Exploring the history of world chess composition tournaments

by Siegfried Hornecker
10/27/2019 – Closing our three-parter about the most important official chess composition contests (for composers, i.e. solving tourneys would require a separate article), we will need to have a look at the World Chess Composition Tourneys, but mainly from the perspective of endgame studies. Pictured: Genrikh Kasparyan (Soviet Union) composed the 1st place study in the first WCCT (1972-1975): White to move and draw.

Endgames of the World Champions from Fischer to Carlsen Endgames of the World Champions from Fischer to Carlsen

Let endgame expert Dr Karsten Müller show and explain the finesses of the world champions. Although they had different styles each and every one of them played the endgame exceptionally well, so take the opportunity to enjoy and learn from some of the best endgames in the history of chess.

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Study of the Month: October 2019

As always, feel free to skip to the end and enjoy replaying the studies, if that's your preference.

While the World Championship in Composing for Individuals (WCCI) [see August SOTM] is a tourney for already published compositions by individuals, the World Chess Composition Tourneys (WCCT) was established earlier and is a more traditional tourney, with one exception: only three entries per section and country are allowed. Those restrictions require only the official organs of a country to be able to participate (i.e. send the entries). So, those countries will hold pre-selections, to which the composers enter their work, and the best three of those are selected to be sent to the WCCT. In theory, this should ensure that the overall tourney is of the highest quality, but it also means that it is already a great success for a chess composer to participate at all, and even more so in the countries that have many composers of a genre.

ARVESOther than the usual sources (i.e. Harold van der Heijden’s database), also the WCCT report booklets (although I don’t have access to all) and the archives of the magazine EG (available for free at the ARVES website) were used to get a complete picture of the participation for endgame studies in WCCTs. Due to the number of WCCTs, not all tourneys will have their winner replayable below, I made a selection that I hope appeals to practical players while also conversing artistic expression, taking also into account that studies from the 7th WCCT were shown in previous articles of this series and that we had included its winner in our July 2019 column.

The following table should allow for a quick information about the tourneys, first three places, and themes. The complete theme definition is listed below, as well as short information for each WCCT. Studies marked in brackets with “[R1]” to “[R3]” in the table are replayable below, the number marking the position in the replayable set, not any subjective ranking. Two other studies outside of the top three places also were selected (marked at the WCCT numbers).

Lastly, the final preparations for the 11th WCCT are currently ongoing. An official announcement of the tourney is expected at the end of 2019. However, interested readers might want to try their hand on composing endgame studies without a set theme first. Please look up and contact your national problem chess federation if you either want to participate or look for someone to aid/teach you in composing.

WCCT

Years

Theme

1st place

2nd place

3rd place

WCCT 1, S.1

1972-1975

One or more white pieces move far from the black king.

Gottfried Steckbauer (“German Democratic Republic”)*

Korolkov & Maksimovskich (Soviet Union)

C. C. L. Sells (Great Britain)

WCCT 1, S.2

1972-1975

Battery front and rear piece exchange funtions

Genrikh Kasparyan (Soviet Union) [R1]

Attila Koranyi (Hungary)

Korolkov & Yakimchik (Soviet Union)

WCCT 2

1980-1981

A promotion to queen creates instant stalemate.

Gady Costeff (Israel)

Attila Korányi (Hungary)

Yochanan Afek (Israel)

WCCT 3

1984-1988

A win study ends in a mate with at least one black piece pinned.

Attila Korányi (Hungary)

Jan Rusinek (Poland)

Jan Marwitz (Netherlands)

WCCT 4

1989-1992

During the play the same piece or pawn is pinned and later unpinned.

Ivan Bondar (Soviet Union)

Emilian Dobrescu (Romania)

Oleg Pervakov (Soviet Union)

WCCT 5

1993-1997

Win study, stalemate of away-from-the-edge black king is avoided

Vasily Kozirev (Russia)

Emilian Dobrescu (Romania)

Mario Matouš (Czech Republic) [R2]

WCCT 6

1997-2000

To gain or lose a tempo, white refuses to capture a piece (not pawn)

David Gurgenidze (Georgia) [R3]

Mirko Miljanić (Yugoslavia)**

Sergei N. Tkachenko & Nikolay Rezvov (Ukraine)

WCCT 7

2001-2004

Repetition of a position but with a white piece less.

Pál Bennó (Hungary)***

Oleg Pervakov (Russia)

Gady Costeff (Israel)

WCCT 8

[R4: 7th/8th place]

2005-2008

While a piece (not pawn) hangs, another one is put en prise with a quiet move

Martin Minski & Gunter Sonntag (Germany)

Vasily Kozirev & Oleg Pervakov (Russia)

Iuri Akobia (Georgia)

WCCT 9

2011-2013

White queen is actively sacrificed by a silent move

Sergiy Didukh (Ukraine)

Oleg Pervakov (Russia)

Vasily Kozirev (Russia)

WCCT 10

[R5: 5th place]

2016-2017

A small detail changes between a try and the actual play, not mutual zugzwang nor 7th WCCT theme

Martin Minski (Germany)

Richard Becker (United States)

Shared 3rd/4th place: Richard Becker (United States); Mikhail Gromov & Oleg Pervakov (Russia)

* By translating Soviet chess books into German, publishers made an unique treasure of Soviet chess books available in East, and later united, Germany. Those books very likely had an important role in the development of (East) German practical chess and chess composition in the late 20th century.

** Not “Mirko Miljanovic”, as given in EG 142, October 2001, p.404.

*** Pál Bennó is not to be confused with Pál Benkó. The Bennó study is replayable in the July 2019 column.

The beginnings

In 1962-1964 and 1967-1971 two international team-matches for chess composition were held, won by the Soviet Union (who was the organizer also, 20 countries participated) and Finland (organizer: Netherlands, 27 countries participated) respectively. This led to the development of an official “World Championship” in which each nation could participate with its best compositions. As such, the first WCCT was held from 1972 to 1975.

For endgame studies, there were two themes. I write out the abbreviations given in EG, i.e. “black king” instead of “bK”, etc., but otherwise quote unmodified. Theme 1 was: “One or more white pieces move far from the black king.” (This meant that pieces should move further away than where they currently were.) Judge Harold Lommer stated that the description was explained: “The further pieces move away from the black king, the better the composition.” The section was won by Gottfried Steckbauer from the German Democratic Republic. Unfortunately later his study was found to have been incorrect in 1976 by Lithuanian solver Stavrioraitis who analyzed the resulting endgame. Vladimir Korolkov and Alexander Maksimovskich (Soviet Union) received the 2nd place with their joint study about a minor piece endgame. C. C. L. Sells (Great Britain) received the 3rd place for a rather easy to solve checkmate study. Of course, solving difficulty usually isn’t a criterion here. (Total: 9 places, i.e. awarded studies, in WCCT 1, section 1)

The second section of the first WCCT had the following theme according to the magazine EG, my added explanation is in hard brackets: “In the course of the solution two pieces (directed either at the black king or another black piece) form a battery [i.e. the piece in the back would attack the black piece if the piece in the front moves, one example is discovered check] and later the firing [front] piece and the rear piece exchange functions.”

Genrikh KasparyanGenrikh Kasparyan (Soviet Union) [pictured] won this section. His study was found to be incorrect also, but corrected soon. The corrected version, as published in 1976, is shown below, so the theme can easily be understood. Attila Koranyi from Hungary showed another domination of a black queen with the theme, winning the 2nd place. Vladimir Korolkov and Vitold Yakimchik presented an elaborate perpetual check mechanism, winning the 3rd place. (19 places in WCCT 1, section 2).

As with the WCCI, also the WCCT underwent numerous changes during its lifetime. Two examples for the judging process: Starting with the 7th WCCT, five countries instead of one individual person were appointed as judges. The 9th WCCT brought the strike of the highest and lowest score, i.e. the middle three of the five countries’ scores were counted for the final score.

While the example from the first WCCT can serve to show the variety among the placed entries, we also need to talk about how a WCCT is held and organized. As evidenced by the booklet for the 4th WCCT, the preparations for the next one at those times started when the current one was finished. The previous booklet (for the 3rd WCCT) informs us that up to the 2nd WCCT there were two entries per country allowed per section, since the 3rd WCCT three entries per country per section are allowed. PCCC President Klaus Wenda, tourney director Denis Blondel and technical director bernd ellinghoven (his name written without capital letters in all publications, a wish we respect here as well) informed in their booklet that 28 teams with 290 authors participated with 629 problems in the 3rd WCCT. The overall winner was the Soviet Union, just like in the first two WCCTs, with 197 points. The best composer however was Jan Rusinek with 69 points. Now that is a lot of points, but how are they assigned? There is a certain number of points for each place.

Study composers Dawit Gurgenidse and Jan Rusinek (right) at the PCCC meeting in Bratislava in 1993 | Photo: Rainer Staudte CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

The PCCC (Permanent Commission of the FIDE for Chess Composition, or nowadays the “World Federation for Chess Composition”, WFCC) announced the WCCT at the annual congress (WCCC, see August column). During the usually a week long event, the official assembly gathers on several days and decisions are made on official matters that might have been brought by member countries or scheduled for other reasons.

The seven traditional sections in the WCCT are, in their order of appearance:

  • A) Twomovers (Mate in two, #2)
  • B) Threemovers (Mate in three, #3)
  • C) Moremovers (Mate in 4 or more, #n)
  • D) Studies (eg)
  • E) Helpmates (h#)
  • F) Selfmates (s#)
  • G) Fairies (all genres)

Starting from the 10th WCCT, i.e. first implemented in the one that just was finished, is:

  • H) Retros (all genres)

Personally I find retros a very fascinating topic, especially the “detective” retros such as “A piece has fallen from the board: What piece and where?” But as there are many different kinds of retro problems, I am skeptical if they all could be judged in a single section — a skepticism that applies also to other awards.

Frederic Friedel a while ago wrote an article on retro chess. The problems he quotes are classics that are quite well known to experts, but a great introduction for those readers who never or rarely encountered the genre before. The 2018 Christmas Puzzles also were interesting to me.

The theme descriptions got more elaborate, much longer and technical in later tourneys (see WCCT list below for reference). While undeniably some endgame studies became more complicated, some themes elaborate, I wonder if there wasn’t a shorter and easier way to write them. Maybe a few decades ago the theme of the 10th WCCT just would have read: “In a win or draw study, White chooses to avoid a try that leads to a position that is very similar to one reached in actual play. The difference is not that the other side is to move nor during play a white piece passively disappearing.” Would that cause confusion?

In any case I hope confusion isn’t caused by the replayable studies below. Of course not all sections can be shown with examples in a single article, so as always I hope to have selected studies that are interesting to practical players also, while leaving you the others to explore with the places and links given above.


 

Click or tap an entry in the list to switch positions

You probably know that you can move pieces on our replay boards to analyse and even start an engine to help you. You can maximize the replayer, auto-play, flip the board and even change the piece style in the bar below the board.

At the bottom of the notation window on the right there are buttons for editing (delete, promote, cut lines, unannotate, undo, redo) save, play out the position against Fritz and even embed the ChessBase game viewer on your website or blog. Hovering the mouse over any button will show you its function.


WCCT list (section info only for endgame studies)

The following information is taken from the Handbook for Chess Composition, EG, WCCT 3 and 4 booklets, and the official website including the available PDF booklets there. For interested readers, a link or place is provided to see each award. (For “EG”, see the EG archive.)

1st WCCT: 1972-1975, winner Soviet Union, 27 participating countries, organized by Finland

  • Section D1: “One or more W pieces move far from bK.” (paraphrased in EG 47), judge Harold Lommer (award: EG 47, p.405)
  • Section D2: “In the course of the solution two W pieces form a battery (directed either at bK or any other Black piece) and later the firing piece and the rear piece exchange functions.” (paraphrased in EG 47), judge Yuri Averbakh (award: EG 47, p.409)

2nd WCCT: 1980-1983, winner Soviet Union, 27 participating countries, organized by the F. R. Germany (West Germany)

  • Section D: “In the main line (or variation or try, and by White or Black) a promotion to Q creates instant stalemate.” (paraphrased in EG 75), judge Hillel Aloni (award: EG 78, p.361)

3rd WCCT: 1984-1988, winner Soviet Union, 28 participating countries, organized by the PCCC

  • Section D: “A win ends in a mate with at least one black piece pinned.” (WCCT booklet), judge Pauli Perkonoja (award: EG 97, p.625)

4th WCCT: 1989-1992, winner Soviet Union, 29 participating countries, organized by Poland

  • Section D: “During the play the same man (Q, R, B, S, P), black or white, is first pinned and later unpinned.” (WCCT booklet), judge Pauli Perkonoja (award: EG 109, p.230)

5th WCCT: 1993-1997, winner Ukraine, 39 participating countries, organized by Czech Republic

  • Section D: “A win study where an away-from-the-edge stalemate of bK is avoided” (paraphrased in EG 111), judge Paul Joitsa (Romania) (award: EG 126, p.207)

6th WCCT: 1997-2001, winner Russia, 36 participating countries, organized by Germany

  • Section D: “In order to gain or lose a tempo, White refuses to capture a piece (not a pawn). Win or draw.” (WFCC website), judge Velimir Kalandadze (award: EG 142, p.404)

7th WCCT: 2001-2004, winner Russia, 38 participating countries, organized by Macedonia

  • Section D: “In a certain position (“position X”) of a win or draw study, a piece (or pieces) of his own side prevent White from carrying out his plan. In the course of the solution White sacrifices this piece (or pieces) either passively (examples 1 and 3) or actively (example 2). Consequently, position X’ arises, which is identical in every detail to position X, but without the eliminated piece(s). This enables White to carry out his original plan. [...] Pawn(s) may be used as the thematic piece(s).” (WFCC website)
  • Judges: Belgium, Georgia, Israel, Romania, Russia. Reserve judge: Belarus. (award and infos: WFCC)

8th WCCT: 2005-2008, winner Russia, 37 participating countries, organized by Germany

  • Section D: “In a position in the main line of a win or draw study where an unprotected white or black piece A is directly attacked, White or Black instantaneously (right on the following move) places another piece B (of the same colour as A) en-prise (again unprotected and directly attacked). This thematic move resulting in the two white or the two black pieces A & B hanging, must be a quiet one, i.e. not a check, nor a capture. A and B may be any pieces except pawns.” (WFCC website)
  • Judges: Belarus, Finland, Georgia, Israel, Romania. Reserve judge: Belgium (award and infos: WFCC

9th WCCT: 2011-2013, winner Russia, 37 participating countries, organized by the WFCC

  • Section D: “In a win study, the white queen moves, without capturing, checking or refuting a check, to a square where she is not guarded by White and where she can immediately be captured by Black.” (PDF booklet)
  • Judges: Azerbaijan, Finland, Georgia, Russia, Slovakia. Reserve judge: Belgium

Note: The announcement, reproduced here as given in the original source, has an erroneous omission of a comma. In fact, a silent queen sacrifice is asked for, i.e., not “without capturing, checking or refuting a check” but “without capturing, checking, or refuting a check”. (Award and infos: WFCC)

10th WCCT: 2016-2017, winner Russia, 38 participating countries, organized by the WFCC

  • Section D: “A logical study with the foresight theme. In a win or a draw study, there is at least one logical try. In this try a critical position B occurs that is very similar to a critical position A in the solution, except for a small difference. This difference could e.g. be a change in the position of a certain piece, missing/extra material, shifted positions, etc.

Studies in which the critical positions are based on a reciprocal zugzwang (i.e. the difference is that position A has BTM and position B has WTM) are non-thematic. Further, studies that only feature the 7th WCCT theme as the foresight theme (passive removal of a white piece as a Vorplan and returning to the position and executing the main plan) are also non-thematic for this tourney.”

  • Judges: Finland, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Netherlands. Reserve judge: Armenia (preliminary award and infos: WFCC)

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World Federation for Chess Composition

World Federation for Chess Composition (www.wfcc.ch)

Links




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.
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