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Dr.D's Check Up: A Flying Finn Print E-mail
By Steven Dowd   
May 30, 2007

by Dr.Steven Dowd

During the recent U.S. Championship, I wondered why we have no US Championship in Chess Problem Solving? The US doesn’t even send a team to the World Championship of Problem Solving. I’ve always dreamed of competing in the World Championship – sort of my “Jamaican Bobsled Team” dream, to borrow from the movie Cool Runnings – it may be un-American of me to say this, but I just want to be there, with no illusions of winning – after all, how many people do you know who can say they competed in a World Championship of anything? Or even a US Championship? Any solvers interested in such an idea, please contact me!

My country of focus this month, Finland, is well-known for its expert solvers as well as composers. Finland won many individual world solving honors and contains a number of grandmasters and masters.

As a boy, I was fascinating by stories of Paavo Nurmi, the “Flying Finn,’ as he was known along with some of the other Finnish greats in long distance running. Winning nine gold and three silver medals, he always ran with a stopwatch in his hand, ever conscious of his pace, without concern for his often-straggling competitors. I had hoped to be such an athlete, but genetics (at least, that’s my excuse) couldn’t be overcome by hard work.

The purpose of this column is not just to showcase chess problems, but also to discuss some of the people behind those problems and showcase excellent individuals in the world of composition, as we have done with Giegold and the British Invasion. Finland is a country that has always had a thriving problem chess community – in some cities, there are separate problem chess clubs that meet on a regular basis! Not to knock my home state, but the populations of Alabama and Finland are very similar – and I know of only one other chess problemist in the state!

This column is on Matti Myllyniemi, who died early, at age 57, in the year 1987, a much-loved composer from Finland. He achieved the title of International master in the 1960s, almost unheard of, for one so young – the requirements for an international title are so tough in composition chess that some don’t earn one until a great-grandfather! We’ll feature eight of his problems in this column. Myllyniemi is best known in the directmate realm in mates in 2, so we’ll have more of those this month. 18 points on the ladder are possible.

Editor's Note: Please submit your solutions to Dr.Dowd by June 18, Monday. His next column will appear on June 19, along with the solutions to the following problems. This month's edition of Dr.Dowd's Check-Up appeared later in the month than usual because of extensive U.S. Championship coverage.

And without further ado, let’s be off!

Matti Myllyniemi
Finnish Theme tourney, 1978, 1st Prize

White to play and mate in 2

This shows the device known as the Finnish Novotny. Bonus this month will consist of an explanation of the Finnish Novotny as shown in this problem, and our special bonus problem at the end!

Matti Myllyniemi
FIDE Album 1977

White to play and mate in 2

I like the key on this one a lot – which is a clue for those of you who have noted my predilections!

Matti Myllyniemi
FIDE Album 1956

White to play and mate in 2

One of those odd positions in which the pure “players” amongst us say: who cares if it is mate in 2? It’s an easy win with that material. But that begs the purpose of problem chess: to show attractive mates and the maximum potential of the chess pieces. Surely the added rook eliminates a mate in 2? Or does it? In any case, I like this key move for the exact opposite reason I liked #2 – another (hopefully helpful) hint!

Matti Myllyniemi
Deutsche Schachblaetter 1976, 3rd prize
White to play and mate in 2

As you can tell, Myllyniemi constructed problems with excellent keys – not the wonderful flashy ones of Giegold, but those that fulfill an often unrealized strategic need in the position – and this one is no exception.

Matti Myllyniemi
FIDE Album 1970-71

White to play and mate in 2

I found this nice miniature in Bob Lincoln’s series More Fun With Chess Miniatures (which only some years after publication, commands a price as high as $200 on some used book sites!). It’s light, but enjoyable.

Matti Myllyniemi
Tidschrift foer Schack 1958

White to play and mate in 2

I went through various phases of admiration on this one: at first I thought it looked near impossible with the staggering amount of black material, then the key seemed easy once I found it. However, the play after the key is neat, and another reason why this one also made the FIDE Album!

Matti Myllyniemi
Probleemblad 1957

White to play and mate in 4

A few non-mate duals may provide a slight mar to this one (but in my opinion they only occur with non-optimal black defenses), but it strikes me as worthy of inclusion for the nice bishop versus knight duel. These types of duels between pieces are always attractive to me, as I feel like I have to extract the maximum from the workings of one piece – and on both sides – surely a good lesson in the optimum use of a piece! I’ve used this one to begin lessons on the endgame of good knight versus bad bishop – a nice warm-up to the harder stuff!

Matti Myllyniemi
O. Kaila 50th Jubilee Tourney, 1966

White to play and mate in 2 (and!!)

Many of you have been asking for some helpmates, selfmates, and other types of problems. Here is the first step in providing such problems, which, however, in the future, will be part of Dr. D’s Problem of the Week at www.chessproblem.net. Each week, along with the directmate for ladder credit, will appear a helpmate and a selfmate, also for ladder credit. In this one, only the mate in 2 is required, but this problem has an unusual stipulation: (a). Mate in 2; (b). Helpmate in 2; (c). Selfmate in 2, and (d) Helpstalemate in 2. The last 3 are not part of the regular ladder, but the bonus for book prizes. Have fun solving!