Understanding chess composition competition

by Siegfried Hornecker
8/31/2019 – This month Study of the Month columnist SIEGFRIED HORNECKER looks at the WCCI, or World Championship in Composing for Individuals, and the legacy of Nenad Petrović (pictured). As per a rather new rule, the best compositions there automatically qualify for the official FIDE Album, which will be covered in a follow-up article. | Photo: Arves.org

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.


Study of the Month: August 2019

As we want to use this column not only to entertain but also to teach readers, while taking a break from the usual biographies, of which more will come in the future, I wanted to give some background information on some competitions organized by the WFCC (World Federation for Chess Composition, formerly the FIDE subcommittee PCCC: Permanent Commission for Chess Composition).

Let us delve a bit into history, but only as much as necessary. A few years ago I heard the name of Nenad Petrović on German television, but as it is a common name it was only a namesake of the famous chess composer from Zagreb (b. 1907, d. 1989). Not only one era ended at the day he died — November 9th 1989. In my own country the Berlin Wall fell, and certainly Petrović would have loved to have seen the developments to connect humans all over the world that followed.

Petrović founded the magazine “Problem” in 1951, which became the official FIDE organ for chess composition, and directed it until it was closed in 1981. At the same time he was editor for chess problems in the "Sahovski vjesnik" (from 1951 until 1959). His endless productivity in the 1950s reached its height when in 1952 the “Permanent Commission for Chess Composition at the FIDE” (PCCC) was founded and held its own congress in 1958 in the Yugoslavian (now Slovenian) town of Piran. The Croatian master laid down a guideline for chess composers, called the “Codex for Chess Composition” of which only the 2015 version remains available. As those are guidelines, composers are free to deviate if they want — the encouragement is not to be seen as a law, but rather is intended to help with common questions. A complete book with all chess composition “laws”, to speak so, would require a lot of themes, fairy pieces, and more to be defined. This is not done by the WFCC, but rather as the consensus of composers, and as such the definitions are in tourneys, FIDE Albums, and other places where necessary.

Fairy chess

Another interpretation of "fairy chess pieces" | Photo: Karen Nadine (pixabay.com)

The fairy conditions and pieces are so vast, I don’t think any full source is available anywhere, although some sources have most definitions. But as new fairy pieces and conditions are developed all the time, only few of them are so successful that they remain in broad use. Many Circe variations come to mind, and ones that were used in a few joke problems (without naming the fairy conditions) include allowing the promotion into a king or a piece of the opposing colour, usually created in a time when the FIDE laws technically still allowed them.

Of course, with them circulating long before the PCCC was founded, it was likely a wise decision to not even try giving official definitions, and rather leave that to composers and their consensus. However, this sadly also means that there is no official repository to look up ideas nowadays, and meanings are far from obvious. One example: You might recognize Chinese pieces from Chinese Chess, but “Japanese pieces” being pieces that can only move forward and promoting to usual chess pieces (i.e. a Japanese rook becoming a rook) on the opposite rank is not deducible by the name.

Let us return to the 1958 congress, usually referred to as “Piran Congress”. The Austrian Honorary PCCC President Klaus Wenda wrote a retrospective in 2007, which we will gladly use as a source next month, but also now for a few important points. Prior to this first WCCC, the Permanent Commission for Chess Composition, founded in 1954, had held two annual meetings already in Budapest 1956 and Vienna 1957. As President Gyula Neukomm had passed away, Nenad Petrović became the new PCCC President. History has told us that this active composer was a good choice, as under his reign the Viennese plan for an anthology (the FIDE Albums), a world championship (WCCT), and much more was set into action.

Later the World Championship in Composing for Individials (WCCI) followed. The WCCI is not to be confused with the WCCT, the World Chess Composition Tournament, which also would require a separate article. For the WCCI, every composer can enter up to six but not less than four of his compositions for which he had no co-authors. This can be done in each category, but we will only look at the endgame studies here, although the processes for each category are the same. The full rules as they are today can be found on the WFCC website. Those rules have evolved over the decades and are still evolving. The results for the latest event were just published two months ago, and all entries are also available online, making it possible to find the results and their entries to see who was the winner.

FIDE album coverIn each section, a composer should send in his best six compositions, which are judged and then four compositions are used to determine the overall winner. Recently, as the judging process is similar to the FIDE Album judging, the rule was established that a problem judged with 8 or more points automatically is included in said anthology.

Michael Roxlau (German magazine “Die Schwalbe” studies editor who was asked to be judge for the 2nd WCCI) kindly sent me (uncensored) background information about the 2nd WCCI, illustrating the developments at that time. While for reasons related to the integrity of the WCCI some of his material can’t be shown here (the points he gave to the studies), other material is shown in censored (anonymized) form in the screenshot below. The (not shown) authors list is followed by “Art” (kind of remarks), “Variante” (which variation the remarks relate to), “Bermerkungen” (other notes about the remarks). The three judges filled the list during the tourney’s judging. We took the screenshot from the table provided by Roxlau, but due to regulations are not allowed to show the author names regarding each entry. Still we hope it offers a small view into the judging process. You will notice the term “ODB”, it was the “Oracle Data-Base”, nowadays known as endgame tablebases.

screenshot from judges

The judges coordinated their efforts to find anticipations and cooks in a shared Excel file

Thanks to Michael Roxlau’s assistance, we can show two studies from the 2nd WCCI, and also explaining what score they got. In addition, of each of the latest three WCCIs, a top study is shown. As the winners might not always be suitable to the public, this is a good compromise.

Next month, we plan to elaborate further, then concentrating on the history of the congresses and the FIDE Albums. You will find a selection of studies from the latest FIDE Album then. And we'll conclude with a look at the WCCTs, demonstrating a few studies from throughout their history.


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.

Endgame Turbo 5 USB flash drive

Perfect endgame analysis and a huge increase in engine performance: Get it with the new Endgame Turbo 5! This brings the full 6-piece Syzygy endgame tablebases on a pendrive. Just plug it in a USB socket and you are set!

World Federation for Chess Composition

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


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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