World Champion Dr GM GM John Nunn

by ChessBase
9/22/2004 – That is the appropriate form of address, after the British GM won the World Chess Solving Championship in Halkidiki, Greece, and also made his final GM norm in problem solving (he became a regular chess grandmaster back in 1978). John is the third person ever to gain both over-the-board and solving GM titles. Here's an illustrated report...

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John Nunn wins World Chess Solving Championship

By Themis Argirakopoulos

The World Chess Solving Championship (WCSC) was held in Halkidiki, Greece, from September 4th to 11th, 2004. As always it was open to national teams and individual solvers. They had to tackle a variety of chess problems, and a few endgame studies to boot. In our previous article we gave you all the details of the problem types, together with a sample of problems from a previous competition.

The venue of the Chess Solving World Championship

This time the World Chess Solving Championship (WCSC) involved solving a total of 18 problems and studies in six rounds of three problems/studies each. The schedule was as follows (together times allowed):

First day:
3 mates in two in 20 minutes
3 mates in three in 60 minutes
3 endgame studies in 100 minutes

Second day:
3 helpmates in 50 minutes
3 more-movers (mates in 4 or more moves) in 80 minutes
3 selfmates in 50 minutes

Each problem/study scores 5 points for a theoretical maximum of 90 points. You have to give a complete analysis of the position. If you miss an important variation, for example, you will lose marks.

The view from the problem solving hall

The WCSC is reminiscent of a school examination. You all sit in a big hall, and then the papers are handed out. At the appointed time, you turn over your paper and start solving, writing the solutions in the spaces provided. At the end (or before, if you have finished early!) you hand the papers in and these are marked by the controller.

... and from the 10th floor of the hotel. I can assure readers that all players were strictly concentrated on chess boards during the events, but most of them were in their swimming gear for the rest of the day!

The WCSC combines an individual event with a team event. Three solvers from each country take part. The solver achieving the highest individual score becomes World Chess Solving Champion. For the team event, the best two scores from each country are added together on a round-by-round basis to give a total for that country.

Bjorn Enemark (Denmark), and Vlaicu Crisan, Eric Huber, Paul Raican (all from Romania). You can use as many chessboards as you like, and you can move the pieces around…

The 2004 WCSC was the strongest solving event ever held. Not only was the defending champion, Selivanov of Russia, taking part, but there were also ten ex-world champions participating.

John Nunn (left) at the World Problem Solving Championship in Halkidiki

Dr John Nunn, the British Grandmaster and Chess Director of Gambit Publications, was one of the participants. Frederic Friedel was sure that John was the favourite to win the WCSC and asked us to take pictures and prepare a report. Great prediction Frederic. Dr. Nunn dominated the championship! By the way, we would like to challenge your prophetic abilities Frederic: try to guess who will be the next unified over-the-board World Champion, and the year of the event!

John Nunn started the first day with 45 points out of 45, a score equaled only by Ram Soffer from Israel. The second day’s problems proved harder, but John managed to score 15/15 in each of the first two rounds, while Soffer dropped 2.5 points on the helpmates. The last round proved the toughest challenge of all, and hardly anybody made a perfect score. John failed to solve the selfmate in 6, and missed a variation in one of the other problems to finish with 84/90. Would someone overtake him? Nobody did. The selfmate in 6 had defeated many of the other leading solvers, and in the end John finished in first place, ahead of Piotr Murdzia (Poland) on 82.5 and Ram Soffer on 81.5.

The team from Israel: Paz Einat, Ofer Comay, Aharon Hirschenson, Noam Elkies

The team event was won by the very powerful Israeli team, consisting of Ram Soffer (81.5 points), Noam Elkies (70.5 points) and Ofer Comay (62.5 points). Great Britain (unlike over-the-board events, in solving there are no separate teams for Scotland and Wales, for example) finished second, the other British solvers being Jonathan Mestel (69.5 points) and David Friedgood (58 points). Finland were third and Poland fourth.

Trophies for the winners

Not only did John Nunn become World Chess Solving Champion, he also became a grandmaster – of chess solving, that is (he has had the regular grandmaster title since 1978). John is only the third person to gain both the over-the-board and solving GM titles, the first two being Jonathan Mestel and Ram Soffer. His three GM solving norms came in 1978, 1992 and 2004 – quite a long wait since the first norm!

John Nunn with Spiros Ilandzis, journalist and President of the Greek Chess Composition Committee – and a strong OTB player.

Problem solving is one area of chess that is showing real growth. There are now solving championships in many countries, and the standard of solving is rising all the time. It is perhaps a sign of things to come that the British Solving Team were supported by a commercial sponsor, hedge-fund manager Winton Capital Management.

28th World Chess Solving Championship – Individual
Solver Country Points Time (360 min)
John Nunn GBR 84,0 319
Piotr Murdzia POL 82,5 302
Ram Soffer ISR 81,5 337
Jorma Paavilainen FIN 73,5 356
Marjan Kovacevic SCG 72,5 332
Noam Elkies ISR 70,5 333
Jonathan Mestel GBR 69,5 332
Dolf Wissman NED 68,0 358
Mark Erenburg ISR 66,5 354
Tadashi Wakashima JAP 66,5 356

28th World Chess Solving Championship – Team
Team Points Time (720 minutes)
Israel 162 665
Noam Elkies 70,5 333
Ram Soffer 81,5 337
Ofer Comay 62,5 347
Great Britain 154,5 649
Jonathan Mestel 69,5 332
David Friedgood 58 354
John Nunn 84 319
Finland 153,5 673
Kari Karhunen 61,5 360
Jorma Paavilainen 73,5 356
Pauli Perkonoja 65,5 307

Here are two problems from the 2004 WCSC that you can try for yourself. In both problems White is to play and force mate. In the first problem you must mate in 2 moves and in the second in 3 moves. To make it more realistic, you should allow yourself 7 minutes for the mate in 2 and 20 minutes for the mate in 3. If you succeed with both, perhaps you will qualify to take part in the next WCSC!

Alain C White, British Chess Magazine 1901

White to play and mate in two moves

Gerald F Anderson, 3rd Prize, BCPS 1920

White to play and mate in three


Picture gallery

At the 47th World Congress of Chess Composition (WCCC) problem chess fans in Greece were also able to admire and compete with some of the finest minds in the world.

It was a great experience for all of us and was very well prepared and organized by Harry Fougiaxis of Greece (picture right). As a result, the Permanent Committee of Chess Composition (PCCC) has entrusted Greece to organise and host next year’s event as well!

During the WCCC, some events are different from over-the-board chess. For example, there is a Quick Composing Tourney. Two of the best Greek composers, composition GM Byron Zappas and IM Paulos Moutecidis (photo above), set the challenge: a direct mate in 2 moves and/or a helpmate in 2 moves, with composers from all over the world doing their best to fulfil the conditions. In a competition like this, you have to compose a chess problem in three hours.

Emil Klemanic and Marek Kolcak of Slovakia working on a composition

Composers use computers to test their compositions. Remember that a chess problem requires a unique and thematic solution, not a Fritz evaluation of +–16.85, and deep strategic moves.

Italian problem solver Parrinello with his daughter Giulia

Michal Dragoun (Czech Republic) dominated the Solving Show and Fairy Solving Show. Greek Champion Kostas Prentos achieved a GM solving norm.

The bughouse tournament is a great chance to relax and have fun with your teammates. John Nunn and David Friedgood (Great Britain) versus Ram Soffer and Noam Elkies (Israel). Soffer and Elkies were the winners.

Bughouse is very popular among the problem experts

John Nunn enjoying a boat trip on the beautiful Greek Mediterranean

A view from the boat – but no mate in three here...

The trip was to Mount Athos, a self-governing part of Greece. The only citizens there are orthodox clerics, living in 20 monasteries. They don’t use electricity, and you need a special licence to visit the place. Also, it is impossible for women go there! Yes, maybe you don’t agree with this, but for 1.000 years (since 1045), no women have been allowed to visit Mt. Athos.

On the boat people were more relaxed, especially during a Greek National Dancing Event

On behalf of the Greek Chess Composition Committee, we would like to thank all the participants of the Congress. We have to thank you not only for congratulating us about the organization, but for your chess enthusiasm, your interest in composition and your talent in solving. That was the secret of a fabulous week! We hope to see you all, together with other chess friends, next year in Greece!

On behalf of the Greek Chess Composition Committee,
Harry Fougiaxis, Athens, IM in Composition, FIDE Judge
Themis Argirakopoulos


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