Dominoes: Youth Composing Challenges

by Siegfried Hornecker
9/30/2023 – Possibly readers would enjoy a little bit of behind-the-scenes information on how chess composers work together. As always, this will be supplemented by endgame studies.| Photo: Midjourney

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Dominoes: Youth Composing Challenges

by Siegfried Hornecker

Online video platforms were proliferated in the 2000s, but only few of them remain relevant today. Youtube has a lot of chess content, which Yours Truly watches sometimes if it seems relevant to chess composition or otherwise interesting. In a recent video, I found an idea that currently is worked into a full endgame study by my co-composers. Looking for the theme – it is called “domino theme”, I learned -, apparently only two endgame studies exist so far. The inaugural one is shown now.

Arpád Rusz, Variantim 2017.

White to move and win

1.Ra8+ Rb8 2.Rc8+ Rd8 3.Qe8+ Qf8+

Now the pieces will start to fall one by one like some dominoes. Maybe this new theme should be called the "Domino Theme". (Rusz, 14 May 2018, on his blog)

4.Q:f8+ R:f8 5.R:f8+ R:f8 6.R:f8 mate

Now of course the three composers study is not published yet, but it is vastly different from what is shown above. Still, similar ideas to the domino theme are also known. The “double helix”, as I like to call it, is a study I already had presented in this column, I believe, but it shall be included again here.

Jan van Reek, Shakhmaty v SSSR 1969, commendation.

White to move and win

Everything here is very forced, and you could argue the pawns fall like two separate lines of dominoes:

1.d:e3 f:e6 2.e:d4 e:f5 3.d:e5 f:e4 4.e:d6 e:f3 5.d:e7 f:e2 6.e8Q wins

The 7th Youth Chess Composing Challenge recently ended. Your author is a great fan of bringing younger people to chess composition, or to art in general. While “In the Hall of the Mountain King” is well-known thanks to meme music, many classical works or even those that older generations grew up with might not be as well known to young people. This does not apply only to music but also to other fields of art. In chess composition, being free of influences can lead to anticipations by accidental re-compositions, but also to creative new ideas. One entry was allowed per participant and section.

Section A was dedicated to checkmates in two moves with a knight moving to a corner. Daria Dvoeglazova (Israel) won with a twin entry, i.e. a checkmate in two that after a change in the position is also a new checkmate in two problem. The judge called it “a faultless problem”. The second place went to Danila Moiseev (Russia) who had not two but three problems by twinning. His keys all were motivated by not obstructing the set mates, i.e. the already prepared checkmates after every move of Black. A lighter position by Andrii Sergiienko (Ukraine) achieved the third place. There was a total of 23 entries in the section.

Endgame studies appeared in the other two sections, and while section C had a free choice of genre and theme, section B was complicated, leading to only 11 entries:

Middlegame study: We ask for studies with themes known from the middlegame. Please follow

these requirements:

A. Besides the king, in the starting position each side must have queen and a minimum of 2 other pieces (rook, bishop or knight), also at least 1 pawn.

B. In the starting position, the white king must be positioned on a1, a2, b1, b2, c1, c2, f1, f2, g1, g2, h1 or h2. Likewise, in the starting position, the black king must be positioned on a8, a7, b8, b7, c8, c7, f8, f7, g8, g7, h8 or h7.

Ural Khasanov (Russia). 7th YCCT, section B. 1st place.

White to move and win

1.Bh6 Nf6 2.Q:f6 Bh3 is quite symmetrical, but with a piece up White can exchange pieces and then precisely stop the opposing pawns. 3.Qe7+ Q:e7 4.d:e7 Bd7 5.Nc5 e2 (otherwise the pawn will be stopped by Nc5-d3, but here 6.Nd3? K:h6 would certainly not win for White) 6.N:d7 e1Q 7.e8Q Q:e8 8.Nf6+ K:h6 9.N:e8 a4 10.Nf6 a3 11.Ng4+ Kg7 12.Ne3 a2 13.Nc2 wins

The judge saw the second and third place as close to equals. Both show sharp middle-game attacks.

Andrii Sergiienko (Ukraine), 7th YCCC 2023, section B, 2nd place.

White to move and win

1.f6+ Nxf6 2.d5 pins the knight, and it turns out that it is impossible to defend it: 2.-Qg8 3.Qd4! Qd8 4.Rc8 Qe7 5.Re8 Qd6 6.Re6! d:e6 7.Q:f6+ Kf8 8.Qh8+ Ke7 9.Bf6+ Kd7 10.Qd8 mate

The most important thing to note here is that 3.Qf2? would fail due to 4.-Qb6, which after 3.Qd4 just runs into 3.-Qd8 4.Rc8 Qb6 5.Qe5, and Black is surprisingly helpless, as demonstrated by 5.-Qb5+ 6.Kf1/Kg2 Rb6 7.Qe8! gxh5 8.Qg8 mate.

Ben Smolkin (Canada), 7th YCCC 2023, section B, 3rd place.

White to move and win

Yours Truly finds this study more interesting than the previous one but with a weaker finale.

1.Qf2 Kg8 leads to a battle of wits, so White wins by having more than 200 cards in… oh, wrong game. White wins by an incredible idea while defending against an incredible idea of the opponent: 2.Nh8!! Nd8! as 2.-Kxh8 3.Qf8 mate or 2.-Bxh8 3.Qf8 mate both show that the knight is untouchable. 3.Ng6 Qb4 4.Qb6! It seems as if 4.Qd4 also wins easily. Black has no square left for the queen, and the main line’s defense is impossible. However, there is a defense that is far from easy to see: 4.-Rf3!! The best line seems to be 5.Qxd5+ Rf7 6.Qxd8+ Bf8 7.Qd5 Qb7 8.Qc4 Rhg7 9.Bxg7 Bxg7 with a draw. The judge remarks that this line almost wins and wonders if future computer progress – most likely he refers to endgame tablebases – will prove a win for White somewhere. See the remarks after the study.

4.-Rh3+ 5.gxh3 Qe4+ 6.Kg1 Bxe5. The attack seems to have been stopped, even though the knight on d8 will be lost. However, White has a final trick up the sleeve: 7.Ne7+! Rxe7 8.Qxd8+ Kh7 9.Qxe7+ wins the exchange and game.

If we really will ever see a computer solve if the line 4.Qd4 wins, then Yours Truly believes that this can only be achieved by new methods of computing, as 11 piece endgame tablebases with the current methods would be in a far distant future with huge networks of computers, as we very much reached the end of miniaturization, defeating Moore’s law that stated (although at his time limited to ten years in total) that the number of transistors on microchips would double every two years.

Gordon Moore (3 January 1929 – 24 March 2023) was a visionary in other regards also, but while his company Fairchild created one of the early home video game consoles, the 1976 “Video Entertainment System”, later rebranded to “Channel F” after Atari in the following year launched their own system, at that time Moore had already left the company many years prior. On 18 July 1968 he had founded another semiconductor company whose name you might have heard before: “Intel”.

Ural Khasanov, out of 30 participants, also won section C with a helpmate with eight solutions, six of them in perfectly harmonic pairs. Yaroslav Utkin (Russia) claimed the second place with also a superb helpmate with four solutions. Against this strong competition, the – possibly first composer from his country? - young Vietnamese Tran Ngoc Duy Anh, also known as Anh Tran, received the third place with an endgame study that shows great talent.

Anh Tran, 7th YCCC 2023, section C, 3rd place.

White to move and win

To make the attack against the king succeed, interesting measures must be cultivated, culminating in a Roman theme while starting with two switchbacks.

1.Be2+ g4 2.Bd3! cxd3 3.Re5+ g5

White wants to play Re6, but 4.Re6? b1Q 5.Kxg7 Qb2+ 6.Kh7 Qh8+ 7.Kxh8 Re2 wins for Black. So the rook must be removed from the second rank prior to executing this plan.

4.Re1! Ra1 5.Re6 b1Q 6.Kxg7 Qb2+ 7.Kh7 Qh8+ 8.Kxh8 Re1 9.Rxe1 Kg6

The battle seems over but it isn't yet. White has to play precisely to win. The pawns can't be stopped, so White must take on b7 and push the own b-pawn. After 10.Re7? d2 11.Rxb1 d1Q there is nothing better than perpetual check on g7 and h7, however, as Black threatens a check on the long diagonal. This leads us to:

10.Re5! d4 11.Re7 d2 12.Rxb7 d1Q 13.Rg7+ Kf5 14.b7 wins

I would have preferred the endgame study to end with 13.-Kh6 14.b7 wins, the same square as in the try.

It is a beautiful coincidence that the total number of entries in all three sections is 64. This is an average of four per country, with composers from 16 countries participating. Chess is a game played on 64 squares where each player starts with 16 pieces...

For a comparison, let us look at the previous year. In 2022, the 6th YCCC was held. The checkmate in two moves (section A) required all four initial knights to be next to the black king in the diagram. Out of 14 entries, Ilija Serafimovic (Serbia) won the section, followed by Toshimasa Fujiwara (Japan) and on the third place Andrii Sergiienko (Ukraine). The judge offered versions of the three pedestal places. Section B was about endgame studies where the black king moves twice before returning to a previous square where it is checkmated. Ten entries were received there. The judge discussed the dilemma between creating a study that concentrates on the theme and sending in a study that is good overall but only coincidentally shows the theme.

Ilija Serafimovic (Serbia), 6th YCCC 2022, section B, 1st place.

White to move and win

This endgame study is very pleasing, as it starts out with the 7th WCCT theme, where a position is repated but with a white piece missing: 1.Bd4+ Kb1 2.Bb2! Kxb2. This clears the second rank and seems to easily win, but then Black goes for a stalemate defense. 3.Rg2! b3! 4.axb3 Nd2+! 5.Rxd2 Ka3. Finding such an incredible hidden resource can be the difference between a loss and a draw. White, however, can refute this defense: 6.Nc3 d5+ 7.Rxd5 c1Q 8.Ra5+ Kb2 9.Ra2 mate. While the ending is known from earlier endgame studies and a famous mate in four problem, the complete composition makes it well worth seeing.

Ben Smolkin (Canada), 6th YCCC 2022, section B, 2nd place.

White to move and win

White wants to stop the pawns, which is done with checkmate threats: 1.Kc3 Ka4 2.Kc4 Ka3 3.Ra1+ Kb2 and now not 4.Rf1? e2 5.Rxf2 Kc1, but 4.Rb1+ Ka2 5.Rf1 which leads to two main variations:

5.-e2 6.Rxf2 Ka1 7.Kb3 e1Q 8.Ra2 mate

5.-Ka3 6.Bb1! e2 7.Rxf2 e1Q 8.Ra2 mate

The judge liked the economy and that his fears of an anticipation turned out to be unfounded.

Dylan Schenker (USA), 6th YCCC 2022, section B, 3rd place.

White to move and win

Dylan Schenker’s study ends with a classical checkmate. 1.Bh7+ Ka1 and now not 2.Na6? b3 3.Bxa3 b2, but 2.Nb5 Bb1 3.Bg8 Ba2. The best defense, as 3.-a2 and 3.-Bg6 both are met with 4.B(x)a3 bxa3 5.Kc1, winning. As it stands, White must exchange pieces: 4.Bxa2 Kxa2 5.Bxa3. A small surprise, as the king and knight checkmate net is set up. Two variations can happen now:

5.-bxa3 6.Kc2 Ka1 7.Nd4 Ka2 8.Nc6 Ka1 9.Nb4 a2 10.Kc1 a3 11.Nc2 mate

5.-Kb3 6.Bc1 a3 7.Kd3 Ka2 8.Bxa3 bxa3 9.Kc2 Ka1 10.Nd4 Ka2 11.Ne2 Ka1 12.Nc1 a2 13.Nb3 mate

Section C was open to all genres with any theme. There were 27 participations, and like in the other two sections Ilija Serafimovic from Serbia won. His mate in two moves showed an excellent key and play. The second place went to Ural Khasanov (Russia) for a mate in four moves with harmonious battery play. Yours Truly believes that the readers will enjoy the third place by, already at his young age, the “Hopper Magazine” co-founder. He described the content as “Dual Avoidance, Allumwandlung, Battery Formation, Model Mates”

Anirudh Daga (India), 6th YCCC 2022, section C, 3rd place.

Helpselfmate in 2.5 moves

The stipulation wants Black and White to cooperate. In this case Black begins, then White makes one move and Black another move, in which they cooperate. After that White forces Black to checkmate him. The solution is as follows, it is more detailed in the replayable entries below.

1.-d1N 2.h8Q (2.h8B?) 2.-Qb1 (2.-Qc1?) 3.Qxc3+ Nxc3 mate

1.-d1B 2.h8R (2.h8Q?) 2.-Qc1 (2.-Qb1?) 3.Rh4+ Bg4 mate

Readers likely can figure out why the tries fail by continuing the solution as it would go correctly and seeing what changes, i.e. what other defenses Black has in the final move, or in the other case why it isn’t a checkmate.

With a total of 51 entries from 27 participants, less entries than in the following year (2023) were made. Ilija Serafimovic (Serbia) won all three sections, despite each one having different judges (in the case of section C, multiple judges). Such a hattrick is a great achievement.

This shall conclude our small excursion into the Youth Chess Composition Challenges for this month. Please replay the entries below if you want, and let us know if you’re also interested in an article that looks into the other tourneys in this series.


Siegfried (*1986) is a German chess composer and member of the World Federation for Chess Composition, subcommitee for endgame studies. His autobiographical book "Weltenfern" (in English only) can be found on the ARVES website. He presents an interesting endgame study with detailed explanation each month.