Birthday columns and puzzles

by Helmut Pfleger
8/2/2020 – What do you get when you celebrate a birthday? What happens when it is an especially auspicious birthday, e.g. one marking that you have made it to 3/4 of a century? Champagne, gifts, family party with the grandkids (in pandemic times in the garden). Chess friends have special things in store. They will write you a column in a national newspaper, or compose "number problems" for the years you have reached.

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The following column appeared in the prestigious German news weekly, DIE ZEIT, on July 30, 2020. It was written by GM Dr Helmut Pfleger. We reproduce the column in an English translation, with kind permission.

Frederic Friedel is not only a linguist and philosopher of science, but with his early interest in computer chess he was also a co-founder of the world's leading computer chess company Chessbase, which is based in his hometown of Hamburg and which is the producer of the Fritz program that beat world champion Vladimir Kramnik in 2006 in the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn.

Essentially initiated by Friedel, the battle "Man vs Machine" took place in German national television in the early days of computer chess (1979) between the then strongest computer program Chess 4.8 and the International Master David Levy. The game notation was requested by an audience of over 100,000 viewers.

On German national TV 1979: the first Man vs Machine documentary

Apart from all this Frederic is deeply curious about our mysterious world. He is also a rarely gifted "person catcher," and as such a good friend of all world champions, from Kasparov to Anand, and Kramnik to Carlsen, but also with the best female chess players Judit Polgär and Hou Yifan. I have often been a guest with him and his wife Ingrid, who fortunately shares his thousand-fold interests, and it has happened that Viswanathan Anand slept in "my" bed the day after me.

For his 75th birthday on August 2, problem composer Werner Keym dedicated this mate in two moves to him. It's very personal: the four pieces are on F2, F4, F5 and F8, corresponding to the initial letter "F" of Frederic Friedel and the date of birth "2.8.45".

Economist Ken Rogoff, Frederic Friedel, GM Dr Helmut Pfleger in Munich

Here is the problem for Frederic's 75th birthday:


As you probably know you can move pieces on the diagrams on this page. We have attached an engine to all the diagrams, so that until mate black defensive moves will be executed.

The above problem is not too hard – the author reserved that for the Stuttgarter Zeitung, in which he published the following problem on 1.8.2020:

Translation of his note: "For today's task, the special castling rules of Chess 960 must be observed: As long as the king and rook have not yet moved, castling is allowed [you need to look up the castling rules of 960]. Today's task is dedicated to ChessBase co-founder and computer chess pioneer Frederic Friedel, who will celebrate his 75th birthday tomorrow, Sunday. Less well known is that Friedel is also a friend of problem chess and especially of retro-chess.

Helmut Pfleger is a German chess grandmaster who was one of the most promising chess players in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1960 he won the German Junior Championship, in 1961 was fourth in the World Junior Chess Championship. He studied medicine and was a practising doctor. He is also a prolific author and has published a large number of chess books. He is a columnist in different magazines, and is seen more often than any other chess player in German television.

Helmut was the second titled chess player whom Frederic met (in 1979, after meeting the first, IM David Levy). He provided the TV commentary for the match between Levy and Chess 4.8 mentioned above.

Pal Benkö's birthday puzzles

In the past Frederic would inevitably receive number problems for his birthday from the great Pal Benkö, who was a close friend. This is what Pal sent for his 72nd birthday in August 2017:


The positions above show the number 72.


The above positions celebrated Frederic's 73rd birthday. In July 2019 Pal Benko was, at the age of 91, fairly frail – with his eyesight failing. He had 7 + 4 number problems in his archives, but wanted to compose new ones for Frederic. But before he could do this, in August 2019, sadly, Benkö passed away. We present, post mortem, number problems he had previously composed for his family.


The first problem, shaped like a seven, was for Pal's wife Gisela, who was 78, while he turned 87. The second problem, the four-mover shaped like a four, was for his son David, who was 44 years old.

Nadja's recollections

Frederic has over the years conducted numerous trips to important chess tournaments all over the world, to report for ChessBase. He was often assisted by staff member Nadja Wittmann, especially to Spanish speaking countries. The two were often in Linares, León and Madrid, at the Chess Olympiad in Calvià and the World Championships in San Luis (Argentina, above). For his birthday Nadia, who is the editor of the Spanish ChessBase site, has gone through her immense photo library and published a reminiscing pictorial report:


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