Study of the Month - Chess composition in Japan and Singapore

by Siegfried Hornecker
10/29/2022 – This month, I planned to write about chess composition in Japan, but it turned out that not much information was obtainable. The situation in Singapore is even worse regarding sources. So instead, in this month's column we have a small mix of shorter articles again. | Photo: Pixabay

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Chess composition in Japan and Singapore

Big in Japan?

As I have no written sources, other than replies to questions asked to knowledgeable people, both for Japan and Singapore, as well as my own experience with the Singaporean circle, let us start directly with the situation in Japan.

When I received a few issues of the magazine Problem Paradise in the mid-2000s decade, chess was only one of the composition avenues in it, others included games such as checkers and tsumeshogi (shogi problems).

Hiroaki Maeshima collected and translated information for Yours Truly, he asked IM Junta Ikeda, Hiroshi Manabe and Tadashi Wakashima (sensei) for further knowledge. The provided information is below, it was first posted on Twitter. Wakashima writes there:

In Japan, there was a bulletin of Japan Postal Chess Association, which named "The Pawn".

Since its editor Shigeo Hayakawa was fond of chess problems, chess problems were temporarily popular among readers of the bulletin in between 1973-1974. There were several dozens of originals by Japanese, and I will introduce some of them.


Sadly, the publication of originals ceased around that time (I suppose that The Pawn was not published after 1977), and I think the history of chess problems would change greatly if more problems were published in The Pawn.

Hiroaki Maeshima adds that the Japan Postal Chess Association now is known as Japan Correspondence Chess Association. The Pawn was published around two decades prior to the first issues of Problem Paradise.

Wakashima confirmed that The Pawn included some endgame studies. A ["Problems from the pawn_2.pdf" PDF file] of the problems and studies from the magazine (without solutions) with a short translation of their relevance was provided by Hiroaki. The three endgame studies from the file with solutions are also replayable at the end of the article.

The following text was provided prior to the information above. Originally Hiroaki Maeshima sent me his collected information:

Many Japanese chess problem composers are also tsumeshogi (shogi problem) composers.

Tsumeshogi has its own long history until now. In the Edo period(1603-1867), some collections of tsumeshogi are dedicated to Shogun.

He clarified that chess also came to Japan during this period. However, chess was not very popular in Japan until recently.

One of pioneers about chess problem in Japan was Masazumi Hanazawa(1943-2007):

He was the first Japanese whose chess problem is published in FIDE Album. 
(After that, the problems by Ken Kousaka, Satoshi Hashimoto, Yoshikazu Ueda and Tadashi Wakashima have been published in FIDE Album.)

This is an obituary (in Japanese). The page says that He had composed chess problems, tsumeshogis, fairy tsumeshogis, tsumego(Go problem), and other puzzles.

It includes a comment of Yoshio Kadowaki (He was also a pioneer of chess problem in Japan) about the study introduced in (it is not explicitly indicated, but I believe that this comment mentions the study. Translated by me)

Hanazawa-san was very fond of a chess problem (study) and his collection includes the magazine from USSR or Feenschach, and I often exchange information with him.
[translator added: Among his problems,] What impressed me was "Multiple Queen-noko[1]". Since the captured piece cannot be reused[2] in chess, multiple Queen-noko is very difficult. If memory serves, There had been a problem with twofold Queen-noko, but Hanazawa-san had composed a problem with fourfold or fivehold Queen-noko, which astonished me.

----Problem Paradise and WFCC(PCCC)---
Japan was admitted to take part in PCCC in 1996.
The minute says that the Japanese Chess Problem Society was founded in June 1996, and in those days it had 80 members. 
Now it has 90 members, with President Satoshi Hashimoto and Chief Editor of Problem Paradise Tadashi Wakashima.

Problem Paradise is the (I suppose, only) Japanese magazine on chess problems. It is published quarterly from 1996. In December 2022, issue 100 will be published.
Problem Paradise will cease being published in a paper form after issue 100. It will be published online.

There are two Japanese solvers who have WFCC titles: Tadashi Wakashima (IM) and Kohey Yamada (FM).
[note: Not to be confused between solving FM Kohey Yamada and OTB's FM Kohei Yamada.]

In 2012, the WCCC was held in Kobe, Japan.

Translation note:
[1] Queen-noko: In tsumeshogi, There's a type of maneuvering named "Umanoko" (lit. Horse-saw). "Horse" is an alias of promoted Bishop, whose move is Bishop+King. "Umanoko" is a maneuvering that promoted Bishop moves zig-zag path, like sawteeth. In this context, he regarded the maneuvering of wQ in the above study as the same as "Umanoko".
[2] Unlike shogi. This comment is originally written for Japanese readers.

This is unfortunately all the information Yours Truly has about chess composition in Japan. Again, many thanks to Hiroaki Maeshima for this work over several weeks to retrieve the information from various sources.

See also: Problems from the Pawn

Singapore Rising

Andrew Buchanan, inventor of "Dead Reckoning" that transforms the "dead position" rule into chess composition ideas, organizes online meetings once per month, in which he and other Singaporean chess composers regularly attend together with Yours Truly and other interested friends from around the world. The small monthly circle consists of less than 10 people but already had prominent guests, as an example from our sister website ChessBase India also an author attended once or twice.

Singapore skyline silhouette

Despite the attention Singapore receives by the monthly meeting and the online magazine "The Hopper", for which prodigy Anirudh Daga (originally from India) performs video interviews with chess composers, Singapore has a rather small community of five active composers who all know each other, the others are Marken Foo, James Quah, Andrew Buchanan (originally UK), Tamij Khosla (originally India). Quah is the source for this and the following information.

Said information indicates that earlier Lin Tien Liang was active since at least the 1950s, composing selfmates. Prior to the foundation of Singapore, he was Malaysian. The following problem has both sides, with Black beginning, cooperate so White can checkmate him after 2 moves (Black, White, Black, White).


T. L. Lin, The Problemist October/December 1975.

Helpmate in 2, two solutions.

(Correction by Hiroaki Maeshima, "Chess Problems & Studies" Discord server, 22 October 2022)

The Schwalbe Problem Database has 35 entries by this composer, mostly selfmates (White forces Black to checkmate him).

Most chess problem books available in the 1980s in Singapore were by Kenneth S. Howard, but there also was for example "Pick of the best Chess Problems" by Barry P. Barnes. This unfortunately already also is the final information sent by James Quah.

It seems that the chess composition community in Singapore is extremely small, despite being internationally known.

WCCT Results

The 11th World Chess Composition Tournament (see our October 2019 article for a history of those tourneys) has recently been finished, and the official website offers a booklet for download in the PDF format. It says: In total 33 countries participated in the tournament with 550 compositions in eight sections. The tournament was announced in May 2020 and the closing date for the submission of entries was July 1st, 2021. The teams from Russia and Belarus were excluded in March 2022 as a reaction of the (since 2014 ongoing) Russian-Ukrainian War escalating in February 2022. 

The overall competition was won by Slovakia (130.6 points), followed by Ukraine (122.3 points) and Germany (119.4 points). Serbia became a close fourth with 116.9 points. If a country scored in all eight genres, their lowest result was not included to the total points. "x-movers" are checkmates in x moves, for example a "twomover" is a checkmate in 2 moves.

113 composers had problems in the top 20 lists of at least one genre. Individual best compositions were provided by:

  • Twomovers - Marjan Kovačević (Serbia). The section had 79 ranked compositions.
  • Threemovers - Peter Gvozdják & Štefan Sovík (Slovakia). 66 ranked.
  • Moremovers - Ladislav Salai Jr, Emil Klemanič (Slovakia). 57 ranked.
  • Endgame Studies - Serhiy Didukh (Ukraine). 61 ranked.
  • Helpmates - Marek Kolčák (Slovakia). 84 ranked.
  • Selfmates - Jozef Havran (Slovakia). 64 ranked.
  • Fairy Chess - Peter Gvozdják (Slovakia). 42 ranked.
  • Retros - Silvio Baier (Germany). 68 ranked.

Of note is that Serhiy Didukh is named as Sergiy Didukh in the booklet, he requested in EG recently that the transcription with "h" is used, which we respect in this article. The Retros section has a proofgames theme. Proofgames are games that can be detemined uniquely from the final position and number of moves, unless (as usual) the shortest proofgame is sought, in which case the number of moves would in theory not be necessary for the stipulation, but only the side to play.

As this article series concentrates on endgame studies, we will only reproduce their theme here. Interested readers can find the others, as well as the ranked entries, in the booklet.

Theme (proposed by Israel): During the solution, in the same position, White has two ways to makean active sacrifice of a unit; one is a try, the other is the solution. Any type of unit (including pawn)may be sacrificed and it is allowable to sacrifice different units in try and solution. The sacrificesmust be pure: the sacrificed white unit(s) must not be guarded (protected) by another white unitafter the sacrifice move and the thematic white moves mustnot capture a black unit. The sacrifice may or may not be accepted by Black.

The winning study and a selection of studies from the tourney that we believe to be more suited to the general public are replayable below, following the four Japanese endgame studies related to the "Big in Japan?" section of this article. As such, we hope to strike a balance between information and entertainment.



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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Frankiez Frankiez 10/30/2022 03:16
Singapore’s motivation is trivial: anything that makes money will garner attention. If chess composition can net a million dollar price, you can be sure the community will immediately expand many many fold.