Chess Problems: The Self-block problem solutions

4/26/2012 – The two problems set for solving in the last article by David Friedgood were composed by the Indonesian Grandmaster of Composition, Touw Hian Bwee (the three-mover was in collaboration with his compatriot, H Maruta). This composer, whose focus has been mainly on two and three movers, has an exceptional aptitude for theme combinations, as these two problems show. Solutions.

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The Self-block Put to Bed

By David Friedgood

Here for those who may have missed the original article are the two problems. The solutions are given in the JavaScript player below.

Touw Hian Bwee
1st HM Theme Tourney No.11 idee & form, 1986

    Mate in two

You have to find White’s first (‘key’) move, which is the only one to force mate on the following move whatever Black tries to do about it. This move will threaten mate and all Black’s defences will create some weakness – mostly self-blocks, which White can take advantage of to deliver mate. In this case, most moves by the knight on d5 will threaten 2. Rf4# (now that d5 is guarded), but which is the correct one?

Touw Hian Bwee & H Maruta
2nd HM De Waarheid, 1976

    Mate in three

You have to find White’s key move, which will threaten to force mate in a further two moves. Again, Black’s defences to the threat will allow White to meet them with continuations that take advantage of the weaknesses they create – again self-blocks, but this time of the anticipatory variety (see commentary above). Three-movers are generally more difficult than two-movers, but this one is not so bad – all the white moves after the key are checks. You could also ask yourself: Is the Bh3 really needed to guard e6?


Solutions to the above problems

[Event "1st HM Theme Tourney No.11 idee & form"] [Site "London"] [Date "1986.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Touw Hian Bwee"] [Black "Mate in 2"] [Result "*"] [Annotator "David Friedgood"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/1p4p1/8/1QPN1RK1/3Pk1p1/1n2p3/2PrRP2/b1q2b2 w - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "3"] [EventDate "2012.??.??"] {It is generally a good idea, when solving a problem, to take account of the black monarch's situation. Here we see that the king has a flight square on d4, so that the threat introduced by White's first move (the 'key' move) needs to guard this square in addition to giving check. The threat of 2.Rf4# is easy to find, but to make it work a move of the Nd5 first is needed to guard d5, which is relinquished by the rook when moving to f4. The knight has a full 'wheel' (all 8 possible moves) available, but the two checks on f6 and c3 allow it to be captured, while 1.Nf4? obstructs the rook from playing to that square. So which move of the knight is the key? Did you settle on} 1. Nc7 $1 {rather than fall for one of the following:} (1. Ne7 $2 Rxd4 $1 {as now the knight interferes with mate by} 2. Qe8) (1. Nxe3 $2 Nxd4 $1 {as now the knight obstructs 2.Rxe3#}) (1. Nb6 $2 Bxd4 $1 {as now 2.Qxb7# is impossible}) (1. Nb4 $2 Kxd4 $1 {as now 2.Qb4# is impossible}) 1... Kxd4 {is thematic:} ({Any capture of the Pd4 will defeat the threat by making e5 a potential flight square. However, each of the three captures by a piece also blocks d4, enabling White to mate by being careful:} 1... Nxd4 2. Rxe3# {and not} (2. Qe8+ $2 Ne6+ $1 {the self-blocking piece itself wards off the check}) ({nor} 2. Qxb7+ $2 Nc6 $1 {and again the self-blocking piece itself wards off the check}) ) (1... Bxd4 2. Qxb7# ({and not} 2. Qe8+ $2 Be5 $1) (2. Rxe3+ $2 Bxe3+ $1)) ( 1... Rxd4 2. Qe8# ({and not} 2. Rxe3+ $2 Qxe3+ $1 {as Black's first move has opened the queen's line to e3}) ({nor} 2. Qxb7+ $2 Rd5 $1)) 2. Qb4# {This problem combines three self-blocks on a single flight square with four tries [attempts at solution each refuted by a unique defence], each one refuted by a different thematic defence. It is shown with the crystal clarity typical of this composer, with some constructional features requiring considerable ingenuity.} *

[Event "2nd HM De Waarheid"] [Site "London"] [Date "1976.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Touw Hian Bwee & H Maruta"] [Black "Mate in 3"] [Result "*"] [Annotator "David Friedgood"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/2K1N3/p2BPr2/4p1bN/1pbk1p2/3P3B/p2Q4/8 w - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "5"] [EventDate "2012.??.??"] {I trust that, after the hints I gave, the key move wasn't difficult to find:} 1. Bf1 {threatening (see below)} -- ({The following defences each lead to anticipatory self-blocks (i.e. blocking a flight exploited by White not immediately but on the third move):} 1... Bb5 2. Bc5+ $1 Kxc5 3. Qf2#) (1... Bb3 2. Qf2+ Kc3 3. Bxe5#) (1... Bxe6 2. Bxe5+ $1 Kxe5 (2... Kc5 3. d4#) 3. Qb2# ) (1... f3 2. Qb2+ Ke3 3. Bc5#) ({The following variation is not part of the thematic content of the problem:} 1... Bd5 2. Nxf6 Bxe6 (2... -- 3. Nf5#) (2... Be4 3. dxe4#) 3. Nc6#) 2. dxc4+ Ke4 3. Qd3# {This remarkable problem combines 3 themes. Firstly, we have the anticipatory self-blocks, which provide the bedrock on which the other themes are constructed. Secondly, the squares to which the black king is lured on the second move (c5, c3, e5 and e3) form what are called 'starflights'. Thirdly, and most modernistic of the three, the white second and third moves form a fourfold cyclic pattern, as follows: Let Bc5 be denoted by A, Qf2 by B, Bxe5 by C and Qb2 by D. Then, the pattern formed by the thematic variations set out as above are: 1...Bb5 2.A 3.B 1.. . Bb3 2.B 3.C 1...Bxe6 2.C 3.D 1...f3 2.D 3.A This is all achieved with relatively good economy, the only really jarring components being the black pawns on a6 and a2, which prevent the black bishop from defending with impunity. Prodigious ingenuity must have been deployed to arrive at this deceptively laid-back problem!} *

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

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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