Chess problem-an art form

Published : Aug 11, 2012 00:00 IST

Chess game and chess problem are two different facets of chess. While the game of chess is indisputably the most competitive mind sport in the world, chess problem is destinctly an artistic pursuit. For a chess player nothing is more satisfying than beating a flesh and blood opponent but a problemist produces a work of art which capsules the essence of myriad mating patterns rarely seen in the over-the-board play and provides delectations to the avid solver. The composed endgame studies are probably the closest to the game.

Till the early twentieth century chess problems which were difficult to solve were merly regarded as 'chess puzzles'. But in the latter part of the twentieth century is shed its banal terminology and gradually evolved as 'chess composition' and this branch of chess was given due recognition by FIDE, World body for chess, by awarding GM/IM titles both for solving and composing.

It is ideal to start the introduction to problems with one by Sam Loyd, the greatest puzzle maker of all times, who entered the Chess Hall of Fame in USA well before Bobby Fischer. Here is one of my Loyd favourites. One can see the stark disparity in material. It is foregone that white has already won but the problemist starts where the player leaves! How to mate in three? After the only black move f3-f2 if the WBh2 moves then black will be in stalemate. White makes a startling key 1. Bb8!! a clearance for the rook to come on to the diagonal. 1...f2 2. Rc7; white has to give space to the black king at h2, only to give the double check with his rook and bishop battery.

On the problem given below Loyd comments:" it was a haphazard imromptu little fellow that I composed in an instant and entered in the Chess Monthly tournament and never appreciated it until it received the first prize, since which time it has become my most famous problem and is continually referred to as a difficult and beautiful problem that conflicts with all the established views of composition." It took me nearly one hour to solve this one but I was delighted on finding the very subtie variations. I leave it to the readers to solve and enjoy the intricacies of this problem.

White to mate in three moves (solution in the next article)

By C.G.S. NARAYANAN (The writer is an internationally known Chess problemist. He is a three-time recipient of the Brain Harley Award of the British Chess Problem Society).

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