Ostroda: 39th World Solving Championship (1)

by John Nunn
8/19/2015 – The 2015 Championship was staged in a beautiful lakeside hotel in Poland, with the world's best chess problem solvers being tested to the utmost in six solving sessions spread over two days – with the problems to be solved under ‘school exam’ conditions. One of the top competitors is grandmaster John Nunn, who sent us a report with a selection of championship compositions.

39th World Chess Solving Championship

By John Nunn

The 39th World Chess Solving Championship was held during August in the charming Polish town of Ostroda, situated roughly halfway between Warsaw and Gdansk.

The lakeside Hotel Willa Port provided a very comfortable environment for the solving and the Polish organising team of Piotr Murdzia, Aleksander Mista and Grzegorz Mista did an excellent job of ensuring that the whole event ran smoothly. The Polish team, having previously won six times in a row, were clear favourites to take the title for the seventh time, and it remained to be seen if any other country could offer resistance to the Polish juggernaut. The individual title was being defended by Kacper Piorun, who in 2014 had narrowly edged out his compatriot Piotr Murdzia to seize first place.

The hotel entrance, prominently displaying the banner of the event

The hotel backed onto a large lake which was used for various water sports [smartphone photo by J. Nunn]

The format of the event has remained the same for many years, and consists of six solving sessions spread over two days. Each session is devoted to a different type of problem, and the event always kicks off with three mates in two. The chosen problems, this year selected by Axel Steinbrink, are kept a closely guarded secret until they are handed out to the competitors and solved under ‘school exam’ conditions.

Competitor and author of this report, John Nunn: I like the 'multi-board' approach to solving ...

... while Champion GM Kacper Piorun prefers the 'single-board' strategy

British solving champion GM Jonathan Mestel, a professor at
Imperial College in London, finished sixth in the individual event.

Here is one of the mates in two. If you would like to solve it under competition conditions, allow yourself seven minutes to find the solution (solutions to all problems will be given in the second part of the article).

White to play and mate in two

As usual, the two-movers posed little difficulty for the solvers and all the leading competitors scored full points on this round. It’s very often the same for the second round of mates in three, but not this year. One of the three-movers caused considerable difficulty, and only 25 of the 85 competitors scored any points at all on it, with just eight making the full five points (points are awarded not only for the first move, but also for giving all the variations correctly). Here is the troublesome problem; allow yourself 25 minutes for tournament conditions.

White to play and mate in three

The final round of the first day consisted of three studies. The study round is always difficult for those competitors who are primarily problemists. However, this time one of the studies also proved troublesome for some of the players, with even former world solving champions Piotr Murdzia and Jonathan Mestel falling down on it. Allow yourself 35 minutes to simulate tournament conditions.

White to play and win

Editorial note: This is a remarkable study which we barely managed to solve – with the help of a powerful chess engine. If you want to truly enjoy it (assuming you are not an expert in the area) you should do the same. Some creative intervention will lead to the beautiful final manoeuvre and position, and allow you to appreciate the genius of the composer.

The first day ended with, unsurprisingly, Poland (Mista, Murdzia and Piorun) in the lead on 86 points (out of a possible 90), followed by Great Britain (McDowell, Mestel and Nunn) second on 81 points and Azerbaijan (Almammadov, Iskandarov and Javadov) third on 77. The individual competition was closer, with myself in the lead (45 points out of a possible 45 and 142 minutes solving time), Kacper Piorun a close second (also 45 points but slightly slower on 168 minutes) followed by Eddy van Beers (Belgium) on 42 points.

The British team of Jonathan Mestel, John Nunn and Michael McDowell
study the official solutions after one of the rounds.

Photos by Franziska Iseli

Part two of John Nunn's report, with the final results, will follow shortly.
The solutions with John's wonderfully enlightening commentary will follow a week later.

If you cannot wait, the full scores of the 39th World Chess Solving Championship may be found here. If you would like to tackle the remaining problems you can find them here (with the solutions given on this page).

The Poles deserve a big thank you for organising a splendid event and I am sure everyone is looking forward to Belgrade in 2016.

Finally, I would like to thank global investment managers Winton for sponsoring the British team. Without their support it wouldn’t have been possible to field our top solvers and gain the silver medals in Ostroda.


Topics Problems , Nunn

Dr John Nunn (born April 25, 1955) is one of the world’s best-known chess players and authors. He showed early promise in chess and in mathematics, entering Oxford University at the unusually early age of 15. in 1989 he ranked among the top ten in the world in chess and went on to become a successful chess author and publicist.
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