Dr.D's Check-Up
By Steven Dowd   
January 19, 2007

by Dr.Steven Dowd

The British Invasion

Baby-boomers will remember that in the 1960s, the term "British Invasion" was used to describe the appearance of popular rock-and-roll groups such as the Beatles. However, around that time, a British Invasion of another sort was brewing in problemdom. The young composers John Rice (yes, that John Rice!), Barry Barnes, and a host of others were making new inroads by developing the concepts of try-play and set-play. This month we feature compositions by some of the Brits of that day, and an American or two who were also part of this revolution in chess problems.

In try-plays, White has a move that almost works save one black defense. This adds interesting content to the chess problem, just as "near misses" in a game are also interesting (when you aren't on the losing side!). In order to help you appreciate try-play and set-play( what would happen if White could pass), questions about them are included in the bonus, but as always, for the solution, only the key (first move) is required. In this column, all the keys are based on directmates. (I.e:Mate in Two, Mate in Three) Ed.Note- Still confused by set-play and try play?! On Feb.5, the solutions to these problems will be published on Chess Life Online with particularly in-depth explanations of set-play and try-play, for newcomers to the problem world.

One thing that I especially like about these British problems is their extensive use of batteries and half-batteries, formations that have always held a great interest for me.

Thanks to those of you who submit comments to the problems. In some cases, you may want to post them at the end of the column, after solutions are posted.
I’ve been keeping in email contact with most of the solvers, and even done a survey or two – one thing I found is that the bonus questions are well-liked by a majority of the solvers, but some feel they are sometimes too subjective to count on the ladder.

Therefore, starting with this issue, all readers answering the bonus questions will be entered in a monthly book drawing – perhaps an even better prize? I also encourage all solvers' to send me their favorite problem if they would like to see it – and maybe a little about them – appear here.

For an air of ambiance, imagine us in a British pub, chessboard in front of us and our favorite beverages (Diet Coke for me!), and I’ll show you some of these great masters' problems! Since the British invasion consisted of mostly innovations in the two move genre, that is what we will see mostly this month. 21 points on the ladder are possible this go-round.

Please submit your solutions by Feb.1 to [email protected]. Remember to include the month of your entry in the subject line of the e-mail, or your entry may be discarded. Check back on Feb.5 to read the solutions.
View last month's column, now with solutions.

B Barnes
The Problemist 1962

White to play and mate in 2

We start out with a light but pleasing Meredith from Barry Barnes. Bonus: What is the set-play here and how does the set-play change into actual play?

N Macleod
The Problemist 1973

(a) White to play and mate in 2
(b) Remove Ph5; same stipulation

This is a two-parter, worth four points. The significance of removing the h5 pawn will be obvious to experienced solvers who have had to engage in retrograde analysis of a position to determine what moves are legal in a position (that’s a hint!!). But for the bonus, something a bit tougher: What cyclical change is shown in the threat/try-play between the two versions?


CP Sydenham
1st Prize Y. Cheylan Theme Tourney 1976

White to Play and mate in two

A very neat achievement, this one. Bonus for those who indicate how many line pin mates (that’s a clue too!) are found here.

JM Rice
BCPS Ring Tourney 1958

White to play and mate in two

John Rice chose this problem himself for this column as an example of the beginnings of his career. This was one the judge didn’t like, but the problem later won the prestigious Harley award, a very strong vindication to the young talent. As author of the book most of us problem lovers cut on our teeth on learning themes and schemes (Chess Wizardy, Batsford), we have a certain reverence for him. But in reality, John is about as nice and modest a guy as you can meet!

JM Rice
2nd Prize Dutch Jubilee Ty 1961

White to play and mate and two

For a hint, John is thinking astronomically here – for those who don’t understand that, a look at the first column will help. However, he demonstrates our astronomical theme not only in the real play, but also in the try play. Bonus: What is White’s main try, that save for one black defense, would also show this theme?

M Lipton
1st commendation, Probleemblad 1965

White to play and mate in two

The 60s were a time of radical change, and in this is an example of radical change (I hope that transition worked!) from the try-play to actual play. In this one, the key changes the set mates so radically that it almost seems like a different problem.

R Burger and RCO Matthews
1st prize, British Chess Magazine 1962

White to play and mate in three

Burger and Matthews were an American/British team that provided some of the best problems of the 1960s. In this one, white first pins himself and then unpins- very nice! Pin-unpin was also seen in the above problem by Lipton. For a neat interview of Matthews by John Rice – especially interesting for those who have an interest in the three-mover, go to http://user.sezampro.yu/~mivel/RCOM.HTM.

JM Rice
The Problemist 1995

White to play and mate in four

For our “longmover” in a month of mostly two-movers, we have this more recent effort by John Rice, who of course is still going strong, just having served as President of the PCCC and still editing The Problemist. This one offers two neat lines based on how black promotes. Chess composition – the key to long life?