Of Kings and Castles Print E-mail
By Steven Dowd   
June 19, 2007

by Dr. Steven B. Dowd

Many of the solvers are nearing new ascents! Some of you have written me to confirm this, and this strikes me as a new milestone for us. I'll be communicating with those of you who are close, and in the next column, I will post the updated ladder. I also want to note that Anatoly Goldberg is the winner of two book prizes ($20 total) for the bonuses; Anatoly is an exceptionally thorough solver who always lists all tries, all lines, and so on, so his “double win,” although lucky, is not unexpected at all. Like many of you, he finds things I miss at first glance!

Last month's column was problematic in all the wrong ways, but I think we survived it – and I need to thank my solvers and some of my friends in the problem community, a few of whom wrote out some nicely annotated descriptions of the solutions, one of which I will include in the solutions section because it is very instructive – and this month, since solvers are also starting to make many nice comments on the problems – we begin quoting solvers who have something to say about the problem.

Last month I also started a dialog on starting problem-solving competitions in the U.S. I am going to make two suggestions to that end – that every year, at the U.S. Open, U.S. Senior Open, and U.S. Junior Open, a problem-solving competition be held to determine appropriate champions, and that we – the USCF solvers around the country, find a way to hold the following competition with the rest of the world, per Internet. Go to this link:


and click on :

January 21st, 2007 International Solving Contest (Simultaneously in registered countries), which will show you last year's results.

In my opinion, the U.S. should be able to hold this competition in at least 5 major cities; we just need the “tournament directors.” I'll volunteer to serve as one in Atlanta; do we have any other solvers near major cities who would be willing to do this? I am hoping so! So let's get the ball rolling!

We don't need a lot of competitors to start – but we do need to start!

The problem in the June print Chess Life will serve as the bonus, so send that with these answers, please! As noted, problems featuring the rook - and often, primarily rooks and kings are shown here this month. Like all pieces, the rook's unique geometric abilities mean that it even has its own themes! And maybe of the same ideas that occur in over-the-board chess occur in problems – the rook is often sacrificed, for example, for (excuse the joke!) cannon fodder.

Twenty-seven points are possible for the seven problems this month, we are stopping at seven for your mental health! All kidding aside, there is a lot to look into here... have fun!


Von Holtzhausen, 1903
(cited in Reinfeld, 1961)

White to play and mate in Three

I'll start with one of the forefathers of problem chess, and I mention the Reinfeld book The Joys of Chess, as a source because it is a wonderful, little-known book by this much maligned author. The book teaches chess through first, interesting stories, then endgame studies, then chess problems (!), before moving on to games and game fragments. I don't have any two-movers here because it is hard to find problems using rooks to any great degree that I don't find trivial – anyone who wishes to contest that with a problem or two – send them to me and I'll post them in the problem of the week on chessproblem.net – with the submitter appropriately cited, of course!

Promoting right away doesn't do it here. What will?

E. Brunner
Sammler 1935

White to Play and mate in Four

The rest of the column I am going to devote to the problemist I think showed the best handling of white rooks in chess problems – the great German/Swiss composer Erich Brunner. If you can ever find a copy of Hans Kluever's “Brunner-book” (Ein Kuenstler und Deutler des Schachproblems) even if you cannot read a word of German, GET THIS BOOK. I solved for many years but not until I saw Brunner's approach to composition – based on a scientific approach that took into account the power and potential of the piece(s) – was I able to compose a decent problem myself.

Here we have a six-fold echo in the solution – echoes are aesthetically pleasing because they show “almost the same mate” removed a rank or file, or even in some cases, turned 90 or 180 degrees. I like playing through this one over and over because it is so clear and clean......

Erich Brunner
Vossische Zeitung 1929

White to Play and Mate in Four

Another guilty pleasure of mine are problems where black has promotion possibilities – after all the poor guy is often left in problems with nothing but pawns that can only move or capture, so giving him other possibilities raises my enjoyment of the problem. A hint? If you remember the old problem chess axiom that “ a queen is as good as a knight,” you'll figure out the most dangerous promotions.

Another I like about such problems is that they look very game-like – king in the corner. Walter Tevis, in his wonderful novel The Queen's Gambit, intimated that chess problems were often off-putting to players because of the “king in the middle” - I wonder if that's true?

Erich Brunner
Sammler 1932

White to play and mate in Five

This one is another monster. If you are a chessplayer as well, like me, the first consideration you might have is 1. Resigns? White has two pieces he can use in comparison to black's massive army. Many of you know a Miniature is a problem with no more than 7 pieces, and that sometimes, when white sacrifices a piece early on in a problem with 8 pieces it is called a capture or sacrifice Miniature.

This one is a sacrificial Minimal – Minimal referring to a problem with only one white piece, besides the king. Minimals are one of my absolute favorite problem type. Since I gave the clue to this one, I'll only give 2 points for the key, but the full five for any one variation – requiring more than that would be a bit sadistic.

Erich Brunner
Deutsches Wochenschach 1916
Dedicated to AC White

White to Play and Mate in Six

The dedication to AC White, the well-known American problemist, is because of White's initial explorations into the rook in the chess problem, one of White's books being More White Rooks. I am a science fiction nerd, and unapologetically so, and I call these kinds of problems “Borg” problems – once you find the key, the rest flows so naturally that you realize “resistance is futile!” Since white could mate quickly without the h3 pawn.... enough hints!

Another reason why Brunner has remained popular over many years is that his problems are not easily cooked – I've never found one, and I believe his methodical, scientific approach was the reason. They are also nice to show those folks who don't normally “like problems.”

Erich Brunner
Akademische Monatshefte fuer Schach 1910

White to Play and Mate in Three

How did we get back to 3 moves? Kohtz, in the famous “Indisches Problem” book noted that neither he or his composition partner Kockelhorn were able to make a problem meeting the following criteria: “Since in general, with a doubling of the rooks , if the rooks are both aloe to double on the same square, it should not matter which rook goes to that square. But showing that only one doubling move works as a critical move, due to the manner in which they are initially separated....”

And thus, with this problem, an entire theme was born: The Brunner/Turton theme. The above is a bit messy in its construction but shows the idea in easy-to-understand fashion.

Erich Brunner
Schwalbe 1936

White to Play and Mate in Four

If the previous problem didn't make Brunner-Turton entirely clear to you, this one should. As Kluever notes, though, once the idea is clear, solving these problems isn't hard – but always interesting, in my opinion. White wants to double rooks on c7 for stalemate relief – but how? And which one? Even 30 years after its first appearance, it served as the model for a Schwalbe theme tourney!

May's Solutions- Click here to see the May column

001 1. Rf7! Paul Birnbaum: “We have Black's d4R/e5B/f6S mutually protecting one another;1.Qd3 (pinning the d4R with threat 2.Rxe5) is answered by 1...Bxd4!
1.Rb5 (pinning the e5B with threat 2.Rxf6) is answered by 1...Sd5! The solution is 1.Rf7! (which pins the f6S with threat 2.Bxe4) now, on either move by the d4R, 2.Rxe5; and, if 1...Bg2, 2.Qxg4. A wonderful explanation.

002 1. Ra6! Solver Marty Lubell, who also composes, called this problem “an unusual Indian.” Solver Gary Kevin Ware is now preparing an article on the Indian theme that we both hope to see in Chess Life in print. He doesn't think the key in 002 is an Indian, but noted that the key does have an optical resemblance to Sam Loyd's American Indian, although he doesn't think it meets the thematic requirements for the same.

003 1. Qa3! “Supersolver” Anatoly G. notes: 1. Qa3 Ra1 2. Bc3 1....Rxb2 2. Qxb2 1...Rc1 2.Bxc1 1...Rany; 2. Bc3. Yes!

004 1. Sb5! Henry Tanner of Finland, a talented composer in his own right and probably the world's best teacher in the area of chess problems (Henry has also been a part of several of Finland's Championship Solving Teams), wanted to make the following comments on his countryman's problem, and I think all solvers will enjoy this:

Matti Myllyniemi was a very thematic composer. So when you are studying his
problems, it is useful (and enjoyable) to try to figure out the theme(s).

Sometimes it is easy to see the theme, sometimes not. (Dr. D.'s note: John Rice recommends this in Chess Wizardy, the best known book on problem themes; indeed, someone who solves, like a computer, using brute force, only, may find correct solutions but not get full enjoyment out of the problem.

I will analyze here a little the problem no. 4 in Steven’s column, the one
that received 3rd prize in 1976, in the yearly competition of the German
chess magazine Deutsche Schachzeitung.

One of the things that a solver sees quite soon is that when the white Sd4
moves anywhere, c4 mate is threatened. There are eight possible squares for
the knight and, as we know, there will be only one key. So (supposing the
key is made with the knight – it is, as will be seen) the interesting
question is, why the other seven moves do not work.

Now we could look for the defenses. As 2.c4# is threatened, we’ll notice
that black can pin the pawn in four different ways: Bd4/Qe5/Qf6/Qg7. We
notice that in the diagram position white has mates ready for all
these:Qa2/Bb7/gxf6 or Bb7/Be6 respectively. Notice the dual against 1...Qf6;
when Sd4 moves, the dual will disappear, as the flight e6 needs to be

When we now try the various moves by the Sd4, we notice that most of the
moves are interferences on a white line, so that one way of mating (in each
case) becomes impossible.

The tries 1.Sdb3/Sc2/Se2? are refuted by 1...Bd4! (2.Qa2 is either
impossible or not mating); 1.Sdc6/Se6/Sf5? are refuted by 1...Qe5/Qg7/Qf6!
respectively. The refutation to the seventh try, 1.Sf3? is different (and
rather simple) 1...exf3!, which gives a flight to e4. But even this is not
trivial; there is a nice variation 1.Sf3? e3? 2.Se5#; a battery-mate, which
is not seen elsewhere.

So, the remaining S-move, 1.Sb5! is the key, and we have the thematic
variations: 1...Qg7/Qf6/Qe5/Bd4 answered by 2.Be6/gxf6/Bb7/Qa2#. Notice, by
the way, how the four black moves are like a series of pearls from d4 to g7!
Well, now we have seen all (or most of) the thematic things there are. It
would be interesting to study the use of all pieces, the functions of, say,
the white pawn on a6 or the black knights, but that is outside my intention

But there is one interesting point: why did this problem receive a third
prize among many meritorious problems that year in DSZ, and why was it
selected in the FIDE Album 1974-76? After reading my comments above, you
might regard my question irrelevant: the problem is beautiful, interesting
and well constructed, is that not enough? But in all chess problems, one
important point is originality. By 1976, there were already dozens of white
S-wheels (that is: eight different moves by the knight) in two-movers; many
of them showed similar white errors (that is: reasons why tries do not
work), possibly with more perfect thematic content (here 1.Sf3? is slightly
unthematic and the errors of 1.Sdb3/Sc2/Se2? are basically the same). But it
seems that the use of the four pins (as refutations and thematic variations)
was something that was not previously shown in such a context.

And Paul B. noted: “This lovely key by the WSd4 is its only move which does not interfere with other mates, after Black's replies 1...Bd4/Qg7/Qf6/Qe5 (these Black replies pin the WPc3, defeating White's original threat.) “

005 1. Ra2! With the same point shown in this article: a queen is as strong as a knight!
1. ... b1Q 2. Rxd2# 1. ... b1S 2. Bc2#.

006 1. d6! Anatoly G: 1. d6 (threat Rxc7) Qxb3( Qxd5, Bxd5, Bc5, Rc5, Rc6, Kxg7) 2. Re7 1...c6 2 Rf5. With solvers like these, I think we could win the World Championship!

007 1.Se8! Paul B again had a wonderful explanation for this one: 1.Se8! (on its way to g3) 1...Bg2, 2.Sg7!1...Bh3, 2.Sf6!1...Be2, 2.Sd6! In the three variations, the Black B is unable to simultaneously guard the two (white) squares by way of which the White S will reach g3.

008 was supposed to show an AUW (allumwandlung; a promotion to every possible piece in the various solutions), but the diagram was not correct, so I assigned full credit to all solvers – my mistake! I'll be posting a revised version of this one on chessproblem.net, so everyone can see what the great MM intended!