World Chess Solving Championship 2012 in Kobe

10/17/2012 – For the first time in its history, the annual congress of the World Federation for Chess Composition took place in Japan. It included two official solving events: an Open tourney and the World Solving Championship. David Friedgood reports on the event and explains some of the tasks that were set. There were also two problems for you to solve. Here now are the solutions.

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World Chess Solving Championship 2012

Report by David Friedgood

For the first time in its history, the annual congress of the World Federation for Chess Composition (formerly the FIDE Commission for Chess Composition) took place in Japan, in the city of Kobe. All the activities were beautifully organised and run and it was a pity that the attendance was down on recent years, no doubt as a result of trying economic times combined with the expense of flying to Japan from many European locations.

The congress format includes two official solving events, an Open tourney and the World Chess Solving Championship (WCSC). In the Open, individual solvers are given 12 problems to solve in three hours. Of course, use of computers of any kind is banned. Two problems out of each of six problem types challenge the competitors: Mate in two; Mate in three; Mate in n (‘moremovers’); Endgame studies; Helpmates; Selfmates.

The results of the Open were as follows (the convention in most solving competitions nowadays is that each problem is marked out of five points): 1. Ofer Comay (Israel) 50.5/60; 2. Martynas Limontas (Lithuania) 49; 3-4. Marjan Kovacevic (Serbia) and Kacper Piorun (Poland) 47. This was a fine result for Limontas in particular, clearly a man on the rise, although he didn’t fare so well subsequently in the WCSC. World Champion Piotr Murdzia (Poland) only managed to share 8th-9th places with former world champion Michael Pfannkuche (Germany) on 40.5 points. The total number competing was 65. In both the Open as well as the WCSC the long selfmate proved completely unsolvable within the time limit.

Director Axel Steinbrink (Germany) with the top three in the Open Solving section: Martynas
Limontas, Ofer Comay, Marjan Kovacevic [Photos by the Japanese Chess Problem Society]

In the WCSC, there are six rounds of three problems each, spread over two days. There are different time limits for each type, as follows: two-movers 20 minutes; three-movers 60 minutes; studies 100 minutes; helpmates 50 minutes; moremovers 80 minutes; selfmates 50 minutes. Teams comprise two or three solvers – if three, the team score in each round is the best two scores. The championship doubles as an individual as well as a team competition. Under certain rules, individual solvers who are not members of teams may additionally compete for the individual championship. In both competitions, ties are broken by the amount of time used – the less, the better.

The results of the team championship were as follows: 1. Poland (Alexander Mista, Piotr Murdzia, Kacper Piorun) 155/180; 2. Germany (Michael Pfannkuche, Boris Tummes, Arno Zude) 144.5; 3. Russia (Aleksandr Feoktistov, Anatoly Mukoseev, Andrey Selivanov) 136.5. 15 teams took part.

The winning Polish team: Alexander Mista, Piotr Murdzia, Kacper Piorun

The individual championship was a much closer affair at the top. It was won for the sixth (!) time by Piotr Murdzia with 77/90. Second was Arno Zude with 76 and third was the holder, Kacper Piorun with 75. In fact, Piorun will no doubt be kicking himself daily for a very long time – he was in the lead going into the final round and all he had to do was solve a selfmate in 2 and a selfmate in 3 to win the title, as the third selfmate remained unsolved by all 52 competitors. But he blundered on the relatively easy two-mover, dropping the full 5 points and allowing Murdzia and Zude to overtake him – a real tragedy!

I’ll end this summary with a couple of sidelights. The top French playing GM, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was visiting Kobe for an exhibition of chess and shogi – the Japanese version of chess, which has a large following in the country. He took part in the Open solving, coming equal 13th and narrowly outscoring his compatriot Michel Caillaud, who is a former world solving champion. Maxime then took part as a member of the French team for just the first day of the WCSC, scoring a creditable 35/45, including 100% on the studies – a distinction shared only by Piorun. His result contributed to the French overall score of 117/180 and a good fifth place. One wonders how much solving experience he has had – especially of selfmates, which might well be anathema to an active professional player!

The British team lacked former world champions Jonathan Mestel and John Nunn, as well as the current British champion Colin McNab, but Michael McDowell’s efforts on the second day of the WCSC raised the team to seventh place. Michael’s team-mates, Roddy McKay and Ian Watson achieved an unusual coincidence: their scores were identical in both the Open and the WCSC! That means that, not only did they get the same total points for their solving – despite scoring differently on some problems – but they also took exactly the same amount of time.

It’s high time we looked at a couple of the problems that tested the mettle of the solvers in these two events. You have to bear in mind that the organisers have to select problems for their difficulty rather than their aesthetic or thematic appeal. Nevertheless there were some that could be enjoyed by aficionados. Let’s look at the first – and easiest – study from the WCSC:

[Event "2-3 Prize Schachmaty v SSSR"] [Site "?"] [Date "1989.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "R Tavariani"] [Black "White to play and draw"] [Result "*"] [Annotator "Friedgood,David"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "3K4/8/8/6R1/8/3k4/2p5/1r2B3 w - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "15"] [EventDate "1989.??.??"] {In this situation White can afford to give up even his rook for the threatening black pawn, as long as the bishop remains:} 1. Rg3+ {Driving the king away from the support of the pawn} Ke4 $1 (1... Kc4 $2 2. Rc3+) (1... Ke2 2. Rg2+) 2. Rg4+ ({It's still not easy for White:} 2. Rc3 $2 Rd1+ 3. Ke7 (3. Kc7 c1=Q 4. Rxc1 Rxc1+) 3... Rxe1 4. Rxc2 Kd3+ {neatly winning the rook}) (2. Bd2 Rd1) 2... Kf3 $1 (2... Kf5 3. Rc4 Rd1+ 4. Bd2 $1 Rxd2+ 5. Kc7 Ke5 6. Kc6 { is a theoretical draw}) 3. Rg3+ ({Again White must be careful:} 3. Rc4 $2 Rd1+ 4. Bd2 Rxd2+ 5. Kc7 Ke2) 3... Kf4 4. Rc3 Rd1+ 5. Kc8 $1 {We'll soon see why White avoids c7} c1=Q 6. Bg3+ Kg4 7. Rxc1 Rxc1+ 8. Bc7 {and White saves the bishop at the same time as escaping the check! A pleasing, precise ending.} *

Those readers who have not had experience of solving studies will see from this illustration that they are really composed combinations – highly tactical and usually yielding their pretty secrets to careful analysis. The next one is for you to solve and enjoy. It is White to play and win, and you need to find the unique winning combination, after noticing that Black’s queen is defended by a knight fork on f4. There are hardly any variations to worry about, just find the forcing line leading to a completely won position for White.

White to play and win


[Event "3 HM Kommunisti"] [Site "?"] [Date "1973.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Ernest Pogosyants"] [Black "White to play and win"] [Result "*"] [Annotator "Friedgood,David"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "6k1/5Np1/4n3/2Qq2PK/8/8/8/8 w - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "17"] [EventDate "1973.??.??"] 1. Nh6+ $1 Kh7 (1... Kh8 2. Qc8+ {transposes into the main line a move early}) (1... gxh6 {allows} 2. Qxd5 {as the black knight is now pinned and can't fork on f4}) 2. Qc2+ Kh8 (2... g6+ 3. Qxg6+ {mates next move}) 3. Qc8+ Nf8 (3... Kh7 4. Qg8#) (3... Nd8 4. Qxd8+ Qxd8 5. Nf7+ {wins}) 4. Qxf8+ Kh7 {Now it seems that Black is hanging on, as the white pawn is pinned and the knight threatened. If White extricates the knight then Black will have a perppetual check.} 5. Qg8+ $1 {A queen sac to get the pawn unpinned!} Qxg8 6. g6+ Kh8 7. Nf7+ Qxf7 8. gxf7 g6+ 9. Kh6 $1 ({Avoiding the last trap} 9. Kxg6 $11 {A pretty little study, but Black lacked any significant counterplay.}) *

The next diagram is taken from the WCSC and represents a return to the two-mover, but of a rather special category. It is known as a try-play problem. This means that the focus is on attempts by White (‘tries’) to find the key-move, which forces mate on White’s second move. The play that arises from the tries is often related to the play that occurs after the key, giving rise to all sorts of interesting effects.

[Event "2nd Prize, Suomen Shakki"] [Site "?"] [Date "1990.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Herbert Ahues"] [Black "Mate in 2"] [Result "*"] [Annotator "Friedgood,David"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "1Q5B/1N1p4/bp1p4/1P1k1B1K/R2P4/n2N4/1Pp1r2b/8 w - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "1"] [EventDate "1990.??.??"] {The solver's eye will quickly be attracted to the possibility of a Novotny on e5, where the lines of Black's rook and bishop on h2 intersect. If} 1. Be5 $2 { threatening both Qg8# and Qxd6#, Black has 1...Nxb5! protecting d6 as well as giving the black king a flight square on c6, without incurring any weakness for White to exploit.} ({So we try} 1. Ne5 $2 {with the same two threats - note that the knight protects c6, so that 1...Nxb5 no longer prevents 2.Qg8#. However, this time Black has the cunning 1...Nc4! to defeat the double threat, giving the king a flight square on d4 while defending d6.}) ({Now the solver could try a different tack, thinking that the black rook and bishop are meant to provide mutual interferences on e5 - the Grimshaw theme. With} 1. Qc7 $2 { c4 becomes guarded so as to threaten 2.Nb4#. Black has to defend by cutting off the guard of d4 by the Bh8, but 1...} Re5 {allows} (1... Be5 $1 {on the other hand defeats the threat with impunity, as White has given up the possibility of 2. Qg8#}) 2. Qxd6# {by interfering with Bh2.}) ({Threatening 2. Nb4# with} 1. Qc8 {reverses this situation. Now 1...} Be5 {allows} ({but instead} 1... Re5 $1 {refutes the try as 2.Qxd6# is not on}) 2. Qg8# {by interfering with the rook}) ({Finally, the solver will realise that all these tries have drawbacks and that there needs to be a key move that does not shoot White in the foot! It is} 1. b3 $1 {again threatening} -- (1... Be5 2. Qg8#) ( 1... Re5 2. Qxd6#) 2. Nb4# {In a competition the experienced solver, pushed for time, will probably bypass much of the above by noticing that the b2 pawn has no apparent function and will soon arrive at the key move. But such a solver will return to the problem afterwards to enjoy the artistry of the composer, particularly the Novotny and Grimshaw theme combination.}) *

The final diagram, also from the WCSC, is a try-play problem for you to solve. Try-play problems are known to have caused a number of casualties in these competitions – even though a two-mover should not detain an experienced solver for very long, such problems can be quite effective when you have just 20 minutes under very tense conditions to solve three of them!

White to play and mate in two

You have to find the unique key move that forces mate on White’s second turn. Notice the tries made by the Bd5 and the Rf4; their threats and the moves used by Black to defeat all but one of the attempts, which is therefore the solution.


[Event "1st Prize Suomen Shakki"] [Site "?"] [Date "1994.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Vasyl Dyachuk"] [Black "Mate in 2"] [Result "*"] [Annotator "Friedgood,David"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2r5/5Q1p/3p2p1/3Bk3/5R2/bNr2pp1/K2N1n2/B2n3q w - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "1"] [EventDate "1994.??.??"] {Any move of the bishop on d5 puts an extra guard on d5 and introduces the threat 2.Qf6#. Let's see how Black deals with the possible destinations of the bishop:} 1. Bc4 $2 {Rf8! escapes mate on Move 2, because White can't take advantage of Black's loss of control of c4 by 2.Nc4# as the bishop is blocking that square (White obstruction).} (1. Bxf3 $2 {similarly is a self-obstruction as 1...Qh4! refutes the try, as now 2.Nxf3# is impossible}) ({Yet another self-obstruction occurs after} 1. Be4 $2 {enabling the defence 1...Ng4! leaving White to rue the loss of 2.Re4#}) (1. Be6 $2 {is met by a different stratagem: 1...d5! giving the king a flight square on d6 that is now not guarded by the threat, 2.Qf6+ as the bishop cuts off the queen's line (anticipatory white interference)}) ({Moves by the bishop to the north-west e. g.} 1. Bb7 $2 {are met more simply by 1...Rc6!, which cuts off the bishop's protection of d5 without incurring any weakness.}) ({It's time to give up on the bishop then, and try the rook. Any move of the rook places an extra guard on f4 and thus releases the queen to threaten 2.Qe6#. Let's see whether Black can cope with all the possibilities:} 1. Rc4 $2 {suffers from a similar self-obstruction as 1.Bc4?: 1...Re8! and again 2.Nc4# is off the menu.}) ({The same goes for} 1. Rxf3 $2 {which is met by 1...Qh3! and again 2.Nxf3# is impossible.}) ({Moving the rook to the left by} 1. Ra4 $2 {is met by 1...Bb4! cutting off its guard of f4 without doing any damage}) ({...while moving it to the right by} 1. Rh4 $2 {can be countered similarly with 1...Ng4!}) ({Finally, having eliminated all tries, we come to the key:} 1. Rf6 $1 {and at last Black has run out of answers. A modern work of art, constructed with excellent economy, the lack of white pawns underscoring this achievement.}) *

Any queries or constructive comments can be addressed to the author at

Copyright in this article David Friedgood 2012/ChessBase

The British Chess Problem Society (BCPS), founded in 1918, is the world's oldest chess problem society. It exists to promote the knowledge and enjoyment of chess compositions, and membership is open to chess enthusiasts in all countries.

The Society produces two bi-monthly magazines, The Problemist and The Problemist Supplement (the latter catering for beginners), which are issued to all members. Composers from all over the world send their problems and studies to compete in the tourneys run by the society.

The BCPS also organises the annual British Chess Solving Championship, and selects the Great Britain squad for the World Chess Solving Championship. The Society holds an annual residential weekend, with a full programme of solving and composing tourneys and lectures; this event attracts an international participation. Members are also entitled to use the resources of the BCPS library, and the Society book service, which can provide new and second-hand publications.

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