Ostroda: 39th World Solving Championship (2)

by John Nunn
8/20/2015 – After the first day of the 2015 Championship our reporter was in the lead, but faced a stiff challenge on the second day from the reigning champion Kacper Piorun. In the end the young Polish solver secured the title by just half a point, while John Nunn won silver medal and took gold in the Seniors category, thirty points clear of the field. We must remind you: John turned sixty this year.

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39th World Chess Solving Championship (2)

By John Nunn

The first day of the Chess Problem Championship in Ostroda ended with Poland in the lead on 86 points (out of a possible 90), followed by Great Britain second on 81 points and Azerbaijan third on 77. The individual competition was closer, with myself in the lead (45 points out of a possible 45 and 142 minutes solving time), Kacper Piorun a close second (also 45 points but slightly slower on 168 minutes) followed by Eddy van Beers (Belgium) on 42 points.

The second day began with three helpmates, and this proved decisive for the individual competition. A very difficult helpmate in six was not completely solved by any competitor, but Kacper Piorun found one of the two solutions whereas I couldn’t make any progress with it at all. That left the Pole 2.5 points ahead with two rounds to go. The helpmate in three was especially attractive, and you should allow yourself 20 minutes to solve it.

Helpmate in three moves
a) Diagram
b) Move the black queen to d6
c ) Move the black queen to d5

In a helpmate, both sides are cooperating to help White mate Black, although the moves still have to be legal. Black moves first, with White mating Black on his third move (so the sequence of moves goes B W B W B W mates). There are three parts to this problem. The first is the diagram position, and for the second and third you must move the black queen to d6 and d5 respectively (all three parts are helpmates in three).

The next round consisted of three moremovers (mates in more than three moves) and the leading solvers didn’t have too much trouble here, with almost all of them scoring the maximum 15 points. Here’s one which should appeal to over-the-board players. Although there’s only a single line of play, more than half the competitors failed to score any points on it.

White to play and mate in six

After the more-movers the individual positions remained the same, with Kacper Piorun leading, 2.5 points ahead of myself. That only left the selfmate round, which is usually awkward as selfmates are not only difficult to solve, but in addition they come when everyone is tired from the preceding rounds. The long selfmate (in this case in five moves) is generally the toughest problem in the competition and this tradition was upheld when not only did nobody solve it completely, but only two competitors scored any points at all on it. Unusually, the selfmate in three also caused quite a few problems with less than half the solvers scoring anything on it and only nine scoring the full five points. Give yourself 20 minutes for this one.

Selfmate in three moves

In a selfmate, White is trying to commit suicide by forcing Black to mate him. Black is doing his best to avoid mating White. White plays first, and must force Black to give mate on his third move.

It turned out that Piorun had made a couple of mistakes in the variations of this problem and had dropped two points. This enabled me to close the gap, but still left the defending champion half a point ahead at the finish. The top individual scores were Piorun 80.5 (out of a possible 90), Nunn 80 and Paavilainen 73. The leading team positions hadn‘t changed much since the end of the first day and the top countries were Poland 157.5, Great Britain 151 and Serbia 135.5.

I won the senior (60 years or over) prize and the junior prize (23 years or under) went to Misratdin Iskandarov of Azerbaijan with 56.5 points.

The winning Polish team of Piotr Murdzia, Kacper Piorun and Aleksander Mista

The British team of John Nunn, Michael McDowell and Jonathan Mestel receiving the silver medal trophy

The winners in the individual event, Kacper Piorun (centre), John Nunn and Jorma Paavilainen

The senior prize-winners, John Nunn (80 points), Tadashi
Wakashima (49.5 points) and Aleksandr Feoktistov (48 points)

Solving is of course only part of the chess composition world, and a rather small part at that. Someone has to composes the problems and IM and GM titles are also awarded for composition. These are probably the most difficult of all the chess titles to achieve, and even top composers can take many years to satisfy the demanding requirements. Two composing GM titles were awarded in Ostroda.

John Rice has been a leading British composer for several decades. John commented that he started composing at age 14, and now that he is 78 he has finally managed to achieve the GM title. The composing GM title certainly requires exceptional dedication!

Yochanan Afek, an endgame study composer, achieved the GM title in remarkably quick time since he is only 63. Yochanan is an over-the-board IM and a frequent competitor in European chess tournaments.

Photos by Franziska Iseli

The solutions of all the problems shown in parts one and two of this report,
together with John's wonderfully enlightening commentary, will follow in a week.

The full scores of the 39th World Chess Solving Championship may be found here. If you would like to tackle the remaining problems you can find them here (with the solutions given on this page).

The Poles deserve a big thank you for organising a splendid event and I am sure everyone is looking forward to Belgrade in 2016.

Finally, I would like to thank global investment managers Winton for sponsoring the British team. Without their support it wouldn’t have been possible to field our top solvers and gain the silver medals in Ostroda.


Dr John Nunn (born 1955) is an English grandmaster, author and problem-solver. He was among the world’s leading grandmasters for nearly twenty years, winning four gold medals in chess Olympiads, and is a much-acclaimed writer whose works have won ‘Book of the Year’ awards in several countries. In 2004, 2007 and 2010, Nunn was crowned World Chess Solving Champion. He continues to compete successfully in over-the-board and problem-solving events.


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