World Chess Solving Championship in Greece

by ChessBase
8/31/2004 – The athletes have left, and now some of the finest minds in the world are collecting in Halkidiki, Greece, to solve direct, help and self mates, endgame studies and a host of other chess problems. Themis Argirakopoulos has sent us a comprehensive report on problem chess and even supplied samples to test your wits against the champions.

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A problem is always a composed position and very often it does not look as it might have occurred in a game. The problematist can put the pieces just where he wants them, provided of course it is a legal position. In arranging the pieces, the composer aims to show some worthwhile idea, in as elegant and economical a form as possible – in other words, he hopes to create something of beauty, to be appreciated and enjoyed by his audience, the solvers.

  • In a direct mate problem you are always told in how many moves the win must be achieved, and the win is always a mate. White plays first and forces mate within the stipulated number of moves, whatever Black may reply.

  • In a helpmate, a spirit of co-operation exists: Black plays first and helps White to deliver mate to the black king. Sounds strange? It is! Black is not defending, he is trying just as hard as White to get to the mating position. Click here for an introduction and here if you want more about helpmates.

  • A selfmate problem, is a “White suicide” problem! White moves first and forces Black to inflict mate on the stipulated number of moves. Black is striving to avoid giving mate, but White manages at the end to achieve his “bizarre” goal! More...

  • In helpmates and selfmates, all FIDE rules on legality of the moves apply. For example, no player can disregard a check, or expose his king to a check. Even if the overall concept is a bit different than usual, helpmates and selfmates are nowadays considered orthodox problems.

  • An endgame study is the closest to an over-the-board game, but still it is a composed position; it is not a contest between two players, but between composer and solver. These may be draws or wins; all you have to do is find the best play for both sides and achieve what the composer asks for.

  • There are also retrograde analysis problems (find what happened on the board before we reach the current position, click here) and fairy chess problems. In fairy chess, you have to handle exotic pieces with new attributes, e.g. the grasshopper which moves like a queen but jumps over a hurdle to the immediate square after it, if empty, or cope with special conditions, like Circe, where a captured piece is reborn to its original game-array square.

[The above text based on John Rice’s excellent book “Chess Wizardry: The New ABC of Chess Problems”, Batsford, London 1996 , available on many online shops, see more on e.g. bookstore].

World Chess Solving Championship

The World Chess Solving Championship is open to national teams and individual solvers. The Championship is a two days event, with three rounds per day for a total of three hours thinking time per day. In the first day, solvers are asked to solve three two-movers, three three-movers and three endgames. During the second day, they have to solve three helpmates, three more-movers and three selfmates. Solvers are allowed to use the chessboards made available by the organizers, or use their own board. They can of course move the pieces around while they try to solve the problem. Sounds easy? Take a look at this selection of the last year’s championship held in Moscow.

Mate in 2 - 1/3

White to play and mate in two
Mate in 2 - 2/3

White to play and mate in two
Mate in 2 - 3/3

White to play and mate in two
Mate in 3

White to play and mate in three
Helpmate in 5

Black to play helps White to deliver mate in five
Selfmate in 2

White to play forces Black to mate him in two

White to play and win

Click here for the team and individual results of the Moscow 2003 Championship.

But the Solving Championship is not the only event during the week. There are quick and five-day long composing tourneys arranged by the organizers, for those who want to try their skill in making a chess problem. A lot of the congress participants also announce informal tourneys. There are no prize funds for the winners and this is considered absolutely normal. So, if you want to get a bottle of French champagne, an Italian wine or perhaps Japanese sake for free, read the theme carefully and do your best!

Another event is the Solving Show. The top 16 solvers of the Championship will be fighting in a knockout tournament. They will be trying to solve orthodox two-movers, and they have only three minutes to find the solution and announce the key! You should be both fast and careful… A wrong answer means a point for your opponent! Depending on the round, the first with 3 to 5 points is the winner.

For the first time in Halkidiki, we are going to have also a Fairy Chess Solving Show. Same rules, but fairy pieces allowed.

And finally, if you missing the over the board play, there is something for you! Take your best friend and try your chances at bughouse! A team here has two members, one playing White and one Black. Bughouse is the ideal chess variation for all of us hoping to dig out a lorn rule, allowing us to drop a knight at a certain square. No problem! Don’t mess with FIDE chess rules. Just ask your teammate to capture one for you! Yes, you can use every piece your teammate is capturing, and drop it everywhere on the board.

Another funny variation is “progressive” chess. When the game starts, White makes 1 move. Then Black plays 2 moves in a row, then White 3 moves, Black 4 and so on… Be careful, if you are not able to mate by making e.g. 8 moves in a row, then your opponent will play 9 in a row, and you are in a big trouble! Chaotic? No doubt about this…

So every one of you, who wants to try something different than home preparation in the Albin Counter Gambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 d4), is invited to join us at Halkidiki, 4th to 11th of September 2004. Details on how to get there, where to book, and about the cost are available here. More details about the hotels (Athos Palace and Pallini Beach)are here.

We are looking forward to seeing you in Halkidiki!

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

About Halkidiki

Halkidhiki consists of a large peninsula in the northwestern Aegean Sea, resembling a hand with three fingers or the a trident piercing the Aegean sea.

Sunny, golden sandy beaches. In ancient times it was part of Thrace until conquered by Macedon. The first Greek settlers in this area came from Chalcis (the area around Chalcis was also known as Chalcidice) and Eretria, cities in Euboea, around the 8th century BC who founded cities such as Mende, Torone and Scione. The ancient city of Stagira was the birthplace of Aristotle.


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