaw theme involves two line-moving pieces (typically a rook and a bishop, but also a bishop and a pawn on its initial square) which interfere with each other on the same square.

D Friedgood & W W Wallis
South African Chessplayer, 1961, 2nd Honourable Mention

Mate in two

Again, this is for you to solve and follows the same rules as the preceding problem. You could solve this one thematically, as the Grimshaw interferences are easy to identify; all you have to do is find a key with a threat that provokes them. On the other hand, even without this knowledge, you could note that the black king has no moves and that Black has no disruptive moves such as a check, or the capture of a significant white unit. In such a situation a good method would be to examine White's checking moves and see whether there is one that can be turned into a mate with a preparatory key. Again, all will be explained in a separate installment next week.

I immigrated to the UK in 1978 and discovered that I had some ability as a solver when I finished second in the British Solving Championship in 1979. I tied with my friend Graham Lee (who went on to become a solving GM) on a 100% score but took more time than he did. I subsequently won the British title five times and was a member of the British team on many occasions in the World Championship, gaining a Solving IM title.

The real revival of my enthusiasm for problems, however, occurred as a result of a little coincidence, around 1980. I was playing an adjourned game for my London League club, Charlton, against Julian Hodgson (now a GM) in the St Bride's Institute in Fleet Street, which was then the main league venue. We had arranged this without realising that the British Chess Problem Society was holding their monthly meeting in the same place. The problemists were quite happy for us to continue our game in a far corner of the room and, when we had finished, they invited us to join them in looking at problems. Julian declined, but I was overjoyed at the opportunity to meet in the flesh men whose names I knew as those of leading composers. I handed over my subscription to the society and its magazine, The Problemist, that very night and have remained a member ever since.

That's enough about me now! Let's look at a couple of top class problems. I see that Steve Giddins has also introduced you to the Novotny theme, which has proved to be a very fertile concept for many composers. Definition of Novotny: a white unit plays onto the intersection square of (typically) a black rook and bishop, causing a double interference. One of the finest two-mover Novotnys ever composed was the following, by Michael Lipton, who has been the President of the BCPS and is still active today as a composer and writer.

Michael Lipton
BCPS Ring Tourney 1966, 2nd Prize

Mate in two

It's easy to see that there are two intersection points on e5 and d4. Let's try 1.Be5, threatening 2. Ng7# as well as 2.Re7#. Black has 1...Nxh7! giving the king a flight square on f8 and this makes it impossible for White to deliver mate next move. Now try 1.Nd4 threatening 2.Nf6# and 2.Rd8#. Again Black can dash White's hopes with 1...Re7!, this time creating a flight on f7 and, since White's knight is no longer on f5 2.Rxe7 is not mate. A third try is 1.Rd4 threatening 2.Nd6# and 2.Nf6#. This time, Black has a defence by 1...Ne4 that defeats both threats but, because the knight has interfered with the Re2, White can mate by 2.Re7#. Instead, Black still keeps the white forces at bay by 1...Re6! simply protecting the two mating squares without incurring a weakness for White to exploit. This leaves us finally with the one remaining Novotny 1.Bd4!, which is indeed the key. The threats now are 2.Rd8# and 2.Ng7#. Black can defend with 1...Ne6, but again there is an interference with the Re2 and 2.Re7# follows.

What makes this problem memorable is its economy - there are no pawns and no queens and just 11 units in all. Yet it shows 4 Novotnys – a wonderful achievement.

The two-mover is a somewhat limited showcase for the Novotny. As you can see from Lipton's problem as well as the Mansfield masterpiece quoted by Steve Giddins, the interest tends to be in the choice of Novotny to solve the problem, and there is very little to enjoy post-key. Let us therefore turn to the broader canvas of the three-mover. The problem below will suffice as a taster:

Helmut Pruscha
Deutsche Schachzeitung 1959, 1st Prize

Mate in three

The solution is 1.Rh7! A real peach of a key! It gives Black's king a flight on e5 as well as apparently removing the rook from the scene of activity. (This strategem, whereby the rook sets itself up behind the knight, which will soon move off the rook's line, is amusingly termed an ambush by problemists. The white bishop is already ambushed behind the knight.) The threat is the Novotny 2.Qe6+ followed by 3.Ne8# or 3.Nf5#, depending on whether the bishop or the rook capture the queen. If you now put yourself in Black's position, it might occur to you that the Novotny can be avoided by the rook or the bishop moving to the other side of the critical e6 square. Indeed, the star variation of this problem is 1...Bh3 (or 1...Bg4), preparing to answer 2.Qe6+? by Rxe6! But this ruse can, with piquant poetic justice, be turned in White's favour to produce another Novotny: 2.Ne6! Now we see the effect of the rook's ambush: Black faces two threats, 3.Qe7#/Qd7#, and there is no way of dealing with both. After the other anti-Novotny defence 1...Re7, there is a rather brutal continuation: 2.Nf5+ followed by 3.Qxe7#. Also, we must account for 1...Ke5, which is met by 2.Ne6+ Ke4 (Kd6 3.Qe7#) 3.Nc5#. A pretty problem, which I hope will raise a smile.

I look forward to showing you more Novotnys, amongst many other things, in the New Year. My best wishes to you all for a happy 2012!

Any queries or constructive comments can be addressed to me at david.friedgood@gmail.com

Copyright in this article David Friedgood 2012/ChessBase


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