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Dr.D's Check-Up Print E-mail
By Steven Dowd   
November 17, 2006

by Dr.Steven Dowd
Greetings to all solvers and potential solvers! I am the new Chess Life Online problem columnist.

This column is designed to replace David Brown's excellent Key Krackers, which had a long run both in the print version of the magazine and for a time here online. David was well-known as a columnist and as a US Problem Master, so I have rather large shoes to fill!

Like David, I am a long-term chess player and USCF member, but my compositional efforts have come more recently, although I have always enjoyed solving problems of all types. I've published about 200 problems all over the world, from Japan to England, Germany, Finland, Argentina, Russia, and a host of other countries, including the United States. I am retiring this year from my job as Professor of Radiologic Science at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, and will devote myself full-time to chess.

This column will begin with directmates (I.e. mate in two, mate in seven) only. The ladder will continue and eventually branch into two ladders, one for directmates and one for all other problem types. With the magic of the web, we will actually be able, in the future, to provide expanded content, to include articles, a blog and board to discuss problems, and originals. Thus problemists will be provided with another means to show their talents, as they once could in the pages of Chess Life, and solvers will also benefit from expanded content. What was one page a month in the print magazine will expand here to several pages, updated often.

We will update the directmates once a month; and the other problems as well, but they will be on different cycles -- about 2 weeks apart. Also look forward to related content: articles, lessons, book reviews, blogging, and other good fun!

Enough with the introductions! On to our problems. All are directmates, and all are also classic miniatures, which means they are "white to play and mate in" problems with no more than 7 pieces. This all seems simple enough, but the beauty of miniatures is that much content is often packed into those problems with few pieces.

Solutions for the ladder should be sent to me at by December 3. Please include the date of the column in the subject line of your e-mail. (I.e. Nov.17 Dr.D solutions.) The solutions to the problems will be published at the bottom of this article on December 4. Points, as always, will be assigned based on the length of the solution. Bonus points will also be assigned, in this day of the computer (although computer assistance is not allowed!), for answering the bonus questions that accompany some of the compositions. I am a teacher not just by profession, but also by nature, and I believe a column of this type should stress learning, especially for those new to the chess problem.

S. Stambuk
Sahovski Vjesnik 1952

Mate in Two

Bonus: This problem shows what "astronomically" inspired theme?

JF Ling
The Problemist 1953

Mate in Two

Bonus: This problem shows a task in miniature form. What is this task?

M. Locker
Stella Polaris 1966

Mate in Two

Bonus: When I took on this column, Chess Life Online editor Jennifer Shahade asked me to show my favorite problem. This is one of many because it shows a favorite theme of the late American GM Vukevich. What is that theme, shown here quite nicely?

R. Notaro
The Problemist 1978(v)

Mate in Two

Hint and Bonus: The above composer is in his 90s, and is still active in composition, not unusual for composers. The key seems to defy normal convention, and also shows something called the "Mansfield couplet." What is this?

G Heathcote
Illustrated London News 1902

Mate in Three

Bonus: Of the four mates shown in the post-key play, three are of what special type?

Samuel Loyd
Albion 1856

Mate in Three

Bonus: This problem has a unique key, and a pleasing solution, there are at least two defects here that would probably make this problem unpublishable in a modern problem magazine.

Mrs. EH Baird
Blumenthal's Schachminiaturen (1902)

Mate in Four

This problem is by one of the few well-known female chess composers, something that strikes some as unusual since chess problems stress artistry. The book this problem comes from is available in pdf format (along with many other excellent books) at this wonderful Czech site.

WA Shinkman
Blumenthal's Schachminiaturen (1902)

Mate in five

Known as the "Wizard of Grand Rapids," this is another favorite of mine amongst many Shinkman compositions. He can be seen as the Morphy of chess composition, a composer whose problems are decidedly modern in appearance, and who could probably compete with the best today. No Bonus, but king maneuvers on both sides feature decidedly here (although not necessarily in the key!).

Reminder: Solutions for the ladder should be sent to me at by December 3. Please include the date of the column in the subject line of your e-mail. (I.e. Nov.17 Dr.D solutions.)


1 1. Ke4! Bonus a star flight by the black king. In fact, the white tries (potential solutions) all also show the four moves that characterize a star flight.
1. .. Ka1 2. Bd4#; 1. . Ka3 Sc4#; 1. .. Kc1 Sd3#;
1. .. Kc3 Sa4#

2 .. 1. Qc6! Bonus no less than six discovered mates by the king are shown in the post-key play.
1. .. Bxc6+ 2. Kxc6#; 1. .. Be6+ 2. Kxe6#; 1. .. Rc4 2.Kxc4# 1. .. Rf4 Kd6# (the other possible discovered mates come after the rook moves to d4, e4, and a3)

31. Bb7! (It is useful to note why 1. Ba8? does not work here; note that Black king can move to d3 what then?). Bonus - The theme shown is the Bristol, a type of line clearance; here the line is cleared for the white queen. Like most composers and solvers, I like queen sweeps, but like them even better, when they are not the key! For a full discussion of the Bristol on the net by the late great GM Vukevich, go to http://user.sezampro.yu/~mivel/BRISTOL.HTM.
1. .. d3 2. Qd5#; 1. .. Kc5 2. Qc6# ; 1. .. c2 2. Qxc2#

41. Rg1+! Some think that the keys to all problems must be non-checking keys. Although non-checking keys are generally preferred, it is the effect in a key that is the most important. Usually this is not a check, but there are exceptions! Bonus A Mansfield couplet shows a capture or shutting off of its partner piece in response to a self-pinning defense.
1. .. Rf6 2. Bb5#; 1. .. Rb2 2. Bd3#

5 1. Kc2! (1. Kc3? Seems plausible, but is refuted by 1. ..fxe6!) Bonus - The three "special" mates are model mates in which all pieces (except possibly for king and pawns) participate in the mate. Such mates are often the most aesthetically pleasing to the eye. The models:
1. ..fxe6 2. Qf3 Kd4 3. Qf4#; 1. ..f6 2. Be7 f5 3. Qe2#; 1. .. Kf6 2. Sf8 Ke5 3. Sd7#

6 1. Qd6! Bonus - The various queen promotions and mates are pleasing, but the symmetry in some of the solutions and a minor dual in one would disqualify this from being published as an original today. This is also known as a Rex Solus (Latin: "Lone king") problem in that there is only the black king. However, no column in an American source showing miniatures would be complete without at least one problem by the "Puzzle King" Sam Loyd!
1. .. Ke8 2.Qe5 Kd7 3.e8Q# ; 1...Kg7 2.e8Q Kh7 3.Qdg6#; 1...Kg8 2.Qg6+ 2...Kh8 3.e8Q# (2.e8Q+ Kh7 3.Qdg6# - the dual)

7 1. Bd1! The final mate with the pawn, after the sacrifice of the knight on a3, is pleasing to problemist and player alike.
1 .. b5 2.Kc5 b4 3.Na3 bxa3 4.b4#

81. Sf5! (S is usually used, for those who have wondered, for the Knight, in chess problems). The various switchbacks of the black and white king, with the white king ending back up on d3, show the same kind of need for tempo play one often sees in the endgame proof, perhaps, that chess problems can help your play?
1...Kg2 2.Ke3 Kf1 3.Kd2 Kg2 4.Kd3 Kf3 5. Sh4#