Poles take World Problem Solving Championship 2011

9/14/2011 – The picturesque Italian town of Jesi saw fierce competition amongst the world’s top problem solvers. The team event was won by the Polish solvers, whose average age was less than half that of the second-placed UK team. In the individual championship the 19-year-old Pole Kacper Piorun was victorious, ahead of the previous champion John Nunn, who sent us this report and sample problems.

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World Problem Solving Championship 2011

By John Nunn

ChessBase readers may recall the report on my victory at the 2010 World Chess Problem Solving Championship. The following year passed very quickly and in August it was time to defend my title. This year’s World Solving Championship was held in the picturesque Italian town of Jesi and competition for both the individual and team events was expected to be fierce, with practically all the world’s top solvers taking part. Amongst the competitors were a host of former champions, such as Piotr Murdzia (Poland), Arno Zude (Germany), Michel Caillaud (France), Georgy Evseev (Russia), Ofer Comay (Israel), Andrey Selivanov (Russia), Jorma Paavilainen (Finalnd), Michael Pfannkuche (Germany) and Jonathan Mestel (United Kingdom). In addition to the previous winners, there was expected to be a strong challenge from a new generation of young solvers, such as Kacper Piorun (Poland), who had started well in 2010 but had faded towards the finish.

The format of the championship was the same as in previous years, with six rounds spread over two days, each round focussing on one particular type of problem. The competing countries were represented by teams of three solvers, with the two highest scores from each round contributing towards the final total for that country. The individual scores were also added up and so the same event functioned as an individual world championship. The first round involved solving three mates in 2 in 20 minutes, and as usual all the leading solvers managed to score top marks in this round. As a gentle introduction to my selection of problems from this year’s event, you might like to try solving one of the mates in two.

White to play and mate in two moves

The following round of three movers is usually where the solvers start to encounter difficulties, but this year’s selection was fairly easy and again all the leading solvers sailed through without any problems. Here’s one of the three-movers.

White to play and mate in three moves

To score a full five points for a problem, you have to not only give the first move (called the key), but also all relevant variations. If you want to try this under the same conditions as in the World Championship, then give yourself 20 minutes to find the solution.

The final round from the first day was a set of three endgame studies, and after the first two rounds the solvers had a bit of a shock, as the selection was more challenging. Quite a few solvers dropped a couple of points here, while I had a disaster on one study, getting mixed up with the move-order and giving an incorrect first move. The result was that I scored 10 points on this round out of a possible 15, leaving me in 16th place. Mestel and Piorun were in the lead with 100%, while several solvers had dropped just two points.

The second day started with three helpmates, and this enabled me to overhaul many competitors by solving all three problems. Piorun scored 8 points out of 15 and Mestel notched up 10, so they dropped from the lead. The problem which caused the most trouble was this tough one.

Helpmate in 5 moves (2 solutions)

In a helpmate both sides cooperate to help White mate Black. All the moves must be legal. Black generally starts first in helpmates, so in this problem both sides play five moves, Black moving first, with White mating Black on his final move. Only 9 of the 83 participants managed to crack this problem, so if you can find both solutions in 30 minutes then you are doing well.

The penultimate round consisted of three moremovers (mates in 4 or more moves). This again was a tricky round and only Piorun and Murdzia managed to solve all three problems. I took too long to solve the following problem and ran out of time before solving the final problem.

White to play and mate in six moves

Piorun’s excellent performance on the moremovers had put him back in the lead, so the big question was how he would fare in the final round of three selfmates. The solvers have traditionally found the selfmate round one of the most difficult, but either they have been training hard on selfmates, or this year’s selection was unusually easy, because the top solvers mostly scored 100% in this round, although a few fell into the trap of writing an ambiguous key for one of the problems.

This was the most attractive of the selfmates.

White to play and selfmate in three moves

In a selfmate, White is trying to commit suicide by forcing Black to deliver mate. Black, on the other hand, is trying to do his best to avoid mating White. Give yourself 20 minutes to solve this.

Thus Kacper Piorun held on to his lead, and the leading scores were:

  1. Kacper Piorun (Poland) 83 points (out of 90)
  2. John Nunn (United Kingdom) 80 points (288 minutes)
  3. Piotr Murdzia (Poland) 80 points (319 minutes)

Where the points are equal, the tie-break is based on time taken.

The 19-year-old Pole, who is an over-the-board IM, built on his performance from 2010 and justifiably won this year’s championship. If he continues to take an interest in problem solving, there is no reason why he should not be one of the world’s top solvers for ... well, until he is as old as I am. With two Polish solvers finishing first and third, it was no surprise that Poland emerged clear winners in the team event, and here the top countries were:

  1. Poland 164
  2. United Kingdom 154
  3. Serbia 152

Poland has put considerable effort into developing young solving talent, and this was well rewarded in Jesi. The average age of the Polish solving team was less than half that of the United Kingdom team, which should give them confidence for the future.

The full results may be found at the WCSCF site (PDF). The following photographs from Jesi were taken by Franziska Iseli and are her copyright.

Top solvers John Nunn (right) and Eddy van Beers receiving their awards for first and
third place respectively in the International Solving Contest held earlier this year

Delia-Monica Duca (Romania) receiving her award for being the
top-placed female competitor in the International Solving Contest

Kacper Piorun holding his certificate for becoming a Solving
Grandmaster, based on his results in Jesi

The top two finishers in the World Solving Championship, Kacper Piorun (winner,
right) and John Nunn (second place, left)

The United Kingdom Solving Team in Jesi, Dr John Nunn (right), Prof Jonathan Mestel
(centre) and Mr Michael McDowell (left)

The solutions to the problems will be given next week, and in conclusion I would like to thank hedge fund manager Winton Capital Management, the sponsors of the United Kingdom team, for supporting our efforts in Italy.

Copyright John Nunn/ChessBase

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